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At Moulins, a request is made that at least oue hour a
week be devoted to the history of France, which proves that
the Society of Jesus, always enslaved to its immobile formal-
ism, did not grant even this little concession to the teaching
of history.

At Orleans, the necessity of teaching children the French
language is insisted on.

At Montbrison, the wish is expressed that pupils be taught
a smattering of geography, especially of their own country.

At Auxerre, it is proved that in the teaching of philos-
ophy the time is employed " in copying and learning note-
books filled with vain distinctions and frivolous questions."

At Montbrison, the request is made " that the rules of
reasoning be explained in French, and that there be a disuse
of debates which train only disputants and not philosophers."

It would be interesting to pursue this study, and to collect
from these reports of 1762, — real memorials of a scholastic
revolution, — all the complaints of public opinion against the
Jesuits. Even in religion, the Company of Jesus is charged
with substituting for the sacred texts, books of devotion com-
posed by the Fathers. At Poitiers, a demand is made in
favor of the Old and the New Testaments, the study of
which was wholby neglected. From time to time the Jesuits
were accused of continually mixing religious questions with
classical studies and of catechising at every turn. " The


masters of the fifth and sixth forms in the College of
Auxerre dogmatize in the themes which they dictate to the
children." Finally, the Company of Jesus maintained in
the schools the teaching of moral casuistry ; it encouraged
bigotry and superstition ; it relaxed nothing from the sever-
ity of its discipline, and provoked violent recriminations
among some of its former pupils who had preserved a pain-
ful recollection of corrections received in its colleges. 1

377. Efforts made to displace the Jesuits. — The Par-
liaments, then, did nothing more, so to speak, than register
the verdict of public opinion everywhere excited against the
Jesuits. But while they heartily joined in the general rep-
robation, they undertook to determine the laws of the new
education. " It is of little use to destroy," they said, "if
we do not intend to build. The public good and the honor
of the nation require that we should establish a civil education
which shall prepare each new generation for filling with suc-
cess the differeut employments of the State." It is not just
to say with Michel Br6al, that "once delivered from the
Jesuits, the University installed itself in their establishments
and continued their instruction." Earnest attempts were
made to reform programmes and methods. La Chalotais,
Guy ton de Morveau, Rolland, and still others attempted
by their writings, and, when they could, by their acts, to
establish a system of education which, while inspired by
Rollin and the Jansenists, attempted to do still better.

378. La Chalotais (1701-1785).— Of all the parliamen-
tarians who distinguished themselves in the campaign under-
taken towards the middle of the eighteenth century against
the pedagogy of the Jesuits, the most celebrated, and the

1 See the pamphlet published in L764 entitled: M€moire& historiqucs sur
I'drbilianisnn t 1 It s com ctt urs des J€suites.


most worthy of being such, is undoubtedly the solicitor-
general of the Parliament of Bretagne, Rene" de la Chalotais.
A man of courage and character, he was arrested and im-
prisoned in tbe citadel of Saint Malo for having upheld the
franchise of the province of Bretagne ; and it was in his
prison, in 17G5, that he drew up for his defence an eloquent
and impassioned memorial, of which Yoltaire said, " Woe
to every sensitive soul that does not feel the quivering of a
fever in reading it ! "

379. His Essay on National Education. — The Essai of
La Chalotais appeared in 1763, one year after the Emile.
Coming after the ambitious theories of a philosopher who,
scorning polemics and the dissensions of his time, had
written only for humanity and the future, this was a modest
and opportune work, the effort of a practical man who
attempted to respond to the aspirations and the needs of his
time. Translated into several languages, the Essai d'educa-
tion nationale obtained the enthusiastic approval of Diderot,
and also of Voltaire, who said, " It is a terrible book against
the Jesuits, all the more so because it is written with moder-
ation." Grimm carried his admiration so far as to write, "It
would be difficult to present in a hundred and fifty pages
more reflections that are wise, profound, useful, and truly
worthy of a magistrate, of a philosopher, of a statesman."
Too completely forgotten to-day, this little composition of
La Chalotais deserves to be republished. Notwithstanding
some prejudices that mar it, it is already wholly penetrated
with the spirit of the Revolution.

