Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/13

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3
LIBERAL EDUCATION.

liminary sharpening process, and that, as the instruments for it, there were certain almost divinely-appointed studies exclusively set apart, to wit, the grammars of two dead languages, and the elementary portions of abstract mathematics. It was not and could not be maintained that these studies would ever be the natural choice of the youthful mind in the beginning of its scholastic career ; rather, it was thought to be a prime recommendation that they were as remote as possible from any thing the youthful mind would of itself appropriate as intellectual nutriment. Like medicine, the value of such disciplinary studies was supposed to be in direct proportion to their disgustfulness ; for they were not food to nourish the mind withal, but tonics, wherewith artificially to strengthen it. They were rods for the spiritual part, the counterparts of those material ones which the strong right arm of the ancient pedagogue wielded with such efficiency on the bodies of his youthful charge, and the benefit of both alike was not utilitarian, but disciplinary.

That I may not be suspected of caricaturing, I will make two quotations, the first from a lecture by Prof. Sellar, Professor of Greek in the University of Edinburgh : "The one extreme theory," he says[1], "is that education is purely a discipline of the understanding ; that the form of the subject is every thing, the content little or nothing. A severe study, such as classics or mathematics, is the thing wanted to train or brace the faculties ; it does not matter whether it is in itself interesting or not. The student will find sufficient interest in the sense of power which he has to put forth in training for the great race with his competitors. 'It is not knowledge,' they say, 'but the exercise you are forced to incur in acquiring knowledge that we care about. Read and learn the classics simply for the discipline they afford to the understanding. You may, if it comes in your way and does not interfere with your training, combine a literary pleasure with this mode of study, but this is no part of your education. As teachers, we do not care to encourage it ; we do not care to interpret for you the thought or feeling of your author. All such teaching is weak and rhetorical : we do not profess to examine into your capacity of receiving pleasure. Accurate and accomplished translation, effective composition in the style of the ancient authors, thorough grammatical and philological knowledge—these are our requirements. The training in exactness, in concentration, in logical habits, and in discernment of the niceties of expression, is the one thing with which we start you in life. Whether you have thought at all, or care to think about the questions which occupy and move the highest minds, is no affair of ours.'

"This theory is, I think, a purely English theory of education. It has grown up within the last half-century, and it is in the University of Cambridge that it has been, and still is, most fully realized."

My other extract shall be from an essay by the Public Orator of the

  1. "Theories of Classical Teaching : A Lecture," p. 10.