Page images
PDF
EPUB

carefully considered, the exertion of the teacher, or the importance of the subject, will fail to produce the desired effect. Again, if we do not give the mechanic or artizan the knowledge that he himself says is most requisite for him, and best calculated to lead to the greater development of his craft, he will not attenl. From our experience of those of the citizens of Dublin living by weekly wages, we are induced to recommend the following courses to be taught in a Mechanics' Institute :

1st. Course. English Grammar, English Composition, Geography, Algebra, Geometry, (Practical and Theoretical) and Mensuration.

2nd. Course. French, Latin, Mechanics, Chemistry, and Astronomy. It may

be said that these courses comprise too many subjects, and the teaching of them would be carrying the education of the million too far. Well, those who entertain this opinion may do so, but for our part, we cannot see why the son of the mechanic should not be as eligible to receive instruction in any branch, as the child of the lawyer or surgeon. Of course, were we aware that the former was destined to follow, and never rise above the mere mechanical life of his father or grandfather, we might say, that to teach them many of these branches would be useless, and perhaps ridiculous.

But this we do not know, nor is it necessary we should, as our object in urging the opening of Mechanics' Institutes is to elevate and not depress, to encourage and not dishearten, to enlighten and not to keep in darkness, the working multitudes of our country, no matter what their position, no matter how low their birth. To extend the blessings of education to all, to disseminate the seeds of useful knowledge among all, to aid all in acquiring knowledge that will enable them to advance themselves in the world, and to afford them honorable and useful employment for their leisure hours, are the feelings which actuate us to advocate so warmly, the formation of what inay be justly termed, Mechanics' Institutes for the operative classes of Ireland. We fully agree with the Rev. Dr. Book, when he says that "we demand for the working classes, the best article," and we cannot see why it could not be procured for them, if proper means were resorted to. A great portion of the time of the working classes who have attended our daily schools, was devoted to the acquisition of the instruments of gaining knowledge, ra

a

ther than that of knowledge itself. It is therefore clear, that if no facilities be offered for their application afterwards, we must expect the mind to degenerate ; and no matter how large may be the number of elementary schools, the intellectual portion of the laboring body must remain uneducated. Being fully aware of this, we have ventured to recommend an English course, which in our opinion appears best adapted for the class of persons for whose benefit Mechanics' Institutes are intended.

Indeed, were we advocates for having the poor and uneducated man's son no better than his father, or ihe laborer's son a mere laborer too, in fact, were we to have the condition of the lower classes of society to remain stationary, then we might put greater limits to the course; or were we to entertain the same opinion held by Mr. Cobbett when he said, “ It was highly injudicious to teach the poor people to aspire to anything but labour,”* we should oppose the diffusion of knowledge among all who have been born poor, and keep it in a storehouse for those who are fortunate enough to possess the Cash to purchase it. Popular education is too far in advance now, and its friends too numerous to permit this system of exclusion--we say with Archbishop Whately—“I wonder not much, considering what human nature is, that some should think the education of the poor an evil: I do wonder at their not perceiving it to be inevitable.

Before closing the part of our paper relating to the class of instruction that should be given in Mechanics' Institutes, a question arises, -Should the course of Education consist of English only? We can in great truth inform our readers that we have given this matter our serious consideration for some time, and we might say for years, and the result of our consideration we shall now lay before them ; but before doing so we would havethem to bear in mind, that we are now advocating the cause of continuous education, for those who have already passed through elementary schools, as well as the education of the poor adult, which may have been more sadly neglected.

Under such circumstances it must appear that persons will attend, whose vocations in life must widely differ, but who, nevertheless, form the working portion of the community. Of

• Mr. Cobbett's speech on Mr. Roebuck's motion for a committee to enquire into the state of English Education.

this there can be no doubt, since our readers are aware that we would have none eligible, except those living by their weekly earnings. We cannot expect to have all Mechanics, nor do we expect to have all clerks, all shop-assistants, all messengers, nor do we want such: but we must have all working for their bread, members of soine class or other : this must be insisted upon, as it will be a safeguard against persons joining, through curiosity, or party intentions.

We have perhaps wandered too much from the result of our consideration, relative to the teaching of languages in these Institutes. But, duly considering all circumstances, we have come to the conclusion, that the French and Latin languages at least should be taught; but the reader will understand that by recoinmending those particular languages, we are not undervaluing others. Indeed we well know there are many young nien in very humble circumstances in life, who would think no amount of time devoted to the pursuit of classical knowledge unprofitably spent. It must be remembered that we are not endeavouring to show the subjects which might be useful and desirable, but those which are requisite and suitable to the wants of the class who would attend to be instructed in them. We can best describe the education that we would have given, by using the words of Thomas Wyse, who writes”.

