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wards the natural sciences and researches in physics and in
medicine. Made Bachelor of Arts in 1656, and Master of Arts
in 1658, he passed directly from the student's bench to the
professor's chair. He was successively lecturer and tutor in
Greek, but this did not prevent him later from eliminating
Hellenism almost completely from his scheme of liberal educa-
tion. Then he became lecturer on rhetoric, and finally on
moral philosophy. When, in 1666, he discontinued his schol-
astic life to mingle in political and diplomatic affairs, he at
least carried from his studious residence at Oxford, the germ^
of the most of his ideas on education. He sought occasion to
make an application of them in the education of private indi-
viduals, of whom he Mas the inspirer and counsellor, if not the
official director. In the families of friends and hosts that he
frequented, for example, in thai of Lord Shaftesbury, he made
a close study of children ; and it is in studying them, and in
following with a sagacious eye the successive steps *>( their
improvement in disposition ami mind, that he succeeded in


acquiring that educational experience which has left a trace
on each page of the Thoughts concerning Education. This
book, in fact, is the issue of one of Locke's experiences as an
assistant in the education of the children of his friends.
Towards the year 1684-6, he addressed to his friend Clarke
a series of letters which, retouched and slightly modified,
have become a classical work, simple and familiar in style, a
little disconnected, perhaps, and abounding in repetitions,
but the substance of which is excellent, and the ideas as
remarkable, in general, for their originality as for their just-
ness. Translated into French in 1695 by P. Coste, and re-
printed several times in the lifetime of their author, the
Thoughts concerning Education have had a universal success.
They have exercised an undoubted influence on the educa-
tional writings of Rousseau and Helvetius. They have
received the enthusiastic praise of Leibnitz, who placed this
work above that on the Human Understanding. " I am
persuaded," said H. Marion recently, in his interesting study
on Locke, " that if an edition of the Thoughts were to be
published to-day in a separate volume, it would have a
marked success." l

210. Analysis of the Thoughts concerning Educa-
tion. — Without pretending to give in this place a detailed
analysis of Locke's book, which deserves to be read entire,
and which discusses exhaustively or calls to notice, one after
another, almost all important educational questions, we shall
attempt to make known the essential principles which are to
be drawn from it. These are : 1. in physical education, the
hardening process; 2. in intellectual education, practical
utility ; 3. in moral education, the principle of honor, set up
as a rule for the free self-government of man.

1 John Locke. His Life and his Work. Paris, 1878.

r 1 "


211. Physical Education; The Hardening Process. -
The ideal of education, according to Locke, is "a sound
mind in a sound body." A physician like Rabelais, the
author of the Thoughts concerning Education had special
competence in questions of physical education. But a love
for the paradoxical, and an excessive tendency towards the
hardening of the body, have marred, on this point, the re-
flections of the English philosopher. He has summed up
his precepts on this subject in the following lines : —

" The whole is reduced," he says, " to a small number of
rules, easy to observe ; much air, exercise, and sleep ; a
simple diet, no wine or strong liquors ; little or no medicine
at all ; garments that are neither too tight nor too warm ;
finally, and above all, the habit of keeping the head and feet
cold, of often bathing the feet in cold water and exposing
them to dampness." 1 But it is necessary to enter some-
what into details, and to examine closely some of these

Locke is the first educator to write a consecutive and
methodical dissertation on the food, clothing, and sleep of
children. It is he who has stated this principle, afterwards
taken up by Rousseau : '• Leave to nature the care of form-
ing the body as she thinks it ought to be done." Hence, no
close-fitting garments, life in the open air and in the sun ;
children brought up like peasants, inured to heat and cold.
playing with head and feet bare. In the matter of food,
Locke forbids sugar, wine, spices, and flesh, up to the age
of three or four. As to fruits, which children often crave
with an inordinate appetite, a fact that is not surprising, he
pleasantly remarks, •• since it was for an apple that our first
parents lost paradise," he makes a singular choice. He

^■'Thoughts, translation by G. Compayr€, p. 57.


