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timorous souls to love their book, with a furious counte-
nance, and a rod in hand. A cursed and pernicious way of

1 " I was above six years of age before I understood either French or
P&rigordian any more than Arabic, and without art, book, grammar, or
precept, whipping, or the experience of a tear,- had by that time learned to
speak as pure Latin as my master himself." Essays, Book I. chap. xxv.
In this chapter I have several times quoted from Cotton's translation.
(London: 1711.) (P.)

- Book I. chap. XXY.


proceeding. . . . How much more decent would it be to see
their classes strewed with green leaves and fine flowers, than
with bloody stumps of birch and willows? Were it left to
my ordering, I should paint the school with the pictures of
Joy and Gladness, Flora and the Graces . . . that where
their profit is, they might have their pleasure too." '

113. Importance of a General rather than a Special
Education. — If Montaigne, in different chapters of his
essays, 2 has given passing attention to pedagogical questions,
it is not only through a recollection of his own years of ap-
prenticeship, but also because of his judgment as a philos-
opher, that " the greatest and most important task of human
understanding is in those matters which concern the nurture
and instruction of children."

For him, education is the art of forming men, and not
specialists. This he explains in his original manner under
the form of an anecdote :

" Going to Orleans one day, I met in that plain this side
Clery, two pedants who were going towards Bordeaux,
about fifty paces distant from one another. Still further
back of them, I saw a troop of horse, and at their head a
gentleman who was the late Count de la Rochefoucault. One
of my company inquired of the foremost of these dominies,
who that gentleman was who was following him. He had
not observed the train that was following after, and thought
that the question related to his companion; and so he
replied pleasantly. • He is not a gentleman, but a grammarian,
and I am a logician.' Now, as we are here concerned in the
training, not of a grammarian, or of a logician, but of a

1 Book I. chap. xxv.

2 See particular^ Chap. xxiv. of Book T.. Of Pedantry; Chap. xxv.
Book I., Of the Education of < 'hildren ; Chan. vm. Book II., Of the Affec-
tion of Fathers to th< ir ' 'hildn n.


complete gentleman, we will let those who will abuse their
leisure ; but we have business of another nature." 1

It is true that Montaigne says gentleman, and not simply
man ; but in reality his thought is the same as that of Rous-
seau and of all those who require a general education of the
human soul.

114. The Purpose of Instruction. — From what has now
been said, it is easy to comprehend that, in the opinion of
Montaigne, letters and other studies are but the means or
instrument, and not the aim and end of instruction. The
author of the Essays does not yield to the literary craze,
which, in the sixteenth century, took certain scholars captive,
and made the ideal of education to consist of a knowledge of
the ancient languages. It is of little consequence to him
that a pupil has learned to write in Latin ; what he does
require, is that he become better and more prudent, and have
a sounder judgment. "If his soul be not put into better
rhythm, if the judgment be not better settled, I would rather
have him spend his time at tennis." 2

115. Education of the Judgment. — Montaigne has
expressed his dominant thought on education in a hundred
different ways. He is preoccupied with the training of the
judgment, and on this point we might quote whole pages :

"... According to the fashion in which we are instructed,
it is not singular that neither scholars nor masters become
more able, although they become more wise. In fact, our
parents devote their care and expense to furnishing our heads
with knowledge ; but to judgment and virtue no additions
are made. Say of a passer-by to people, ' O what a learned
man ! ' and of another, ' O what a good man goes there ! '
and they will not fail to turn their eyes and attention towards

1 Book I. chap. xxv. 2 Book I. chap. xxiy.


the former. There should be a third to cry, ' O the block-
heads ! ' Men are quick to inquire, ' Does he know Greek
or Latin ? Does he write in verse or in prose ? ' But
whether he lias become better or more prudent, which is the
principal thing, this receives not the least notice ; whereas
we ought to inquire who is the better learned, rather than
who is the more learned? "