380. Secularization of Education. — As a matter of
fact, the whole pedagogy of the eighteenth century is domi-
nated by the idea of the necessary secularization of instruc-
tion. Thorough-going Gallicans like La Chalotais or Rolland,
dauntless free-thinkers like Diderot or Helvetius, all believe


and assert that public instruction is a civil affair, a " govern-
ment undertaking," as Voltaire expressed it. All wish to
substitute lay teachers for religious teachers, and to open
civil schools upon the ruins of monastic schools.

"Who will be persuaded," says Rolland in his report of
1708, " that fathers who feel an emotion that an ecclesiastic
never should have known, will be less capable than he of
educating children ? "

La Chalotais also demands these citizen teachers. He
objects to those instructors who, from interest as well as
from principle, give the preference in their affections to the
supernatural world over one's native land.

"I do not presume to exclude ecclesiastics," he said,
" but T protest against the exclusion of laymen. I dare claim
for the nation an education which depends only on the State,
because it belongs essentially to the State ; because every
State has an inalienable and indefeasible right to instruct its
members ; because, finally, the children of the State ought to
be educated by the members of the State." This does not
mean that La Chalotais is irreligious ; but he desires a national
religion which does not subordinate the interests of the
country to a foreign power. What he wants especially is,
that the Church, reserving to herself the teaching of divine
truth, abandon to the State the teaching of morals, and the
control of purely human studies. He is of the same opinion
as his friend Duclos, who said : —

"It is certain that in the education which was given at
Sparta, the prime purpose was to train Spartans. Jt is thus
that in every Stale the purpose should be to enkindle the
spirit of citizenship; and, in our case, to train Frenchmen,
and in order to make Frenchmen, to labor to make men of
them." 1

1 Duclos, Considerations sur les mceitrs dcce siecle. Ch. II. Sur fain,,!.
lion et les prtfiigte.


381. Practical Purpose of Instruction. — The partic-
ular charge brought by La Chalotais against the education of
his time, against that of the University as well as against
that of .the Jesuits, is, that it does not prepare children for
real life, for life in the State. "A stranger who should visit
our colleges might conclude that in France we think only of
peopling the seminaries, the cloisters, and the Latin col-
onies." How are we to imagine that the study of a dead
language, and a monastic discipline, are the appointed means
for training soldiers, magistrates, and heads of families?

"The greatest vice of education, and perhaps the most
inevitable, while it shall be entrusted to persons who have
renounced the world, is the absolute lack of instruction on
the moral and political virtues. Our education does not
affect our habits, like that of the ancients. After having
endured all the fatigues and irksomeness of the college, the
young find themselves in the need of learning in what consist
the duties common to all men. They have learned no prin-
ciple for judging actions, evils, opinions, customs. They
have everything to learn on matters that are so important.
They are inspired with a devotion which is but an imitation
of religion, and with practices which take the place of virtue,
and are but the shadow of it."

382. Intuitive and Natural Instruction. — A pupil of
the sensational school, a disciple of Locke and of Condillac,
La Chalotais is too much inclined to misconceive, in the
development of the individual, the \>\&y of natural activities
and innate dispositions. But, by way of compensation, his
predilection for sensationalism leads him to excellent thoughts
on the necessity of beginning with sensible objects before
advancing to intellectual studies, and first of all to secure an
education of the senses.

' ' I wish nothing to be taught children except facts which


are attested by the eyes, at the age of seven as at the age of

" The principles, for instructing children should be those
by which nature herself instructs them. Nature is the best
of teachers.

" Every method which begins with abstract ideas is not
made for children.

" Let children see many objects ; let there be a variety of
such, and let them be shown under many aspects and on
various occasions. The memory and the imagination of
children cannot be overcharged with useful facts and ideas
of which they can make use in the course of their lives."

