John Henry Newman.

On the scope & nature of university education online

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up ideas. Such a power is the result of a scientific
formation of mind ; it is an acquired faculty of judg-
ment, of clear-sightedness, of sagacity, of wisdom,
of philosophical reach of mind, and of intellectual
self-possession and repose qualities which do not
come of mere acquirement. The bodily eye, the
organ for apprehending material objects, is provided
by nature ; the eye of the mind, of which the object
is truth, is the work of discipline and habit. /

This process of training, by which the intellect,
instead of being formed or sacrificed to some particular
or accidental purpose, some specific trade or profession,
or study or science, is disciplined for its own sake, for
the perception of its own proper object, and for its
own highest culture, is called Liberal Education ; and
though there is no one in whom it is carried as far as
is conceivable, or whose intellect would be a pattern
of what intellects should be made, yet there is scarcely
any one but may gain an idea of what real training is,
and at least look towards it, and make its true scope
and result, not something else, his standard of excel-
lence ; and numbers there are who may submit

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LIBERAL KNOWLEDGE VIEWED

selves to it, and secure it to themselves in good
measure. And to set forth the right standard, and
to train according to it, and to help forward all
students towards it according to their various capaci-
ties, this I conceive to be the business of a University.

Now this is what some great men are very slow to
allow ; they insist that Education should be confined
to some particular and narrow end, and should issue
in some definite work, which can be weighed and
measured. They argue as if everything, as well as
every person, had its price ; and that where there has
been a great outlay, they have a right to expect a
return in kind. This they call making Education and
Instruction "useful," and "Utility" becomes their
watchword. With a fundamental principle of this
nature, they very naturally go on to ask, what there
is to show for the expense of a University ; what is
the real worth in the market of the article called
"a Liberal Education," on the supposition that it
does not teach us definitely how to advance our manu-
factures, or to improve our lands, or to better our civil
economy ; or again, if it does not at once make this
man a lawyer, that an engineer, and that a surgeon ;
or at least if it does not lead to discoveries in chemis-
try, astronomy, geology, magnetism, and science of
every kind.

This question, as might have been expected, has
been keenly debated in the present age, and formed
one main subject of the controversy, to which I re-
ferred in the Introduction to the present Discourses,
as having been sustained in the first decade of this
century by a celebrated Northern Review on the one
hand, and defenders of the University of Oxford on
the other. Hardly had the authorities of that ancient



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scat of learning, waking from their long neglect, set
on foot a plan for the education of the youth com-
mitted to them, than the representatives of science
and literature in the city, which has sometimes been
called the Northern Athens, remonstrated with their
gravest arguments and their most brilliant satire, against
the direction and shape which the reform was taking.
Nothing would content them, but that the University
should be set to rights on the basis of the philosophy
of Utility ; a philosophy, as they seem to have thought,
which needed but to be proclaimed in order to be
embraced. In truth, they were little aware of the
depth and force of the principles on which the autho-
rities academical were proceeding, and, this being so,
it was not to be expected that they would be allowed
to walk at leisure over the field of controversy which
they had selected. Accordingly they were encountered
in behalf of the University by two men of great name
and influence in their day, of very different minds, but
united, as by Collegiate ties, so in the clear-sighted
and large view which they took of the whole subject
of Liberal Education; and the defence thus provided
for the Oxford studies has kept its ground to this day.
Let me be allowed to devote a few words to the
memory of distinguished persons, under the shadow
of whose name I once lived, and by whose doctrine
I am now profiting. In the heart of Oxford there is
a small plot of ground, hemmed in by public thorough-
fares, which has been the possession and the home ol
one Society for above five hundred years. In the old
time of Boniface the Eighth and John the Twenty-
second, in the age of Scotus and Occam and Dante,
before Wiclif or Huss had kindled those miserable
fires which are still raging to the ruin of the highest
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interests of man, an unfortunate king of England,
Edward the Second, flying from the field of Bannock-
burn, is said to have made a vow to the Blessed Virgin
to found a religious house in her honour, if he got
back in safety. Prompted and aided by his Almoner,
he decided on placing this house in the city of Alfred;
and the Image of our Lady, which is opposite its
entrance-gate, is the token of the vow and its ful-
filment to this day. King and Almoner have long
been in the dust, and strangers have entered into their
inheritance, and their creed has been forgotten, and
their holy rites disowned ; but day by day a memento
is still made in the holy Sacrifice by at least one
Catholic Priest, once a member of that College, for
the souls of those Catholic benefactors who fed him
there for so many years. The visitor, whose curiosity
has been excited by its present fame, gazes perhaps
with something of disappointment on a collection of
buildings which have with them so few of tne circum-
stances of dignity or wealth. Broad quadrangles, high
halls and chambers, ornamented cloisters, stately walks,
or umbrageous gardens, a throng of students, ample
revenues, or a glorious history, none of these things
were the portion of that old Catholic foundation ;
nothing in short which to the common eye sixty years
ago would have given tokens of what it was to be.
But it had at that time a spirit working within it*
which enabled its inmates to do, amid its seeming
insignificance, what no other body in the place could
equal ; not a very abstruse gift or extraordinary boast,
but a rare one, the honest purpose to administer the
trust committed to them in such a way as their con-
science pointed out as best. So, whereas the Colleges
of Oxford are self-electing bodies, the fellows in each



