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experienced teacher.

In the third part of his Conduct of Schools La Salle has
drawn up the rules for what he calls the trailing of new
masters. Here are the faults that he notices in young
teachers : —

1. An itching to talk ; 2. too great activity, which degen-
erates into petulance ; 3. indifference ; 4. preoccupation and
embarrassment; 5. harshness; 6. spite; 7. partiality; 8.
slowness and negligence ; 9. pusillanimity and lack of force ;
10. despondency and fretfulness ; 11. familiarity and
trifling; 12. distractions and loss of time; 13. fickleness;
14. giddiness; 15. exclusiveness ; 16. lack of attention to
the different characters and dispositions of children.

283. The Idea of Gratuitous and Obligatory In-
struction. — The Institute of the Brethren of the Christian
Schools, say the statutes of the order in so many words, is a
society whose members make a profession to conduct schools
gratuitously. "La Salle thought only of the children of
artisans and of the poor, who, he said, being occupied
during the whole day in earning their own livelihood and that
of their families, could not give their children the instruction
they need, and a respectable and Christian education." In
1694, the founder of the Institute and his first twelve disci-
ples went and kneeled at the foot of the altar, and pledged
themselves to "conduct collectively and through organized
effort schools of gratuitous instruction, even when, in order


to do this, they might be obliged to ask alms and to live ou
bread alone."

But a thing still more remarkable than to have popular-
ized gratuitous instruction, already realized in many places
through charity schools, is to have formed the conception of
obligatory instruction. La Salle, who did not believe that
this was any encroachment on the liberty of parents, pro-
poses, in this Conduct of Schools, a means for affecting their
will : —

" If among the poor there are certain ones who are unwill-
ing to take advantage of the opportunities for instruction,
they should' be reported to the rectors. The latter will be
able to cure them of their indifference by threatening to give
them no more assistance till they send their children to

284. Professional Instruction. — Besides primary schools
proper, La Salle, who is truly an innovator, inaugurated the
organization of a technical and professional instruction.
At Saint Yon, near Rouen, he organized a sort of college
where was taught " all that a young man can learn, with
the exception of Latin, and whose purpose was to prepare
the student for commercial, industrial, and administrative

285. Conduct of the Christian Schools : Successive
Editions. — La Salle took the trouble to draw up for his
Institute a Aery minute code of rules, with this title : The
Conduct of Schools. The first edition bears the date of
1720. It appeared at Avignon a year after the author's
death. 1 Two other editions have since appeared, in 1811
and in 1870, witli some important modifications. The sub-

1 We have before us a copy of this Avignon edition: J. Charles Chasta-
nier, printer and bookseller, near the College of the Jesuits.


stance has not been changed, but certain passages relative
to discipline, and to the use of the rod, have been sup-

" With the view to adapt our education to the mildness of
the present state of manners," says the preface of 1811,
" we have suppressed or modified whatever includes cor-
poral correction, and have advantageously (sic) replaced
this, on the one hand, by good marks, by promises and
rewards, and on the other by bad marks, by deprivations
and tasks."

On the other hand, some additions have been made. The
Institute of the Brethren had to yield in part to the demands
of the times, and to subtract something from the inflexi-
bility of its government.

" The Brethren," it is said in the preface to the edition of
1870, written by the Frere Philip, " the Brethren have little
by little enlarged the original Conduct, in proportion as
they have perfected their methods. ... It is plain that a
book of this kind cannot receive a final form. New experi-
ments, progress' in methods, legislative enactments, new
needs, etc., require that it receive divers modifications from
time to time."

286. Abuse of Regulations. — A feature common to the
pedagogy of the Jesuits, and to that of the Brethren of the
Christian Schools, is, that everything is regulated in advance
with extraordinary- exactness. No discretion is left to the
teachers. The instruction is but a rule in action. All nov-
elty is interdicted.

