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of those who are best able to judge, so that they can conscientiously, and with full conviction, recommend it to general adoption, as entirely worthy of public confidence, let us cling to that which has been proved to be good. Quackery is odious in all things, but in none more than in this. Stare super vias antiquas, is a safe precept for all, at least until a way be pointed out that is clearly and demonstrably better. Speculation, however ingenious, is not knowledge; nor are doubts and objections to be entertained, where decision is of such vital importance. Time is rushing on—Youth is passing away. The moments, that are gliding by us, will never return. The seed time neglected, there will be no good harvest. Poisonous and hateful weeds may occupy the soil, which, under good culture, would have yielded excellent fruit. The craving appetite of youth must be satisfied. If not supplied with sound and wholesome food, it will languish for want of sustenance, or perhaps drink in poison and destruction. The brute animal, without reason, is guided by an unerring direction, to the provision made for its support, each individual obeying his own instinct, without aid or counsel or restraint from the others. But man, excepting the direction he receives to the beautisul fountain of nourishment, provided for the short period of helpless and unconscious infancy, has no such determined instinct. He has a large range, and a free choice. “The world is all before him, where to choose;” and reason is given, to select for him that which is for his advantage. Nor is the rational individual left dependent upon his own unassisted intelligence for his guidance. Until his faculties, which are progressive, have arrived at a certain maturity, it is in the order of Providence, that he should have the benefit of the enlightened reason of his species imparted to him, for his own sake, by parents, by teachers, by friends, and by the counsels of the wise and the virtuous,
which he cannot enjoy but upon the terms of being subjected to their authority. It is theirs to lead him on his way—it is his to follow the path they point to. But if the guide stand doubting and perplexed, what will become of the follower ?
That a collegiate education can be so modified as that each student may be permitted to choose his own studies generally, or even to a limited extent, and yet receive the honours of a college, is a proposition, which, to say the least of it, must be deemed to be very questionable.
Without intending to occupy your time with any thing like a discussion of this question, it may, nevertheless, be allowable to remark, that the suggestion, however plausible in itself, seems to be founded in an erroneous conception of the nature of such an education. However it may be styled a collegiate education—a superior education—a liberal education—it is still only a portion of preliminary education. It is not designed, as has already been stated, to qualify the student in a special manner for any particular profession or pursuit—to make him a Divine, or a Lawyer, or a Physician- but to aid in the development of all his faculties in their just proportions; and by discipline and instruction, to furnish him with those general qualifications, which are useful and ornamental in every profession, which are essential to the successful pursuit of letters in any of their yarious forms, and, if possible, even more indispensible to the security and honour of a life of leisure. Nor does it set up the extravagant pretention of supplying him with a stock of knowledge sufficient for all purposes, and sufficient for its own preservation, without further exertion. It gives him the keys of knowledge, and instructs him how to use them for drawing from the mass, and adding to his stores. It teaches him the first and greatest of lessons—it teaches him how to learn, and inspires him at the same time, if it succeed at all, with that love of learning, which will invigorate his resolution in the continual improvement of this lesson. The momentum, if rightly communicated, and rightly received, will continue to be felt throughout his life. But it is unnecessary to dwell longer on this part of the subject, as it has lately received an ample and able exposition, in a report made by the faculty of a neighbouring institution,” which, (if I may be permitted to venture a judgment upon the work of so learned a body.) does them the highest honour. The suggestion under consideration would perhaps be entitled to more respect, if in fact the destination of youth for life always, or even generally, preceded their entrance into college. But that, it is believed, is not the case. The fond partiality of a parent may sometimes discern, or fancy it discerns in a child, the promise of eminence in some peculiar walk. But it would be unwise to decide finally, before a decision is necessary, and before the subject is ripe for decision. It is in the college that the youth has the last trial with his equals. There his growing powers are more fully exhibited, and placed in a clearer light. And there, too, it often happens, that an inclination is disclosed, which not being unreasonable in itself, a prudent and affectionate parent may think fit to indulge. The time of leaving college would, therefore, seem to be a much more suitable occasion for decision than the time of entering it. But even such a decision is not always unchangeable. How many instances have occurred, of youth, who, after receiving the benefits of a liberal education, have engaged in one pursuit, and subsequently, with the approbation of their parents and friends, have betaken themselves to another, with distinguished success! Several present themselves to my recollection, and some of them of men who have attain. ed, and are now enjoying the highest eminence.
How often does it happen, much later in life, that men are compelled by circumstances, or constrained by a sense of duty, to change their occupations? It is precisely in such instances that the advantages of a liberal education are most sensibly felt—of that early training, and general preparation, which, not being exclusively intended for any one pursuit, are adapted to many, if not to all, and confer upon the individual a sort of universality of application and power. In a moment like this, the means which education has supplied, come to our aid, like the neglected and almost forgotten gift of an old friend, hallowed and endeared by the associations they bring with them. And in such a moment, the individual who has not had the same opportunity, most keenly feels the loss.
Nor must we forget that in this our country, every individual may be called upon to take a part in public affairs, and there to maintain his own character, and the character of the state or nation. And even should not this occur, still he is to mingle in the intercourse of polished society, where his station in the esteem and respect of others, will be assigned to him, according to the measure of his improvement and worth, estimated by the scale of his opportunities. Being, as it were, a part of the Corinthian capital of society, he will be unworthy of his place, if he is destitute of the ornaments and graces that belong to his station.
But upon the plan that is now in question, who is to choose for the youth the studies he will pursue 1 Surely it cannot be gravely asserted, that, at the usual age of entering into college, the choice ought to be left to himself. Why has Providence committed the care of children to the af. sectionate intelligence of parents Why have human laws provided for them tutors and guardians? Why have schools, and seminaries of learning been established, and courses of education and discipline prescribed, but to give them the benefit of that experience and knowledge which they do not themselves possess 7
To suppose that a youth, at such an age, is competent to decide for himself what he will learn, and how much he will learn, is to suppose that he has already had the experience of manhood, under the most favourable circumstances—that he is competent to educate himself—nay, that he is already educated—and instead of needing instruction, is qualified to impart it to others. Is the choice then to be made by parents' To them it undoubtedly belongs, as a right, to determine for their children, whether they will send them to college or not—but there their authority terminates. It cannot be pretended that every parent, or that any parent has, or ought to have, or can have a right to decide upon the discipline and instruction to be adopted in a college, though he has the power of withdrawing his child, if he think fit to do so.
Admitting parents to be fully competent to resolve a question of so much depth and difficulty—as many unquestionably are—and admitting, too, that their views are more wise and accurate, and entitled to greater deference than the collected and continued wisdom which has devised, and which preserves the system in being, still it would be obviously impracticable to indulge them. There could not, in such a case, be statutes or laws, or discipline, or system. In short, there could be no government. To some, it may seem harsh, but it is believed to be perfectly true, that when a youth is once placed in a College, selected after due deliberation, the less interference there is on the part of the parent, except in cases of manifest wrong done to him, (which rarely or ever occur in our principal institutions) and the more unreservedly the pupil is committed to the authorities of the institution, the better it will be both for parent and child.
Above all things, a parent should sedulously guard against the introduction of a doubt into the mind of a student, of the justice and necessity of the authority exercised