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private initiative to found schools.

" The law can put no veto on the right which all citizens
have to open private courses and schools, free in all grades
of instruction, and to direct them as shall seem to them
best." (Art. 61.)

This was pushing liberalit}' rather far.

Another distinctive feature of this bill, which is not with-
out value, is the respect shown the character and functions
of the teacher. On public occasions the schoolmaster shall
wear a medal with this inscription : He who instructs is a
second father. The form is rather pretentious, but the sen-
timent is good. Other articles do not merit the same com-
mendation, particularly the one which established theatres in
each canton, in which men and women would take part in
music and dancing.

The bill of Lakanal, vigorously opposed by a part of the
Assembly, was not adopted. Under the leadership of Robes-
pierre, the Convention gave preference to the dictatorial and
violent measure of Lepelletier Saint-Fargeau.


456. Lepelletier Saint-Fargeau (1760-1793). — As-
sassinated in 1793, Lepelletier Saint-Fargeau left among
his papers an educational bill which Robespierre took up,
and which he presented to the Assembly July 13, 1793, on
the occasion of the debate opened on the motion of Barrere.
A month later the bill was passed by the Convention, but be-
fore being carried into operation, the decree was revoked.
The Assembly receded from the accomplishment of a reform
in which some good intentions could not atone for measures
that, on the whole, were mischievous and tyrannical.

457. His Scheme of Education. — The plan of Lepel-
letier scarcely deserves the admiration which Michelet gives
it, who salutes in this work the "revolution of childhood ," and
who declares that it is " admirable in spirit, and in no respect
chimerical." An imitation with but little originality of the
institutions of Lycurgus and the reveries of Plato, the plan
of Lepelletier is scarcely more than an historical curiosity.

458. Lepelletier and Condorcet. — Lepelletier accepted
Condorcet's plan in all that relates to secondary schools, insti-
tutes, and lycees, that is to say, higher primary instruction,
secondary instruction, and superior instruction.

" I find," he said, " in these three courses a plan which
seems to me wisely conceived."

But Lepelletier follows only his own fancy in the concep-
tion of those curious boarding-schools, little barracks for
childhood, in which he confined all children by force, wrest-
ing them from their parents, and placing at the expense of
the State their moral training, as well as their material

459. Obligatory Attendance in Boauium. -Schools. —
In education, Lepelletier represents the doctrine of the
Jacobins. In order to make France republican, he would
employ radical and absolute measures.


" Let us ordain," he says, " that all children, girls as well
as boys, girls from five to eleven, and boys from five to
twelve, shall be educated in common, at the expense of the
State, and shall receive, for six or seven years, the same

In order that there may be complete equality, their food,
like their instruction, shall be the same ; even more, their
dress shall be identical. Does Lepelletier then desire, in his
craze for equality, that girls shall be dressed like boys ?

460. The Child belongs to the Republic. — The idea
of Lepelletier is that the child is the property of the State,
a chattel of the Republic. The State must make the child in
its own image.

" In our system," he says, " the entire being of the child
belongs to us ; the material never leaves the mould." And
he adds, " Whatever is to compose the Republic ought to be
cast in the republican mould."

Lepelletier imposes on all children, girls and boys, the
same studies, — reading, writing, numbers, natural morality,
domestic economy. This is almost the programme of Con-
dorcet. But he it manual labor. All children shall
be employed in working the soil. If the college has not at
its disposal enough land to cultivate, the children shall be
taken out on the roads, there to pick up stones or to scatter
them. Can we imagine, without smiliug, a system of educa-
tion, in which our future advocates and writers are to spend
six years in transporting material upon the highways ?

461. Absolute Gratuity. — The colleges in which Lepel-
letier sequesters and quarters all the children are to be abso-
lutely free. Three measures were proposed for covering the
expense: 1. tuition paid by parents in easy circumstances;
2. the labor of the children ; 3. the balance needed furnished


by the State. But is there not just a little of the chimerical
in counting much on the work of children of that age ?

462. The Rights of the Family. — Lepelletier takes
but little account of the rights of the family. However,
notice must be taken of that idea which Robespierre thought
"sublime," — the creation, at each college, of a council of
heads of families, entrusted with the oversight of teachers
and their children.