"It has been necessary," says the Preface of La Salle, to
prepare this Conduct of the Christian schools, " to the end
that there may be uniformity in all the schools, and in all
the places where there are Brethren of the Institute, and
that the methods employed may always be the same. Man


is so subject to slackness, and even to changeableness, that
there must be written rules for him, in order to keep him
within the bounds of his duty, and to prevent him from
introducing something new, or from destroying that which
has been wisely established."

Need we be astonished, after this, that the teaching of the
Brethren often became a useless routine ?

287. Division of the Conduct. — The Conduct of the
Christian Schools is divided into three parts. The first
treats of all the exercises of the school, and of what is
done in it from the time the pupils enter till they leave.
The second describes the means for establishing and main-
taining order ; in a word, the discipline. The third treats of
the duties of the inspector of schools, of the qualities of
the teachers, and of the rules to be followed in the educa-
tion of the teachers themselves. This may be called, so to
speak, the manual of the normal schools of the Institute.

288. Interior Organization of the Schools. — That
which first strikes the attention in the Christian Schools,
such as La Salle organized, is the complete silence that
reigns in them. Nothing is better than silence on the part
of pupils, when it can be obtained, but La Salle enjoins
silence on teachers as well. The Frere is a professor who
does not talk.

"He will watch carefully over himself, to speak very
rarely, and very low." " It would be of but little use for
the teacher to try to make his pupils keep silence if he does
not do this himself." "When necessity obliges him to speak
— and lie is careful that this necessity is rare — he will
always speak in a moderate tone."

It might be said that La Salle fears a strong and sono-
rous voice.


How, theu, shall the teacher communicate with his pupils,
siuce he is almost debarred from the use of speech? La
Salle has invented, to supersede language, a complete sys-
tem of signs, a sort of scholastic telegraphy, a long account
of which will be found in several chapters of the Conduct.
To have prayers repeated, the teacher will fold his hands ;
to have the catechism repeated, he will make the sign of the
cross. In other cases he will strike his breast, will look at
the pupil steadily, etc. Besides, he will employ an instru-
ment of iron named a signal, which he will raise or lower,
and handle in a hundred ways, to indicate his wish, or to
announce the beginning or the close of such or such an

What is the meaning of this distrust of speech? And
what are we to think of these schools of mutes where
teachers and pupils proceed only by signs ? When a scholar
asks permission to speak, he will stand erect in his place,
with hands crossed and eyes modestly lowered. Doubtless,
to attempt to excuse these practices, we must consider the
annoyances of a noisy school, and the advantages of a
silent school where everything is done discreetly and noise-
lessly. Is there not, however, in these odd regulations,
something besides the desire for order and good conduct, —
the revelation of a complete system of pedagogy which is
afraid of life and liberty, and which, under the pretext of
making the school quiet, deadens the school, and, in the
end, reduces teachers and pupils to mere machines ?

289. Simultaneous Instruction. — By the side of the
evil we must note the good. Up to the time of La Salle,
the individual method was almost alone in use in primary
instruction ; but he substituted for this the simultaneous
method, that is, teaching given to all the pupils at the same
time. For this purpose, La Salle divided each school into


three divisions: "The division of the weakest, that of the
mediocres, and that of the more intelligent or the more

"All the scholars of the same order will receive the
same lesson together. The instructor will see that all are
attentive, and that, in reading for example, all read in a
low voice what the teacher reads in a loud voice."

To aid the instructor, La Salle gives him one or two of
the better pupils of each division, who become his assistants,
and whom he calls inspectors. ' ' The more children have
taught," said La Salle, " the more they will learn."

To be just, however, we must recognize, in certain recom-
mendations of La Salle, some desire to appeal to the judg-
ment and the reason of the child : —

"The teacher will not speak to the scholars during the
catechism, as in preaching, but he will interrogate them
almost continually by questions, direct or indirect, in order
to make them comprehend that which he is teaching them."

The Frere Luccard, in his Life of the Venerable J. B. de
La Salle, 1 quotes this still more expressive passage, borrowed
from his manuscript Counsels: —

" Let the teacher be careful not to lend his pupils too
much help in resolving the questions that have been proposed
to them. He ought, on the contrary, to invite them not
to lie discouraged, but to seek with ardor what he knows
they will be able to find for themselves. He will convince
(liiiii that they will the better retain the knowledge they
have acquired by a personal and persevering effort."

