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through the remaining lessons, a slight movement of the upper lip when any one made a blunder, a certain wriggle on her seat whenever their ignorance caused detention, betrayed sufficiently her impatience of their slowness, and triumph in her own superiority.
A pretty, pensive-looking girl, taller by half the head than her companions; in whose meek eye a sensitive timidity beamed almost distressingly, had the misfortune to be addressed with a preliminary exhortation to do as well as the miss who had preceded her. This exordium was fatal: a lesson, very respectably done, and giving evident tokens of a great deal of pains, was begun and finished with a blush, that, to put the best construction on it, confessed a painful sense of inferiority, and a feeling of shame, that having done the best it was not better. Many others followed: among the rest a heavy-looking girl, whose air of cowed despondency, particularly took my attention: the helpless blockhead of her class, whose right to be hindmost had never been disputed since she came into it. Her ill-formed lips could no more pronounce the words, than her memory could retain them. Yet this poor girl was urged, and upbraided, and reminded how much she was bigger than those who were less, and how little less than those who were bigger, and how absolutely inferior to them all: and the air of discouraging indifference with which the books were thrown back to her, was only equalled by the sullen acquiescence in disgrace with which they were received.
My attention was at this moment distracted by a voice bebind me raised something above concert pitch, in reproaches against a child, whose ruddy, vacant face, and large blue eyes, beamed any thing, at
that moment, but a sister's feeling, for having allowed a younger sister to get so much before her; while the sister's swarthy countenance and deep-sunk eye, bespoke a power of intellect with which the little Hebe might have contended long enough. In this corner was a scene of excitement equal to any thing the most anxious mother could desire for the stimulus of her daughter's talents. The ladies here were all
upon their feet in a circle round their teacher, answering questions made to them in succession, and taking places, as it is called, according to the correctness of the replies. It was not on their own proficiency only the victory now depended; all honours must be won upon a rival's blunders: and like the riders on a balanced plank, the uprising of the one was proportioned to the downgoing of the other. Never were pugilists met with looks of more determined contention than these gentle wrestlers for literary honour. I could not mark without a pang the look of disappointment in a child who knew the answer when she found the one above her knew it too; and the eager delight with which another heard the blunder that gave scope for the display of her own proficiency. Envy, malice, jealousy, contempt, every evil passion of which their little bosoms were susceptible, played in succession on their features: their teacher, meantime, as if she took them all for virtues, went on adding fuel to the flame, in praises, taunts, and comparisons, without any regard to the passions she was exciting, or the feelings she was perverting.
I heard much more, but I have told enough for my purpose. This is the stimulant which, under the gentle name of Emulation, is thought by many indispensable to the successful education of children. The term itself is found in Scripture classed with no
fair company. But we mind not the term, which we are aware in the original admits of a good, as well as a bad sense. Is the thing itself good ? It is asserted that children will not learn without it; that competition is essential to their progress. We doubt it much: we see not why the praise absolute may not be as enticing as the praise comparative. But let this point be conceded, if it must, and be it admitted that a girl will learn more in the hope of outshining, or the fear of being outshone, than she can do either from the desire of knowledge, or a wish to please her instructor, or any other motive. Still the question is not at rest.
The day-star of truth has risen upon our world, and opened to our view a standard of moral excellency such as heathens never dreamed of. Pride, the strong hold of a heathen's virtue, has been discovered to be a soul-destroying sin: the very sin that drove Angels from Heaven, and man from paradise. Strife, resentment, ambition, rivalry, contention, envy, self-preference, have been determined to be sins. The eternal blessing has been pronounced by lips divine, not on the successful contender for this world's praise, but on the meek in spirit and the pure
in heart. Our children, as every pious parent hopes, may hereafter be accepted as the servants and followers of Him, who, when he comes, should he acknowledge them as his children, will not ask what they know, but what they are. Do we act as consistently as heathens did, teaching them that all the attainments and all the knowledge in the world were a dear-bought purchase at the expense of one right feeling, of one solid Christian virtue? I fear not. Let any one
my young readers but watch the movements of her own heart, and judge of the fact;
for she is competent to do so, however young. What is her motive for the extraordinary exertions she is making in some particular study to-day? The wish to gain approbation and esteem; a desire to make the utmost use of the talents given her, perhaps the simple wish to excel in that particular study for her own gratification: or is it the fear that some one will do better; that some one she desires to surpass
will come up to her? Suppose the point gained, and herself held up as an example and a shame to those who have done worse, she is delighted; but why? Would she have been equally delighted if every one else had done as well? Or suppose she has failedwhy is she depressed? With regret that she did not make more exertion, and a resolve to repair it tomorrow; or with despite that others succeeded better, envy of their superior talents, and dissatisfaction with her own? If the former be the case
of these supposed probabilities, the stimulus of rivalry was clearly unnecessary, for her feelings were independent of all comparison: if the latter, she gained improvement perhaps; she gained an accomplishment perhaps, and she went to bed satisfied that she had done well. But she had been proud, or jealous, or envious, or discontented. Pride, envy, jealousy, and discontent, are sins; by every indulgence of them God is offended; by every excitement of them an evil passion is fostered and strengthened.
The nature of this seed is but too well proved by the harvest it produces. In society, a close observer might be astonished, if less inured to it, at the little idea of wrong attached to feelings of this description. There are few, who, if they know themselves, can say they were never pained by the praises of another, nor ever depreciated the merits of another to enhance their own. If we say this is natural, and
cannot be prevented; yes, but it is hateful, it is sinful, it is díabolical. The Gospel has been sent to disclose to us our state of natural delusion, by the shedding on our bosoms of a purer light; and it has ranked these feelings in the catalogue of moral crimes, most offensive to God and man, and deserving of eternal condemnation. We in our great wisdom keep the opinions of our heathen ancestors, and in our great madness act upon them, teach them to our children, and they say they cannot be educated without them. Then let them remain for ever ignorant.
We strangely miscalculate, even for our happiness in this world, when we sacrifice character to acquirements of any kind. That is indeed to part from our decent and necessary clothing, for the purchase of some brilliant jewel with which to deck ourselves. I surely shall not be suspected of too lightly estimating the advantage of mental cultivation and polite accomplishments
. By every proper motive, by every sinless incentive, we may provoke our pupils to exertion. To the gifted we may say, make use by assiduity of what you have: to the less endowed, make amends by assiduity for what you have not; and by praise or blame enforce the precept. But, if we must choose between the moral and the intellectual good; if the culture that is to raise the flower, must foster with it the poisonous weed, we hold the utmost acquisition of human intellect light indeed. Its future fruits will never al. lay the passions excited for its acquisition. When sin becomes the burden and the shame of a bosom struggling, and yet unable to repress it, learning and talent will not whisper peace. When the applause, and the triumph, and the approbation of men, are past and forgotten, the evil thought, the