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AMERICAN ANNALS OF EDUCATION AND INSTRUCTION. Edited by William C. Woodbridge. Boston. 8vo.
THE work, of which we have placed the title at the head of this article, is devoted to what is generally acknowledged to be the most important interest of families and of the State. It has, therefore, no ordinary claims to patronage, especially as it is the only work of the kind published in the country. We learn, however, that the support now given it, not only falls short of its just claims, but is so insufficient, that, unless its circulation can be extended, it must be abandoned. We are not only grieved at this, but somewhat disappointed; for, although we knew the ruling passion in the community for light and amusing reading, we did hope, that the acknowledged importance of education, and the necessity laid on every parent to watch over and guide the young, would overcome the repugnance to mental labor, and would communicate an interest to details, which, separate from their end, would be dry and repulsive. It seems, however, that the community are more dis
posed to talk of education in general than to enter patiently and minutely into its principles and methods, more disposed to laud it than to labor for it; and on this account we feel ourselves bound to say something, however briefly and rapidly, of the obligation of regarding it as the paramount object of society, and of giving encouragement to those, who make it their task or who devote themselves to its promotion. We know that we are repeating a thrice-told tale, are inviting attention to principles which the multitude most courteously acknowledge, and as readily forget. But all great truths are apt to grow trite; and if the moral teacher should fail to enforce them, because they are worn by repetition, religious and moral teaching would well nigh cease.
One excellence of the periodical work before us is, that it is pledged to no particular system of education, but starts with the acknowledgment of the great defects of all systems, and with the disposition to receive new lights, come from what quarter they may. It is no partisan. It is the instrument of no sect. It is designed to improve our modes of training the young; to give more generous views of the objects of education and of the discipline by which they may be attained; to increase the efficiency of existing institutions, and to aid in forming new ones more suited to our age and country; to unfold and diffuse those great, universal principles in which men of all parties may be expected to agree, and to point out the applications of them in our families and schools. Its pages are open to original suggestions, to discoveries, to the zealous reformer, and even to the too sanguine innovator. Its aim is, to be a medium of communication for all who think on the subject of education, to furnish new facts to the phi
losopher, and to make known the results of successful experiments. Its liberality gives it one strong claim to support.
Perhaps, if it were more confined in its views, if it were designed to answer the purposes of a party or sect, it would be better sustained. Were it to proscribe one class, and to pander to the bad passions of another, it would not perhaps be obliged to sue for more generous patronage. But is it true, that a work on education cannot find readers withog assuming the badge of party? Cannot the greatness of its object secure attention to its teachings? In what class of society ought it not to find friends? What parent has not a deep interest in the improvement of public and private education? What philanthropist does not see in this the chief preparation of a people for his schemes of usefulness? What patriot does not see in this the main security of free institutions? This cause is commended alike to our private and public affections; and must the only periodical devoted to it die through neglect ?
We are aware, that there are some, who take an attitude of defence, when pressed with earnest applications on the subject of education. They think its importance overrated. They say, that circumstances chiefly determine the young mind, that the influence of parents and teachers is very narrow, and that they sometimes dwarf and distort, instead of improving the child, by taking the work out of the hand of nature. These remarks are not wholly unfounded. The power of parents is often exaggerated. To strengthen their sense of responsibility, they are often taught, that they are competent to effects, which are not within their reach, and are often discouraged by the greatness of the
task to which they are summoned. Nothing is gained by exaggeration. It is true, and the truth need not be disguised, that parents cannot operate at pleasure on the minds and characters of the young. Their influence is limited by their own ignorance and imperfection, by the strength and freedom of the will of the child, and by its connexion, from its breath, with other objects and beings. Parents are not the only educators of their offspring, but must divide the work with other and numerous agents; and in this we rejoice; for, were the young confined to domestic influences, each generation would be a copy of the preceding, and the progress of society would cease. The child is not put into the hands of parents alone. It is not born to hear but a few voices. It is brought at birth into a vast, we may say, an infinite school. The universe is charged with the office of its education. Innumerable voices come to it from all that it meets, sees, feels. It is not confined to a few books anxiously selected for it by parental care. Nature, society, experience, are volumes opened everywhere and perpetually before its eyes. It takes lessons from every object within the sphere of its senses and its activity, from the sun and stars, from the flowers of spring and the fruits of autumn, from every associate, from every smiling and frowning countenance, from the pursuits, trades, professions of the community in which it moves, from its plays, friendships, and dislikes, from the varieties of human character, and from the consequences of its actions. All these, and more than these, are appointed to teach, awaken, develope the mind of the child. It is plunged amidst friendly and hostile influences, to grow by coöperating with the first, and by resisting the last. The circumstances in which