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much difficulty, and how one portion of men live at the ex-
pense of the other."

In these lines, which breathe a sentiment of profound pity
for the disinherited of this world, we already hear, as it were,
the signal cry announcing the social reclamations of the
French Revolution.

379. Rolland (1734-1794). — La Chalotais, after hav-
ing criticised the old methods, proposed new ones ; Rolland
attempted to put them in practice. La Chalotais is a polemic
and a theorist ; Rolland is an administrator. President of the
Parliament of Paris, he presented to his colleagues, in 1768,
a Report which is a real system of education. 1 But above
all, he gave his personal attention to the administration of
the College Louis-le-Grand. An ardent and impassioned
adversary of the Jesuits, he used every means to put public
instruction in a condition to do without them. " Noble and
wise spirit, patient and courageous reason, who, for twenty
years, even during exile and after the dissolution of his
society, did not abandon for a single moment the work he

1 See the Rccucil of the works of President Rolland, printed in 1783, by
order of the executive committee of the College Louis-le-Grand.


had undertaken, but brought it, almost perfected, to the
very confines of the Revolution ; a heart divested of every
ambition, who, chosen by popular wish, and by the cabinet
of the king, as director of public instruction, obstinately
entrenched himself in the peace of his studious retreat." This
is the judgment of a member of the University, in the nine-
teenth century, Dubois, director of the Normal School.

No doubt Holland is not an original educator. "It is in
Eollin's Traite des etudes" he says, " that every teacher will
find the true rules for education." Besides, he borrowed
ideas from La Chalotais, and also from the Memoires which
the University of Paris drew up in 1763 and 1764 at the
request of Parliament ; so that the interest in his work is
less, perhaps, in its personal views than in the indications
it furnishes relative to the situation of the University and
its tendency towards self-reformation.

398. Instruction within the Reach of All. — At least
on one point Rolland is superior to La Chalotais ; he takes a
bold stand for the necessity of primary instruction, and for
the progress and diffusion of human knowledge.

" Education cannot be too widely diffused, to the end that
there may be no class of citizens who may not be brought to
participate in its benefits. It is expedient that each citizen
receive the education which is adapted to his needs." 1

It is true that Rolland joins in the wish expressed by the
University, which demanded a reduction in the number of
colleges. But only colleges for the higher studies were in
question, and Rolland thought less of restricting instruction
than of proportioning and adapting it to the needs of the
different classes of society.

"Each one ought to have the opportunity to receive the
education which is adapted to his needs. . . . Now each

1 Recueil, etc., p. 25.


soil," adds Holland, " is not susceptible of the same culture
and the same product. Each mind does not demand the
same degree of culture. All men have neither the same
needs nor the same talents ; and it is in proportion to these
talents and these needs that public education ought to be

Rolland shared the prejudices of La Chalotais against "the
new Order founded by La Salle " ; but none the less on this
account did he demand instruction for all.

" The knowledge of reading and writing, which is the key
to all the other sciences, ought to be universally diffused.
Without this the teachings of the clergy are useless, for the
memory is rarely faithful enough ; and reading alone can
impress in a durable manner what it is important never to
forget." Would it be granted by every one to-day, affected
by prejudices that are ever re-appearing, that " the laborer
who has received some sort of instruction is but the more
diligent and the more skillful by reason of it " ?

399. The Normal School. — We shall not dwell upon
the methods and schemes of study proposed by Rolland.
Save verv urgent recommendations relative to the studv of
the national history and of the French language, we shall
find nothing very new in them. What deserve to be pointed
out, by way of compensation, are the important innovations
which he wished to introduce into the general organization
of public instruction.

First there was the idea of a higher normal school, of a
seminary for professors. The 1 University had already
expressed the wish that such an establishment should be
founded. To be convinced how much this pedagogical sem-
inary, conceived as far back as L763, resembled our actual
Normal School, it suffices to note the following details. The
establishment was to be governed by professors drawn from


the different faculties, according to the different subjects of
instruction. The young men received on competitive exam-
ination were to be divided into three classes, corresponding
to the three grades of admission. "Within the establishment
they were to take part in a series of discussions, after a
given time to submit to the tests for graduation, and finally
to be placed in the colleges. Is it not true that there was
no important addition to be made to this scheme ? Holland
also required that pedagogics have a place among the studies
of these future professors, and that definite and systematic
instruction be given in this art, so important to the teachers
of youth.

Holland does not stop even there. He provides for
inspectors, or visitors, who are to examine all the colleges
each year. Finally, he subjects all scholastic establishments
to one single authority, to a council of the government, to
which he applies the rather odd title, the " Bureau of Corre-

400. Spirit op Centralization. — Whatever opinion
may be formed of absolute centralization, which, in our cen-
tury, has become the law of public instruction, and has
caused the disappearance of provincial franchises, it is certain
that the parliamentarians of the eighteenth century were the
first to conceive it and desire it, if not to realize it. Paris, in
Rolland's plan, becomes the centre of public instruction.
The universities distributed through the provinces are co-or-
dinated and made dependent on that of Paris.

