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every where is, with such intense and unabating interest ? The race is not ended—it is only begun. One stage is reached, but another not less critical succeeds and even when that is passed in safety, the whole way of life is beset with temptations and dangers, which require all our exertion, with the constant aid of a gracious Providence, to resist and avoid. Why, then I repeat, this heartfelt rejoicing? It is not merely that he has acquired the portion of learning which is taught in a college ; though that is of inestimable value. It is that the youth, whose powers have thus been put forth and tried, has given a new earnest of character, and a new assurance of hope. His habits are measurably formed-his nobler faculties expanded and his future elevation, in some degree indicated, by the strength of pinion displayed in his first flight.
As the mother's eye marks with inexpressible delight the first steps of her child, and her ear catches, with thrilling rapture, the music of his earliest efforts to utier articulate sounds, imparting her joy to the whole household, and making as it were a family jubilee—so is the attainment of the honours of a college naturally and justly regarded with deep emotion. It fixes an important period in what may be termed the infancy of manhood, demonstrating the existence of a capacity for usefulness, and for further and higher honours. Happy are the youth who enjoy the opportunity of a liberal education-happier still are they who diligently and successfully improve it!
It is not the design of this discourse to speak of education in general-but only to make a few remarks upon what is denominated a liberal education--that system of instruction which is adopted in the higher seats of learning, and leads to learned honours. Institutions of this description are rapidly increasing in every quarter of our country. If the establishment of numerous seminaries of learning is to be regarded as an evidence of a corresponding increase of de. mand for liberal education, founded upon a proper knowledge of its naturc, a just appreciation of its advantages, and a fixed determination to uphold and even to elevate its standard, this circumstance must afford the highest satisfaction to the scholar, the patriot, and the philanthropist. It will promote the cause of sound learning—it will advance the honour of our country, and it will increase the happiness of mankind. That such may be its effect, every one must ardently desire.
But it must be obvious at the same time, that these advantages are only to be gained by maintaining unimpaired, and in all its integrity, the true character of the higher seminaries of learning. It is not their object to teach the simpler elements of knowledge. These must be first acquired elsewhere, as an indispensable preliminary to admission. Nor do they profess, as a part of the collegiate course, to qualify individuals for particular employments in life. This is a matter of subsequent acquisition, frequently not decided upon till after the college studies are ended.
The design of a college, as it has been well said, is,“ to lay the foundation of a superior education;" not to teach fully any particular art or science, but to discipline the intellectual powers, and to store the mind with such knowledge as may lead to further attainments, and be useful in any of the occupations or pursuits which are likely to be the lot of those who have the advantage of a collegiate education. In a word, to place distinctly before the student the high objects to be aimed at—to teach him how they are to be attained—to stimulate him by worthy motives—and, after unfolding to him his own powers, and the mode of employing them, to send him forth with a generous and well directed ambition, and an instructed and disciplined mind, to follow out the course in which he has thus been trained.
Such a system, it must be evident, admits of no concession to individual views or inclinations. It works by general means, and for a general end. It proposes the same instruction for all; the same discipline; the same rewards ; proceeding upon the assumed basis, that the plan thus adopted is in itself the best calculated to produce the desired general result.
In Sparta, the education of youth was a public concern. At an early age, children were taken from their parents, and placed under the care of masters appointed by the state, to prepare them, according to their notions, to become good citizens. The ancient Persians and the Cretans adopted a similar plan. With them too, education was a matter of public regulation. Among the Athenians and Romans, youth were not thus detached by law from the authority and care of their parents. But their education was justly deemed to be a matter of the highest importance, and conducted, no doubt, upon a general system, adapted to their manners and circumstances. Whatever opinion we may entertain of the methods they adopted, and the end they proposed—however different may have been the character intended to be formed, by the institutions of the Spartans and the Persians, from that which modern education proposes to cultivate yet there is one point which has the sanction of their authority as well as the authority of succeeding times—that the education of youth having reference to a determined end, ought to be conducted upon a general plan, and that plan the best that is attainable for the end proposed, and carried to the highest perfection of which it is susceptible. It is not meant to be contended, that in modern times, and in large communities, when there is so great an inequality in the condition of men, the highest education is, or ever can be within the reach of all, or even of a very considerable number. In our own country, favoured as it is by the bounty of Providence, with advantages such as no nation has ever before enjoyed, how many are there to whom the benefits even of the humblest education are not extended! Enlightened benevolence is happily exerting itself with unwearied diligence, to remedy this reproachful evil; and it is to be hoped, that the time will soon come, when not a child will be left destitute of the means of acquiring at least the simpler elements of knowledge. This, however, is a subject of vast extent and interest, upon which it is not intended now to touch.
When, therefore, we speak of a “superior education," or a “liberal education,” or, which ought to be equivalent, a “collegiate education,” we speak of that which has one common purpose or object, and which of course is necessarily itself but one. That it is applicable to all the youth of a country, whatever may be their condition or prepara. tion, or whatever may be their future views in life, is what, as already intimated, it is not intended to affirm. The greater number cannot enjoy its advantages. At the age when the course of instruction in a college usually begins, some are obliged to labour for their subsistence; some are condemned to lasting ignorance by the neglect of parents or friends, or by the imperious force of circumstances; and some are already fixed to the occupations which are to employ their maturer years. We would not be understood by this remark to suggest, that superiority consists in the advantages we possess—it is only in the use we make of them, for which we are responsible, exactly in the proportion of their extent. All honest industry is honourable, as well as useful. Nothing is disgraceful but idleness and vice; and the disgrace they bring with them is greater or less, as our opportunities have been more or less favourable. In the judgment of mankind, as well as in the awful judgment of Him from whom we have received all that we possess, the improvement required of us is according to the talent committed to our care. Much is therefore expected of him who has the means of attaining the highest intellectual and moral advancement. He is not to look down with a feeling
of pride, upon other employments or conditions of life, as if they were inferior; but comparing himself with the most diligent in each—to examine whether he has equally with them improved the talents and opportunities vouchsafed to him—whether, in the race of honest exertion the only generous competition that all can engage in-he has equalled, or excelled them—whether he has better or worse fulfilled the duty he owes to his day and generation.
The humblest labourer, who strenuously performs his daily task, and honestly provides an independent subsistence for himself and his family, is inconceivably superior to the sluggard and idler, though the latter may have had the opportunity of education in a seminary of learning.
There are some, who suppose that the business of instruction might be better adapted to the inclinations and views of individuals that each student in a college might be taught only that which he desires to learn, and be at liberty to dispense with such branches of learning as appeared to him unnecessary or inapplicable, and yet receive collegiate honours! This is an opinion which is perhaps gaining ground, and which, it cannot be denied, has been adopted by several distinguished men, and supported by plausible arguments.
Education, in all its parts, is a concern of so much consequence, so deeply and vitally interesting, that it ought not to be exposed, without great caution, to hazardous experiments and innovations. Is it, then, susceptible of no improvement ? Is the human mind, progressive upon all other subjects, to be stationary upon this? Shall not education be allowed to advance with the march of intellect, and its path be illuminated with the increased and increasing light of the age? Or shall it be condemned to grope in the imperfect twilight, while every thing else enjoys the lustre of a meridian sun? These are imposing questions which are not to be answered by a single word. Admit