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perpetually filling up for themselves the vacancies which
occur in their number, the members of this foundation
determined, at a time when, either from evil custom
or from ancient statute, such a thing was not known
elsewhere, to throw open their fellowships to the
competition of all comers, and, in the choice of asso-
ciates henceforth, to cast to the winds every personal
motive and feeling, family connection, and friendship,
and patronage, and political interest, and local claim,
and prejudice, and party jealousy, and to elect solely
on public and patriotic grounds. Nay, with a remark-
able independence of mind, they resolved that even
the table of honours, awarded to literary merit by
the University in its new system of examination for
degrees, should not fetter their judgment as electors ;
but that at all risks, and whatever criticism it might
cause, and whatever odium they might incur, they
would select the men, whoever they were, to be
children of their Founder, whom they thought in
their consciences to be most likely from their in-
tellectual and moral qualities to please him, if (as
they expressed it) he were still upon earth, most
likely to do honour to his College, most likely to
promote the objects which they believed he had at
heart. Such persons did not promise to be the
disciples of a low Utilitarianism ; and consequently,
as their collegiate reform synchronised with that re-
form of the Academical body, in which they bore
a principal part, it was not unnatural that, when the
storm broke upon the University from the North, their
Alma Mater, whom they loved, should have found
her first defenders within the walls of that small
College, which had first put itself into a condition to
be her champion.

