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BY TIMOTHY FLINT,
History of the Western States,' fe.
BENEDICERE HAUD MALEDICERE."
FROM JULY, 1829, TO JUNE, 1830, INCLUSIVE,
PUBLISHED BY E. 11. FLINT, 158, MAIN STREET.
Looker & Reynolds, Printers.
ON LIBERALITY AND LIBERAL EDUCATION.
[CONCLUDED FROM OUR LAST.]
We come now to the second subject of this article, the study of lan. guages. It is our intention, in another, to remark on the technical part of the study of languages, and to give a detailed account of the methods of Messrs. Hamilton and Bolmar. We believe, that those, who have reflected on these methods, or have had sufficient experience in this subject, will agree with us, that this study is generally made as difficult and disgusting to the young mind as possible; that in all elementary studies, and in this more than in any other, the merit of the teacher lies much more in his method than in his science, and that very few persons, employed in teaching languages, possess any method at all. But the deficiency of the teacher in this point could be supplied by works composed upon such a plan, as would indicate to the teacher and the pupil, step by step, the progressive course they have to follow, in unfolding gradually, methodically and without confusion the vast stock of words, forms and phrases, which constitute a language. This is done by the works published by Messrs. Hamilton and Bolmar, upon the plan of their methods, We mention them both together, because what is true of Mr. Hamilton's, is true to a still greater extent of Mr. Bolmar's system, which is a considerable improvement on Hamilton's method, the foundation and grand feature of both being a literal, interlineary translation, not of every phrase, but of every word in its actual form, and independently from all those, that surround it. But we reserve ourselves, to do justice to them in the article above alluded to, and will only mention, that we have heard with pleasure, that several gentlemen at the East are engaged in preparing similar works on the Greek and Latin languages.*
*Mr. Bolmar is a very successful professor of the French language at the high school of Philadelphia. Vol. II.-No. 1.
By this method, which we might call the natural method, because it is founded upon an attentive observation and analysis of tle operations of the mind in acquiring a language, the study of it is abridged and facilitated in a singular degree. Here, however, it is our intention only to advert to the great advantages, which the liberal scholar derives from the knowledge of language for the enlargement of his mind.
In speaking of the study of languages in general, we are brought very naturally to state our opinions on a subject, which has latterly been frequently discussed: the study of the dead languages. In this point, as well as in the whole of this article, we proceed from the belief, that a proper division, and a proper method in studies, is still very generally a desideratum.
The question is not, whether, but by whom, and when the ancient languages should be studied. We leave it to the reader, to compule out of the number of those, who have been obliged to study them, the proportion of them, who in after life derive any use or pleasure from them, and in fact, who do not almost totally neglect them? Might their tiine not have been better employed in studies of greater general utility, and the study of the ancient languages have been put off for some years, when those, whose taste or profession induce them to the pursuit, may study them con amore, and of course thoroughly? But many
will answer, we put them to the learning of languages, in order to exercise their mind. This is not great deal better than saying: we make them study these things, that they may get rid of their time; because any study, systematically pursued, will accustom the mind to close and logical reasoning; and if this be true, such studies ought to be selected, as are of the greatest practical utility, as do not easily fade from the mind, and leave litile other satisfaction, than that the student can say • I have studied it;' synonymous to saying, 'I once knew it.'
We believe that when the study is such, as attracts the attention of the pupil, and is in connexion with the objects, that habitually fall under his involuntary observation, he will have a pleasing and continual exercise, and his mind will enter willingly, without effort, and in a natural manner, into the habits of observation.
Mathematics and philological studies seem to us less fit for this purpose, than the physical or natural sciences. Cuvier, in this respect, the highest authority, remarks, that young men, who, merely to gratify their curiosity, have devoted some time to these studies when returning to their usual occupations, generally feel the most beneficial effects from the spirit of order and method, which they have imbibed from these studies.
Lacepede, the author of a great many works, especially on natural history, was, under Napoleon, Chancellor of the Legion of Honour, and held other official stations, which filled his hands with business. The order and celerity, with which he despatched his business, astonished Napoleon, who, it is wel known, was famous for the same talent; and when the latter asked bim, how it was possible, that he could do so much in so little time? he answered: by employing the method of the naturalists.' We find similar remarks in Fleming's classical work on the philosophy of Zoology.
We mean by natural and physical studies, throughout this article, not a crude and undigesied collection of facts, such as the common abridg
ments of Buffon are, but an acquaintance with the principles of classification. The number of facts in all these sciences is so great, that without the utmost order and method, such a confusion would arise, as would make it utterly impossible for any person, to be thoroughly acquainted with any single one of them. It is by continual divisions and subdivisions, that he assigns to each fact or being its place. A strict and most accurate obserration is necessary for establishing these divisions; and when they are made, he knows where to find every thing. We have seen not unfrequent proofs, that these studies are, to a limited extent, not at all beyond the capacity of even the young. The facts in themselves, are, for the most part, easily understood. Whenever the young pupil looks round him, he finds an opportunity to apply, and is flattered in applying his knowledge; and he has thus a continued and voluntary exercise for his faculties, which is certainly more fit for a young mind, than either mathematics or philological niceties. You may thus make him acquainted with those professions, in which mathematical and physical science are combined. A mind beguiled in so pleasant, easy and natural a manner into the habit of observation, comparison and reflection, will not now be rebuked by mathematics, because, at every step he makes the interesting observation, that he has found the explanation of a fact, formerly only imperfectly known to him. He is sustained in his labours by the desire to find proofs for many other points, which are still obscure to him; and he learns, and retains these subjects with an increased facility, because he can now associate them with other ideas and facts.
All these observations are founded upon the principle, we repeat it, that the young mind best learns what pleases, and interests it, and what it understands easily—that it retains best, what it can connect, and associate with other ideas, and that the most natural and effectual way for exercising it is, to unite it to an involuntary and agreeable application of what it knows,
We are far from giving these views as original. They have been carried into practice, and most successfully too; but we wish to see them of more extended and general application.
When mathematics are taught theoretically, in their naked dryness, an ardent boy must certainly make considerable exertion to abstract, and to reduce his understanding to grasp these shapeless ideas. For most minds, mathematics will be a penance. Some, gifted with a peculiar aptitude and steadiness of mind, and quietude of imagination, will make progress in them. But, even such will be apl to forget in a short time, what they have learned, if an opportunity is not soon furnished them for recalling to their minds, and applying their theory. The hypothetical quantities, on which the young mathematician exercises his mind are so widely different from all other subjects, on which he may have been called to observe or judge, that his inexperienced mind, thoroughly imbued with mathematical principles, is often too much inclined to apply the same nicety, singleness of consideration and dryness of abstraction to other subjects, where complex combinations of acting and reacting causes, and moral considerations must be weighed against each other, and must at once be embraced in one comprehensive look-a train of reasoning, altogether unlike the straightforward course of the mathematician. On such questions, (and