"Is it not desirable," said Rolland, " that the good taste
which everything concurs to produce in the capital, be dif-
fused to the very extremities of the kingdom ; that every
Frenchman participate in the treasures of knowledge which
are there accumulating from day to day ; that the young men
who have the same country, who are destined to serve the same


prince and to fulfill the same functions, receive the same les-
sons and be imbued with the same maxims ; that one part of
France be not under the clouds of ignorance while letters
shed the purest light in another ; in a word, that the time
come when a young man educated in a province cannot be
distinguished from one who has been trained in the cap-
ital?" And he adds that " the only means for attaining an
end so desirable is to make Paris the centre of public instruc-

Besides the gain that will thus accrue to instruction, Rolland
sees this other advantage, that, through uniformity in instruc-
tion, there will be secured a uniformity in manners and in
laws. By means of a uniform education, " the young men
of all the provinces will divest themselves of all their preju-
dices of birth ; they will form the same ideas of virtue and
justice ; they will demand uniform laws, which would have
offended their fathers."

By this means, finally, there will be developed a national
spirit, a national character, and a national jurisprudence,
" the only means of recreating love of country." Is it not
true that the great magistrates of the close of the eighteenth
century deserve also to be counted among the founders of
French unity ?

401. Turcot (1727-1781). — In his Mdmoires to the king
(1775), Turgot set forth analogous ideas, and also demanded
the formation of a council of public instruction. He made
an eloquent plea for the establishment of a civil and national
education which should be extended to the country at large.

" Your kingdom, Sir, is of this world. Without opposing
any obstacle to the instructions whose object is higher, and
which already have their rules and their expounders, I
think I can propose to you nothing of more advantage to
your people than to cause to be given to all your subjects an


instruction which shows them the obligations they owe to
society and to your power which protects them, the duties
which those obligations impose on them, and the interest
which they have in fulfilling those duties for the public good
and their own. This moral and social instruction requires
books expressly prepared, by competition, and with great
care, and a schoolmaster in each parish to teach them to
children, along with the art of writing, reading, counting,
measuring, and the principles of mechanics."

' ' The study of the duty of citizenship ought to be the
foundation of all the other studies."

" There are methods and establishments for training
geometricians, physicists, and painters, but there are none
for training citizens."

In sfcjsord, La Chalotais, Rollancl, Turgot, and some of
their contemporaries, were real precursors of the French
Revolution in the matter of education. At the date of 1762
the scholastic revolution began, at least so far as secondary
instruction is concerned. The Parliaments of that period
conceived the plan of the University of the nineteenth cen-
tury, and prepared for the work of Napoleon I. But they
left to the men of the Revolution the honor of being the first
to organize primary instruction.

[402. Analytical Summary. — 1. This study exhibits the
evils brought upon a country by an education controlled and
administered by a dominant Church for the attainment of
its own" ends ; and also the efforts of a nation to save itself
from imminent disaster by making the State the great public

2. The right of the State to self-preservation is the vindi-
cation of its right to control and direct public education.
The State thus becomes the patron of the public school ;


the product it requires is good citizenship ; and for the sake
of securing this product the State endows the school, wholly
or in part.

3. The situation in France, as described in this .study, is
an aggravated case of what may occur whenever education is
administered by a class having special interests and ambi-
tions ; and under some form there must be the intervention
of the State as a means of protecting its own interests.

4. When education is administered in the main by the
literary class, there is some danger that the instruction may
not be that which is best adapted to the needs of other




MARY instruction; what was taught in the schools; discipline;
the situation of teachers; the recruitment of teachers;
what the school itself was; the peculiar work of the
revolution; the cahiers of 1789; mirabeau (1749-1791) and
his travail sur l'instruction publique ; DANGERS of


404. Contradictory Judgments on the Work of the
Revolution. — An historian of education in France, Th£ry,
opens his chapter on the Revolution with these contemptuous
words, " One does not study a void, one does not analyze a
negation." 1 A more recent historian of public instruction
during the Revolution, Albert Duruy, arriving at the work
of Condorcet, certainly the most important undertaking of

1 Thery, Ilistoire de V education en France, Paris, 1861, Tome II. p. 188.


the pedagogy of the Revolution, does not hesitate to record
this absolute and summary judgment: "We are now no
longer in the real and in the possible ; we are travelling in
the land of chimeras ; we are soaring in space at heights
which admit of only ideal attainment." 1

How easy it is to say this ! To believe these facile
judges, one who would estimate the efforts of the Revolu-
tion in the matter of public instruction would have to choose
between a nothing and a chimera. The men of the Revolu-
tion have done nothing, say some ; they are dreamers and
idealists, say others.

