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Addressing myself, therefore, especially to Parents, I would say-Placed by the all-wise providence of Heaven in such a peculiar situation, it will be well for you to keep especially in view, what may be denominated, the Education of circumstances, and the Education of the dispositions.
I. THE EDUCATION OF CIRCUMSTANCES.-Let purchased tuition be carried up to the very highest perfection, and let neither money nor wisdom be spared in reaching this height, of such vital importance in the training of Children, is that department to which I now refer, that it can, and, if neglected, will, undermine and undo the whole, as well as render many efforts in educating the disposition altogether abortive. Suffer me to explain my meaning.
In the laudable anxiety of their hearts, two Parents, with a family of infants playing around their feet, are heard to say—“Oh! what will-what can best educate these dear Children?" I reply-Look to yourselves and your circumstances. Maxims and documents are good in themselves, and especially good for the regulation of your conduct and your behaviour towards them; but with regard to your Children, you have yet often to remark, that many
maxims are good, precisely till they are tried, or applied, and no longer. In the hands of many Parents they will teach the Children to talk, and very often little more. I do not mean to assert, that sentiments inculcated have no influence; far from it: they have much, though not the most; but still, after all, it is the sentiments you let drop occasionally-it is the conversation they overhear, when playing in the corner of
the room, which has more effect than many things which are addressed to them directly in the tone of exhortation. Besides, as to maxims, ever remember, that between those which you bring forward for their use, and those by which you direct your own conduct, Children have almost an intuitive discernment; and it is by the latter they will be mainly governed, both during childhood and their future existence.
The question, however, returns, What will educate these Children? And now I answer, “ Your example will educate them your conversation with your friends the business they see you transact—the likings and dislikings you express-these will educate them; the society you live in will educate them-your domestics will educate them; and whatever be your rank or situation in life, your house, your table, and your daily behaviour there, these will educate them. To withdraw them from the unceasing and potent influence of these things is impossible, except you were to withdraw yourself from them also. Some Parents talk of beginning the education of their Chil. dren: the moment they were capable of forming an idea, their education was already begun,—the Education of circumstances insensible education, which, like insensible perspiration, is of more constant and powerful effect, and of far more consequence to the habit, than that which is direct and apparent. This education goes on at every instant of time; it goes on like time-you can neither stop it, nor turn its course. Whatever these, then, have a tendency to make your Children, that, in a great degree, you at least should be persuaded, they will be.”
The language, however, occasionally heard from
some Fathers, may here not unseasonably be glanced at. They are diffuse in praise of maternal influence; and, pleased at the idea of its power and extent, they will exclaim, “ O yes, there can be doubt of that every thing depends on the Mother.” This, however, will be found to spring from a selfish principle, and from anxiety to be relieved from mighty obligations, which, after all, cannot be transferred from the Father's shoulders to those even of a Mother; to say nothing of the unkindness involved in laying upon her a burden, which nature never intended, and never does. Her influence, as an instrument, indeed, a Husband cannot too highly prize; but let no Father imagine that he can neutralize the influence of his own presence and his own example at home. He cannot if he would, nor can he escape from obligation. The patience and constancy of a Mother are, no doubt, first mainly tried, but then those of the Father. The dispositions in each Parent are fitted by nature for this order in the trial of patience; but, from the destined and appropriate share allotted to each, neither of the two parties, when in health, can relieve the other. Addressing myself, therefore, to both Parents, I
“ Contract to its just and proper dimensions the amount of all that purchased Education can do for you, and expect no more from it than it is truly able to perform. It can give instruction. There will always be an essential difference between a human being cultivated and uncultivated. In the department of purchased tuition, you will portion out to the best advantage many of those precious hours of youth which never will return; and such employment will
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lend you powerful aid in forming those personal habits which lie within the province of parental education; but rest assured, and lay it down to yourselves as a cardinal principle, that the business of education, properly so called, is not transferrable. You may engage a master, or masters, as numerous as you please, to instruct your Children in many things, useful and praiseworthy in their own place, but you must, by the order of nature, educate them yourselves. You not only ought to do it, but you will perceive that, if I am correct in what I have stated, and
may still advance, you must do it, whether you intend it or not. “ The Parent,” said Cecil, to stand reasoning and calculating. God has said, that his character shall have influence; and so this appointment of Providence becomes often the punishment of a wicked or a careless man.” As Education, in the sense I have explained, is a thing necessary for all, for the poor and for the rich-for the illiterate as well as the learned, Providence has not made it dependent on systems, uncertain, operose, and difficult of application. Every Parent, therefore, save when separated altogether from his Family, may be seen daily in the act of educating his Children; for, from Father and Mother, and the circumstances in which they move, the Children are daily advancing in the knowledge of what is good or evil. The occupations of the poor man at his daily labour, and of the man of business in his counting-house, cannot interrupt this education. In both instances the Mother is plying at her uninterrupted avocations, and her example is powerfully operating every hour, while at certain intervals daily, as well as every morning and
evening, all things come under the potent sway of the Father or the Master, whether that influence be good or bad. Here, then, is one school from which there are no truants, and in which there are no holidays.
True, indeed, you send your Children to another school, and this is the very best in the whole neighbourhood ; and the character of the Master there is not only unexceptionable, but praiseworthy. When your
Children come home, too, you put a book, of your own selection, into their hands, or even many such books, and they read them with pleasure and personal advantage. Still, after all this, never for one day forget, that the first book they read, nay, that which they continue to read, and by far the most influential, is that of their Parents' example and daily deportment. If this should be disregarded by you, or even forgotten, then be not at all surprised when you find, another day, to your sorrow and vexation, and the interruption of your business, if not the loss of all your domestic peace and harmony, that your Children only “know the right path, but still follow the wrong.”
Sure I am, that you would rather come to any trial, than come to such a distracting conclusion as this. Well, then, say to yourselves—What became of Children when there were no books whatever in existence? How was it that Abraham and Job, and the Parents of such times, acquitted themselves so well, and were even so successful in regard to their Families ? Nay, how was it that the generation which was trained even in the wilderness, between Egypt and Canaan, should turn out to be perhaps the very best which