"We labor only at filling the memory, and leave the under-
standing and the conscience void. Just as birds sometimes
go in quest of grain, and bring it in their bills without tasting
it themselves, to make of it mouthfuls for their young ; so
our pedants go rummaging in books for knowledge, only to
hold it at their tongues' end, and then distribute it to their
pupils." 1

116. Studies Recommended. — The practical and utili-
tarian mind of Montaigne dictates to him his programme of
studies. "With him it is not a question of plunging into the
depths of the sciences ; disinterested studies are not his
affair. If Rabelais proposed to develop the speculative
faculties, Montaigne, on the contrary, is preoccupied with
the practical faculties, and he makes everything subordinate
to morals. For example, he would have history learned, not
for the salve of knowing the facts, but of appreciating them.
It is not so necessary to imprint in the memory of the child
•• the date of the fall of Carthage as the character of Hanni-
bal and Scipio, nor so much where Marcellus died as why it
was unworthy of his duty that he died there." 2

And so in philosophy, it is not the general knowledge of
man and nature that Montaigne esteems and recommends;
but only those parts that have a direct bearing on morals and
active life.

i Book I. chap. xxiv. - Book I. chap. xxv.


" It is a pity that matters should be at such a pass as they
are in our time, that philosophy, even with people of under-
standing, should be looked upon as a vain and fanciful name,
a thing of no use and no value, either for opinion or for
action. I think that it is the love of quibbling that has
caused things to take this turn. . . . Philosophy is that
which teaches us to live." :

117. Educational Methods. — An education purely
bookish is not to Montaigne's taste. He counts less upon
books than upon experience and mingling with men ; upon
the observation of things, and upon the natural suggestions
of the mind :

"For learning to judge well and speak well, whatever
presents itself to our eyes serves as a sufficient book. The
knavery of a page, the blunder of a servant, a table witti-
cism, — all such things are so many new things to think
about. And for this purpose conversation with men is
wonderfully helpful, aud so is a visit to foreign lands . . .
to bring back the customs of those nations, and their man-
ners, and to whet and sharpen our wits by rubbing them upon
those of others."

"... The lesson will be given, sometimes by conversation,
sometimes by book. . . . Let the child examine every
man's talent, a peasant, a mason, a passer-by. Put into his
head an honest curiosity in everything. Let him observe
whatever is curious in his surroundings, — a fine house, a
delicate fountain, an eminent man, the scene of an ancient
battle, the routes of Caesar, or of Charlemagne. . . ." l

Things should precede words. On this point Montaigne
anticipates Comenius, Eousseau, and all modern educators.

1 Book I. chap. xxv.


"Let our pupil be provided with things; words will
follow only too fust." l

• • The world is given to babbling ; I hardly ever saw a man
who did not rather prate too much, than speak too little.
Yet the half of our life goes in that way ; we are kept four or
five years in learning words. . . ." 2

" This is not saying that it is not a fine and good thing to
speak well ; but not so good as it is made out to be. I am
vexed that our life is so much occupied with all this."

118. How we should read. — Montaigne has keenly criti-
cised the abuse of books: "I would not have this boy of
ours imprisoned, and made a slave to his book. ... I would
not have his spirit cow'd and subdu'd by applying him to the
rack, and tormenting him, as some do, fourteen or fifteen
hours a da}-, and so make a pack-horse of him. Neither
should I think it good, when, by a solitary and melancholic
complexion, he is discovered to be much addicted to his
book, to nourish that humor in him, for that renders them
unfit for civil conversation, and diverts them from better
employments." 3

But while he advises against excess in reading, he has
admirably defined the manner in which we ought to read.
Above all, he says, let us assimilate and appropriate what
we read. Let the work of the reader resemble that of bees,
that, on this side and on that, tap the flowers for their sweet

1 Has not this extravagant preference for things, as distinguished from
words, become a new superstition in educational theory? Considering the
misuse made of words by Scholasticism, it was time for Montaigne to summon
the attention outwards to sensible realities: hut it is more than doubtful
whether there is any valid ground for the absolute rule of modern pedagogy,
" first the idea, then the term.'' In actual experience, there is no invariable
sequence. The really important thing is, that terms In- made significant. (P.)

