of the Managers
to the Friends of the Institution1
The buildings and arrangements for the school at Haverford being in such a state of forwardness as to promise an early completion, the Managers think it due to those parents who may be looking to this institution for completing the education of their children, to state more fully than has yet been done, the views in which it originated.
Many of the members of the religious Society of Friends, who are anxious to bestow a guarded and liberal education upon their children, and those connected with them, have long felt the disadvantages to which they are subjected in accomplishing this object. Upon looking round and comparing sentiments, it was found that the number entertaining these views was very considerable. It was believed that if an institution were once founded, which should carry out to the completion of the education, the plan so well begun in the Yearly Meeting schools, of combining sound literary instruction with a strict guard over the morals and manners, and a careful seclusion from the temptations incident to mixed schools--it would be cordially approved by their fellow members. From the inquiries which were then made, it is believed that a greater number of Friends' children than can be accommodated in the buildings we have erected, are at this time receiving their education at colleges and academies, amidst associations which are calculated to lead them away from the simplicity of their profession, and often surrounded by examples of dissipation and extravagance, which no pious parent can witness without pain. The reason almost uniformly given by parents for thus exposing their offspring, has been that there is no means of procuring a liberal education within the limits of the society.
It was therefore agreed to try how far our friends were really interested in the subject, and an association was formed, and funds were raised for establishing a select boarding school for the higher branches of learning. The attempt was successful, and a site has been selected, which has given very general satisfaction for its healthiness, the beauty of the country, and its readiness of access. A spacious and convenient building has been erected, sufficient to accommodate upwards of sixty pupils, and arrangements are in forwardness, though not completed, for engaging competent and well qualified teachers. As it will be important to the Managers to ascertain the number of pupils with which the school is to open, those parents and guardians who design to send their children to the Institution, are requested to give information thereof, at as early a period as is convenient, to the Clerk of the Board of Managers. The price of board and tuition will be $200 per annum; and it is intended previously to opening the school, to publish an outline of the course of instruction, a list of the books requisite, and other detailed information, which would at the present time be premature.
The Managers are sensible that in an undertaking of such great responsibility, which will naturally be scrutinised with a watchful eye, it is due to the friends of the Institution to state at greater length than would otherwise be requisite, the course of education which they have, after mature reflection, adopted, and the reasons which have influenced their judgment. In the first place, then, we do not aim so much to make brilliant scholars of our pupils, as to turn out well instructed, serious, reflecting, and useful men. The acquisition of knowledge valuable for its own sake, is chiefly to be prized as the means which incomparably more important objects--the cultivation of the mental powers, and the formation of correct principles and habits are to be attained. Education, in this most comprehensive sense, is the business of life, commencing in infancy, and carried on, in rightly governed minds, to old age. That portion of it which devolves upon tutors must, to be valuable, have reference to this great end of the formation of character, and must be modified in its details by the peculiar mental constitution of the individual, and his prospects in life.
In laying the foundation of a good education, those parts of the multifarious mass of human knowledge must be selected, the study of which is most strengthening to the faculties, and the application most useful in the affairs of life. These have been decided by the experience of the most competent judges, to be the abstract and natural sciences, and language. Each of these departments of study has a peculiar influence in the formation of the intellectual character, and each, when it is the only means employed, must partially, and therefore imperfectly exercise the faculties. The study of the mathematical sciences, for example, is of inestimable value in its place. It forms the best means of invigorating the reasoning powers. The perfect precision of their terms, the absolute certainty of their proof, infuse into the mind that has been imbued with them, a calm confidence in principles of the truth of which it is persuaded, that no sophistry can shake. The disadvantages of an exclusive study of the mathematics are, that its peculiar exercise of the faculties is not that which prepares for common life; that it deals in certainty, whereas men are compelled to act upon probabilities; that its results all lie folded up in its own first principles, whereas the business of life is with an ever varying and often conflicting experience.
The value of the natural sciences as a means of improving the mind consists in the habits of observation, of discrimination, and of classification which they cultivate. They counteract the tendency of pure mathematics to abstract the mind from external objects. Yet as they relate only to these, their sphere must be admitted to be a subordinate one; for they may be successfully pursued without expanding or elevating the moral faculties.
One of the most valuable and important departments of study is that of language. Our native tongue undoubtedly claims the preeminence in our regard. But there is always a portion of time advantageously to be spared from other studies, sufficient for acquiring a competent knowledge of some foreign language. The exercise is in itself a most useful one. It trains the mind to that memory of words, an habitual accuracy in which is not only of vast importance in the business of life, but is closely connected with the practice of strict veracity. In this respect alone, there may not be much room for choice between the study of one language and another. But our own tongue, richer perhaps than any other in the spoils of every clime, cannot be fully mastered without a knowledge of the sources from which it is derived; and it is for this reason among others, that the languages of ancient Greece and Rome, the common stock of so many modern dialects, are to be preferred. Their peculiar structure admirably adapts them for illustrating the principles of the philosophy of language. They are the languages, moreover, of the nations which first cultivated letters with success, and there are from this circumstance a freshness, and vigour, and originality in their compositions, which place these in the first rank of literary productions, a rank which, from the fixed character of their language, they will probably continue to maintain.
