Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

which he sketched has been admirably developed in detail in a recent paper in the “Atlantic Monthly.” * The mind of the community has been steadily settling, under this discussion, apon four general principles, each of which was laid down more or less distinctly by Dr. Hedge. These are,- 1. That the classics should still form a necessary part of such a course; 2. That the natural sciences justly claim a larger share than they have generally received; 3. That more freedom of choice should be allowed in the studies pursued; 4. That college discipline should be materially modified, as befits institutions designed for men, not boys.

We do not propose to discuss at any length the claims of the classics to the position which has been assigned them, especially seeing that the turn taken by the discussion renders this on the whole unnecessary. We will, however, say a few words upon certain reasons for considering Latin, in combination with mathematics, the best mental training there is for boys of between fifteen and eighteen, which we do not remember to have seen sufficiently analyzed. Nobody denies that the natural sciences and the modern languages, set up as the peculiar rivals of the classics, must form a part of every gentleman's education; and, if a person has not time and opportunity for all of these, no doubt he should in most cases study French and German, rather than Latin and Greek. It is often forgotten in this discussion, that we are speaking only of those who are able to devote themselves to study for a long enough time to obtain that systematic and well-rounded education which we call distinctively liberal. For these we claim, that, at the age specified, Latin is superior to either of its rivals, and largely for the reason, which is often made an argument against it, that it is harder, and requires more careful and systematic use of the mental powers. The natural sciences are partly studied by observation and mere memory, and so far should come very early in the education of a child ; partly mathematical, belonging strictly to the mathematical course; partly experimental and theoretical, calling for the

A pril, 1867.

exercise of the highest powers of the trained mind.* At sixteen, a boy has no ideas of his own, and this higher range of physical inquiry is beyond his grasp and appreciation. Natural history is too much a matter of mere memory to give his mind the exercise it requires at that stage. What he needs just then is work, not play, — work hard enough to call his mind into full activity; and for boys there is very little danger of overworking mentally. We do not think it desirable that the work at this age should be made easy: attractive and interesting it can and should be made. There is the same sort of pleasure to a healthy mind in mastering a difficulty, and in dealing with intellectual problems adapted to its strength, that there is to a healthy body in catching a fly-ball or pulling a strong oar. We have never yet known an intelligent boy of suitable age, who could not be made to enjoy that greatest stumblingblock and mystery of Latin, the oratio obliqua.

The same consideration that gives Latin a preference over botany or zoology, its greater difficulty, gives it also a preference over French or German, — though German, no doubt, comes nearest of all studies to the ancient languages in the quality of the training it secures, and is the very best substitute for them. The philological study of one's native language, for instance, belongs properly to a more advanced stage than that of any other language; for the reason, that to study it superficially is so very easy that in most persons it will train nothing but the memory, while to study it to any purpose calls for a mind thoroughly trained, and stored with all varieties of parallel knowledge. There is, however, besides the difference in difficulty, a distinction in the essential character and structure of the modern languages, which renders them much less adapted either to mental discipline or to that philological culture which all admit to be one of the most important elements of education. The difficulties of Latin and Greek lie in their constructions; of the modern languages, in their idioms. In reading French, all that is necessary is to know the meanings of the words, which is purely a matter of memory; or, if any difficulty occurs, it is in most cases as to the particular meaning attached to a particular collocation of words, which again is purely a matter of memory. The same is true, although in a less degree, of German. In Latin and Greek, on the other hand (especially Latin, which is, except in its roots, much further removed from the modern languages than Greek), the idioms are of very subordinate importance; and translating a sentence is in the main an exercise of judgment and skill, - much less a matter of mere memory than in any of the other languages. This characteristic of modern languages renders them especially fitted for children, who learn by memory and catch idioms readily; and we would for this reason have French and German learned very young. Latin and Greek, appealing as they do mainly to the reason, are equally fitted for young people of sixteen and there. abouts, for whom the main object is the training of the reasoning powers.

