« VorigeDoorgaan »
they afterwards acquire; and if they happen to move, it is ther an accidental gave, than an exertion of the faculty of seeing. But, after some months have elapsed, its vision becomes distinct, its organs are fortified, and it becomes susceptible of various impressions from surrounding objects. Then the senses of seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling, begin to act with a certain degree of vigour; all the avenues to the mind are throw open; the objects of nature and art rush in crowds to their respective organs of sensation, and engrave an indefinite assemblage of ideas upon the mind, though perhaps with a certain degree of irregularity and confusion. In this first stage of existence, the various sensations it feels, and the multifarious external objects it perceives, may be considered as so many instructors conveying the rudiments of knowledge to the infant mind.
As the infant advances in its new career, multitudes of objects of various descriptions begin to solicit its attention. A thousand sounds, of different degrees of intensity, and variously modified, strike its ears, producing various indescribable emotions; a thousand visible objects of diversified forms and colours present them. selves to its visual organs, producing pleasure or pain, desire or aversion. By insensible degrees it learns to see and to hear-to mark the difference between one sound and another, and between one object of vision and another--to distinguish the form and countenance of its mother from those of other individuals, and to take an interest in some of the objects which compose the surrounding scene. Being uniformly struck with the same sensations and emotions in the presence of the same objects, its memory begins to be exercised, and it acquires a more accurate idea, and a more distinct remembrance of them, in proportion to the frequency with which these objects are presented to view. Its body, in the mean time, gradually expands, and becomes more firm, vigorous, and alert. It crawls along the nursery or parlour, below tables and chairs, examining every object that falls in its way, and appears delighted in exerting its muscular powers. It tries to stand erect, and at length to walk; it tumbles and rolls on the floor, uttering screams of pain and disappointment. Numberless and repeated falls lead to more caution, and teach it to endeavour to preserve the equilibrium of its body, and to stand firmly on its legs; and the more frequent and painful the falls, the more instructive they prove, to teach it to balance its body, and to walk with adroitness and ease. Having acquired, after repeated exertions, a certain firmness of step, it runs from one place to another, eagerly intent upon new objects and pursuits, and feeling a delight in proportion as the range of its perceptions is increased. It tries to climb a
stair, and, after repeated efforts, and exertions of hands and feet, succeeds in the attempt; but, when arrived at the top, and wishing to descend, it looks down to the bottom, and, remembering the falls it formerly experienced, feels a sense of danger, and screams for assistance.
The child (whom we shall now distinguish by the masculine pronoun) now runs about through the garden or in the fields, and perceives a variety of objects and operations. He sees a stone thrown into the water, and sink to the bottom; he sees a piece of wood or the leaf of a tree fall into the same water, and yet float on the surface; he amuses himself with numberless experiments of this kind, and from these he gradually acquires his first ideas of the specific gravity of bodies. If he take the stone and the wood out of the water, and by chance they fall upon his feet, he learns that the heavier body falls with more force than the lighter, from the unequal degree of pain occasioned by the fall, and has his mind impressed with the idea of their unequal hardness and weight. He strikes a table with a stick, and soon after, a pane of window-glass with the same weapon; he perceives the glass broken to shivers, while the table remains as before, and thus learns the difference between substances that are hard, and those that are brittle, and that some bodies are broken with a blow which others can resist. He views with pleasure a brilliant light, and ventures to put his fingers to the blazing hearth, or to the flame of a candle, but feels a sudden sensation of acute pain, which warns him of the danger of using too much familiarity with fire, notwithstanding its alluring aspect. He sees a cow, a dog, or a cat, and is told its name, and, after frequent repetitions, he learns to connect the sound with the object which it is intended to represent. He sees a horse walking along a road, and afterwards its figure as represented in an engraving, and soon learns to recognise the resemblance of the one to the other. In short, every person with whom he is acquainted, every individual object of which he becomes fond-his rattles and his bells, his drums and his whistles, his little coaches and his jumping Jacks, may all be considered as so many instructors conveying lessons to his opening mind. In acquiring the information such objects are calculated to afford, repeated exertions of the understanding must necessarily be made. The knowledge of any particular object, as to its powers and qualities, cannot be supposed to be attained without an effort similar to that which an adult person must exert, when investigating the laws of Nature, and the general economy of the universe. For, every thing a child sees or hears, in the first instance, all the marks and characters of Nature, and
the qualities and operations of surrounding objects, are as much unknown to him as the sciences of Philology, Mathematics and Astronomy, to the untutored savage; and, consequently, require a certain degree of attention and reasoning before the knowledge of them can be acquired.
