Imágenes de páginas

denominated the middle are obliged to have their children educated at cheap and wretched academies,' where the whole object is to make money. They really have no alternative between this kind of education or none at all; and yet this is a class, the right education of which, in a political system like ours, is at least of equal importance with that of the poor; and, if we consider this class with reference to its immediate influence on the poor, we think their right education is of more immediate necessity than even that of the lowest classes. If good schools were established by authority in every town and country district, parents would be able to board their children at home, and have them instructed in the public school by teachers who have undergone public examinations, in such branches as an enlightened board of education might find most useful. Many persons who now style themselves schoolmasters would certainly have to engage in other pursuits; they might lose, but the mass of the people would gain, and the character of the whole nation would be rapidly improved.

There will probably be many opponents to such a measure of national education, people who think the education of the higher and upper classes good enough, and who wish the poorer classes to receive education as charity at their hands. As to the education of the poor, if their charity be real, and not subservient to selfish views, they ought to see with pleasure that done by government completely which they can only do imperfectly. There will be still sufficient opportunities for the rich to oblige the poor and render themselves popular in numerous ways, if their inclinations lie that way.


IN Number VIII. of this Journal we offered some remarks on the condition of the physical and mathematical sciences as at present cultivated in the University of Oxford, and more especially regarded as a branch of academical instruction. We were led to those remarks from the perusal of a publication* which tended strongly to point out the defects in the existing system, and to suggest some remedies for them, in. which we were upon the whole heartily disposed to concur.

We have now received from a correspondent in that uni

*The Present State and Future Prospects of Mathematical and Physical Studies in the University of Oxford considered in a Public Lecture, by the Rev. B. Powell, M.A., F.R.S., Savilian Professor of Geometry. Oxford, 1832.

versity a paper which has recently been circulated there referring to the same subject, and evincing that the friends to improvement in the university system are by no means relaxing their efforts, but endeavouring once more to bring the matter before those who, by the constitution of the university, possess the sole power of originating any legislative measures, and to whom several such appeals have been made before without much success.

The paper in question is as follows:

• Examination System.

Though there doubtless prevails throughout the university much difference of opinion as to the points in which the existing system of instruction, and especially of the Public Examinations, may be susceptible of improvement, yet it may be presumed that hardly any doubt exists as to the increasing necessity for some alterations.

'Among other points, there is one on which nearly all who feel an interest in the credit and efficiency of the university are agreed, viz. the great defect in the system occasioned by the total neglect of physical and mathematical studies as an essential branch of a liberal education. Not that encouragement is not held out to the prosecution of these studies, but that they form no integrant part of the academical system; and that a large portion of the junior members leave the university in total ignorance of the most common elements of physical truth.

'Some who have felt a more especial interest in the subject have, from time to time, urged the adoption of various measures having in view the remedy of this evil; but these have not met with general support. Waiving then the consideration of several topics on which difference of opinion may prevail, there are some measures of improvement of so obvious a nature, and involving such slight innovations, that it is presumed scarcely any one can allege a good reason against their adoption, and in which, in point of fact, a considerable number of the members of Convocation are known to agree.

The object proposed is simply to render some acquaintance with the first principles of Physical Science a necessary qualification for the degree of B.A., and in doing so to endeavour to guard against the operation of those causes which might impair the efficiency of this requisition.

If this object be admitted to be a just and reasonable one, there can surely be no doubt that the means of securing it would be to make such an alteration in the Statute, as, instead of the present system, (which practically amounts to restricting the candidate to the letter of the four books of Euclid,) should allow him a free choice between the elements of Geometry generally, or of Algebra, Arithmetic, or any branch of Natural Philosophy: to grant, in short, a similar latitude of choice in this department, to that allowed

in the Classical: but to insist that some one of these branches should be indispensable.

[ocr errors]

The character of such an Examination would be effectually secured from degradation into mere technicalities by the stimulus to aiming at the Fourth Class, supplied by printing the names of all who pass in this department of the Fifth; and still more so, if this Fifth Class were allowed to be subdivided. And if it should be objected, that this proposition exacts too much from the candidate, it would surely be far better to diminish a little of what is required in the other department, than that this should be wholly omitted.

In the opinion of some favourable to this plan, it would be the most satisfactory and effectual mode of forwarding it, if those members of Convocation, who upon examination may see the propriety of it, were to join in signing a Memorial to the heads of houses, requesting to have proposed to Convocation the alterations here suggested.


To give them the opportunity of more full consideration, the form of such a Memorial is here subjoined. It has already received the signatures of several individuals, who feel a more peculiar interest in these branches of study; and a copy will shortly be handed round to obtain the signatures of other members of Convocation.

'To the Vice-Chancellor, Heads of Houses, and Proctors. 'We, the undersigned Members of Convocation, are of opinion, first, That (in the present times, more especially) some knowledge of Physical and Mathematical Science ought to form an indispensable part of a liberal education. Secondly, That the omission of such studies as an essential part of the university system (shown by the prescribed qualifications at the Public Examinations) is a manifest defect in that system.