463. Saint-Just. — Saint-Just, in his Institutions ripub-
licaines, maintains opinions analogous to those of Lepelletier.
He admits that the child belongs to his mother till the age of
five ; but from the age of five till death he belongs to the
Republic. Till the age of sixteen boys are fed at the ex-
pense of the State. It is true that their food is not expen-
sive. It is composed of grapes, fruit, vegetables, milk-diet,
bread, and water. Their dress is of cotton in all seasons.
However, Saint-Just did not subject girls to the same regime.
More liberal on this point than Lepelletier, he would have
them brought up at home.

464. The Romme Law (Oct. 30, 1793). — Romme was
one of the most active members of the committee on public
instruction. He was the principal author of the bill which
the Convention passed in October, 1793, the principal articles
of which were conceived as follows : —

" Art. 1. There are primary schools distributed through-
out the Republic in proportion to the population.

" Art. 2. In these schools children receive their earliest
physical, moral, and intellectual education, the best adapted
to develop in them republican manners, love of country, and
taste for labor.

" Art. 3. They learn to speak, read, and write the French


' ' They are taught the acts of virtue which most honor free
men, and particularly the acts of the French Revolution most
fit to give them elevation of soul, and to make them worthy
of liberty and equality.

" They acquire some notions of the geography of France.

" The knowledge of the rights and duties of the man and
the citizen is brought within their comprehension through
examples and their own experience.

"They are given the first notions of the natural objects
that surround them, and of the natural action of the

" They have practice in the use of numbers, of the com-
pass, the level, weights and measures, the lever, the pulley,
and in the measurement of time.

' ' They are often allowed to witness what is done in the
fields and in workshops ; and the}' take part in these em-
ployments as far as their age permits."

But the bill of Romme was not put in operation. The
Convention presently decided on a revision of the decree it
had passed, and the bill of Bouquier was substituted for the
bill of Romme.

465. The Bouquier Law (Dec. 19, 1793). — Bouquier
was a man of letters, deputy from Dordogne, and belonged
to the Jacobinic party. He spoke of his bill as follows : —

" It is a simple and natural scheme, and one easy to exe-
cute ; a plan which forever proscribes all idea of an academic
body, of a scientific societ^y, of an educational hierarchy ; a
plan, finally, whose bases are the same as those of the con-
stitution, liberty, equality, and simplicity."

The Bouquier bill was adopted December 19, and remained
in force till it was superseded by the Lakanal law.

These are its principal provisions : —


" The right to teach is open to all." " Citizens, men and
women, who would use the liberty to teach, shall be required
to produce a certificate of citizenship and good morals, and
to fulfill certain formalities." " They shall be designated as
instituteurs and institutrices." They shall be placed "under
the immediate supervision of the municipality, of parents,
and of all the citizens." " They are forbidden to teach any-
thing contrary to the laws and to republican morality." On
the other hand, parents are required to send their children to
the primary schools. Parents who do not obey this order
are sentenced, for the first offence, to pay a fine equal to a
fourth of their school tax. In case of a second offence, the
fine is to be doubled and the children to be suspended for ten
years from their rights as citizens. Finally, young people
who, on leaving the primary schools, " do not busy them-
selves with the cultivation of the soil, shall be required to
learn a trade useful to society."

Enforced school attendance, and what is an entirely differ-
ent thing, the obligation of citizens to work, were thus estab-
lished by the Bouquier law.

Let us add that the author of this bill, which, like so many
others, was not executed, had strange notions on the sciences
and on instruction.

" The speculative sciences," he says, " detach from society
the individuals who cultivate them. . . . Free nations have
no need of speculative scholars, whose minds are constantly
travelling over desert paths."

Hence, no scientific instruction. The real schools, " the
noblest, the most useful, the most simple, are the meetings
of committees. The Revolution, in establishing national
holidays, in creating popular associations and clubs, has
placed in all quarters inexhaustible sources of instruction.
Then let us not go and substitute for this organization, as


simple and sublime as the people that creates it, an artificial
organization, based on academic statutes which should no
longer infect a regenerated nation."

466. The Lakanal Law (Nov. 17, 1794).— There still
remained something of the spirit of Lepelletier in the Bouquier
law, though the idea of an education in common had been
abandoned ; but the Lakanal law openly breaks with the ten-
dencies of Robespierre and his friends.

The law which was passed November 17, 1794, upon the
report of Lakanal, reproduced in its spirit and in its principal
provisions the original bill which the influence of Robespierre
had defeated.

The following was the programme of instruction contained
in this law.