authorizes strawberries, gooseberries, apples, and pears ; but
he interdicts peaches, plums, and grapes. To excuse Locke's
prejudice against the grapes, it must be recollected that he
lived in England, a country in which the vine grows with
difficulty, and of which an Italian said, "The only ripe fruit I
have seen in England is a baked apple." As to meals,
Locke does not think it important to fix them at stated hours.
F^nelon, on the contrary, more judiciously requires that the
hour for repasts be absolutely determined. But this is not
the only instance in which Locke's wisdom is at fault.
What shall be said of that hygienic fancy which consists in
allowing the child " to have his shoes so thin, that they
might leak and let in water, whenever he comes near it " ?

It is certain that Locke treats children with an unheard-of
severity, all the more surprising in the case of one who had
an infirm and delicate constitution that could be kept in
repair only through precaution and management. I do not
know whether the consequences of the treatment which he
proposes, applied to the letter, might not be disastrous.
Madame de S6vigne" was more nearly right when she wrote :
" If your son is very robust, a rude education is good ; but
if he is delicate, T think that in your attempts to make him
robust, 3^ou would kill him." The body, says Locke, may be
accustomed to everything. We ma}' reply to this by quoting
an anecdote of Peter the Great, who one day took it into his
head, it is said, that it would be best for all the sailors to
form the habit of drinking salt water. Immediately he pro-
mulgated an edict which ordered that all naval cadets should
henceforth drink only sea-water. The boys all died, and
there the experiment stopped.

Still, without subscribing to Locke's paradoxes, which
have found no one to approve of them except Rousseau, we
should recollect that in his precepts on physical education as


a whole, the author of the Thoughts deserves our commenda-
tion for having recommended a manly course of discipline,
and a frugal diet, for having discarded fashionable conven-
tionalities and drawn near to nature, and for having con-
demned the refinements of an indolent mode of life, and for
being inspired by the simple and manly customs of England.

212. Moral Education. — In the thought of Locke, moral
education takes precedence of instruction properly so called :

"That which a gentleman ought to desire for his son,
besides the fortune he leaves him is, 1. virtue ; 2. prudence ;
3. good manners ; 4. instruction."

Virtue and prudence — that is, moral qualities and prac-
tical qualities — are of first consideration. "Instruction,"
says Locke again, " is but the least part of education." In
the book of Thoughts, where repetitions abound, there is
nothing more frequently repeated than the pra'ise of virtue.

Doubtless it may be thought that Locke, like Herbert
Spencer in our own day, cherishes prejudices with respect to
instruction, and that he does not take sufficient account of
the moralizing influence exercised over the heart and will by
intellectual enlightenment ; but, even with this admission, we
must thank Locke for having protested against the teachers
who think they have done all when they have embellished the
memory and developed the intelligence.

The grand thing in education is certainly to establish good
moral habits, to cultivate noble sentiments, and, finally, to
form virtuous characters.

213. Honor, the Principle op Moral Discipline. — -
But after having placed moral education in its proper rank,
which is the first, it remains to inquire what shall be the
principles and the methods of this education. Shall it be
the maxim of utility, as Rousseau requires? Must the child,


before acting, inquire what is the good of this? Cui bo?io?
No ; utilitarian in instruction and in intellectual education, as
we have just seen, Locke is not so in moral education.
Shall it be fear, shall it be the authority of the teacher or of
parents, founded on punishments, upon the slavish feeling
of terror? Still less. Locke reproves repressive discipline,
and is not inclined to chastisements. Shall it be affection,
the love of parents, the aggregate of tender sentiments?
Locke scarceby speaks of them. Of too little sensibility him-
self, he does not seem to think of all that can be done through
the sensibility of the child.