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These defenders, gentlemen, I have said, were two, of
whom the more distinguished was the late Dr. Copleston,
then a Fellow of the College, successively its Provost,
and Protestant Bishop of Llandaff. In that Society,
which owes so much to him, his name lives, and ever
will live, for the distinction which his talents bestowed
on it, for the academical importance to which he raised
it, for the generosity of spirit, the liberality of senti-
ment, and the kindness of heart, with which he
adorned it, and which even those who had least
sympathy with some aspects of his mind and char-
acter could not but admire and love. Men come to
their meridian at various periods of their lives ; the
last years of the eminent person I am speaking of
were given to duties which, I am told, have been the
means of endearing him to numbers, but which afforded
no scope for that peculiar vigour and keenness of mind
which enabled him, when a young man, single-handed,
with easy gallantry, to encounter and overthrow the
charge of three giants of the North combined against
him. I believe I am right in saying that, in the pro-
gress of the controversy, the most scientific, the most
critical, and the most witty, of that literary company,
all of them now, as he himself, removed from this
visible scene, Professor Play fair, Lord Jeffrey, and
the Rev. Sydney Smith, threw together their several
efforts into one article of their Review, in order to
crush and pound to dust the audacious controvertist
who had come out against them in defence of his own
Institutions. To have even contended with such men
was a sufficient voucher for his ability, even before we
open his pamphlets, and have actual evidence of the
good sense, the spirit, the scholar-like taste, and the
purity of style, by which they are distinguished.
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He was supported in the controversy, on the same
general principles, but with more of method and dis-
tinctness, and, I will add, with greater force and
beauty and perfection, both of thought and of language,
by the other distinguished writer, to whom I have
already referred, Mr. Davison ; who, though not so
well known to the world in his day, has left more
behind him than the Provost of Oriel, to make his
name remembered by posterity. This thoughtful man,
who was the admired and intimate friend of a very
remarkable person, whom, whether he wish it or not,
numbers revere and love as the first author of the
subsequent movement in the Protestant Church towards
Catholicism, 1 this grave and philosophical writer, whose
works I can never look into without sighing that such
a man was lost to the Catholic Church, as Dr. Butler
before him, by some early bias or some fault of self-
education he, in a review of a work by Mr. Edge-
worth on Professional Education, which attracted
a good deal of attention in its day, goes leisurely
over the same ground, which had already been rapidly
traversed by I)r. Copleston, and, though professedly
employed upon Mr. Edgeworth, is really replying to
the northern critic who had brought that writer's
work into notice, and to a far greater author than
either of them, who in a past age had argued on the
same side.

The author to whom I allude is no other than
Locke. That celebrated philosopher has preceded
the Edinburgh Reviewers in condemning the ordinary
subjects in which boys are instructed at school, on the
ground that they are not needed by them in after life ;

1 Mr. Keble, Vicar of Hursley, late Fellow of Oriel, and
Professor of Poetry in the University of Oxford.



LIBERAL KNOWLEDGE VIEWED

and before quoting what his disciples have said in the
present century, I will refer to a few passages of the
master. "'Tis matter of astonishment," he says in
his work on Education, "that men of quality and
parts should suffer themselves to be so far misled by
custom and implicit faith. Reason, if consulted with,
would advise, that their children's time should be
spent in acquiring what might be useful to them, when
they come to be men, rather than that their heads
should be stuffed with a deal of trash, a great part
whereof they usually never do ('tis certain they never
need to) think on again as long as they live ; and so
much of it as does stick by them they are only the
worse for."

And so again, speaking of verse-making, he says :
'* I know not what reason a father can have to wish
his son a poet, who does not desire him to bid defiance
to a/I other callings and business ; which is not yet the
worst of the case ; for, if he proves a buccessful
rhymer, and gets once the reputation of a wit, I desire
it to be considered, what company and places he is
likely to spend his time in, nay, and estate too ; for
it is very seldom seen that any one discovers mines oj
gold or silver in Parnassus. 'Tisa pleasant air but a
barren soil."

In another passage he distinctly limits utility in
education to its bearing on the future profession or
trade of the pupil, that is, he scorns the idea of any
education of the intellect, simply as such. "Can
there be anything more ridiculous," he asks, " than that
a father should waste his own money, and his son's
time, in setting him to learn the Roman language, when
at the same time he designs him for a trade^ wherein
he, having no use of Latin, fails not to forget that
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little which he brought from school, and which 'tis
ten to one he abhors for the ill-usage it procured him ?
Could it be believed, unless we have everywhere
amongst us examples of it, that a child should be
forced to learn the rudiments of a language, which he
is never to use in the course of life that he is designed to,
and neglect all the while the writing a good hand, and
casting accounts, which are of great advantage in all
conditions of life, and to most trades indispensably
necessary ? " Nothing of course can be more absurd
' than to neglect in education those matters which are
necessary for a boy's future calling ; but the tone of
Locke's remarks evidently implies more than this, and
is condemnatory of any teaching which tends to the
general cultivation of the mind.

Now to turn to his modern disciples. The study
of the Classics has been made the basis of the Oxford
education, in the reforms which I have spoken of,
and the Edinburgh Reviewers protested, after the
manner of Locke, that no good could come of a
system which was not based upon the principle of
Utility.