These assertions do not bear examination. For every
impartial observer it is certain that the Revolution opened a
new era in education, and the proof of this is to be found in
the very documents that our opponents so triflingly condemn,
and the practical spirit of which they misconceive.

405. General Character of that Work. — It is not
that the men of the Revolution were educators in the strict
sense of the term. The science of education is not indebted
to them for new methods. They have not completed the
work of Locke, of Rousseau, and of La Chalotais ; but
they were the first to attempt a legislative organization of a
vast system of public instruction. It is just to place them
in the front rank of the men who might be called "educa-
tional statesmen." Doubtless they lacked time for apply-
ing their ideas, but they had at least the merit of having
conceived these ideas, and of having embodied them in
legislative acts. The principles which we proclaim to-day,
they formulated. The solutions which we attempt to put in
practice after a century of waiting, were decreed by them.
The reader who will follow the long series of reports and

1 Albert Duruy, U instruction publiquc ct In /.'< rtj>iti<>it, p. 80.


decrees which constitutes the pedagogical work of the Rev-
olution will have witnessed the genesis of popular instruc-
tion in France.

406. The State of Primary Instruction. — In order
to form a proper appreciation of the merits of the men of
the Revolution, it is first necessaiy to consider in what a
deplorable state they found primary instruction. What a
contrast between that which they hoped to do and the actual
situation in 1789 ! I very well know that fancy sketches
have been drawn of the old regime. A very showy enu-
meration has been made of the number of colleges ; but we
have not been told how many of these colleges had no pro-
fessors, and how many had no pupils. And so of the
schools ; they are found everywhere, but it remains to be
shown what was taught in them, and whether anything was
taught in them. 1

Party writers who are bound to gainsay the work of the
French Revolution in the matter of education, generally put
under contribution, to serve their political prejudices, the old
communal archives. They cite imaginary statistics which
prove, for example, that in the diocese of Rouen, in 1718,
there were 855 schools for boys, and 306 schools for girls,
for a territory of 1159 parishes.

It is first necessary to verify these statistics, whose accu-
racy has not been demonstrated, and whose figures were
evidently obtained onl}' by counting a school wherever the
rector of the parish gave lessons in reading and in the cate-
chism to three or four children.

But there are other replies to make to the traducers of the
Revolution who tax their ingenuity to prove that instruction
was flourishing under the old regime, and that the Revolution

1 J. Simon, Dieu, patrie, et liberte, p. 11.


destroyed more than it created. With' this assumed efflo-
rescence of schools of which we hear, it is necessary to
contrast the results as shown by authentic statistics of the
number of illiterates. In 1790 there was 53 per cent of men
and 73 per cent of women who could not sign their names
to their marriage contracts.

Besides, we must inquire what was taught in these pre-
tended schools, how many children attended them, and what
was the material and moral condition of the teachers who
directed them.

407. What was taught in the Schools. — Instruction
was reduced to the catechism, to reading and writing. On
this point there can be no dispute. The official pro-
gramme of the Brethren of the Christian Schools did not go
beyond this. The ordinance of Louis XIV., dated in 1698,
has been pompously quoted.

" We would have appointed," it is there said, "as far as
it shall be possible, masters and mistresses in all the par-
ishes where there are none, to instruct all children, and in
particular those whose parents have made profession of the
pretended reformed, religion, in the catechism and the prayers
which are necessary ; to take them to mass on every work
day ; and also to teach reading and writing to those who mil
need this "knowledge."

But does not this very text support those who maintain
that the Monarchy and the Church have never encouraged
primary instruction except as required by the necessities of
the struggle against heresy, and that primary instruction
under the old regime was scarcely more than an instrument
of relitiious domination ?

Most often the school was simply a place to which parents
sent their children for temporary care. Writing was not
always taught in it. A school-mistress of llaute-Marne


was forbidden to teach writing " for fear her pupils might
employ their knowledge in writing love-letters."

408. Discipline. — Corporal punishments were more than
ever the order of the day. The bishop of -Montpellier, at
the end of the seventeenth century, forbids, it is true, beat-
ing with sticks, kicks, and raps on the head ; but he author-
izes the ferule and the rod, on the condition that the patient
be not completely exposed.

