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ART. IV. Remarks and Explanations connected with the
« View of the System of Education at present pursued in the Schools und Universities of Scotland.” By the Rev. M. Russel, A. M. 8vo. 100 pp. ^ Bell and Bradfute, Edinburgh; and Rivingtons, London. 1815.
"THE View of the System of Education, with which these Remarks and Explanations are connected, was published in 1813, and is a very interesting 'work, of which the reader will find a pretty copious account in our first volume. It was fol. lowed by a coarse philippic, inserted into the middle of a singular publication, by professor Dunbar of Edinburgh, called Prosodia Græca, &c., of which we endeavoured to appreciate the merits in our third volume. That professor Dunbar, who appears to estimate literature, as shopkeepers and manufacturers estimate their wares, by the money price which they bring, and the demand for them in the market, should have been offended by „Mr. Russel's “ View," is not wonderful; for that gentleman certainly does not exhibit a favourable view of the “ literary mill" of Edinburgh, though he writes with abundant respect of the skill of the “millers,” were the machinery which they employ better constructed. We are surprised, however, to find that a late “miller” of Glasgow, of whom better things might have been expected, had taken offence likewise at the View; for certainly ample justice is there done both to the “mill” of Glas. gow, and to the skill and attention of those who regulate its motions. Such, however, has been the case. The late professor Richardson, as well as professor Dunbar, appears to have made a reply to the View, though the former writes with more urbanity and much greater art than the latter ; and, in the pamphlet before us, Mr. Russel, without entering into acrimo. nious controversy, has defended his former statements against both the professors, and brought forward some new facts in their support. As he seems very desirous to do impartial justice, he explains in his preface, the grounds of an inaccuracy, with which he has been charged by Mr. Dunbar, respecting the attendance required in the University of Edinburgh, of candidates for orders on the prelections of the mathematical professor.
This was, in his original work, but an incidental observation, which he therefore properly explains before he enters on the general merits of the subject discussed; and it is indeed of so little importance in that discussion, that we should have passed it over without notice, but for the clear and discriminating view
which it exhibits of the spirit with which each combatant has carried on this academical warfare.
“ Prior," says Mr. R., “ to Session 1810–11, as is well known, it was left entirely to the choice of the students, whether to attend the mathematical class in the University, to take lessons of a private teacher, or, lastly, to proceed to the study of Natural Philosophy, without having read mathematics at all. It happened, however, in the Session of College above mentioned, that an antiquated statute was brought to light; by which it was understood to have been enacted, that all young men whose views were directed towards the clerical profession, should, in the course of their preparatory studies, fee the professor of mathematics, and present his ticket, in addition to the other certificates, which are demanded by the Divinity-professor, at their admission into the hall. This statute was revived, and all its provisions put in force, in 1810; but, two years after, namely, in Session 1812--13, I observed one day, while passing to the class of Natural History, an advertisement appended to the door of the Divinity-hall; the purport of which, according to the impression left on my mind, after a repeated perusal, was, that the ancient statute, which had been resuscitated two winters before, was to be again permitted to go to rest, and consequently, that theological students were once more to enjoy their former privileges as to the choice of a mathematical teacher. It seems, however, that the real purport of the said advertisement had completely escaped my penetration; for I have since been informed by the highest authority in the Univer: sity, that the object of it was solely to grant relief to such students of divinity, as had entered college prior to 1810, and not, as I had imagined, to annul the proceedings of the Senatus Academicus, in favour of mathematical science. I was extremely desirous, as might readily be supposed, to obtain a copy of this advertisement, as I could not divest my mind of suspicion, that there must have been something very ambiguous in the wording of it; but as my request could not be complied with, I possess no means, whereby to explain more satisfactorily, the cause of my mistake, and must therefore quietly submit to the imputation of downright stupidity! To have invented the story, however, and published it with my name, within two miles of Edinburgh, must have argued rather more than stupidity; on which account it is somewhat surprising that Mr. Dunbar did not allow me the alternative of a mistake, instead of asserting, in his peculiar manner, and with all the emphasis of Italics, that there is not one word of truth in the whole of this statement.”
Whether Mr. Russel mistook the meaning of the advertisement or not, we have no other means of deciding than such as are now in the possessmn of our readers, who will probably draw the same inference that we have done, from his having been refused a copy of the said advertisement; but we can say ·
on greater authority than even that of professor Dunbar, that previous to the revival of the ancient statute, attendance on the mathematical professor was not deemed necessary to complete a regular course of education for the Church, in the University of Edinburgh.
“ The rules prescribed for those, who enter on the study of Divinity, require, says one of the greatest ornaments of that Uni. versity, that previously to being received in this character, a young man must have studied the Greek and Latin languages, and attended the three philosophy classes, i. e. Logic, Natural and Moral philosophy. This is necessarily required, and is a condition that must be complied with, before the avenues to church preferment can be opened to any candidate. No mention is here made of the mathematics; and that study, which, from the severe application it requires, has more need than any other to be enforced by rules, is left to the student to be pursued or not, as he thinks proper. The consequence is, that by such students, it is very generally left out of the academical course entirely. These observations do not apply to those who are educated at all the Universities, but chiefly to those of Edinburgh. At the other seminaries, the internal regulations of the University prevent the students from passing over the Mathematical Class. This I know to be the case at St. Andrew's, and I believe also at Aberdeen *."
