Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

herds, dining off gold plate and faring sumptuously every day; why the police office will become the primary institution of the country instead of the school-room; the jail gate will have more attractions than the church door, and men will seek to graduate in prison as a preliminary to success in life, as the youth of the upper orders now do at a university. You will realize the old fable, every guilty head you cut off from the hydra crime will be replaced by seven others in its stead.

Now, do not mistake me, I do not undervalue or make light of the great present good which the reformatory movement is effecting. The criminals are a fact, and as a fact they must be dealt with. All honour to those men who have put their hands to this great and good work. At the same time, I say without the shadow of a doubt on my mind, that the good will be turned into evil unless as much at least be done for the virtuous as for the vicious portion of society. My argument is briefly this, if education and industrial training can so thoroughly cleanse these who have been dragged through the mire of guilt and crime, how much more ought they to do for those who have never offended, whose habits have not been warped. It is easier to keep a tree straight than to make it grow from crooked to straight.

But you will say, such an education as you refer to for the whole of our poorer population would entail an enormous expense. Look at the cost of our reformatories for a few hundred criminals. Extend this system of industrial training to the whole of our working classes, and who shall compute the cost? In reply to this objection, I say that the great principle which ought to underlie every system of national education is this, that every healthy child should contribute a portion of his labour to defray, at least in part, the charge for his school instruction. Let him give value for what he receives. But some ready objector will reply, would you have a farm and workshop attached to every national school? would you propose that the child who is now six hours a day at school, and learns but little, should have his time still further curtailed ? Now I venture to assert this, that a boy who alternates three hours' labour with three hours' learning, will make more progress than another who is shut up for the whole six hours in a school-room. This is one of the cases where three added to three do not make six, but sometimes

D

the result is even less. This you will easily understand if you will recollect what I have striven to impress on you, that the amount of knowledge on a given subject which you can acquire, does not so much depend on the time you give to it, or on the clearness of your understanding, as on the amount of concentrated energy and vigorous attention you bring to bear upon it. But I cannot discuss this interesting question further: I have too far trespassed on your time and attention. In doing so, I have designedly omitted to consider the manner in which purely religious studies should be pursued, and for this obvious reason; a great diversity of opinion exists, how far the human will is free to act, or constrained to decide by influences which do not affect it, when the mind is occupied with merely secular matters of thought. In a mixed assembly such as this, I could not enter into the question without giving to some who hear me unavoidable offence. This is neither a place of worship nor a platform for religious controversy.

And now, in conclusion, let me add, that the only supposition which gives strength and consistency to all I have been saying is this, that we have each of us our given work to do, our plain duty to perform. “Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth ? are not his days also as the days of an hireling.” Whatever we have to do let us do it with all our might, believing that one day or other we shall be called on to render an account of the talent placed in our hands. Were it otherwise, why should we not say with the Epicurean of old, “ Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.” Why not give way to every appetite, seeing “ There is no seeking of dainties in the grave." It is this consideration which is the ground of the striking difference between the Christian and the Heathen character; of the enduring energy and the firm purpose of the one, contrasted with the callous apathy and the reckless indifference of the other. Society is ever in a state of transition, let us do our part that it may pass into something still nobler and still more pure. Progress is the law of our being, as development is that of our knowledge. Change is the condition of life, to cease to change is to cease to live. A living organism varies from hour to hour, while a dead lump of matter continues for ages identically the same. Surely, if we believe that the vast Universe itself, with all its countless suns, and planetary groups, and wandering

stars, and nebular wreaths of matter; that this huge solar system of ours, with all its orderly arrangements and harmonious laws; that the solid earth we tread upon, the heaving pulse of the ocean, the might of the tempest; that life in all its varied forms, down to the minutest creeping thing which eludes the sight, that the tiniest leaf, the thistle down, the gossamer web, that veils each shrub and spreads from spray to flower, all have their appointed place, their allotted part, their fitting use, in the grand economy of God's creation; surely, I say, we cannot imagine that man alone is to be the one exception. The loftiest mountains are the accumulated results of the ceaseless action of the meanest of living things which die unrecorded and forgotten. Shall we shrink from our task, who know “ when we rest from our labours that our works shall follow us?” Let us then follow the path that is open to every one of us, doing all the good that we can in our day and in our generation, developing those faculties with which God has endowed even the lowest of us, knowing that he has promised, “ wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and the strength of salvation."