Locke, who perhaps is wrong in treating the child too
early, as though he were a man, who does not take sufficient
account of all the feebleness that is in infant nature, appeals
from the first to the sentiment of honor, and to the fear of
shame, that is, to emotions which, I fear, by their very
nobleness, are above the powers of the child. Honor, which
is, in fact, but another name for duty, and the ordinary
synonym of virtue, — honor may assuredly be the guide of
an adult and already trained conscience ; but is it not chi-
merical to hope that the child, from his earliest years, will be
sensible to the esteem or the contempt of those who surround
him? If it were possible to inspire a child with a regard for
his reputation, I grant with Locke that we might henceforth
" make of him whatever we will, and teach him to love all
the forms of virtue " ; but the question is to know whether
we can succeed in this, and I doubt it, notwithstanding the
assurances of Locke.

Kant has very justly said : —

" It is labor lost to speak of duty to children. They com-
prehend it only as a thing whose transgression is followed by
the ferule. ... So one ought not to try to call into play with
children the feeling of shame, but to wait for this till the


period of youth comes. In fact, it cannot be developed in
them till the idea of honor has already taken root there."

Locke is the dupe of the same illusion, both when he
expects of the child enough moral power so that the sense of
honor suffices to govern him, and when he counts enough on
his intellectual forces to desire to reason with him from the
moment he knows how to speak. For forming good habits
in the child, and preparing him for a life of virtue, there is
full need of all the resources that nature and art put at the
disposal of the educator, — sensibility under all its forms,
the calculations of self-interest, the lights of the intelligence.
It is only little by little, and with the progress of age, that
an exalted principle, like the sentiment of honor or the senti-
ment of duty, will be able to emerge from out the mobile
humors of the child, and dominate his actions like a sovereign
law. The moral pedagogy of Locke is certainly faulty in that
it is not sufficiently addressed to the heart, and to the
potency of loving, which is already so great in the child. I
add, that in his haste to emancipate the child, to treat him as
a reasonable creature, and to develop in him the principles
of self-government, Locke was wrong in proscribing almost
absolutely the fear of punishment. It is good to respect the
liberty and the dignity of the man that is in the child, but it
is not necessary that this respect degenerate into supersti-
tion ; and it is not sure that to train firm and robust wills, it
is necessary to have them early affranchised from all fear
and all constraint.

214. Condemnation of Corporal Punishment. — It is
undeniable that Locke has not sufficiently enlarged the liases

of his theory of moral discipline ; but if he has rested incom-
plete in the positive part of his task, if he has not advised
all that should be done, he has been more successful in the


negative part, that which consists in eliminating all that
ought not to be done. The chapters devoted to punishments
in general, and in particular to corporal punishments, count
among the best in the Thoughts. Rollin and Rousseau have
often copied from them. It is true that Locke himself has
borrowed the suggestion of them from Montaigne. The
"severe mildness" which is the pedagogical rule of the
author of the Essays, is also the rule of Locke. It is in
accordance with this that Locke has brought to bear on the
rod the final judgment of good sense : " The rod is a slavish
discipline, which makes a slavish temper." He has yielded
to the ideas of his time on only one point, when he admits
one exception to the absolute interdiction of the rod, and
tolerates its use in extreme cases to overcome the obstinate
and rebellious resistance of the child. This is going too far
without any doubt ; but to do justice to the boldness of
Locke's views, we must consider how powerful the custom
then was, and still is, in England, in a country where the
heads of institutions think themselves obliged to notify the
public, in the advertisements published in the journals, that
the interdiction of corporal punishment counts among the
advantages of their schools. "It is difficult to conceive
the perseverance with which English teachers cling to the old
and degrading customs of corrections by the rod. ... A
more astonishing thing is that the scholars seem to hold to it
as much as the teachers." "In 1818," relates one of the
former pupils of Charterhouse, " our head master, Doctor
Russell, who had ideas of his own, resolved to abolish
corporal punishment and substitute for it a fine. Everybody
resisted the innovation. The rod seemed to us perfectly
consistent with the dignity of a gentleman ; but a fine, for
shame ! The school rose to the cry : ' Down with the fine !
Long live the rod ! ' The revolt triumphed, and the rod was


solemnly restored. Then we were glad-hearted over the
affair. On the next day after the fine was abolished, we
found, on entering the class-room, a superb forest of birches,
and the two hours of the session were conscientiously em-
ployed in making use of them." 1 ' 2

