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“ That last infirmity of noble minds,
To scorn delights and live laborious days." We must not confound two things together which are entirely distinct. The labour of acquiring must precede the pleasure of using. The musician regards music very differently from him who has just begun to learn the scale. The ruler of a country contemplates it with feelings not like those of a stranger who has but just entered it. In the present consciousness of the enjoyment of our mental treasures, we must not forget the irksomeness and the drudgery we had to endure in the earlier steps of our progress. We must not expect others to find only pleasure where we ourselves experienced little but severe toil.
It is, in most cases, idle to attempt to influence men by abstract notions or weak motives to action, based on the excellence of education, the mental advantages of intellectual culture, and such like;* for it must be borne in mind by those who are engaged in discussing the improvement of education, that the great mass of the public hold it to be not an end but a means to an end; for its intrinsic advantages they are little solicitous; to its adventitious adjuncts they chiefly look. If education expand the intellect, refine the taste, and purify the feelings, it is so far well; yet it is not sought for this. Temporal advancement—the making one's way in the world—is the primary object which the great majority of the public have in view in the education of their children. Now, to base the improvement of education on the influence of a more exalted and purified phase of public opinion, is to presuppose the very perfection of that education, whose elevation from a comparatively low and degraded state we are in quest of: direct interference, therefore, as an attempt to improve it, would be alike injudicious and unavailing. But the difficulty might be eluded—nay, this very state of public opinion might be brought to bear with its whole force on the improvement of education, by directing into a proper channel those motives
* When emulation is introduced into our system we must reckon upon it as an overwhelming force, in comparison with which the love of knowledge and the admiration of excellence on its own account are but weak and ineffective influences. If we employ this principle of emulation we must so direct it that it shall lead men to study what we wish them to learn. Of a liberal Education, by W. Whewell, D. D. Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, p. 137.
of self-interest which so absolutely rule the great majority of mankind. When men discover that the prospective interests and the future advancement of their children are palpably dependent upon, not obscurely connected with, the quality and the amount of education they receive, inferior schools, imperfect instruction, and incompetent teachers will not long be tolerated.
You can scarcely be surprised that I take great interest in this movement, which is now being pushed forward so vigorously by the Society of Arts, when I tell you that just nine years ago I published a pamphlet in which this was the leading idea, that education was to be most effectually promoted by holding out incentives and rewards to industry and talent. This I did at a time when to call the administrative offices of the country « Circumlocution Offices" would have been thought a slander, or even worse. If the arguments were strong then, they have lost none of their weight since, and I am entirely convinced that it is in this direction only that we can hope to make any real progress just now.*
* Examination of the province of the State, or the Outlines of a practical System for the extension of National Education. 8vo. 74 pp. Oct. 1847. A Short Summary of the Contents of this pamphlet, which is now I believe out of print, or nearly so, will give some idea of its arguments.
Contents:-Measures taken to provide for the Education of the Poor -Middle Classes neglected-Danger of this-Difficulties in the way of State Interference-Right of the State to interfere has been deniedEducation of the Middle Classes in an unsatisfactory position-Causes of this-Duty of the State-Outline of System proposed-A general System of Examinations—Country to be divided into Districts—Three classes of Certificates—Minimum number of Examiners- Education Gazette-Candidates should be required to give Twelve Months' Notice -Such Examiners should have no power to inspect Schools—Candidates for First-class Certificates should be examined a second time-Advantages of this-Fees on Certificates-Examiners should derive no emoluments from Fees-Education Circuits - Local Reports of Examiners, and General Reports of the Board—Advantages of this System (1). Certificate would be sought on other grounds (2); would soon become indispensable (3); would stimulate the exertions of the Schoolmaster (4). Such a Board could influence Education indirectly (5). The effects of such a system immediate (6); would co-operate with existing Institutions.—The union of Secular and Religious Instruction provided for (7); would encourage Freedom of Action (8); and Voluntary Exertion (9). Prizes and Exhibitions (10). The effects of such a Plan would be universal (11). Education generally sought as a means not an end—would furnish the Statistics of Education (12); and would indicate the character
If the Society of Arts succeeds in its present plans for improving instruction and raising the tone of education, as it assuredly will, if we continue to receive that large amount of sympathy, encouragement, and co-operation which hitherto has been so freely tendered to us, a great change will be effected in the way in which work now is done, and the business of the country transacted. Let us briefly examine the probable working of such a scheme in actual operation. If every boy who goes to a commercial school, or every young man who attends classes at a Mechanics’ Institution, were convinced of this, that the Society of Arts' certificate, under seal, was a sure passport to recognition and employment, can you not see what a great encouragement you give, what a strong motive you hold out to increased and intensified exertion. Again, consider how the Society of Arts' Examination would serve as a sort of educational test of the relative merits of different colleges, and schools, and classes. The Society's Examinations would guide and test the kind of instruction given, precisely in the same way as the Universities indirectly control, guide, and test the instruction of our great public schools. There are other advantages, too, in this plan. We all know how much the success of a man through life may often be fairly attributed to the rank his name takes in the University Calendar. Might not in a somewhat similar way the Society
of the instruction given (13). This Board could recommend Text-books (14). The Examinations would supply incentives to exertion, and would promote Self-instruction (15); would induce boys to remain longer at School-great evils of early removal (16). Additional School Accommodation would be requisite (17). Would Systematize Education (18). By means of this Plan new Subjects of Study might be introduced (19). Religious Education of the Candidates, how ascertained (20). Certificate from Religious Instructor-Practical Difficulty in the way of the State's Inquiring into Religious Instruction (21). The Renunciation of this Right would tend to promote Religious Education-Mixed or Exclusive Education left optional—The wiser course the only one practicableThe principle of Emulation should be rejected in Religious Instruction why?-Ethics of a School, where developed ?-Objection, that the State has no right to inquire into Education answered— Religion may be contemplated under two aspects-Objection, that such a plan would give a Government Board too much power—and that such a System is superfluous-Objection, that a Plan of this kind would not Impart Education -Would, however, indirectly influence it-As shown by ExperienceConformable to the Nature of the Understanding that it should be som The Formation of Habits, the Primary Object in the Education of the Poor-Conclusion.