290. What was learned in the Christian Schools.
— Reading, writing, orthography, arithmetic, and the cate-
chism, — this is the programme of La Salle.

1 Two volumes, Paris, 1S7(>.


In reading, La Salle, agreeing in this respect with Port
Royal, requires that French books be used in the beginning.

" The book in which the pupil will begin to learn Latin is
the Psalter ; but this lesson will be given only to those who
can readily read in French."

La Salle requires that the pupil shall not be exercised in
writing till " he can read perfectly." He attaches, more-
over, an extreme importance to calligraphy, and it is known
that the Brethren have remained masters in this art. La
Salle does not weary in giving advice on this subject : the
pens, the knife for mending them, the ink, the paper, the
tracing-papers and blotters, round letters and italic letters
(a bastard script) , — everything is passed in review. 1 The
Conduct also insists " on the manner of teaching the proper
posture of the body" and " on the manner of teaching how
to hold the pen and the paper."

" It will be useful and timely in the beginning to give the
pupil a stick of the bigness of a pen, on which there are three
notches, two on the right and one on the left, to mark the
places where his fingers should be put."

The exercises in writing are to be followed by exercises in
orthography and in composition : —

"• The teacher will require the pupils to compose and write
for themselves notes, receipts, bills, etc. He will also
require them to write out what they remember of the cate-
chism, and of the lectures that they have heard." 2

As to arithmetic, reduced to the four rules, we must
commend La Salle's attempt to have it learned by reason
and not by routine. Thus, he requires the teacher to inter-
rogate the pupil, in order to make him the better comprehend

1 The use of the round script was in fashion. La Salle introduced the
bastard hand.

2 See Chap. II. of the Second Part.


and retain the rule, or to make sure that he is attentive. He
"will give him a complete understanding" of what he
teaches; and, finally, he will require him "to produce a
certain number of rules that he has discovered for himself."

Prayers and religious exercises naturally hold a large place
in the schools organized by La Salle : —

"There shall always be two or three scholars kneeling,
one from each class, who will tell their beads one after

" Care will everywhere be taken that the scholars hear the
holy mass every day."

" A half hour each day shall be devoted to the cate-

291. Method of Teaching. — The Institute of the
Brethren has often been criticised for the mechanical char-
acter of its instruction. The Frere Philip, in the edition of
the Conduct published in 1870, implicitly acknowledges the
justice of this criticism when he writes : " Elementary
instruction has assumed a particular character in these last
days, of which ice must take account. Proposing for its
chief end to train the judgment of the pupil, it gives less
importance than heretofore to the culture of the memory ; it
makes especial use of methods which call into activity the
intelligence, and lead the child to reflect, to take account of
facts, to withdraw from the domain of words to enter into
that of ideas." Do not these wise cautions unmistakably
betray the existence of an evil tradition which should be
corrected, but which tends to hold its ground? He who has
read the Conduct is not left in doubt that the general char-
acter of the pedagogy of the Christian Schools, at the first,
was a mechanical and routine exercise of the memory, and
the absence of life.


292. Christian Politeness. — Under the title of Rules
of Decorum and Christian Civility, La Salle had composed a
reading book, intended for pupils already somewhat ad-
vanced, and printed in Gothic characters. 1 It was not onlv
a manual of politeness, but was, the Conduct claims, a
treatise on ethics, "containing all the duties of children,
both towards God and towards their parents." But we
would examine the work in vain for the justification of this
remark. In it are discussed only the puerile details of out-
ward behavior and of worldly bearing. It would, however,
be in bad taste to criticise at this day a book of another age,
whose artlessness makes us smile. La Salle's purpose was
certainly praiseworthy, though attempting a little too much.
It is said in the Preface that " there is not a single one of
our actions which ought not to be regulated by motives
purely Christian." Hence an infinite number of minute
prescriptions upon the simplest acts of daily life. 2

But here are a few specimens of this pretended elementary
ethics : —

"It is not proper to talk when one has retired, the bed
being made for rest."

