How far expansion of soul, or enlightenment of intellect, is to be expected from the present systems of female education, we have seen in effects,—let us now go back to causes.
It is unnecessary to start from the prejudice of ignorance; it is now universally acknowledged that women have a right to education, and that they must be educated. We smile with condescending pity at the blinded state of our respected grandmothers, and thank God that we are not as they, with a thanksgiving as uncalled for as that of the proud Pharisee. On abstract ground, their education was better than ours; it was a preparation for their future duties. It does not affect the question, that their notion of these duties was entirely confined to the physical comfort of husbands and children. The defect of the scheme, as has been argued, was not in rationality, but in comprehensiveness,—a fundamentally right principle being the basis, it is easy to extend the application of it indefinitely.
Indiscriminate blame, however, is as invidious as it is useless; if the fault-finder be not also the fault-mender, the exercise of his powers is, at best, but a negative benefit. Let us, therefore, enter into a calm examination of the two principal ramifications, into which education has insensibly divided itself, as far as the young women of our own country are concerned; bearing in mind that women can only exercise their true influence, inasmuch as they are free from worldly-mindedness and egotism, and that, therefore, no system of education can be good which does not tend to subdue the selfish and bring out the unselfish principle. The systems alluded to are these:—
1st. The education of accomplishments for shining in society.
2d. Intellectual education, or that of the mental powers.
What are the objects of either? To prepare the young for life; its subsequent trials; its weighty duties; its inevitable termination? We will examine the principles on which both these educations are made to work, and see whether, or how far, they have any relation to those most called for, by the future and presumed duties of the educated. The worldly and the intellectual, alternately objects of contempt to each other, are equally objects of pity to the wise, as mistaken in their end, and deceived as to the means of attaining that end.