2 Book I. chap. xxv.

3 Book I. chap. xxv.


juices, and make them into honey, which is no longer thyme
nor marjoram. In other terms, we should read with reflec-
tion, and with a critical spirit, while mastering the thoughts
of the author by our personal judgment, without ever be-
coming slaves to them.

119. Montaigne's Errors. — Montaigne's greatest fault, it
must be confessed, is that he is somewhat heartless. Some-
what of an egoist and Epicurean, he celebrates only the
easy virtues that are attained " by shady routes through
green meadows and fragrant flowers." Has he himself ever
performed painful duties that demand effort? To love child-
ren, he waits till they are amiable ; while they are small, he
disdains them, and keeps them at a distance from him :

" I cannot entertain that passion of dandling and caressing
an infant, scarcely born, having as yet neither motion of
soul nor shape of body distinguishable, by which they can
render themselves amiable ; and have not suffered them to
be nursed near me. . . ." ! " Never take, and, still less,
never give, to the women of your household the care of the
feeding of your children ! "

Montaigne joined precept to example. He somewhere say?
unfeelingly: "My children all died while at nurse." 2 He
goes so far as to say that a man of letters ought to prefer

1 Book II. chap. viii.

2 I am not sure that this remark does not do Montaigne injustice, especi-
ally when we consider the connection in which the original remark is made:
"I am of opinion that what is not to be done by reason, prudence, and
address, is never to be effected by force. I myself was brought up after
that manner; and they tell me that, in all my first age, I never felt the rod
but twice, and then very easily. I have practised the same method with my
children, who all of them dy'd at nurse; but Leonora, my only daughter, is
arrived to the age of six years and upwards without other correction for
her childish faults than words only, and those very gentle." Book II.
chap. viii. (P.)


his writings to his children : " The births of our intelligence
are the children the most truly our own." 1

120. Incompleteness op his Views on the Education
op Women. — Another mental defect in Montaigne is, that,
by reason of his moderation aud conservatism, he remains a
little narrow. High conceptions of human destiny are not
to be expected of him ; his manner of conceiving of it is
mean and commonplace. This lack of intellectual breadth
is especially manifest in his reflections on the education of
women. Montaigne is of that number, who, through false
gallantry, would keep woman in a state of ignorance on the
pretext that instruction would mar her natural charms.
In their case, he would prohibit even the study of rhetoric,
because, he says, that would " conceal her charms under
borrowed charms." Women should be content with the
advantages which their sex assures to them. With the
knowledge which they naturally have, "they command
with the switch, and rule both the regents and the schools."
However, he afterwards thinks better of it; but in his con-
cessions there is more of contempt than in his prohibitions :
" If, however, it displeases them to make us any concessions
whatever, and they are determined, through curiosity, to
know something of books, poetry is an amusement, befitting
their needs ; for it is a wanton, crafty art, disguised, all for
pleasure, all for show, just as the}' are." 2

The following passage may also be quoted: —
" When I see them tampering with rhetoric, law, logic,
and the like, so improper and unnecessary for their busi-
ness, I begin to suspect that the men who inspire them with
such tilings do it that they may govern them upon that

1 Book III. chap. xin. - Book III. chap. in.

3 Book III. chap. in.


It is impossible to express a greater contempt for women.
Montaigne goes so far as to deny her positive qualities of
heart. He chances to say, with reference to Mile, de
Gournay, his adopted daughter: "The perfection of the
most saintly affection has been attained when it does not
exhibit the least trace of sex."

To conclude : notwithstanding some grave defects, the
pedagogy of Montaigne is a pedagogy of good sense, and
certain parts of it will always deserve to be admired. The
Jansenists, and Locke, and Rousseau, in different degrees,
draw their inspiration from Montaigne. In his own age, it
is true, his ideas were accepted by scarcely any one save his
disciple Charron, who, in his book of Wisdom, 1 has done
scarcely more than to arrange in order the thoughts that are
scattered through the Essays. But if he had no influence
upon his own age, Montaigne has at least remained, after
three centuries, a sure guide in the matter of intellectual

[121. Analytical Summary. — 1. The dominant charac-
teristic of education during the Renaissance period is the
reaction which it exhibits against certain errors in Middle
Age education.