409. Condition of the Teachers. — That which is graver
still is that the teachers themselves (I speak of lay teachers,
who, it is true, were not numerous) lived in a wretched con-
dition, without material independence and without moral
dignity. In general, there were no fixed salaries. Wages
varied from 40 to 200 francs, arbitrarily fixed by the vestry-
board or by the community, in return for a great number of
services the most various and the least exalted. The school-
masters were far less teachers than sextons, choristers,
beadles, bell-ringers, clock-makers, and even grave-diggers.
" Attendance at marriages and at burials was counted at the
rate of 15 sols and dinner for marriages, and 20 sols for
burials." And Albert Duruy concludes that in this there
were substantial advantages to the school-masters ; J — advan-
tages dearly bought in every case, and repudiated by those
who were interested in them. "The more services we ren-
der the community," said the teachers of Bourgogne in their
complaints in 1789, "the more we are degraded." 2 The
school-masters were scarcely more than the domestics of the

1 Albert Duruy, op. cit., p. 16.

2 Doleances preseuted to the States-General by the teachers of the
smaller cities, hamlets, and villages of Bourgogne.


Tn order to live, they were not only obliged to accept
these church services, but they also became shoemakers,
tailors, innkeepers, millers, etc. The teacher of the com-
mune of Angles, in the High Alps, was a "barbers'

Thus there was no assured salary, and consequently no
moral consideration. " In the communes, teachers were
regarded as strangers and not as citizens ; like tramps and
vagrants, they were not admitted to the assemblies of the

410. The Recruitment or Teachers. — Nowhere were
there normal schools for the training of teachers. The
schools were entrusted to the first comer. The bishop
granted his approbation, or permission to teach, after an
examination of the most summary kind. The duties of
teaching were the means of subsistence which were accepted
without call and without serious preparation. In Provence,
school-masters attended kinds of " teachers' fairs" for the
purpose of being hired. In the Alps, teachers were numer-
ous, but only in winter. They tarried in the plain and in
the valleys only dining the inclement season. They returned
home for the labors of the summer.

Consequently, most of the schools existed only in name.
" The schools," we are told, 1 " were in vacation for four or
five months." For a half of the year, the school-masters
were free to follow another trade, or, rather, to devote them-
selves more completely to their ordinary trade, which their
school duties did not always interrupt.

411. What the School Itselfwas. — School-houses were
most frequently merely wretched huts, wooden cots, and nar-
row ground-floors, badly lighted, which served at the same

1 A. Duruy, op. tit., p. 10.


time as a domicile for the school-master and his family, and
as a class-room for pupils. Benches and tables were things
rarely seen, and pupils wrote while standing.

In a word, the state of primary instruction, when the
States-General opened in 1789, was as follows: schools
few in number and poorly attended ; few lay teachers, trained
no one knows how, without thorough instruction, and, as
they themselves said, "degraded" by their inferior position ;
few or no elementary books ; gratuity only partial ; finally,
a general indifference for elementary instruction, which phil-
osophers like Voltaire, and Rousseau, and Parliamentarians
like La Chalotais, themselves lightly esteemed.

412. The Proper Work of the Revolution. — I do not
say that the Revolution accomplished all that there was to be
attempted in order to bring instruction up to the needs of the
new society ; but it purposed to do this. Every time a lib-
eral ministry has decided to work for the promotion of in-
struction, it has revived its plans ; and it is these same plans
that by a vigorous effort public authority has attempted to
realize in recent times.

413. The Reports of 1789. — Already, in the reports of
1789, public opinion vigorously pronounced itself in favor of
educational reforms. " The colliers of 1789, even those
of the clerg}* and the nobility, demand the reorganization of
public instruction on a comprehensive plan. The cahiers
of the clergy of Rodez and of Saumur demand ' that there
may be formed a plan of national education for the young ' ;
those of Lyons, that education be restricted ' to a teaching
body whose members may not be removable except for neg-
ligence, misconduct, or incapacity ; that it may no longer be
conducted according to arbitrary principles, and that all pub-
lic instructors be obliged to conform to a uniform plan


adopted by the States-General.' The cahiers of the nobility
of Lyons insist that ' a national character ' be impressed on
the education of both sexes. Those of Paris demand ' that
public education be perfected, and extended to all classes of
citizens.' Those of Blois, ' that there be established a coun-
cil composed of the most enlightened scholars of the capital
and of the provinces and of the citizens of the different
orders, to form a plan of national education, for the use of
all the classes of society, and to edit elementary treatises.' " 1

414. Mirabeau (1749-1791). — From the first days of
the Revolution, pedagogical literature abounds, and gives evi-
dence of the ever-growing interest which public opinion
attaches to educational questions. The Oratorians, of whom
La Chalotais said, " that they were free from the prejudices
of the school and of the cloister, and that they were citi-
zens," present to the National Assembly a series of scholastic
plans. On its part, the Assembly sets itself at work ; Tal-
leyrand prepares his great report, and Mirabeau embodies his

Online LibraryGabriel CompayréThe history of pedagogy → online text (page 29 of 48)