" One should try to make no noise and not to snore while
asleep ; nor should one often turn from side to side in bed as
if he were restless and did not know on which side to lie."

" It is not becoming, when one is in company, to take off
one's shoes."

1 We have before us the sixth edition of this work : Rouen, 1729. La
Salle had written it towards the year 1703.

2 See, for example, the following chapters : upon the nose and the manner
of using the handkerchief and of sneezing (chap, vii.) ; upon the back, the
shoulders, the arms, and the elbow (chap, viii.) ; on the manner in which
one ougbt to behave with respect to the bones, the sauce, and the fruit
(chap, vi., of the second part) ; on the manner of behaving while walking
in the streets, on journeys, iu carriages, and on horseback (chap. x.).


" It is impolite to play with a stick or a cane, and to use
it to strike the ground or pebbles, etc., etc."

How many mistakes in politeness we should make every-
day of our lives if the rules of La Salle were infallible !

293. Corporal Chastisements. — The Brethren, within
two centuries, have singularly ameliorated their system of cor-
rection. '•'•Imperative circumstances," said the Frere Philip
in 1870, "no longer permit us to tolerate corporal punish-
ment in our schools." Already, in 1811, there was talk of
suppressing entirely, or at least modifying, the use of these
punishments. The instruments of torture were perfected.
" We reduce the heavy ferule, the inconvenience of which
has been only too often felt, to a simple piece of leather,
about a foot long and an inch wide, and slit in two at one
end ; still we hope that by divine help and by the mildness
of our very dear and dearly beloved colleagues, they will
make use of it only in cases of unavoidable necessity, and
only to give a stroke with it -on the hand, without the per-
mission ever to make any other use of it."

But at first, and in the original Conduct?- corporal pun-
ishment is freely permitted and regulated with exactness.
La Salle distinguished five sorts of corrections, — repri-
mand, penances, the ferule, the rod, expulsion from school.

294. Reprimands. — Silence, we have seen, is the funda-
mental rule of La Salle's schools : " There must be as little
speaking as possible. Consequently, corrections by word of
mouth arc very rarely to be employed." It even seems,
adds the Conduct, that " it is much better not to use them
at all " !

A curious system of discipline, verily, where it is as good

1 See the edition of 1720, from page 140 to page 180.


as forbidden to resort to admonitions, to severe reprimands,
to an appeal through speech to the reason and the feelings of
the child ; where, consequently, there is no place for the
moral authority of the teacher, but where there is at once
invoked the ultima ratio of constraint and violence, of the
ferule and the rod !

295. Penances. — La Salle recommends penances as well
as corporal corrections. By this term he means punishments
like the following : maintaining a kneeling posture in the
school ; learning a few pages of the catechism by heart ;
' ' holding his book before his eyes for the space of half an
hour without looking off ; " keeping motionless, with clasped
hands and downcast eyes, etc.

296. The Ferule. — "We have not to discuss in this place
the use of material means of correction. The Brethren
themselves have repudiated them. Only it is provoking
that they bow to what they call _" imperative circumstances,"
and not to considerations based on principles. But it is
interesting, were it only from an historical point of view, to
recall the minute prescriptions of the founder of the Order.

The Conduct first describes the ferule, " an instrument
formed of two pieces of leather sewed together ; it shall be
from ten to twelve inches long, including the handle ; the
palm shall be oval, and two inches in diameter ; the
palm shall be lined on the inside so as not to be wholly flat,
but rounded to fit the hand." Nothing is overlooked, we
observe ; the form of the ferule is officially defined. But
what shocks us still more is the nature of the faults that
provoke the application of the ferule : " 1 . for not having
attended to the lesson, or for having played ; 2. for being
tardy at school; 3. for not having obeyed the first signal."
It is true that La Salle, always preoccupied with writing,


orders the ferule to be applied only to the left hand ; the
right hand shall always be spared. The child, moreover, is
not to cry while he receives the ferule ; if he does, he is to
be punished and corrected anew.

