S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
It is a pity that, commonly, more care is had, yea, and that among very wise men, to find out rather a cunning man for their horse, than a cunning man for their children. They say nay in word, but they do so in deed. For to the one they will gladly give a stipend of two hundred crowns by year, and loth to offer to the other two hundred shillings. God, that sitteth in heaven, laugheth their choice to scorn, and rewardeth their liberality as it should; for he suffereth them to have tame and well-ordered horse, but wild and unfortunate children; and, therefore, in the end, they find more pleasure in their horse than comfort in their children.
Millions of valuable thoughts I suppose have passed through my mind. How often my conscience has admonished me! How many thousands of pious resolutions! How all nature has preached to me! How day and night, and solitude and the social scenes, and books and the Bible, the gravity of sermons and the flippancy of fools, life and death, the ancient world and the modern, sea and land, and the omnipresent God, have all concurred to instruct me! and behold the miserable result of all!! I wonder if the measure of effect be a ten-thousandth part of the bulk, to call it so, of this vast combination of causes?
It seems to mewho have passed a very long and varied school-lifethat there is no such pitiable class in a civilized community as that of ushers, and at the same time none so mysterious. No man is born an usher, no man achieves (if he can help it) ushership. Ushership is always thrust upon him. Born an usher! What offence could father or mother have committed, to have it visited so roughly upon their innocent? Could its cheeks have ever been chubby, and dimpled into smiles? Had it ever at any time a will of its own? Could the boy as he grew up have ever laughed out honestly among his fellows? enjoyed himself in the play-ground like the rest? Could he have shirked impositions, broken bounds, and hated and despised his ushers? Could he ever have had holidays, gone home? Heaven knows! but, from what I have seen of him since he became a man, I scarcely think it.
And for the usual method of teaching arts, I deem it to be an old error of universities, not yet well recovered from the scholastic grossness of barbarous ages, that instead of beginning with arts most easy, (and those be so which are most obvious to the sense,) they present their young unmatriculated novices, at first coming, with the most intellective abstractions of logic and metaphysics; so that they having but newly left those grammatic flats and shallows where they stuck unreasonably to learn a few words with lamentable construction, and now on the sudden transported under another climate, to be tossed and turmoiled with their unballasted wits in fathomless and unquiet deeps of controversy, do for the most part grow into hatred and contempt of learning, mocked and deluded all this while with ragged notions and babblements, while they expected worthy and delightful knowledge; till poverty or youthful years call them importunately their several ways.
Tis the custom of school-masters to be eternally thundering in their pupils ears, as they were pouring into a funnel, whilst their business is only to repeat what the other have said before; now I would have a tutor to correct this error, and that, at the very first, he should according to the capacity he has to deal with, put it to the test; permitting his pupil himself to taste and relish things, and of himself to choose and discern them; sometimes opening the way to him, and sometimes making him to break the ice himself: that is, I would not have him alone to invent and speak, but that he should also hear his pupil speak in turn. Socrates, and since him Arcesilaus, made first their scholars speak, and then they spoke to them. Obest plerumque iis que discere volunt, authoritas eorum qui docent. Cic. de Nat. Deor. l. 1. The authority of those who teach is very oft an impediment to those who desire to learn. It is good to make him, like a young horse, trot before him that he may judge of his going and how much he is to abate of his own speed, to accommodate himself to the vigour and capacity of the other.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cottons 3d ed., ch. xxv.
After having taught him what will make him more wise and good, you may then entertain him with the elements of logick, physick, geometry, and rhetorick, and the science which he shall then himself most incline to, his judgment being beforehand formd and fit to choose, he will quickly make his own. The way of instructing him ought to be sometimes by discourse, and sometimes by reading, sometimes his governor shall put the author himself, which he shall think most proper for him, into his hands, and sometimes only the marrow and substance of it; and if himself be not conversant enough in books to turn to all the fine discourses the book contains, there may some man of learning be joynd to him, that upon every occasion shall supply him with what he desires, and stands in need of, to recommend to his pupil.
Michel de Montaigne: Essays, Cottons 3d ed., ch. xxv.
In proportion as we advance in experience, we cannot but deplore the ignorance of men, especially those who are engaged in the instruction of youth. Because they have taken high scholastic rankbecause they know Greek and Latin, and have a certain faculty of divining the ordinary intellectual and moral status of their pupilsthey consider themselves competent to direct their life-career. Yet there rarely passes a year in which pupils leave the public institutions of whom their masters have neither suspected the talents nor the destined renown.
But this is not the question: that with which we chiefly reproach them is, that they ignore completely the physiology of manthat they have not the least knowledge of hereditary influence, and that they believe when they find a pupil idle, captious, or rebellious, that the remedy is perpetually to punish. The first thing ought to be to ascertain if the evil proceed from constitution, from education, or from hereditary causes. In this latter case all chastisement, far from correcting, will only aggravate the evil, and hasten the explosion of the disease.