Such are the principles according to which La Chalotais
organizes his plan of studies.

383. The New Spirit in Education. — The purpose,
then, is to replace that monastic and ultramontane education
(this is the term employed by La Chalotais), and also that
narrow education, and that repulsive and austere discipline,
" which seems made only to abase the spirit" ; that sterile
and insipid teaching, "the most usual effect of which is to
make study hated for life " ; those scholastic studies where
young men " contract the habit of disputing and caviling" ;
and those ascetic regulations " which set neatness and health
at defiance." The purpose is to initiate children into our
most common and most ordinary affairs, into what forms
the conduct of life and the basis of civil society.

"Most young men know neither the world which they
inhabit, the earth which nourishes them, the men who supply
their needs, the animals which serve them, nor the workmen
and citizens whom they employ. They have not even any
desire for this kind of knowledge. No advantage is taken
of their natural curiosity for the purpose of increasing it.


They know how to admire neither the wonders of nature nor
the prodigies of the arts."

This is equivalent to saying that they should henceforth
learn all that up to this time they had been permitted to be
ignorant of.

384. Studies of the First Period. — Education, ac-
cording to La Chalotais, should be divided into two periods :
the first from five to ten, the second from ten to seventeen.

During the first period, we have to do with children who
have no experience because they have seen nothing, who
have no power of attention because they are incapable of any
sustained effort, and no judgment because they have not yet
any general ideas ; but who, by way of compensation, have
senses, memory, and some power of reflection. It is neces-
sary, then, to make a careful choice of the subjects of study
which shall be proposed to these tender intelligences ; and
La Chalotais decides in favor of history, geography, natural
history, physical and mathematical recreations.

"The exercises proposed for the first period," he says,
" are as follows : learning to read, write, and draw ; dancing
and music, which ought to enter into the education of persons
above the commonalty ; historical narratives and the lives of
illustrious men of every country, of every age, and of every
profession ; geography, mathematical and physical recrea-
tions ; the fables of La Fontaine, which, whatever may be
said of them, ought not to be removed from the hands of
children, but all of which they should be made to learn by
heart ; and besides this, walks, excursions, merriment, and
recreations ; I do not propose even the studies except as

385. Criticism of Negative Education. — La Chalotais
is often right as against Rousseau. For example, he has
abundantly refuted the Utopia of a negative education in


which nature is allowed to have her way, and which consid-
ers the toil of the centuries as of no account. It is good sense
itself which speaks in reflections like these : —

" If man is not taught what is good, he will necessarily
become preoccupied with what is bad. The mind and the
heart cannot remain unoccupied. . . . On the pretext of
affording children an experience which is their own, they are
deprived of the assistance of others' experience."

386. History avenged of the Disdain op Rousseau. —
The sophisms of Rousseau on history are brilliantly refuted.
History is within the comprehension of the youngest. The
child who can understand Tom Thumb and Blue Beard, can
understand the history of Romulus and of Clovis. More-
over, it is to the history of the most recent times that
La Chalotais attaches the greatest importance, and in this
respect he goes beyond his master Rollin : —

" I would have composed for the use of the child histories
of every nation, of every century, and particularly of the
later centuries, which should be written with greater detail,
and which should be read before those of the more remote
centuries. I would have written the lives of illustrious men
of all classes, conditions, and professions, of celebrated
heroes, scholars, women, and children."

387. Geography. — La Chalotais does not separate the
studj* of geography from that of history, and he requires
that, without entering into dry and tedious details, the pupil
be made to travel pleasantly through different countries, and
that stress be put " on what is of chief importance and inter-
est in each country, such as the most striking facts, the
native land of great men, celebrated battles, and whatever
is most notable, either as to manners and customs, to
natural productions, or to arts and commerce."


