From his pastoral experience Newman knew that moral improvement was not simply a result of learning facts or grasping intellectual principles, but was instead something intimately concerned with the will and conscience. In this he discerned ‘a chief error of the day’ (which is still with us today): the idea, proposed by the proponents of ‘useful knowledge’,
‘that our true excellence comes not from within, but from without; not wrought out through personal struggles and sufferings, but following upon a passive exposure to influences over which we have no control. They will countenance the theory that diversion is the instrument of improvement, and excitement the condition of right action; and whereas diversions cease to be diversions if they are constant, and excitements by their very nature have a crisis and run through a course, they will tend to make novelty ever in request, and will set the great teachers of morals upon the incessant search after stimulants and sedatives.’ (‘The Tamworth reading room’)
This passage is almost certainly inspired by Edward Copleston, the provost of Oriel College, who had an important influence on Newman for a number of his educational ideas. Copleston had written that, ‘things made easy appear to me to defeat the end of education’.