This is in such perfect unison with all that is of importance in Mr. Russel's statement, respecting the study of Mathematics in the College of Edinburgh, that we are strongly inclined to suppose it the copy from which that statement had been transcribed. At any rate, professor Dunbar must either admit that there is more than one word of truth in the statement, or enter into a new controversy with a brother professor, of such eminence in his own department, as Mr. Dunbar has not yet attained to in his. He will likewise have to combat another antagonist,--a clergyman of the established church, who has authorized Mr. Russel to publish a detail of the means whereby a student may easily avoid the penalties of the ancient statute, supposing it still in force; and the reader will certainly wonder, that if such a statute be really in existence, and accurately ex. pressed, it should never have been seen by professor Playfair in 1806, when he published the Letter to which we have referred.
From the preface we proceed to the “ Remarks," &c., themselves, of which the first is on classical learning. On this sub
« * See A Letter to the Author of the Examination of Mr. Stewart's short Statement of Facts. By John Playfair, A. M. Professor of Natural Philosophy in the University of Edinburgh, published by Cadell and Davies, 1806." Note on P. 22.
ject, Mr. Russel, in his former work, endeavoured to convince his countrymen of the propriety, and even the necessity, of continuing such of their sons as are intended for any of the learned professions, longer at school, before they be sent to the University. A college-class, as he observes, is not the place, where any boy can be properly taught the rudiments of either the Greek or the Latin language. In the college of Glasgow, which appears to be by much the best constituted of any in Scotland, boys, it seems, come to be taught the Greek alphabet, and even so ill furnished with Latin, that the professor is obliged to read with them the fables of Phædrus, and the com. mentaries of Cæsar !
Why," asks Mr. Russel, “should boys, no farther advanced, be removed from a seminary, where they are taught between ten and eleven months in the year, and sent to another where they are taught no more than six, and at two of our Universities not more thun five months! Can any system of instruction be more whimsical or ridiculous than this? If Greek and Latin be worth liaving at all; if industry and application be in any respect valuable habits; and if the years of youth be precious, as connected with future reputation and usefulness, why, in the name of common sense, are boys abandoned by their teachers from April till November, and sent away to forget all that they had learned from November till April ?”. P. 14. · These questions are obviously unanswerable. The professors, Richardson, and Dunbar, however, have attempted,--the former to answer, and the latter to evade them. Mr. Richardson rests his defence of the Scotch system, on the practice of the German and Dutch Universities, and the authority of Johnson.
“ In Germany,” says he, “and particularly in the seminaries now mentioned, (Leyden and Utrecht,) humanity was studied in school three or four years, and the study was then continued and completed at College, where the professor was, as it were, the rector or teacher of a higher Grammar School class; and the stva dents were so employed for two, three, or more sessions, in which time they began and carried on the study of the Greek language. For this account, we have, among others, the ample authority of an enlightened and classical author, who received his university education at Oxford, and was by no means partial to Scotland. Johnson informs us *, in his lile of the very learned and celebrated
* Professor Richardson's tract not having fallen in our way, we are obliged to quote his reasoning, as it is stated by Mr. Russel. For reasons, however, which the reader will discover by and bye, we have thought it expedient to quote Johnson's words immedia ately from his own work.
Peter Burman, that at about eleven years of age he was sent to the public school of Utrecht, to be instructed in the learned languages; and it will convey,' continues the Biographer, 'no common idea of his capacity and industry, to relate, that he had passed through the classes, and was admitted into the University in his thirteenth year. This account of the rapidity of his progress,” says the English scholar, “in the first part of his studies is so stupendous, that though it is attested by his friend Dr. Asterdyke, of whom it cannot reasonably be suspected that he is himself deceived, or that he can desire to deceive others, it must be allowed far to exceed the limits of probability, if it be considered with regard to the methods of education practised in our country, where it is not uncommon for the highest genius, and most comprehensive capacity, to be entangled for ten years, in those thorny paths of literature, which Burman is represented to have passed in less than two years; and we must doubtless confess, the most skilful of our masters, much excelled by the address of the Dutch teachers, or the abilities of our greatest scholars far surpassed by those of Burman. But to reduce this narrative to credibility," continues Johnson, it is necessary that admiration should give place to enquiry, and that it be discovered what proficiency in literature is expected from a student requesting to be admitted into a Dutch university. It is to be observed, that in the universities in foreign countries, they have professors of Philology, or Humanity, who are to instruct the younger classes in grammar, rhetoric, and languages; nor do they engage in the study of philosophy, till they have passed through a course of philological lectures and exercises, to which, in some places, two (or three) years are commonly * allotted. The English scheme of education, which, with respect to academical studies, is more vigorous, and sets literary honours at a higher price than that of any other country; exacts from the youth, who are initiated in our colleges, a degree of philological knowledge, sufficient to qualify them for lectures in philosophy, which are read to them in Latin, and to enable them to proceed in other studies without assistance ; so that it may be conjectured, that Burman, at his entrance into the University, had no such skill in languages, nor such ability in composition, as are frequently to be met with in the higher classes of an English school; and was, perhaps, no more than moderately skilled in Latin, and taught the first rudiments in Greek.”
Having made this long extract, or at least parts of it, from Johnson, the professor adds,
“ Thus then, the method followed at · Glasgow, is the same which produced those high classical editors and critics, to say no.
* The words, or three, are not in Johnson; the word, commonly, is, though not transcribed by Richardson.