388. Natural History. — Another study especially
adapted to children, says La Chalotais with reason, is
natural history : ' ' The principal thing is first to show the
different objects just as they appear to the eyes. A repre-
sentation of them, with a precise and exact description, is

" Too great detail must be avoided, and the objects chosen
must be such as are most directly related to us, which are
the most necessary and the most useful."

" Preference shall be given to domestic animals over those
that are wild, and to native animals over those of other
countries. In the case of plants, preference shall be given
to those that serve for food and for use in medicine."

As far as possible, the object itself should be shown, so
that the idea shall be the more exact and vivid, and the
impression the more durable.

389. Recreations in Physics. — La Chalotais explains
that he means by this phrase observations, experiments, and
the simplest facts of nature. Children should early be made
acquainted with thermometers, barometers, with the micro-
scope, etc.

390. Recreations in Mathematics. — All this is excellent,
and La Chalotais enters resolutely into the domain of modern
methods. What is more debatable is the idea of putting
geometry and mathematics into the programme of children's
studies, under this erroneous pretext, that " geometry pre-
sents nothing but the sensible and the palpable." Let us
grant, however, that it is easier to conceive " clear ideas of
bodies, lines, and angles that strike the eyes, than abstract
ideas of verbs, declensions, and conjugations, of an accusa-
tive, an ablative, a subjunctive, an infinitive, or of the
omitted that."


391 . Studies of the Second Period. — La Chalotais post-
pones the study of the classical languages till the second
period, the tenth }'ear. The course of study for this second
period will comprise: 1. French and Latin literature, or the
humanities; 2. a continuation of history, geography, math-
ematics, and natural history ; 3. criticism, logic, and meta-
physics ; 4. the art of invention ; 5. ethics.

La Chalotais complains that his contemporaries neglect
French literature, as though we had not admirable models in
our national language. Out of one hundred pupils there are
not five who will find it useful to write in Latin ; while there
is not one of them who will have occasion to speak or write
in Greek, and to construct Latin verses. All, on the con-
trary, ought to know their native language. Consequently,
our author suggests the idea of devoting the morning session
to French, and that of the afternoon to Latin, so that the
pupils who have no need of the ancient languages may pur-
sue only the courses in French.

392. The Living Languages. — La Chalotais thinks the
knowledge of two living languages to be necessary, " the
English for science, and the German for war." German
literature had not yet produced its masterpieces, and it is
seen that at this period the utility of German appears espe-
cially with reference to military affairs. However it may be,
let us be grateful to him for having appreciated, as he has
done, the living languages. "It is wrong," he says, "to
treat them nearly as we treat our contemporaries, with a sort
of indifference. Without the Greek and Latin languages
there is no real and solid erudition ; and there is no complete
erudition without the others."

393. Other Studies. — How many judicious or just reflec-
tions we have still to gather from the Essay on National Educa-


tion, as upon the teaching of the ancient languages, which La
Chalotais, however, is wrong in restricting to too small a
number of years ; upon the necessity of presenting to pupils
as subjects for composition, not puerile amplifications, or
dissertations on facts or matters of which they are ignorant,
but things which they know, which have happened to them,
"their occupations, their amusements, or their troubles";
upon logic or criticism, the study of which should not be
deferred till the end of the course, as is still done in our day ;
upon philosophy, which is, he says, " the characteristic of
the eighteenth century, as that of the sixteenth was erudition,
and that of the seventeenth was talent ! " La Chalotais
reserves the place of honor to ethics, " which is the most
important of all the sciences, and which is, as much as any
other, susceptible of demonstration."

394. The Question of Books. — In tracing his programme
of studies, so new in many particulars, La Chalotais took
into account the difficulties that would be encountered in
assuring, and, so to speak, iu improvising, the execution
of it, at a time when there existed neither competent teachers
nor properly constructed books. Teachers especially, he
said, are difficult to train. But, while waiting for the re-
cruiting of the teaching force, La Chalotais puts great de-
pendence on elementary books, which might, he thought, be
composed within two years, if the king would encourage the
publication of them, and if the Academies would put them
up for competition.

