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Instead of giving us fine but empty harangues upon this subject, instead of indulging each his particular and whimsical systems, it had been much better if the writers on this subject had treated it in a more scientific manner, représsed all the sallies of imagination, and given us the result of their obser. vations with didactic simplicity. Upon this sub. ject, the smallest errors are of the most dangerous consequence; and the author should venture the imputation of stupidity upon a topic, where his slightest deviations may tend to injure the rising generation. However, such are the whimsical and erroneous productions written upon this subject. Their authors have studied to be uncommon, not to be just; and, at present, we want a treatise upon education, not to tell us any thing new, but to explode the errors which have been introduced by the admirers of novelty. It is in this manner books become numerous: a desire of novelty pro duces a book, and other books are required to de. stroy the former.
I shall, therefore, throw out a few thoughts upon this subject, which, though known, have not been attended to by others; and shall dismiss all attempts to please, while I study only instruction.
The manner in which our youth of London are at present educated, is, some in free-schools in the city, but the far greater number in boarding-schools about town. The parent justly consults the health of his child, and finds an education in the country tends to promote this, much more than a continuance in town. Thus far he is right; if there were a possibility of having even our free-schools kept a little out of town, it would certainly conduce to the health and vigour of, perhaps, the mind as well as the body. It may be thought whimsical, but it is truth; I have found, by experience, that they, who have spent all their lives in cities, contract not only an effeminacy of habit, but even of thinking.
But when I have said that the boarding-schools are preferable to free-schools, as being in the coun try, this is certainly the only advantage I can allow them: otherwise it is impossible to conceive the ignorance of those, who take upon them the important trust of education. Is any man unfit for any of the professions, he finds his last resource in setting up a school. Do any become bankrupts in trade, they still set up a boarding-school; and drive a trade this way, when all others fail: nay, I have been told of butchers and barbers, who have turned school-masters; and, more surprising still, made fortunes in their new profession.
Could we think ourselves in a country of civilised people, could it be conceived that we have any regard for posterity, when such are permitted to take the charge of the morals, genius, and health, of those dear little pledges, who may one day be the guardians of the liberties of Europe; and who may serve as the honour and bulwark of their aged parents? The care of our children, is it below the state? Is it fit to indulge the caprice of the ignorant with the disposal of their children in this particular? For the state to take the charge of all its children, as in Persia or Sparta, might at present be inconvenient; but surely, with great ease, it might cast an eye to their instructors. Of all professions in society, I do not know a more useful, or a more honourable one, than a school-master; at the same time that I do not see any more generally despised, or whose talents are so ill rewarded.
Were the salaries of school-masters to be augmented from a diminution of useless sinecures, how might it turn to the advantage of this people! a people whom, without flattery, I may, in other respects, term the wisest and greatest upon earth. But while I would reward the deserving, I would dismiss those utterly unqualified for their employment: in short, I would make the business of a school-master every way more respectable, by in
creasing their salaries, and admitting only men of proper abilities.
It is true we have school-masters appointed, and they have some small salaries; but where at pre. sent there is only one school-master appointed, there should at least be two; and wherever the salary is at present twenty pounds, it should be a hundred. Do we give immoderate benefices to those who instruct ourselves, and shall we deny even subsis tence to those who instruct our children? Every member of society should be paid in proportion as he is necessary; and I will be bold enough to say, that school-masters in a state are more necessary than clergymen, as children stand in more need of instruction than their parents.
But instead of this, as I have already observed, we send them to board in the country, to the most ignorant set of men that can be imagined. But, lest the ignorance of the master be not sufficient, the child is generally consigned to the usher. This is commonly some poor needy animal, little superior to a footman either in learning or spirit, invited to his place by an advertisement, and kept there merely from his being of a complying disposition, and making the children fond of him. • You give your child to be educated to a slave,' says a philosopher to a rich man; ' instead of one slave, you will then have two.'
It were well, however, if parents, upon fixing their children in one of these houses, would examine the abilities of the usher, as well as the master; for, whatever they are told to the contrary, the usher is generally the person most employed in their education. If then a gentleman, upon putting his son to one of these houses, sees the usher disregarded by the master, he may depend upon it, that he is equally disregarded by the boys: the truth is, in spite of all their endeavours to please, they are generally the laughing-stock of the school. Every trick is played upon the usher; the oddity
of his manners, his dress, or his language, are a fund of eternal ridicule; the master himself, now and then, cannot avoid joining in the laugh; and the poor wretch, eternally resenting this ill usage, seems to live in a state of war with all the family. This is a very proper person, is it not, to give children a relish for learning? They must esteem learn. ing very much, when they see its professors used with such little ceremony! If the usher be despised, the father may be assured his child will never be properly instructed.
But let me suppose, that there are some schools without these inconveniences, where the masters and ushers are men of learning, reputation, and assiduity. If there are to be found such, they can. not be prized in a state sufficiently. A boy will learn more true wisdom in a public school in a year, than by a private education in five. It is not from masters, but from their equals, youth learn a knowledge of the world; the little tricks they play each other, the punishment that frequently attends the commission, is a just picture of the great world; and all the ways of men are prac. tised in a public school in miniature. It is true, a child is early made acquainted with some vices in a school; but it is better to know these when a boy, than be first taught them when a man; for their novelty then may have irresistible charms.
In a public education, boys early learn temper. ance; and if the parents and friends would give them less money upon their usual visits, it would be much to their advantage; since it may justly be said, that a great part of their disorders arise from surfeit, plus occidit gula quàm gladius.' And now I am come to the article of health, it may not be amiss to observe, that Mr. Locke, and some others, have advised that children should be inured to cold, to fatigue, and hardship, from their youth; but Mr. Locke was but an indifferent physician. Habit, I grant, has great influence over our consti
tutions; but we have not precise ideas upon this subject.
We know, that among savages, and even among our peasants, there are found children born with such constitutions, that they cross rivers by swimming, endure cold, thirst, hunger, and want of sleep, to a surprising degree; that when they hap pen to fall sick, they are cured without the help of medicine, by nature alone. Such examples are adduced to persuade us to imitate their manner of education, and accustom ourselves betimes to support the same fatigues. But had these gentlemen considered first, how many lives are lost in this ascetic practice; had they considered, that those savages and peasants are generally not so longlived as they who have led a more indolent life; that the more laborious the life is, the less populous is the country; had they considered, that what physicians call the stamina vite,' by fatigue and labou become rigid, and thus anticipate old age; he number who survive those rude trials, bears tno proportion to those who die in the experiment; bad these things been properly-considered, they would not have thus extolled an education begun in fatigue and hardships. Peter the Great, willing to inure the children of his seamen to a life of hardship, crdered that they should only drink sea-water; but they unfortunately all died under the trial.
But while I would exclude all unnecessary labours, yet still I would recommend temperance in the highest degree. No luxurious dishes with high seasoning, nothing given children to force an appetite; as little sugared or salted provisions as possible, though ever so pleasing; but milk, morn. ing and night, should be their constaut food. This diet would make them more healthy than any of those slops that are usually cooked by the mistress of a boarding-school; besides, it corrects any con