215. Intellectual Education. — In what concerns intel-
lectual education, Locke manifestly belongs to the school,
small in his time, but more and more numerous to-day, of
utilitarian teachers. He would train, not men of letters, or
of science, but practical men, armed for the battle of life, pro-
vided with all the knowledge they will need in order to keep
their accounts, administer their fortune, satisf\' the require-
ments of their profession, and, finally, to fulfill their duties as
men and citizens. In a word, he wrote for a nation of trades-
men and citizens.

216. Utilitarian Studies. — An undeniable merit of
Locke is that of having reacted against a purely formal in-
struction, which substitutes for the acquisition of positive
and real knowledge a superfluous culture, so to speak, a
training in a superficial rhetoric and au elegant verbiage.
Locke disdains and condemns studies that do not contribute
directly to a preparation for life. Doubtless he goes a little

1 Demogeot et Montucci, de l'Kneeigneme?it secondaire en Angleterr< .
p. 41.

2 On the question of corporal punishment in school, is not M. Compayre
too absolute in his assumptions? On what principle does he base his
absolute condemnation of the rod ? What is to be done in those cases of
revolt against order and decency that occur from time to time in most
schools? There is no doubt that the very best teachers can govern without
resorting to this hateful expedient ; but what shall be done in extreme rases
by the multitude who are not, and never can be, teachers of this ideal
type? Nor does this question stand alone. Below, it is related to family
discipline; and above, to civil administration. If corporal punishment is
interdicted in the school, should it not be interdicted in the State ? (P.)


too far in his reaction against the current formalism and in
his predilection for realism. He is too forgetful of the fact
that the old classical studies, if not useful in the positive
sense of the term, and not satisfying the ordinary needs of
existence, have yet a higher utility, in the sense that they
may become, in skillful and discreet hands, an excellent
instrument for intellectual discipline and the education of the
judgment. But Locke spoke to fanatics and pedants, for
whom Latin and Greek were the whole of instruction, and
who, turning letters from their true purpose, wrongly made
a knowledge of the dead languages the sole end, and not, as
should be the case, one of the means of instruction. Locke
is by no means a blind utilitarian, a coarse positivist, who
dreams of absolutely abolishing disinterested studies. He
wishes merely to put them in their place, and to guard against
investing them with a sort of exclusive privilege, and against
sacrificing to them other branches of instruction that are
more essential and more immediately useful.

217. Programme of Studies. — As soon as the child
knows how to read and write, he should be taught to draw.
Very disdainful of painting and of the fine arts in general,
whose benign and profound influence on the souls of children
his colder nature has not sufficiently recognized, Locke, by
way of compensation, recommends drawing, because drawing-
may be practically useful, and he puts it on almost the same
footing as reading and writing.

These elements once acquired, the child should be drilled
in the mother tongue, first in reading, and afterwards in
exercises in composition, in brief narratives, in familiar
letters, etc. The study of a living language (Locke recom-
mends French to his countrymen) should immediately follow ;
and it is only after this has been acquired that the child shall
be put to the study of Latin. Save the omission of the


sciences, Locke's plan is singularly like that which for ten
years has been in use in the French lyc£es.