It is true that some of the writings of the heathens are tainted with the impurity of their superstition. But what language is there except that of the Old Testament, which is not liable to the same or still stronger objections? What security, in short, have we from the poison of this kind, that is in every breath of the world we live in, but the inculcation of a better knowledge, and of higher principles of action? It must be remembered that these offensive books are to form no portion of the course of study in our school; for it is intended carefully to exclude them. The aim in teaching these languages will be, to make the pupil thoroughly master of their structure by the careful study of a few well selected books. He will thus obtain all the benefit which the study confers as a course of mental discipline of peculiar value in the formation of the intellectual habits, and be prepared to extend his acquaintance with authors, as inclination or subsequent pursuits may lead.
An important effect of the careful study of language, is its influence in establishing the use of clear and precise terms, which take away one of the most fruitful sources of error and disputation. Of still higher value is its connexion with the philosophy, and with the history of the progress, of the human mind. An education which should embrace all the physical sciences, and not include a knowledge of the phenomena of mind, would be defective in all the higher objects of instruction. The laws of our intellectual nature are as permanent as those of the material world--they furnish as clear an evidence of Almighty wisdom--they constitute our real though unseen guides in the pursuit of all other sciences. A cautious spirit of inquiry has at length rescued this department of science from the reproach to which it was long subject, of vain and frivolous subtilty. It diffuses its light, by teaching the true method of philosophical inquiry, over all other branches of learning. It forms itself the basis of a large and most important part of our knowledge--that which relates to the sources of our intellectual pleasures, to our social and civil rights, and above all, that which treats of our moral obligations. This ethical department of the philosophy of mind, forms indeed its highest and noblest province, for we are not left in its examination to the unassisted guidance of human reason, but we travel by the light which is shed upon it from Divine Revelation. Such, as it appears to us, is the just gradation of the studies requisite for completing the education, for invigorating the mental powers, and at the same time acquiring that due adjustment of their strength which is the characteristic of sound reason. When the pursuits of learning are thus brought to bear upon the great end of existence, the happiness and virtue of mankind, they do not serve merely to scatter flowers along the path of life--but they become the firm friends and supporters of religion and morality.
It should not be objected that the course of study we have laid down, is suitable only as a preparation for the literary professions, and that it can be of little use to men in the more mechanical and laborious occupations. If its chief value consist in this, that it strengthens the faculties, forms habits of patient thought and steady perseverance, and establishes in the mind just methods of reasoning;--these are of equal value in every sphere of life; and although the studies during the pursuit of which they were acquired may be neglected or forgotten amidst the cares and duties of manhood, the mind will retain the impression which it has received, as soils will bear the marks of a fertilizing growth for years after it has mouldered away.
It will be readily inferred, that entertaining these views of the subject, we shall not attempt to crowd into the course of study a great variety of miscellaneous learning. It is a mistaken idea that the extent of knowledge communicated in a school is a measure of its value; for the mere details of any science, however fresh and vivid at first, gradually fade from the recollection, if they are not frequently re-examined; and all that remains with us permanently are the general principles, and those particulars which have become associated in our mind with familiar objects or memorable occurrences. To be trained for severe mental labour and discipline is far better than to have the head filled with a mere collection of facts.
Yet as every plan of education must be modified in a degree by the circumstances of individuals, we shall blend with these principal studies, the practical branches of education, which are of a more palpable and direct application to business. These will be pursued by the pupils in every stage of their progress, and the instruction will be accommodated as far as practicable to the circumstances of each child, the length of time for which he is entered, his previous studies, his capacity and disposition, and the wishes of parents in relation to his future occupations.
In an institution for the guarded, as well as liberal education of youth, members of the religious society of Friends, a conformity to the customs and peculiarities--the dress and address of the society, becomes a matter of course. In order that this compliance may not be an unwilling submission, the reasons for which it is required, and the connexion in which it stands with the highest principles of duty should be explained. The history of our society--the nature of our institutions and our peculiar testimonies, are, to say the least of them, as important to us, as the history and constitution of our common country, of which every well informed citizen would be ashamed to be thought ignorant.
