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The perils of Pedagogy.

Mr. Croaker, in a chronic condition of alarm, lends to one of Goldsmith's comedies much of its vivacity and mirth; and the dreadful fright of a certain Mr. Matthews, member of the Virginia Legislature, is comic enough to temper the austerities of the recent tragedy. We knew that John Brown would be a name wherewithal to conjure several generations of undutiful infants into obedience at bed-time, just as it has jostled children of larger growth into unwinking watchfulness, and scared the Commander of the Crustacea into unoyster-like volubility. The fearful forebodings of our Virginian friends do not surprise us. It is perfectly natural for their to dread the spontaneous combustion of The Tribune in their post-offices — the explosion of infernal machines in their cellars — poison in the kitchen, or rifle-balls flying through the drawing-room windows. Sir Boyle Roche regarded it as one of the principal perils of the Irish Rebellion that gentlemen might any morning awake with their throats cut; and the apprehensions of the [93] Virginian chevaliers — not to mention particularly those of their wives — must be inconsistent with balmy and restorative slumber. Under such perilous circumstances, no vigilance, however suspicious, can be thought untimely; nor is it strange, while others are fearful of death in the pot, that the lion. Mr. Matthews should fear death in the primer. Such, it appears, is precisely the nature of his apprehension. He dreads not only New Englanders, but the gifts they bring with them; he distrusts alike their reading-books and their rifles; their spelling-books and their swords; their penmanship and their pistols. The Hon. Mr. Matthews, having directed his mind to the philosophy of education, has discovered that there is a constitutional as well as an unconstitutional way of teaching the mystery of “a, b, ab ;” that rebellion may be fomented by the words which signify to be, to do, or to suffer; and that fire and slaughter may lurk in the Rule of Three. So the Hon. Mr. Matthews, no doubt after profound and unutterable pondering, has offered in the Virginia Legislature a Resolution.--a startling Resolution — a very remarkable Resolution. Here it is:

Resolved, That the Committee of Schools and Colleges inquire into the expediency of reporting a bill, prohibiting School Commissioners throughout the Commonwealth from subscribing to any teacher, male or female, who hails from the North of Mason and Dixon's line, unless they shall have resided in the State of Virginia for at least ten successive years previous.” [94]

The fact that Mr. Matthews should consider such a motion as this necessary to the salvation of the State, would seem to show that Northern teachers, whether male or female of sex, are rather a formidable body in Virginia. May we be permitted, without violating any moral, political or religious law, to ask, humbly, of course, and only honestly seeking information, how it has happened that Virginia, having children to teach, has fallen into the egregious error of sending abroad for teachers? Why have not native acquirements been respected? Why have native talents been left unemployed? Why has the infant population of that enlightened State been committed to the tender mercies of Yankee school-marms? Why has she permitted the unholy hands of “servile” New England pedagogues to box the ears of her children, or to apply the tingling birch to the tenderer portions of their constitutions? While protecting bivalves, why has the Governor of that State neglected her boys? What is a steam-packet running to France in comparison with well-educated girls? Was ever such fatuity? Where were the native, well-born, orthodox teachers “hailing from south of Mason and Dixon's line” --good, safe, responsible guides in petticoats or pantaloons, with sound Constitutional principles and proper views of the Christian religion?

We have heretofore thought that a demand in the market indicated a dearth. But Gov. Wise knows better the resources of his State than we do. He knows that it is needless for Virginia to send to the North for gifted persons to teach the steps of a quadrille, [95] the value of a semi-breve, the art of embroidering, or the mysteries of water-colors. He is a miraculous arithmetician, but he has fellow-citizens who can cipher as well as he. Does he absorb all the grammatical knowledge of the State? And if he can so bravely brandish that celebrated weapon, known as the Sword of Virginia, has he not fellow-citizens capable of flourishing the instrument of flagellation, and of long experience in the art of chastisement? But perhaps we do not do justice to the Honorable Matthews and the Honorable Wise. We ought certainly to take into consideration the recorded opinion of the philosopher last named. He has made innumerable discoveries; and one of them, we believe, is the vanity of all human knowledge. He is dubious in respect of reading, and he regards writing with distrust. In that Public School System which others have weakly respected as the safe-guard of society, he sees only danger to the Republic. He despises books. He loathes newspapers. He believes in good, safe, sound, substantial ignorance, with the same fervor with which less enlightened men have regarded human knowledge. He sees in human culture only human misery. He is the legitimate successor of Mr. John Cade.

Now there may be those who look upon these opinions of Gov. Wise with horror or contempt; but he shall not lack in these columns defense, or at least extenuation. He is, we confess, our model slave-holder. If Slavery is to be perpetuated — if God, the Bible, the laws, public policy, political economy, all [96] demand its continuance — then ignorance, no matter how dark or how deep it may be, is bliss, and wisdom is folly. Why should a man-owner be well-educated? Will mental cultivation make him a better driver, a better breeder, a better bargainer when he has occasion to sell women or to buy men? Why should he industriously acquire a refinement which will unfit him for the sterner duties of his daily life?

A man may be a capital task-master — an adept in flogging, and a connoisseur in pickling, without being a Bachelor of Arts. A mistress in Virginia, although she may be incapable of mental exertion, may thank fortune for her imbecility, for she can bear with patience wrongs and falsehood which would drive a cultivated woman to insanity. There is a certain redeeming fascination even in a consistency of crimes. If we were in Virginia, compelled to witness every hour the crowding evidences of human folly — the legalized negation of all that rescues our common nature from contempt — the ambition to win all things without the resolution to win them by earnest effort — the folly which supposes that violent passions have power to repeal the laws of nature — we would ask of Providence if by no miracle wrong could be remedied and right established, that we might partake of the besotted destiny of our neighbors, and might forget forever that we were not made like the beasts that perish. To this condition Gov. Wise would reduce his fellow-creatures, black and white, in Virginia. He is right. If black men are to remain beasts, it [97] must be upon the condition that white men shall share the bestiality.

January 10, 1860.

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