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REVIEW OF PROF. SASSNETT'S "THEORY OF FEMALE EDUCATION."
By Prof. J. DARLEY, A. M., Culloden, Ga.
Much has been said and written, in late years, on female education. And a spirit has been aroused, by various causes, to accomplish for the female, what has been afforded for centuries past for the male. But there is a notable fact connected with all, or nearly all, these productions. The speeches have been mostly delivered and essays written by men engaged in other pursuits, than training the female mind. Doctors, lawyers, preachers, professors in male colleges, are the producers of these authoritative documents on female training. Our mind does not recur to a single production, from one, who has a practical knowledge of the points involved in this important discussion.
Many of these productions contain facts and sentiments worthy the attention of all interested in female education, and have no doubt imparted much information to those laboring in the cause. There is scarcely one of them however, that does not plainly show its origin; want of knowledge manifested in the positions taken; the theories advanced; the assumption of facts, that cannot be proved; the misstatement of facts; the conclusions drawn, in which the premises are either entirely imaginary, or have nothing whatever to do with the conclusions. All these show a deficiency in those attempting to teach others on this subject. The article, in the April number, by Prof. Sassnett exceeds all others, we have ever seen, in these particulars. He has solved, by a stroke of the pen, difficulties, that wise men have labored years to solve, and at last have given up the conflict with the difficulties unconquered. He has discovered relations in the female consti
tution, that, we venture to assert, no one before him was ever able to trace. He has penetrated to a depth in the female heart, and discovered the laws of its operations, and reveals them with a certainty and positiveness that is truly astounding. If the positions of Prof. Sassnett, be true, we are certainly in a pitiable condition; and how unfortunate, that we had not had the Professor's views some years earlier. He has certainly come upon the stage too late for the world's good. It is true, we may tear down our systems and demolish our laboriously erected theories, and adopt at once the true system; but so much time and toil has been expended in worse than useless efforts. It should make us who have labored and toiled in this field many a long year, sad to think, that youth's vigor is gone, and manhood's wisdom (what little may have been possessed) has been spent in vain.
It is to be taken for granted, that Prof. Sassnett is a man of many years; that he has been long and intimately associated with large numbers of young females; that he has studied with the calin eye of the philosopher the moving impulses of the female heart, and by long and patient observation established his conclusions by the strictest application of the rules of inductive philosophy. It is not to be supposed, that any Christian man, would be guilty of the folly of sitting down in his study, and conjuring up from the "vasty deep" of his own intellectual speculations, theories on so important a subject, and send them forth to the world to work evil, as far as they had any influence, with such an air of confident assertion, as pervades the article alluded to, without the most unwearied investigations into their accuracy.
The above we say is presumable, yet, if we were to judge from the article itself, we should pronounce it, at once, the production of one, who knew nothing practically of the subject on which he was writing. It carries unmistakeable marks of careless speculation; an airy structure built on assumed conditions, which have no existence in fact.
We do not intend to say, that there is nothing good in the article. There are several well known truths scattered through
the piece, but all that is different from long acknowledged principles and facts, are mere visions of the imagination, which any one, with the slightest practical acquaintance with the subject, can easily detect and expose. It is of great importance that the article should be noticed, and its prominent errors pointed out, as it might do much harm with those unacquainted with the subject. We presume, that it is not in accordance with the notions of any intelligent educator of females.
The importance of education is admitted, but, "says Prof. S., what that education should be, and the best course to impart it, are the questions in regard to which much difference of opinion exists." It is true there is a great difference of opinion among the people generally in regard to the first of these questions. But among the more eminent teachers of females, we think there is now a very near approach to uniformity in the principal notions in regard to this matter. Twenty years ago, the case was very different, but there has been working a sure influence; that of patient investigation on the part of skillful teachers, which has led to the truth, which, by such a course, we should anticipate. From our personal intercourse with the conductors of the best seminaries of the United States, we know this to be the case. Minor differences may still exist, but the great fundamental positions we consider established, which Prof. S. assails.