The little student, however, prosecutes his observations and studies with apparent pleasure, and with evident marks of industry, and soon acquires pretty correct notions of the nature and relations both of the inanimate and of the living world. He learns to correct the illusions to which he was at first exposedto distinguish one object from another, and to exert his memory so as to know them again, and to recognise their general forms and qualities. It is amazing what a degree of knowledge a child has thus acquired before he arrives at the age of two years, or even twenty months. By this time he has made a thousand experiments on an indefinite variety of objects, all which he has arranged in his mind, and distinctly remembers. Light and heat, the properties of fire and flame, of water and air, the laws of projectiles and moving bodies, things sweet and bitter, soft and haid, rough and smooth, articulate sounds and the objects they denote, sounds soft or loud, agreeable or terrible; horses, cattle, dogs, asses, sheep, ducks, birds, butterflies, beetles, worms, the clouds, the sun, moon, stars, and numerous other objects—are all distinguished, and many of their properties and relations indelibly imprinted on the mind. He has acquired more real knowledge during this short period, than he generally does, on the present plan of instruction, throughout the eight or ten succeeding years of his life; and it is a striking instance of the Benevolence of the Creator, and a prelude of the vast extent of knowledge he is afterwards capable of acquiring, that all these acquisitions are not only made without pain, but, in the greater number of instances, are accompanied with the highest pleasure and enjoyment.
In the process of instruction, now described, during the first two years of human existence, although Nature is the principal instructress, yet she frequently requires to be guided by the hand of Art; and much is left to the judicious attentions of parents and guardians, that her benevolent designs may not be thwarted, and that her efforts may be conducted to their proper ends. In throwing out a few hints on this point, our remarks may be arranged under the following heads-Physical, Moral, and Intellectual Education.
1. The Physical Education of Infants.
The influence of physical education during infancy, on the future happiness of the individual, is much greater, and more extensive in its consequences, than is generally imagined. A proper attention to food, climate, cleanliness, air and exercise, may have an important effect, not only in developing the different parts of the body, and strengthening the animal system, but also in invigorating, and calling forth into exercise, the powers of the mind. We find, in advanced life, that the state of the body as to health or sickness, has a powerful influence on the vigour of the intellectual faculties; and we have reason to believe that the same connection between the physical system and the development of mind exists in the most early period of life. A certain writer has observed that, "As the manifestations of mind depend on organization, it is conceivable why even talents and moral feelings depend on the influence of climate and nourishment."—In throwing out a few cursory remarks on this subject, I shall attend, in the first place, to
The food of infants. As soon as an infant is ushered into the world, Providence has provided for it food exactly adapted to its situation. The milk of the mother is at first of a thin, watery consistence, fitted to evacuate the meconium, and no other substance is found to be so efficacious for this purpose. Syrups, wines, oils, honey, or rhubarb, which have been so frequently administered to new-born infants, by midwives and nurses, are repugnant to nature, and are condemned, except in extraordinary cases, by every medical practitioner. Children require very little food for some time after birth; and what they receive should be thin, weak, light, and of a cooling quality. After a few days the mother's milk becomes thicker and more nutritious, and should form the principal nourishment of the child during the first three months. It appears to be the dictate of nature, that every mother ought to suckle her own child, since she is furnished with the proper nutriment for this purpose; and nothing but downright necessity should prevent her from undertaking the task, or induce her to have recourse to a substitute. We might tell the mother who, without necessity, throws the care of her issue upon a stran. ger, that the admirable liquor which the God of Nature has provided for her child, may become mortal to her for want of a discharge, diffuse itself within, gather and stagnate, or, at least, bring on a dangerous fever-that there is a natural proportion between the blood that runs in the veins of a child, and the milk it receives from its mother-that to receive the caresses, to enjoy the smiles, and to mark the gradual progress of her child towards
aturity, would be more than a compensation for all the fatigues she would undergo in watching over its infant years-that the mutual affection of a mother and her child depends, in no inconsiderable degree, on the child's spending the period of its infancy in its mother's arms-and that, when she substitutes another in her place, the child naturally transfers its affection to the person who performs the duties of a mother. But, before such considerations can have much weight with the higher classes of society, who chiefly indulge in this practice, their general system of edu cation must be altered and reformed. The daughters of the nobility and of opulent citizens, must be more accustomed to the open air and rural employments, and their bodies trained to the bearing of burdens, the endurance of severe heat or intense cold, and to the resisting of danger and fatigue;-in short, they must be educated like the daughters of Bethuel and of Laban-the nobles of ancient times-who did not disdain to "keep their father's sheep," and to go" to the well of water, with their pitchers on their shoulders."
As the child advances, he may be gradually accustomed to other food besides the milk of his mother-beginning with liquids, such as milk and sugar, broth, boiled biscuits, thin milk pottage, and similar aliments, and then going on to more solid nutriment, according to the strength of his digestive powers. The younger the child, the less nourishment should be given at one time, and the oftener repeated; older children may take more food at once, and at longer intervals. All high-seasoned, salted, and smokedried provisions, tough, heavy, and fat meats, unripe fruits, sweetmeats, wines and spirituous liquors, are injurious to children. Few things are more so than the common practice of sweetening their food, which entices them to take a greater quantity than is necessary, and makes them grow fat and bloated. All cramming of their stomachs, pampering them with delicate meats, and guzzling of ale and other fermented liquors, ought to be carefully avoided. Pure water for drink, plain and simple food-which will never induce them to take more than enough-and abstinence from physic, except in very critical cases, will be found the most judicious means for preserving and confirming the health. of children, and invigorating their mental powers.
No less attention ought to be paid to the air they breathe, than o the food with which they are nourished. Pure atmospheric air .s indispensable to the existence of every sensitive being, for where it is greatly corrupted or exhausted, animals languish or die. It may be regarded as a universal medicine and restorative, and as the principal pabulum of life. Wherever it is confined for