“The very first essential of the education for which we are contending is not its extent, nor its elevation, nor the number of things learned, nor their seeming importance, nor their facility-though all this be worth attending to-but, above all things, and in all things, its applicability."

It is our duty to provide for the educational wants of all, but at the same time we should first see that we have pupils, or at least a probability of having them, before we incur the expense of paying Masters to teach subjects that are not in great demand, among the classes likely to attend the Institutions which occupy our attention at present. This it is which makes us recommend the teaching of the French and Latin Languages only, at their starting; and were we not convinced of the innportance, and the great estimation in which a practical knowledge of them is held, we would be inclined to confine the course of education in these Institutes to Englislı subjects only. But no matter what may be the character of the instruction given, we should never forget that their principal object should be the " scientific cultivation of the mind of the liechanic; and we

would urge the teaching of those principles of science most nearly connected with the occupation of the pupil. By doing this we are not preventing other members from availing themselves of any advantages that these Institutes may afford. No, we would say to them, embrace every opportunity that we have offered to you to acquire that knowledge suited to your capacities and inclination; and we would adopt the sentiments of the Earl of Carlisle, when exhorting the junior members of the Manchester Athenæum to persevere, and addressing them in the words of Johnson, he said :

Proceed, illustrious youth,
And Virtue guard thee to the throne of truth!
Let all thy soul indulge the generous heat,
Till captive science yield her last retreat ;
Let Reason guide thee with her brightest ray,

And pour in misty Doubt resistless day. But supposing that we offer advantages after advantages, suppose every subject that possibly could be mentioned was taught in these institutes, of what avail rould it be if proper teachers were not procured, and a proper teaching system adopted. A system may be good we will grant, but it does not follow that a teacher acting upon it must be the same. “In a teacher is requisite not only a competent knowledge of his subject, but an aptness to teach, which can only be acquired, generally speaking, by those who make teaching their sole occupation and study." A teacher of the rorking classes should be one competent to adapt his instruction to the position which his pupils hold or are likely to hold in life, otherwise let him not appear upon so important a stage. He must be a man of ability, energy and morality, having liis heart in his high calling, and not one who looks on school-keeping as his last resource, after having evinced his incapacity for all other pursuits. In fact me hold that there could not be a calling in life more entitled to universal respect than that of a teacher, if honorably and honestly exercised. * There are few things," speaks the eminent Professor Nicholl,“ more to be wished than that some competent pen would assume the important task of critically examining how knowledge ought to be communicated to the various minds thirsting for it." Again, in our views on this all important point, we are supported by the learned Professor Tyndall, who, when delivering his lecture on the study of Physics, at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, thus speaks of the profession of a Teacher :

“ If there be one profession in England of paramount importance I believe it to be that of the Schoolmaster; and if there be a posi. tion where selfishness and incompetence do most serious mischief, by lowering the moral tone and exciting contempt, and where reverence and notable truthfulness ought to be the feelings evoked, it is that of the governor of the school. When a man of enlarged heart and mind comes among boys—when he allows his being to stream through them, and observes the operation of his own character evidenced in the elevation of theirs-it would be idle to talk of the position of such a man being honorable. It is a blessed position. The man is a blessing to himself and to all around him. For no matter what means of culture may be chosen, whether physical or philological, success must ever mainly depend upon the amount of life, love and earnestnsss, which the teacher himself brings with him to his vocation."

Would that the profession was as justly estimated by the State ; if it were, we should not sce many an Irish teacher who would have been a credit to both his vocation and his

a country, compelled to seek the outdoor relief of the pauper, or humiliated to share the shelter of the Worklouse home. But a brighter day seems now to promise for them; and it is with much pleasure we find ourselves in a position to state, that effective means have been latterly taken, by the Irish Commissioners of National Education, to alleviate their distress by increasing, as we are informed, the salaries of all teachers of National Schools in proportion to their various merits. By elevating the teacher in the social rank, you elevate his profession also, and this can be only done by giving him a salary commensurate with the importance of his vocation, and the duties he is called upon to discharge.

We will now proceed to offer a few observations on what must be an adjunct of paramount importance to every Mechanics' Institute-a Library. We know of no greater boon that

-could be conferred upon the intellectual poor, than placing within their reach the advantages of a well selected library; por do we know why such a public duty should have been so long overlooked. Here may the poor mechanic, during the intervals of toil, find something to soothe him, ere he retires to

seek that repose

“When Labor's children sleep, When Joy forgets to smile, and Care to weep."

« PreviousContinue »