" Classical Literature," they said, " is the great
object at Oxford. Many minds, so employed, have
produced many works and much fame in that depart-
ment ; but if all liberal arts and sciences, useful to
human life, had been taught there, if some had dedicated
themselves to chemistry, some to mathematics, tome to
experimental philosophy, and if every attainment had
been honoured in the mixt ratio of its difficulty and
utility, the system of such a University would have
been much more valuable, but the splendour of its
name something less."

Utility may be made the end of education, in two
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LIBERAL KNOWLEDGE VIEWED

respects : either as regards the individual educated, or
the community at large. In which light do these
writers regard it? in the latter. So far they differ
from Locke, for they consider the advancement of
science as the supreme and real end of a University.
This is brought into view in the sentences which
follow.

" When a University has been doing useless things
for a long time, it appears at first degrading to them
to be useful. A set of Lectures on Political Economy
would be discouraged in Oxford, probably despised,
probably not permitted. To discuss the inclosure of
commons, and to dwell upon imports and exports,
to come so near to common life, would seem to be
undignified and contemptible. In the same manner,
the Parr or the Bentley of the day would be scandalised,
in a University, to be put on a level with the discoverer
of a neutral salt ; and yet, what other measure is there
of dignity in intellectual labour but usefulness ? And
what ought the term University to mean, but a place
where every science is taught which is liberal, and at
the same time useful to mankind ? Nothing would so
much tend to bring classical literature within proper
bounds as a steady and invariable appeal to utility in our
appreciation of all human knowledge. . . . Looking
always to real utility as our guide, we should see, with
equal pleasure, a studious and inquisitive mind arranging
the productions of nature, investigating the qualities of
bodies, or mastering the difficulties of the learned
languages. We should not care whether he was
chemist, naturalist, or scholar, because we know it to
be as necessary that matter should be studied and
subdued to the use of man, as that taste should be
gratified, and imagination inflamed."
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IN RELATION TO PROFESSIONAL

Such then is the enunciation, as far as words go, of
the theory of Utility in Education ; and both on its
own account, and for the sake of the able men who
have advocated it, it has a claim on the attention of
those whose principles I am here representing. Cer-
tainly it is specious to contend that nothing is worth
pursuing but what is useful ; and that life is not long
enough to expend upon interesting, or curious, or
brilliant trifles. Nay, in one sense, I will grant it is
more than specious, it is true ; but, if so, how do I pro-
pose directly to meet the objection ? Why, gentle-
men, I have really met it already, viz., in laying down,
that intellectual culture is its own end ; for what has
its end in itself, has its use in itself also. I say,
if a Liberal Education consists in the culture of the
t intellect, and if that culture be in itself a good, here,
' without going further, is an answer to Locke's ques-
tion ; for if a healthy body is a good in itself, why is
not a healthy intellect ? and if a College of Physicians
is a useful institution, because it contemplates bodily
health, why is not an Academical Body, though it
were simply and solely engaged in imparting vigour
and beauty and grasp to the intellectual portion of
our nature ? * And the Reviewers I am quoting seem
to allow this in their better moments, in a passage
which, putting aside the question of its justice in
fact, is sound and true in the principles to which
it appeals :

" The present state of classical education/ 7 they
say, u cultivates the imagination a great deal too much,
and other habits of mind a great deal too little, and
trains up many young men in a style of elegant
imbecility, utterly unworthy of the talents with which
nature has endowed them. . . . The matter of fact is,
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LIBERAL KNOWLEDGE VIEWED

that a classical scholar of twenty-three or twenty-four
is a man principally conversant with works of imagina-
tion. His feelings are quick, his fancy lively, and his
taste good. Talents for speculation and original inquiry
he has none, nor has he formed the invaluable habit of
pushing things up to their Jirst principles, or of collect-
ing dry and unamusing facts as the materials for
reasoning. All the solid and masculine parts of his
understanding are left wholly without cultivation ; he
hates the pain of thinking, and suspects every man
whose boldness and originality call upon him to defend
his opinions and prove his assertions."