As to Latin, which follows the living language, Locke
requires that it shall be learned above all through use,
through conversation if a master can be found who speaks
it fluently, but if not, through the reading of authors. As
little of grammar as possible, no memoriter exercises, no
Latin composition, either in prose or verse, but, as soon
as possible, the reading of eas}- Latin texts, — these are the
recommendations of Locke that have been too little heeded.
The purpose is no longer to learn Latin for the sake of
writing it elegantly ; the only purpose truly desirable is to
comprehend the authors who have written in that language.
The obstinate partisans of Latin verse and conversation will
not read without chagrin these earnest protests of Locke
against exercises that have been too much abused, and that
impose on the learner the torment of writing in a language
which he handles with difficulty, upon subjects which he but
imperfectly understands. As to Greek, Locke proscribes it
absolutely. lie does not disparage the beauty of a language
whose masterpieces, he says, are the original source of our
literature and science ; but he reserves the knowledge of it
to the learned, to the lettered, to professional scholars, and
he excludes it from secondary instruction, which ought to be
but the school which trains for active life. Thus relieved,
classical instruction will more easily welcome the studies that
are of real use and of practical application, — geo graphy ,
which Locke places in the first rank, because ii i- " an exercise
of the eyes and memory " ; arithmet ic, which "is of so general
use in all parts of life and business, that scarce anything can
be done without it"; then what he somewhat ambitiously
calls astronomy, and which is in reality an elementary cos-
mography ; the parts of geometry which are necessary for


" a man of business" ; chronology and history, " the most
ao-reeable and the most instructive of studies " ; ethics and
common law, which do not yet have a place in French pro-
grammes ; finally, natural philosophy, that is, the physical
sciences ; and, to crown all, a manual trade and book-

218. Attractive Studies. — Another characteristic of
Locke's intellectual discipline is, that, utilitarian in its pur-
pose, the instruction which he organizes shall be attractive
in its methods. After hatred for the pedantry which use-
lessly spends the powers of the learner in barren studies, the
next strongest antipathy of Locke is that which is inspired
by the rigor of a too didactic system of instruction, where
the methods are repulsive, the processes painful, and where
the teacher appears to his pupils only as a bugbear and a

Although he may go to extremes in this, he is partly right
in wishing to bring into favor processes that are inviting and
methods that are attractive. Without hoping, as he does,
without desiring even, that the pupil may come to make no
distinction between study and other diversions, we are dis-
posed to believe that something may be done to alleviate for
him the first difficulties in learning, to entice and captivate
him without constraining him, and, finally, to spare him the
disgust which cannot fail to be inspired by studies too
severely forced upon him, and which are made the subject
of scourges and scoldings. It is especially for reading and
the first exercises of the child that Locke recommends the
use of instructive plays. "They may be taught to read,
without perceiving it to be anything but a sport, and play
v themselves into that which others are whipped for."
\ Children of every age arc jealous of their independence
and eager for pleasure. No one before Locke had so clearly


recognized the need of the activity and liberty which are
natural to the child, or so strongly insisted on the necessity
of respecting his independent disposition and his personal
tastes. Here again English pedagogy of the seventeenth
century meets its illustrious successor of the nineteenth.
Herbert Spencer has thoroughly demonstrated the fact that
the mind really appropriates only the knowledge that affords
it pleasure and agreeable exercise. Now, there is pleasure
and agreeable excitation wherever there is the development
of a normal activity corresponding to an instinctive taste
and proportioned to the natural powers of the child ; and
there is no real instruction save at the expense of a real
display of activity. 1

219. Should there be Learning by Heart? — To this
question, Should there be learning by heart? Locke gives a S
resolute reply in the negative. The conclusion is absolute
and false ; but the premises that he assumes to justify his
conclusion are, if possible, falser still. Locke sets out from
this psychological idea, that the memory is not susceptible
of progress. He brings into the discussion his sensualistic
prejudices, his peculiar conception of the soul, which is

1 It is usually said that a pupil's distaste for a study indicates one of
two things, either the mode of presenting the subject is bad, or it is pre-
sented a1 an unseasonable period of mental development ; but this distaste
is quite as likely to be due to the fact that a certain mode of mental activity i
has not yet been established ; for until fairly established, its exercise can-
not, be pleasurable. The assumption that intellectual appetites already
exist and are waiting to be gratified, or thai they will invariably appear at
certain periods <>f mental development, is by no means a general law >>f
the mental life. In many ••uses, these appetites must be created, and it
may often be that the studies employed for this purpose may nut at first
be relished. And there are cases where, under the besl of skill, this

Online LibraryGabriel CompayréThe history of pedagogy → online text (page 17 of 48)