297. The Kod. — In the penal code of La Salle, the cate-
gories of faults worthy of punishment are sharply defined.
The rod shall be employed for the following faults: 1. re-
fusal to obey ; 2. when the pupil has formed the habit of not
giving heed to the lesson ; 3. when he has made blots upon
his paper instead of writing ; 4. when he has had a fight with
his comrades ; 5. when he has neglected his prayers in
church; G. when he has been wanting in "modesty" at
mass or during the catechism ; 7. when he has been absent
from school, from mass, or from the catechism.

Even supposing that the principle of the rod is admissible,
we must still condemn the wrong use which La Salle makes
of it, for faults manifestly out of proportion to such a chas-

I very well know that the author of the Conduct requires
that corrections shall be rare ; but could he be obeyed, when
he put into the hands of his teachers scarcely any other
means of discipline?

But to comprehend to what extent La Salle forgot what is
due to the dignity of the child, and considered him as a
machine, without any regard to the delicacy of his feelings,
with no respect for his person, we must read to the end the
strange prescriptions of this manual of the rod. The pre-
cautions that La Salle exacts make still more evident the
impropriety of such punishments : —

" When the teacher would punish a scholar with the rod,
he will make the ordinary sign to summon the attention of
the school; next he will indicate by means of the signal the


decree which the pupil has violated, and then show him the
place where correction is ordinarily administered ; and he
will at once go there, and will prepare to receive the punish-
ment, standing in such a way as not to be seen indecently
by any one. This practice of having the scholar prepare
himself for receiving the correction, without any need on the
part of the teacher of putting his hand upon him, shall be
very exactly observed.

' ' While the scholar is preparing himself to receive the cor-
rection, the teacher shall be making an inward preparation
to give it in a spirit of love, and in a clear view of God.
Then he will go from his desk with dignity and gravity.

" And when he shall have reached the place where the
scholar is " (it is stated, moreover, that this place should be in
one of the most remote and most obscure parts of the school,
where the nakedness of the victim cannot be seen), " he will
speak a few words to him to prepare him to receive the cor-
rection with humility, submission, and a purpose of amend-
ment ; then he will strike three blows as is usual ; to go
beyond five blows, there would be needed a special order of
the director.

"He shall be careful not to put his hand on the scholar.
If the scholar is not ready, he shall return to his desk with-
out saying a word ; and when he returns, he shall give him
the most severe punishment allowed without special permis-
sion, that is, five blows.

' ' When a teacher shall have thus been obliged to compel a
scholar to receive correction, he shall attempt in some way
a little time afterwards to make him see and acknowledge
his fault, and shall make him come to himself, and give him
a strong and sincere resolution never to allow himself agnin
to fall into such a revolt."


The moment is perhaps not well chosen to preach a
sermon and to violate the rule which forbids the Brethren
the use of the reprimand.

"After the scholar has been corrected, he will modestly
kneel in the middle of the room before the teacher, with
arms crossed, to thank him for having corrected him, and
will then turn towards the crucifix to thank God for it, and
to promise Him at the same time not again to commit the
fault for which he had just been corrected. This he will do
without speaking aloud ; after which the teacher will give
him the sign to go to his place."

Is it possible to have a higher misconception of human
nature, to trifle more ingeniously with the pride of the child,
and with his most legitimate feelings, and to mingle, in the
most repulsive manner, indiscreet and infamous practices
with the exhibition of religious sentiments ?

" It is absurd," says Kant, " to require the children whom
we punish to thank us, to kiss our hands, etc. This is to
try to make servile creatures of them."

To justify La Salle, some quotations from his works have
been invoked.

"For the love of God, do not use blows of the hand.
Be verv careful never to arive children a blow."

But it is necessary to know the exact thought of the
author of the Conduct, and this explains the following
passage : —

" No corrections should be employed save those which are

Online LibraryGabriel CompayréThe history of pedagogy → online text (page 22 of 48)