My dear Greaves,
My dear Greaves,
Need I point out to you the motive from which I have said thus much on the early attention to be paid to physical and intellectual education? Need I remind you that I consider these branches merely as leading to an higher aim, - to qualify the human being to the free and full use of all the faculties implanted by the Creator, - and to direct all these faculties towards the perfection of the whole being of Man, that he may be enabled to act, in his peculiar station, as an instrument of that all-wise and almighty power that has called him into life? This is the view which education should lead an individual to take of his relation to his Maker - a view which will at once give him humility to acknowledge the imperfection of his attempts and the weakness of his power - and inspire him with the courage of an unshaken confidence in the source of all that is good and true.
In relation to society, Man should be qualified by education to be a useful member of it. In order to be truly useful it is necessary that he should be truly (independent). Whether that independence may arise from his circumstances or whether it be acquired by the honourable use of his talents, or whether it be owing to more laborious exertion and frugal habits, it is clear that true independence must rise and fall with the dignity of his moral character rather than with affluent circumstances or intellectual superiority, or indefatigable exertion. A state of bondage, or of self-merited poverty, is not more degrading than a state of dependence on considerations which betray littleness of mind or want of moral energy, or of honourable feeling. An individual whose actions bear the stamp of independence of mind cannot but be a useful as well as an esteemed member of society. He fills up a certain place in society belonging to himself and to no other, because he has obtained it by merit and secured it by character. His talents, his time, his opportunities, or his influence, are all given to a certain end. And even in the humbler walks of life it has always been acknowledged that there were individuals who by the intelligent, the frank, the honourable character of their demeanour, and by the meritorious tendency of their exertions deserved to be mentioned together with those whose names were illustrated by the halo of noble birth, and by the still brighter glory of genius or merit. That such instances are but exceptions, and that these exceptions are so few is owing to the system of education which generally prevails, and which is little calculated to promote independence of character.
Considering Man as an individual, education should contribute in giving him happiness. The feeling of (happiness) does not arise from exterior circumstances; it is a state of the mind, a consciousness of harmony both with the inward and the outward world: it assigns their due limits to the desires, and it proposes the highest aim to the faculties of Man. For happy is he who can bring his desires within the measure of his means and who can resign to every individual and selfish wish without giving up his content and repose, - whose feeling of general satisfaction is not dependent on individual gratification. And happy again is he who, whenever self is out of the question, and the higher perfection of his better nature, or the best interests of his race are at stake, - happy is he who then knows of no limits to his efforts and who can bring them to keep pace with his most sanguine hopes. The sphere of happiness is unbounded, it is extending as the views are enlarged; it is elevated as the feelings of the heart are raised, it "grows with their growth, and strengthens with their strength."
In order to give the character described here to the actions and to the life of an individual, I consider it as necessary that all the faculties implanted in human nature should be properly depeloped. It is not that (virtuosity) ought to be attained in any direction, or that a degree of excellence ought to be anxiously aspired to, which is the exclusive privilege of pre-eminent talent. But there is a degree of development of all the faculties which is far from the refinement of any; and of such a course the great advantage will be to prepare the mind for a more especial application to any line of studies congenial to its inclination, or connected with certain pursuits.
With regard to the claim which every human being has to a judicious development of his faculties by those to whom the care of his infancy is confided, a claim of which the universality does not seem to be sufficiently acknowledged, - allow me to make use of an illustration which was on one occasion proposed by one of my friends. Whenever we find a human being in a state of suffering and near to the awful moment which is for ever to close the scene of his pains and his enjoyments in this world, we feel ourselves moved by a sympathy which reminds us that, however low his earthly condition, here too there is one of our race subject to the same sensations of alternate joy and grief, born with the same faculties, - with the same destination, and the same hopes for a life of immortality. And as we give ourselves up to that idea, we would fain, if we could, alleviate his sufferings, and shed a ray of light on the darkness of his parting moments. This is a feeling which will come home to the heart of everyone, - even to the young and the thoughtless, and to those little used to the sight of woe. - Why then, we would ask, do we look with a careless indifference on those who enter life? Why do we feel so little interest in the feelings and in the condition of those who enter upon that varied scene, of which, if we would but stop to reflect, we might contribute to enchance the enjoyments and to diminish the sum of suffering of discontent and wretchedness? And that education might do that, is the conviction of all those who are competent to speak from experience. That it (ought) to do as much is the persuasion, and that it may once accomplish it is the constant endeavour of all those who are truly interested in the welfare of mankind. (PSW 26, p. 131-133)