Now, I am not at present concerned with the specific
question of classical education ; else I might reason-
ably question the justice of calling an intellectual
discipline, which embraces the study of Aristotle,
Thucydides, and Tacitus, which involves Scholarship
and Antiquities, imaginative ; still so far I readily
grant, that the cultivation of the " understanding," of
a "talent for speculation and original inquiry/' and
of "the habit of pushing things up to their first
principles," is a principal portion of a good or liberal
education. If then the Reviewers consider such culti-
vation the characteristic of a useful education, as they
seem to do in the foregoing passage, it follows, that
what they mean by " useful " is just what I mean by
"good" or "liberal": and Locke's question be-
comes a verbal one. Whether youths are to be
taught Latin or verse-making will depend on the
fact, whether these studies tend to mental culture;
but, however this is determined, so far is clear, that
in that mental culture consists what I have called a
liberal or non-professional, and what the Reviewers
call a useful education.



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This is the obvious answer which may be made to
those who urge upon us the claims of Utility in our
plans of Education ; but I am not going to leave the
subject here : I mean to take a wider view of it. Let
us take " useful," as Locke takes it, in its proper and
popular sense, and then we enter upon a large field of
thought, to which I cannot do justice in one Discourse,
though to-day's is all the space that I can give to it.
I say, let us take "useful" to mean, not what is
simply good, but what tends to good, or is the instru-
ment of good ; and in this sense also, gentlemen, I will
show you how a liberal education is truly and fully
a useful, though it be not a professional education.
"Good" indeed means one thing, and "useful"
means another ; but I lay it down as a principle, which
will save us a great deal of anxiety, that, though the
useful is not always good, the good is always useful.
Good is not only good, but reproductive of good ;
this is one of its attributes; nothing is excellent,
beautiful, perfect, desirable for its own sake, but it
overflows, and spreads the likeness of itself all around
itself. Good is prolific ; it is not only good to the eye,
but to the taste ; it not only attracts us, but it com-
municates itself; it excites first our admiration and
love, then our desire and our gratitude, and that, in
proportion to its intenseness and fulness in particular
instances. A great good will impart great good.
If then the intellect is so excellent a portion of us,
and its cultivation so excellent, it is not only beautiful,
perfect, admirable, and noble in itself, but in a true
and high sense it must be useful to the possessor and
to all around him ; not useful in any low, mechanical,
mercantile sense, but as diffusing good, or as a blessing,
or a gift, or power, or a treasure, first to the owner,
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then through him to the world. I say then, if a
liberal education be good, it must necessarily be useful
too.

You will see what I mean by the parallel of bodily
health. Health is a good in itself, though nothing
came of it, and is especially worth seeking and cherish-
ing; yet, after all, the blessings which attend its
presence are so great, while they are so close to it
and so redound back upon it and encircle it, that we
never think of it except as useful as well as good, and
praise and prize it for what it does, as well as for what it
is, though at the same time we cannot point out any
definite and distinct work or production which it can
be said to effect. And so as regards intellectual
culture, I am far from denying utility in this large
sense as the end of education, when I lay it down,
that the culture of the intellect is a good in itself and
its own end; I do not exclude from the idea of
intellectual culture what it cannot but be, from the
very nature of things ; I only deny that we must be
able to point out, before we have any right to call it
useful, some art, or business, or profession, or trade, or
work as resulting from it, and as its real and complete
end. The parallel is exact : As the body may be
sacrificed to some manual or other toil, whether mode-
rate or oppressive, so may the intellect be devoted to
some specific profession; and I do not call this the
culture of the intellect. Again, as some member or
organ of the body may be inordinately used and
developed, so may memory, or imagination, or the
reasoning faculty ; and this again is not intellectual
culture. On the other hand, as the body may be
tended, cherished, and exercised with a simple view
to its general health, so may the intellect also be gene-



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Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanOn the scope & nature of university education → online text (page 14 of 22)