2. A second characteristic is a disposition to conciliate or
harmonize principles and methods whose fault is exagger-

3. Against instruction based almost wholly on authority,
there is a reaction in favor of free inquiry.

4. Opposed to an education of the professional or technical
type, there is proposed an education of the general or liberal

1 See particularly Chap. xiv. of Book III.


5. From being almost exclusively ethical and religious,
education tends to become secular.

G. Didactic, formal instruction out of books, dealing in
second-hand knowledge, is succeeded by informal, intuitive
instruction from natural objects, dealing in knowledge at first

7. The conception that education is a process of manu-
facture begins to give place to the conception that it is a
process of growth.

8. Teaching whose purpose was information is succeeded
by teaching whose purpose is formation, discipline, or

9. A discipline that was harsh and cruel is succeeded by
a discipline comparatively mild and humane ; and manners
that were rude and coarse, are followed by a finer code of



origin of primary instruction j spirit of the protestant re-
form j calvin, melanctiion, zwingli j luther (1483-1546);
appeal addressed to the magistrates and legislators
of Germany; double utility of instruction; necessity of
a system of public instruction; criticism of the schools
of the period; organization of new schools; programme
of studies; progress in methods; the states general of

ORLEANS (1560) ; RATICH (1571-1635) ; COMENIUS (1592-1671) ; HIS

122. Origin op Primary Instruction. — With La Salle
and the foundation of the Institute of the Brethren of the
Christian Schools, the historian of education recognizes the
Catholic origin of primary instruction ; in the decrees and
laws of the French Revolution, its lay and philosophical
origin; but it is to the Protestant Reformers, — to Luther
in the sixteenth century, and to Comenius. in the seventeenth
— that must be ascribed the honor of having first organized
schools for the people. In its origin, the primary school is
the child of Protestantism, and its cradle was the Reforma-


123. Spirit of the Protestant Reform. — The develop-
ment of primary instruction was the logical consequence of
the fundamental principles of the Protestant Reform. As
Michel Br6al has said : "In making man responsible for his
own faith, and in placing the source of that faith in the Holy
Scriptures, the Reform contracted the obligation to put each
one in a condition to save himself by the reading and the
understanding of the Bible. . . . The necessity of explain-
ing the Catechism, and making comments on it, was for
teachers an obligation to learn how to expound a thought,
and to decompose it into its elements. The study of the
mother tongue and of singing, was associated with the reading
of the Bible (translated into German by Luther) and with
religious services." The Reform, then, contained, in germ,
a complete revolution in education ; it enlisted the interests
of religion in the service of instruction, and associated
knowledge with faith. This is the reason that, for three
centuries, the Protestant nations have led humanity in the
matter of primary instruction.

124. Calvin (1509-1564), Melancthon (1497-15G0),
Zwingli (1484-1532). — However, all the Protestant Re-
formers were far from exhibiting the same zeal in behalf of
primary instruction. Calvin, absorbed in religious struggles
and polemics, was not occupied with the organization of
schools till towards the close of his life, and even the college
that he founded at Geneva, in 1559, was scarcely more than
a school for the study of Latin. Melancthon, who has been
called "the preceptor of Germany," worked more for high
schools than for schools for the people, lie was above all
else a professor of Belles-Lettres : and it was with chagrin
that he saw his courses in the University of Wittenberg de-
serted by students when he lectured on the OtynthictCS of


Demosthenes. Before Calvin and Melancthon, the Swiss
reformer Zwingli had shown his great interest in primary
teaching, in his little book " upon the manner of instructing
and bringing up boys in a Christian way " (1524). In this
he recommended natural history, arithmetic, and also exer-
cises in fencing, in order to furnish the country with timely