'We therefore beg leave respectfully to express a hope that it will be proposed to Convocation, first, To alter that clause in the Examination Statute which refers to this point: that is, instead of the option of four books of Euclid, to render imperative some part of the elements either of Geometry, or of Algebra, Arithmetic, or some branch of Natural Philosophy, as a qualification in all candidates for the degree of B.A. Secondly, To enact, that the names in the Fifth Class should be printed in both departments. And, lastly, if this should be thought to be exacting too much from the candidate, to diminish the amount of qualification in other branches, rather than totally omit this.

'Oxford, Nov. 1, 1833.'

Of the contents of this paper we must first give such a brief explanation as may be necessary to render some parts of it intelligible to readers out of Oxford; and we will then proceed to offer one or two observations upon the subject to which it refers.

In Oxford there is no system or plan of study avowedly pursued. In each college each tutor adopts those books, OCT., 1833-Jan., 1834.


and goes through those subjects with his pupils which he deems most advisable. The only thing which really gives any kind of a system to the course of reading is the public examination. Here, however, there is considerable latitude of choice. The examination takes place at the end of about three years' residence, and is the preliminary to the degree of B.A., to which, in due course of time, that of M.A. succeeds without any further examination, exercise, or qualification of any kind. This examination then is the real and effectual admission to all privileges to which the candidate may aspire, and the passport to entering upon the world and offering himself for any profession as a university graduate. For those who aspire to honours, a varied and severe examination is enjoined of this, in either the classical or the mathematical department, it is not our purpose to speak. The paper before us refers not to these, but to the condition of that numerous class who, in the language of the university, are called pass-men-a name which sufficiently explains itself. Those who obtain honours have their names printed in four classes. Those who merely pass without any honourable distinction _compose the fifth class, and their names are not printed. For passing, the existing statute requires the candidate first to show a competent knowledge of the Christian religion, then to translate from any four classic authors of his own choosing, and lastly to answer some questions either in logic, or in the first four books of Euclid, at his option.

The practical working of the system is this:-The lower classes of honours are despised; Euclid is taken only by a small proportion, as the logic is more easy to get by rote, and the classics are the only essential studies. This, we believe, will suffice to put our readers in possession of all that is necessary for the right understanding of the document before them. We have this and other information, to which we shall presently refer, from the fountain-head; and our readers may entirely rely upon its accuracy.

It is not our intention to enter upon the details of the plan proposed to remedy the evils in question. We shall confine ourselves to the grand point, so emphatically insisted upon in the paper before us, the absolute necessity for introducing some knowledge of physical science as an essential part of an university education. It is evident from what we have stated that, at present, it is not made so. It is at the option of the student whether he will take up even the four books of Euclid; and, in fact, a large portion of the students in Oxford pass through the university, not merely in idleness but even in respectability, and many obtain the highest distinction as scho

lars, without acquiring a single idea, however simple and ele mentary, on any one part of physical or mathematical science.

We shall not waste arguments in labouring to prove that this is a most glaring defect in the university system; in showing that it is utterly at variance with the improvements of the age; and that a course of education which can tolerate such a state of things would not be adapted to the wants even of a past generation, much less to those of the present. The measure proposed, in its main outline, is simply to make some portion of scientific knowledge indispensable in every candidate for a degree; and we must say that a more moderate or reasonable requisition we can hardly conceive. We should rather ask, is it not a most singular circumstance, that, in the middle of the nineteenth century, such an idea should be for the first time started in the first university of the first country in Europe?-that a few members of that university should be now cautiously and timidly proposing to the governing powers to do that which we should have expected to have seen established a century ago? Nevertheless, those who know anything of Oxford will not be surprised that such measures have much opposition to encounter in the university. In the first place, there are the old sturdy senior fellows and heads of colleges* who have determined that whatever has been shall be; and who stoutly oppose, not the introduction of mathematics, but every alteration or improvement whatsoever. On them, of course, it is worse than useless to waste words.

There are, again, many who allow that some changes are desirable, but as they cannot admit the propriety of this or that point in the detail of the measures proposed, would sacrifice improvement altogether. Others profess themselves, in general, friendly to the measure, but observe that there is little chance of carrying it, and that it is hopeless at present to attempt it. For every one to say so is the obvious way to render it hopeless. Some recommend delay :-Take time, they say-allow the existing system to work on and it will naturally improve. Some amelioration has already taken place mathematics are more studied; have patience, and the study will soon become more general. We have unfortunately facts before us, which show the total fallacy of this by comparison with the unquestionable results of the existing system. In Professor Powell's pamphlet, to which we before referred, the numbers are distinctly stated for each year since the examinations were instituted; and it is the undeniable

* We are glad to be informed on good authority, that there are certainly two out of the twenty-four heads of colleges who are favourable to the improvement proposed.

E 2

« AnteriorContinuar »