* Dr. Whewell has made a very good statement of the limitations of the physical sciences for the purposes of discipline, although he entirely overlooks, and indeed denies, their value at a higher stage of education in training the powers of thought, of which Mr. Mill gives so admirable an analysis. “The effect of the clear insight of geometry or mechanics cannot be efficiently replaced by sciences which exhibit a mass of observed facts and consequent doubtful speculations, as geology; or even by other sciences, as chemistry and natural history, which, though they involve philosophical principles, can only be learnt by presenting numerous facts to the senses.” University Edition, p. 41.

Latin, therefore, being furthest removed from English, English being the most idiomatic of all languages, and Latin the least, — forms the best instrument for that important branch of philological instruction which consists in comparing the modes of expression in one's own language with those in another. Without this, as has been well remarked, no person can be said really to know his own language; and while we freely admit that even French, the language most similar to English in roots, constructions, arrangement, and idiomatic character, may be made very serviceable for this purpose, we maintain that no other of the languages usually studied, not even Greek, can at all compare with Latin for it.

Again, leaving out of sight these points of difficulty and contrast, Latin is, of all languages, that best suited to the abstract study of modes of expression; because it was the

first language in which these were treated logically and in accordance with rigid rules, and still remains the most logically constructed of languages. The constructions in Greek are loose and irregular compared with Latin. The Greeks had not fully developed the idea of law in language, any more than in politics; and, while their subtilty of thought led them to use the moods with great exactness and nicety, their syntax of government was quite inexact.* In these respects the modern languages owe much of their accuracy of structure to imitation — often unskilful - of Latin; and no one of them, not even German, approaches its model.

For these reasons, besides those which have been so well stated by Mr. Mill and others that we need not repeat them, we think that the classics are entitled to their place as the leading study in a liberal education, during a certain period of life. We would not be understood as defending the barbarous method usually pursued in the study of the classics, by which years are worse than wasted in acquiring useless knowledge, while a serviceable acquaintance with the language professedly studied is not acquired. Latin is generally begun much too young, and taught much too exclusively from grammars, which are, after all, not Latin, but somebody's account of Latin. Once the paradigms thoroughly learned, we believe that the principal work should be translating and analyzing; and that syntax can be much better learned from the author read, with the help of a teacher, than from any grammar. But this discussion is apart from our present object.

The question is often asked, why, granting all that has been said in favor of the study of the classics, one classical language is not enough, — why it should be necessary to learn both Greek and Latin. We answer frankly, that we do not think it necessary. We say, as we did of classical study in general, that those who have the time, means, and taste had better study Greek as well as Latin; but we believe that a large class of young men will be more benefited by substituting something else in the place of Greek. To those who have not special philological tastes, one classical language will give all the philological training desired; and, if we could have only one of the two, we should, with this end, choose Latin,

* Expressions hanging so loosely in a sentence, so utterly independent of it in structure, as sibi quisque, in multis sibi quisque imperium petentibus (Sall. Jug., 18), are exceedingly rare in Latin, but common enough in Greek.

– partly for the reasons already given, partly on account of the excessive difficulty of Greek, which special difficulty again is mainly either in the memory or in nice details. We think the true course is that recommended by Mr. Atkinson two years ago, which had, indeed, been adopted by Mr. Mann at Antioch College, some ten years before, - to have two parallel courses: one, the regular college course, as usually pursued; the other, the same in all other respects, but substituting other studies — say modern languages — for Greek. This is the plan adopted in Cornell University, where the “Second General Course," as it is called, has for its principal studies Latin and German. Great care is needed, however, and great difficulty experienced, in laying out a course that shall be any thing like an equivalent for Greek, whether in difficulty or as an exercise of the mental faculties.

Another argument for this will, perhaps, be new to many. A cry is raised by the academies and preparatory schools, that they are overworked; that “the few young men who are fitting for college receive undue attention, to the exclusion and great detriment of that much larger number who do not intend to enter any college.”* It is urged in many quarters that Greek should be removed from the list of preparatory studies, and made a college study. We do not think well of this proposition. If Greek is to be learned at all, it should be learned well, and needs all the time that is now bestowed upon it: the time required to learn Greek thoroughly in college could be ill spared from other branches. Mr. Atkin. son's proposition seems to us to give all the relief needed. If there were two courses in college, one with Greek and the

* See a striking paper by George W. Jones, Principal of Delaware Literary Institute, in the Proceedings of the New York University Convocation, 1866.

« ElőzőTovább »