But if it be thus important to make youth acquainted with those parts of the testimonies of the society which distinguish it as a separate people, it must be admitted to be equally so to instruct them in the common belief of the Christian world. The external evidences of the truth of revealed religion, are as proper a subject of investigation as any question in science. If true, they must be able to withstand, as they ever have done, the severest scrutiny. They form in fact, the most irresistible weight of proof which has ever been brought to bear upon any question of a moral nature. Not to make the youthful mind acquainted with the wonderful train of events, the prophecies and their fulfillment, the undesigned and almost miraculous proofs of the truth of holy writ by profane and infidel writers, the confirmation by natural and moral revolutions, which this investigation opens, is to shut out one of the noblest views which the Almighty has vouchsafed to us, of the course of his providence.
Thus far, the understanding, and that only, is necessarily enlightened. The pupil may pass from study to study through the course we have marked out; all this knowledge may be received by him as mere knowledge, and the heart remain unwarmed by a single ray of true religion; for there is no necessary connexion between them. Although by careful cultivation the soil may be prepared by us to receive it, it is not, to use the expressive metaphor of holy writ, until the good seed of the kingdom has been sown by the heavenly husbandman, that the fruits of righteousness can appear.
But what then? Shall we avoid communicating instruction--which, when it receives the Divine blessing, is the most valuable kind--because it may fail of this? Is it thus that Christian parents act towards their own offspring? Do they not rather the more anxiously inform and cultivate the youthful mind, praying and humbly trusting for the Divine aid, seeking access to the fountain of life to qualify them for their labours, watching continually against the buddings of evil propensities, cautioning, reproving, exhorting, as strength is given them? And what is a properly qualified teacher but a delegated parent, to whom the child is committed, that he may be instructed in all these things that we have enumerated, and that his character may be formed after the Christian pattern as far as example and instruction will go?
Not that we suppose any institution capable of moulding alike the character of every pupil. But we think we are bound to take the best means that circumstances permit for improving the faculties and forming the intellectual character of our children; and if we inculcate as the great fundamental principle of all our instruction, that these studies contribute to the true honour and dignity of the character, only as this is submitted to the cross of Christ, we conceive that we place human learning in that entire subordination to Christian principle and to the influence of the Holy Spirit, which has ever been the aim of the religious society of Friends.
Within our own times a remarkable change has taken place throughout the civilized world, in respect to the diffusion of knowledge. It is not merely that all classes are now taught the common rudiments of learning; but by a judicious selection of objects of study, by improved methods of instruction, and better elementary treatises than were formerly in use, a degree of solid and useful learning is imparted to young men even in the ordinary walks of life, which has heretofore been limited almost exclusively to the rich. The knowledge which is thus becoming universal in the middling classes, is brought to bear upon the daily business of life, and has become essential to the successful cultivation of many of the manual arts. Such is the invariable tendency of improvements in society. That learning which a few centuries ago was confined to the wealthy, is now diffused throughout the mass of the community, and its light is continually augmenting and spreading. For knowledge is no longer a mere fountain at which a few may drink; it is spread abroad like the ocean, its waters may be said to be exhaling into the atmosphere; the common air is saturate with it, and we imbibe it, as it were, at every pore, and with every breath. The alternative is not in this age and in this country between a safe ignorance and a hazardous knowledge. It is between a safe knowledge and a hazardous ignorance. For however our education may be contracted, we cannot in our necessary intercourse with men, avoid receiving impressions of one kind or another from those who read and speculate; and the mind which is not well grounded in just principles, will be blown about by every wind of doctrine, and be peculiarly liable to be dazzled by the glitter of false learning. If then it be demonstrated, that without a proper cultivation the mind will run to waste, the only question that remains is, what method of instruction we shall pursue? If it were a question respecting the mode of tilling a field, or the shape of a mechanical tool, we should be answered, seek out and adopt the best. Need we ask if the human mind is not of more value than a blade of grass, or a carpenter's hammer?
In attempting as far as practicable to carry into effect their views of the paramount importance of religious care in the education of youth, the Managers trust that they will be enabled to secure the services of a properly qualified friend in the station of superintendent. It is their wish to place at the head of the Institution, a friend whose duty it shall be to devote himself to the charge of the pupils in the intervals of study--to watch over and mingle with them--to exercise over them the peculiar care which judicious and pious parents feel to be requisite. An intercourse of this kind will soften without weakening authority, and may be made the means of much seasonable instruction. This feature of our Institution will, we trust, recommend it to the confidence of parents and to the affections of the pupils. By the aid of a mild but firm discipline, of competent teachers, and thorough instruction in every branch of study that is to be pursued, and of sedulous care and oversight on the part of its officers and managers, we hope that our Institution may prove the means, under the Divine blessing, of imparting to the youth educated in it for generations to come, that "good instruction," which, in the language of the motto of William Penn, "is better than riches."
Signed on behalf and by direction of the board of managers of the Haverford school association.
CHARLES YARNALL, Sec'y.
Philadelphia, 5th mo. 13, 1833.