« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
EDUCATION has been defined to be that series of means by which the human understanding is gradually enlightened, and the dispositions of the human heart are formed and called forth, between the earliest infancy and the period when we consider ourselves as qualified to take a part in active life, and when, ceasing to direct our views solely to the acquisition of new knowledge, or the formation of new habits, we are contented to act upon the principles we have already acquired. Under this definition of education, many particulars are comprehended, such as the circumstances of the child in regard to local situation, and the manner in which the necessaries and conveniencies of life are supplied to him; the degree of care and tenderness in which he is nursed in infancy; the examples set before him by parents, preceptors, and companions; the measure of restraint or Jicentiousness to which he is accustomed ; the various bodily exercises, languages, arts, and sciences, which are taught bim, and the order and method in which they are communicated; the moral and religious principles instilled into his mind; and even the state of health he enjoys during that period of life.
In different periods of society, in different climates, and under different forms of government, various institutions have naturally prevailed in the education of youth; and even in different families, the children are cducated in different manners, according to the various situations, dispositions, and abilities of the parents.
In the infancy of society, little attention can be given to the education of youth. Before men have arisen above the savage state, they are almost entirely the creatures of appetite and instinct : The power of instinct is not even always so strong, as to induce them to preserve and bring up their offspring. But even when their own wants are not so urgent, nor their hearts so destitute of feeling, as to prompt them to abandon their new born infants to the ferocity of wild beasts, or the severity of the elements, yet still their uncomfortable and precarious situation, their ignorance of the laws of nature, their deficiency of moral and religious principles, and their want of skill or dexterity, in any of the arts of life; -all thesc circuinstances together, must render men so situated, unable to regulate the education of their children with much sagacity or attention. The parents may relate the wild inconsistent tales in which are contained all their notions concerning superior beings, and all their knowledge of the circumstances and transactions of their ancestors; they may teach their offspring to bend the bow, to point the arrow, to hollow the trunk of a tree into a canoe, or to trace the almost imperceptible path of an enemy, or a wild beast, over dreary mountains, or through intricate forests; but they cannot impress on their tender niinds just ideas concerning their social relations, or their obli, gations to a Supreme Being, the framer and upholder of nature. They are at no pains to teach the youth to repress their irregular appetites, to restrain the sallies of passion when they exceed just bounds, or are improperly directed ; nor can they inform the opening understanding, with accul