' ' These books would be the best instruction which the mas-
ters could give, and would take the place of every other
method. Whatever course we may take, we cannot dispense
with new books. These books, once made, would make
trained teachers unnecessary, and there would then be no
longer any occasion for discussion as to their qualities,


whether they should be priests, or married, or single. All
would be good, provided they were religious, moral, and
knew how to read ; they would soon train themselves while
training their pupils."

There is much exaggeration in these words. The book, as
we know, cannot supply the place of teachers. But the lan-
guage of La Chalotais was adapted to circumstances as they
existed. He spoke in this way, because, in his impatience
to reach his end, he would try to remedy the educational
poverty of his time, and supply the lack of good teachers by
provisional expedients, by means which he found within his

395. Aristocratic Prejudices. — That which we would
expunge from the book of La Chalotais is his opinion on pri-
mary instruction. Blinded by some unexplained distrust of
the people, and dominated by aristocratic tendencies, he com-
plains of the extension of instruction. He demands that the
knowledge of the poor do not extend beyond their pursuits.
He bitterlj- criticises the thirst for knowledge which is begin-
ning to pervade the lower classes of the nation.

" Even the people can study. Laborers and artisans send
their children to the colleges of the smaller cities. . . . When
these children have accomplished a summary course of study
which has taught them only to disdain the occupation of their
father, they rush into the cloisters and become ecclesiastics ;
or they exercise judicial functions, and often become subjects
harmful to society. The Brethren of the Christian Doctrine
(sic), who are called ignorantins, have just appeared to com-
plete the general ruin ; they teach people to read and write
who ought to learn only to draw, and to handle the plane and
the file, but have no disposition to do it. They are the rivals
or the successors of the Jesuits."

A singular force of prejudice was necessary to conceive that


the Brethren of the Christian Schools were instructing the
people too highly.

Let it be said, however, towards exonerating LaChalotais,
that he perhaps does not so much attack the instruction in
itself, as the bad way in which it is given. What he censures
is instruction that is badly conceived, that which takes people
from their own class. In some other passages of his book
we see that he would be disposed to disseminate the new
education among the ranks of the people.

"It is the State, it is the larger part of the nation, that
must be kept principally in view in education ; for twenty
millions of men ought to be held in greater consideration
than one million, and the peasantry , ivho are not yet a class in
France, as they are in Sweden, ought not to be neglected in a
system of instruction. Education is equally solicitous that
letters should be cultivated, and that the fields should be
plowed ; that all the sciences and the useful arts should be
perfected ; that justice should be administered and that relig-
ion should be taught ; that there should be instructed and
competent generals, magistrates, and ecclesiastics, and skill-
ful artists and citizens, all in fit proportion. It is for the
government to make each citizen so pleased with his condi-
tion that he may not be forced to withdraw from it."

Let us quote one sentence more, which is almost the for-
mula that to-day is so dear to the friends of instruction : —

" We do not fear to assert, in general, that in the condi-
tion in which Europe now is, the people that are the most
enlightened will always have the advantage over those who
are the less so."

396. General Conclusion. — Notwithstanding the faults
which mar it, the work of La Chalotais is none the less one of
the most remarkable essays of the earlier French pedagogy.
" La Chalotais," says Gr6ard, "belongs to the school of


Rousseau ; but on more than one point he departs from the
plan traced by the master. He escapes from the allurements
of the paradox. Relatively he has the spirit of moderation.
He is a classic without prejudices, an innovator without

His book is pre-eminently a book of polemics, written with
the ardor of one who is engaged in a fight, and overflowing
with a generous passion. What noble words are the fol-
lowing : —

"Let the young man learn what bread a ploughman, a
day laborer, or an artisan eats. He will see in the sequel
how they are deprived of the bread which they earn with so

Online LibraryGabriel CompayréThe history of pedagogy → online text (page 28 of 48)