of Arts' Certificate, testifying to industry and acquirements, be made the basis of success in life. This plan imposes no necessity of building new colleges or schools, or establishing professorships; it takes the materials and tools provided to our hands and operates upon and by them. We do not propose to establish rival schools or colleges antagonistic to those already in existence, but endeavouring to deal with what we have, we shall not interfere with any vested rights, whether real or supposed. Co-operating with all, opposed to nothing but pretence and sham, we shall neither provoke hostility nor alarm; and as we respect the rights of conscience and the religious feelings of every class, our proceedings will have no tendency to excite sectarian animosity. There will thus be no ground for the separation of religious education from secular instruction. Both being left in the hands of the people themselves, their union will be secured with the utmost safety. And is not this view actually confirmed by the fact, that men whose names were never found in juxta-position before in matters of education, or indeed in anything else, have signed our Declaration. Our Declaration is headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, followed by the Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Bishop of Oxford, the Bishop of Winchester; then come the names of Mr. Edward Baines, of Leeds, the educational chief of the Dissenters of the North of England, of Mr. Apsley Pellatt, one of their political representatives in the House of Commons, and Mr. Fox, the Member for Oldham, the advocate of separate secular education. Neither have we any political aspect. Amongst our host of signatures will be found those of Lord Ashburton, that zealous advocate of popular education, of Lord Stanley, Sir James Graham, Robert Stephenson, and many others of every religious sect and political party.
And now, before I conclude, let me ask you, the public, and through you the friends of education and progress all over the length and breath of this great country, to co-operate with the Society of Arts in the noble work it has undertaken? How are we to co-operate, you will say, is it by subscribing money to the funds of your Society? Nothing of the sort. We do not want your money. The Society of Arts has an income of nearly £5,000 a year, which being economically and judiciously managed, is amply sufficient for the development of its public objects. But you can most effectually promote this movement and benefit vourselves at the same time, by taking
into your counting-houses, warehouses, shops, manufactories, mills, and factories of every kind, those young men who, by obtaining our certificates, shall have proved themselves to be intelligent, laborious, studious, and diligent. Several merchants and manufacturers of the highest eminence in the country, have promised us their co-operation in this way. That enlightened friend of education, Mr. John Wood, the Chairman of the Board of Excise, has placed appointments at our disposal. In this way we propose to stimulate the intellectual activity of our candidates. Their moral characters you must scrutinize for yourselves. We profess to give no guarantee on that head; we undertake to answer only for diligence and acquirements. Yet I believe it will be found that in 99 cases out of every 100, “ a young man who must necessarily have devoted to study a large portion of the time at his disposal, often very scant, can scarcely have had much leisure for idle pursuits and vicious indulgences." We shall afford you every information in our power, free of charge, with respects to the antecedents of our certificated candidates, for we shall register no other. We shall tell you what sort of examinations the candidates have passed. Indeed, you may see the questions and answers of every candidate, for we file them all. Now, by so doing, you will not only secure the services of well informed and intelligent young men, but you will do more than this. There is not an appointment which shall be thus filled up, however humble, avowedly on the Society of Arts' testimonial, that will not induce hundreds of others to turn their attention to self-improvement. You will infuse strength and determination into many a will that before had been wavering and weak. And this is the great point, as I have said in the early part of my lecture. In benefiting yourselves you promote the welfare of your country. England has indeed attained to a high standing among the nations; if only true to herself, a brilliant destiny awaits her. But a dark spot mars the brightness of her aspect, and that the Society of Arts, so far as its power and influence prevail, will set the example to remove. We will endeavour, in our humble way, that incompetence, stupidity, imbecility, idleness and ignorance shall no longer usurp the places of skill, of genius, of vigour, of industry, and knowledge. I have done; and I thank you for the patience with which you have heard me.