125. Luther (1483-1546). The German reformer Luther
is, of all his co-religionists, the one who has served the cause
of elementary instruction with the most ardor. He not only
addressed a pressing appeal to the ruling classes in behalf of
founding schools for the people, but, by his influence, meth-
ods of instruction were improved, and the educational spirit
was renewed in accordance with the principles of Protestant-
ism. " Spontaneity," it has been said, not without some
exaggeration, " free thought, and free inquiry, are the basis
of Protestantism ; where it has reigned, there have disap-
peared the method of repeating and of learning by heart
without reflection, mechanism, subjection to authority, the
paralysis of the intelligence oppressed by dogmatic instruc-
tion, and science put in tutelage by the beliefs of the
Church." l

126. Appeal addressed to the Magistrates and Legis-
lators of Germany. — In 1524, Luther, in a special docu-
ment addressed to the public authorities of Germany, forcibly
expressed himself against the neglect into which the interests
of instruction had fallen. This appeal has this characteristic,
that the great reformer, while assuming that the Church is
the mother of the school, seems especially to count on the
secular arm, upon the power of the people, to serve his pur-

1 Dittes, op. cit. p. 127.


poses in the -cause of universal instruction. " Each city,"
he said, "is subjected to great expense every year for the
construction of roads, for fortifying its ramparts, and for
buying arms and equipping soldiers. Why should it not
spend an equal sum for the support of one or two school-
masters? The prosperity of a city does not depend solely
on its natural .riches, on the solidity of its walls, on the ele-
gance of its mansions, and on the abundance of arms in its
arsenals ; but the safety and strength of a city reside above
all in a good education, which furnishes it with instructed,
reasonable, honorable, and well-trained citizens." 1

127. Double Utility op Instruction. — A remarkable
fact about Luther is, that as a preacher of instruction, he does
not speak merely from the religious point of view. After
having recommended schools as institutions auxiliary to the
Church, he makes a resolute argument from the human point
of view. "Were there neither soul, heaven, nor hell," he
says, "it would still be necessary to have schools for the sake
of affairs here below, as the history of the Greeks and the
Romans plainly teaches. The world has need of educated
men and women, to the end that the men may govern the
country properly, and that the women may properly bring up
their children, care for their domestics, and direct the affairs
of their households."

128. Necessity of Public Instruction. — The objection
will perhaps be made, says Luther, that for the education of

1 Luther's argument for compulsion should not be omitted: "It is my
opinion that the authorities are bound to force their subjects to send their
children to school. ... If they can oblige their able-bodied subjects t<i
carry the lance and the arquehuse, to mount the ramparts, and to do com-
plete military service, for a much better reason may they, and ought they,
to force their subjects to send their children to school, for here it is the
question of a much more terrible war with the devil.'' (P.)


children the home is sufficient, and that the school is useless.
" To this I reply : We clearly see how the boys and girls are
educated who remain at home.'.' He then shows that they
are ignorant and " stupid," incapable of taking part in conver-
sation, of giving good advice, and without any experience of
life ; while, if they had been educated in the schools, by
teachers who could give instruction in the languages, in the
arts, and in history, they might in a little time gather up
within themselves, as in a mirror, the experience of what-
ever has happened since the beginning of the world ; and
from this experience,, he adds, they would derive the wisdom
they need for self-direction and for giving wise counsel to

129. Criticism of the Schools of the Period. — But
since there must be public schools, can we not be content
with those which already exist? Luther replies by proving
that parents neglect to send their children to them, and by
denouncing the uselessness of the results obtained b} - those
who attend them. " We find people," he says, " who serve
God in strange ways. They fast and wear coarse clothing,
but they pass blindly by the true divine service of the home,
— they do not know how to bring up their children. . . .
Believe me, it is much more necessary to give attention to
your children and to provide for their education than to pur-
chase indulgencies, to visit foreign churches, or to make sol-
emn vows. . . . All people, especially the Jews, oblige their
children to go to school more than Christians do. This is

Online LibraryGabriel CompayréThe history of pedagogy → online text (page 10 of 48)