The groundwork of all Prof. S.'s "Theory of Female Education" is contained in the following short sentence; "There is a fundamental difference in the wants of the male and female minds." This assertion is made with so positive an air, that it would lead one to suppose, that there was no doubting it; as though it was an axiom to be admitted without proof, when the fact is, it is no nearer the truth than the assertion, that there is a fundamental difference in the wants of the male and female physical constitution; that they require different kinds of food for their nourishment. If this be not a self-evident proposition where is the proof of it? There is certainly no proof in Prof. S.'s essay, and in the sense in which he uses it, we most emphatically take the negative. How
does Prof. S. arrive at such a conclusion?
Where did he ob
tain it? From the Bible? Certainly not. All the difference made in the revelation of God to man, is founded on her social position, and not on the powers conferred on her. Does he get it from the analogies of nature? Most certainly not. They are all opposed to any such assumption and most distinctly declare for the opposite opinion. Is it deducible from her position and wants now or in any or in all periods of past history? From these he learns no such lesson. From none of them does he gain evidence of any such difference in the intellectual wants of the two sexes.
The sexual difference of intellect is simply absurd, and requires no lengthened argument to establish its absurdity. The advocates of this difference, speak of mind as though it was something possessing specific differences, independent of any uses to which it may be applied. Pure mind or intellect is a power, an instrument, and is the same in character, when considered by itself, in all cases. It may be applied to various purposes, but is the same still. Each individual employs it as the thousand circumstances of human life prompt; and in degree, it is as nature has bestowed it, or cultivation has improved it; but its character has not altered. What is food for one, is food for all. It can affect the emotions in no way but to guide them. It cau bury no impulse of the heart, or turn back the gushings of the soul. It is a power to guide and accomplish, but not a passion to consume. It has no moral or social character. Mind in the infidel, is mind in the saint. Mind in the profligate, is mind in the pure soul of the humble follower of Jesus. There is the same propriety in supposing, that the mind of a female needs different training for the accomplishing of its destined end, as there is in supposing that she needs a different kind of grammar to fit her to use the language of pity, sympathy or love, from him that uses the same language in the conflicts of the senate or bar, or in the pleadings and instructions of the pulpit. The ends for which language is employed, are very various, but it is the same language still. One may employ it to much more
effect than another. Females, as such, may employ it with peculiar variations from the other sex, but who ever thought of saying, that the language of females required different means of culture? That the rules were not the same for both, or that an over cultivation of language might overshadow or root out some of the instinctive principles of our nature. So it is with mind. It is governed by the same laws wherever it is found. It is the same thing. For its cultivation it requires the same means, and its highest cultivation interferes in no way with the other impulses of our nature. If it do so, it is only incidentally, and may be for good or evil, as circumstances may determine. The sharper you make your instrument, the greater is its power for good or evil. Equally so is the mind when made keen by culture. The greater the pressure of the steam, the greater is its power to drive the vessel to its destined port, or to strew the sea with shivered fragments of the ill-fated ship. So mind made powerful by training can create, or it can destroy. Who would ever think of complaining that there was danger of knowing too well the rules of language, by one who used it only for the common purposes of life; or that his instrument was too keen to perform any simple operation; or that a great accumulation of power, properly controlled, was not well fitted to accomplish innumerable small ends, as well as a great one? Every human being that rightly accomplishes the ends of life, whether male or female, has duties to perform, that require the highest cultivation of the intellect.
As the whole matter at issue depends on the decision of the point enunciated in the above quoted sentence, we postpone applying arguments directly to it, till we have examined a little in detail some of the incidental circumstances. If we can set at naught, what the Professor assumes as facts, his position falls without any exertion of ours to dislodge its foundation.
The Professor says, "Every system of female education must make the cultivation of the affections, paramount to the cultivation of the intellect." p. 255. Why? This proposition