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The education of children is an object of the highest importance. The welfare of families, the preservation of states, and the happiness of society, depend wholly upon the nature and principles of the education of youth. « Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it*.” But, in the first instance, before an attempt be made to give rules for education, it is necessary to endeavour to find out what education means, and what the term implies.
Education is intended to convey instruction, improvement, and knowledge, which could not be possessed without being taught. It tends to form
* Proverbs. VOL. II.
the human character, portray its beauties and prospects, and to elacidate the rules for conduct which best lead, not only to happiness in this life, but to that in the world to come. It should teach us that knowledge which nature did not bestow at our birth; for if nature had furnished us with perfect wisdom, we should not be in want of education, or instruction from others. Education is, therefore, the cultivation of human nature, which in its untutored state is feeble, and contaminated with the grossest impurities. To strengthen this debility, and to remove these impurities, are the objects of education; for neither the body nor the mind can be perfect in the first stages of existence; they both want cultivation to mature their growth and purify their nature.
Every living being in nature is perfectly helpless at its birth, and must have some sort of education or instruction, or it could not exist. A human being is the most helpless of all beings, in its first state of production; and requires more time and more instruction than any other, before it can provide for itself. Were not a child supplied with food, in the first instance, by others, it would have no means of procuring it by its own effort or intelligence, and must therefore die; and were it afterwards neglected, and not instructed how to provide for itself, it would still remain in total ignorance and incapacity.
Nature supplies food for the brute creation, but not for the human species, without labour, except what is given to the mother in the first instance. Man is endowed with a reasoning faculty and powers, but that faculty must be cultivated before it can be of use or benefit to its possessor. All human energies are weak and feeble in the first state of existence. A human being is capable of receiving instruction, but every thing must be taught it; and the knowledge which the most en : lightened people can possess, has been obtained progressively, or by little and little, from the beginning of the création.
It is reasonable that the first human being upon earth was not in that state in which a child is now found at its birth, or he could not have subsisted. He must have been provided with food, and must have been perfect, and the species must since have degenerated, or children would not be in that helpless state at their birth, which they are now known to be, depending entirely upon others for existence, and without whose aid they must perish. Were they not taught to walk, they would remain crawling, creeping creatures, upon earth. Were they not taught to speak, they would remain speechless. Were they not provided with clothing by others, they could not clothe themselves; and were they not taught how to procure it, by the bounty or instruction of others, they must remain naked. Were not some of them taught how to provide food, they must all live in a state of nature,
feeding upon grubs, worms, berries, insects, raw flesh, and such things as nature could only supply in small quantities; and they would be noways better in this respect, than the canine race, or any of the brute creation.
Such is the state of man without education, and such he is still to be found in some of the most barbarous and ignorant tribes of savage nations; and this is the state in which we should all be had we remained in a state of nature, neglected in our infancy, and not afterwards have been instructed and improved. It is therefore education alone that has made mankind better than the state' now described. We
We may have full proofs of this by reading the accounts and histories, which many authors have given of the savage people of various countries; but the description of the wretched inhabitants of the isles of Adaman, in the east, would be sufficient to show in what state we should all remain but for the advantages of education. The isles of Adaman are said to be inhabited by a race of savages, lower in wretchedness than those of any other country. Every thing that voyagers have related of savage life, fall short of the barbarism of these people. Their whole time is spent in search of food; and as their woods yield them few or no supplies of animals, and but little vegetable diet, they are continually climbing the trees and rocks for berries and other scanty food, and roving along the margin of the sea in search of a precarious meal