NOTE A.

ON ORAL EXAMINATION.

UCH diversity of opinion prevails as to the most efficient

method of conducting an examination. While some would have nothing but written answers given in reply to printed questions, others would combine oral examination with this latter procedure. I cannot but express my decided opinion that the weight of argument and authority preponderates on the side of the mixed system. It must be kept constantly in. view, that our examination is not designed merely to gauge the depth of the candidate's knowledge, but to test the clearness of his faculties, as well as his presence of mind, his acuteness, that faculty which the Greeks so well expressed by the term 'Ayxívoix, his power to concentrate his thoughts on the subject before him. Besides, a person may answer a question on paper so ambiguously as to leave it doubtful whether the vagueness ought to be set down to the overhaste of conscious ability, or as a trick of fence tried on by the cunning of ignorance. A searching question or two put vivâ voce by the examiner would at once set all doubt at rest.

Again, there are many persons whose powers of reasoning are very great, whose conceptions are lucidly clear, but who, notwithstanding, have not the facility acquired by long habit of putting their thoughts into writing. An examination conducted exclusively by written papers gives such persons but little chance.

Besides all this, a vivâ voce examination excites an amount of sympathy and interest which no examination by written papers can command, and, what is still more important, as the examiner's standard of excellence becomes known, the candidates learn what style of answering satisfies it. They ascertain in what way their fellow candidates answer the questions. All this is lost in an examination exclusively by paper, in which after the lapse of a few weeks or months the final result becomes known; but no information is or could be

given how that result was brought about, except by the publication of the answers to the questions—a proceeding manifestly impracticable.

On the subject of oral examinations, the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, writes :

An examination conducted vivâ voce, the questions being asked and the answers returned by word of mouth, has several advantages over an examination on paper. One of the greatest of these is its publicity. The questions and answers are heard by all who choose to hear, and there is a constant and ready means of learning the course taken by the exas miners, and the character of the performances which are approved . .

Again, the knowledge, quickness, and happiness of expression which are displayed by a student who passes a vivâ voce examination will draw to the proceeding a degree of sympathy which can never be given to a paper examination. .

On all these accounts a public oral examination is a good instrument of education.

In this scheme (paper examinations) there is no opportunity of testing by questions such as the occasion and the preceding answers may suggest whether the written reply to the questions be really accompanied by any intelligent thought in the mind of the examinee. And the answers of each person being unknown to his fellow-students, there is no public manifestation of the excellence which obtains success; which in a more open system of examination operates beneficially, by the example which it offers and the sympathy which it draws. – Of a liberal Education, by W. Whewell, D. D. Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, p. 139.

Mr. W. Hopkins, late President of the Geological Society, in his answers to the inquiries of the Cambridge University Commissioners, thus gives his opinion :

Vivâ voce examination might be made the means, undoubtedly, of drawing forth other and in some respects higher qualities in our students than those encouraged and elicited by written examinations alone. This would show itself more especially in the higher class of students; and from a long acquaintance with that class I am fully convinced, that however necessary and efficacious written examinations may be in encouraging and testing an adequate acquaintance with mathematical reasonings and processes, and their applications to the solution of individual problems, examinations vivâ voce afford the surest test of that higher intellectual power which enables a man to take comprehensive and philosophical views of mathematical and physical science, and prepares him to grapple with its highest difficulties. I have no doubt that the results of the two modes of examination of which I am speaking would, when applied to our higher students, be in accordance with each other in a great majority of instances. At the same time, I have been acquainted with a considerable number of cases in which, I have no doubt, these results would have been different; and judging not only from my own impressions at the time, but also from the subsequent careers of the persons alluded to, I believe that in almost every instance the examination vivâ voce would have supplied the higher intellectual test.”

« ElőzőTovább »