Cambridge Essays on Education eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 229 pages of information about Cambridge Essays on Education.
What we must try to do is to educate the faculties of curiosity, interest, imagination and sympathy; we must begin from the boy himself, and conduct him away from himself.  What we really ought to aim at is to give him the sense that he is surrounded by strange and beautiful mysteries of nature, of which he can himself observe certain phenomena; that human history, as well as the great world about him, is crowded with interesting and animating figures who have laboured, toiled, loved, acted, suffered, sinned, have felt the impulse both of base and selfish desires, but no less of beautiful, exalted, and inspiring hopes.  We want to convince the young that it is not well to be narrow, close-fisted, insolent, suspicious, petty, self-satisfied. Imaginative sympathy, that is to be the end of all our efforts.  If we aim only at producing sympathy, we may get a vague sentimentalism which is just distressed by apparent suffering, and anxious to relieve it momentarily, without reflecting whether it is not the outcome of perfectly curable faults of system and habit.  If we aim only at imagination, then we get a barren artistic pleasure in dramatic situations and romantic effects.  What we ought to aim at is the sympathy which pities and feels for others, as well as admires and imitates them; and this must be reinforced by the imagination which can concern itself with the causes of what otherwise are but vague emotions.  We want to make boys on the one hand detest tyranny and high-handedness and bigotry and ruthless exercise of power, and on the other hand mistrust stupidity and ignorance and baseness and selfishness and suspiciousness.  The study of high literature is valuable not as a mere exercise in erudition and linguistic nicety and critical taste, but because the great books mirror best the highest hopes and visions of human nature.  The precise extent of the intellectual range matters very little, compared with the perceptiveness and emotion by which the realisation of other lives, other needs, other activities, other problems are accompanied.

I must not be supposed, in saying this, to be leaving out of sight the virile exercise of logical and rational faculties; but that is another side of education; and the grave deficiency which I detect in the old theory was that practically all the powers and devices of education were devoted to what was called fortifying the mind and making it into a perfect instrument, while there were left out of sight the motives which were to guide the use of that instrument, and the boy was led to suppose that he was to fortify his mind solely for his own advantage.  This individualist theory must somehow be modified.  The aim of the process I have described is not simply to indicate to the boy the amount of selfish pleasure which he can obtain from literary masterpieces; it is rather to show the boy that he is not alone and isolated, in a world where it is advisable for him to take and keep all that he can; but that he is one of a great

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Cambridge Essays on Education from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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