The instructor shall teach : —

"1. Reading and writing; 2. the declaration of the
rights of man and the constitution; 3. elementary lessons
on republican morals ; 4. the elements of the French lan-
guage both spoken and written; 5. the rules of simple cal-
culation and of surveying; 6. lessons on the principal
phenomena and the most common productions of nature ;
there shall be taught a collection of heroic actions and songs
of triumph."

At the same time the bill required that the schools be
divided into two sections, one for the girls and the other for
the bo3'S, and distributed in the proportion of one to each
thousand inhabitants. The teachers, nominated by the people
and confirmed by a jury of instruction, are to receive salaries
as follows : men, twelve hundred francs ; women, one thou-
sand francs.

467. Pedagogical Methods. — Lakanal had given much
thought to pedagogical methods. It is the interior of the
school, not less than its exterior organization, that preoc-


cupied his generous spirit. Like the most of his contem-
poraries, a partisan of Condillac's doctrine, he believed that
the idea could not reach the understanding except through
the mediation of the senses. Consequently, he recommended
the method which cousists " in first appealing to the eyes of
pupils, . . . in creating the understanding through the senses,
... in developing morals out of the sensibility, just as un-
derstanding out of sensation." This is an excellent method
if we add to it a corrective, if we do not forget to excite the
intelligence itself, and to make an appeal to the interior forces
of the soul.

468. Elementary Books. — A few other quotations will
suffice to prove with what acuteness of pedagogic sense
Lakanal was endowed. 1 Very much interested in the com-
position of works for popular instruction, he sharply distin-
guished the elementary book, which brings knowledge within
the reach of children, from the abridgment, which does no
more than condense a long work. " The abridged," he said,
" is exactly opposed to the elementary." No one has better
comprehended than he the difficulty of writing a treatise on
morals for the use of children : —

" It requires special genius. Simplicity in form and art-
less grace should there be mingled with accuracy of ideas ;
the art of reasoning ought never to be separated from that
of interesting the imagination ; such a work should be con-
ceived by a profound logician and executed by a man of
feeling. There should be found in it, so to speak, the ana-
lytical mind of Condillac and the soul of F^nelon."

469. Geography. — Lakanal has defined with the same
exactness the method to be followed in the teaching of
geography. "First let there be shown." he says, "in

1 See in the Revue politique ei litte'raire, for Oct. 7, 1882, an excellent
article on Lakanal, by Monsieur Janet.


every school, the plan of the commune in which it is situated,
and then let the children see a map of the canton of which
the commune forms a part ; then a. map of the department,
and then a map of France ; after which will come the map
of Europe and of other parts of the world, and lastly a map
of the world. 1

470. Letters and Sciences. — More just than Condorcet,
Lakaual did not wish scientific culture to do prejudice to
literary culture : —

" For a long time we have neglected the belles-lettres,
and some men who wish to be considered profound regard
this study as useless. It is letters, however, which open
the intelligence to the light of reason, and the heart to
impressions of sentiment. They substitute morality for
interest, give pupils polish, exercise their judgment, make
them more sensitive and at the same time more obedient to
the laws, more capable of grand virtues."

471. Necessity of Normal Schools. — LakanaPs highest
title to glory is that he has associated his name with the
foundation of normal schools. The idea of establishing
pedagogical seminaries was not absolutely new. A number
of the friends of instruction, both in the seventeenth and in
the eighteenth century, 2 had seen that it would be useless to
open schools, if good teachers had not been previously

1 If the consensus of philosophic opinion is trustworthy, there is no basis
whatever in psychology for this sequence. On the almost uniform testi-
mony of psychologists, the organic mental sequence is from aggregates to
parts ; so that if the method of presentation is to be in harmony with the
organic mode of the mind's activities, the sequence should be as follows:
the globe; the eastern continent; Europe; France; the department; the
canton; the commune. On the mental sequence, see Hamilton's Lectures,
Vol. I. pp. 69, 70, 368, 371, 469, 498, 500, 502, 503. (P.)

2 Dumonstier, rector of the University of Paris in 1645, La Salle, and in
the eighteenth century, the Abbe' Courtalon.


trained ; but the Convention has the honor of having for the
first time given practical effect to this vague aspiration.

Decreed June 2, 1793, the foundation of normal schools
was the object of a report by Lakanal on October 26, 1794.
In a style which was inferior to his ideas, and which would
have been more effective had it been simpler, Lakanal sets
forth the necessity of teaching the teachers themselves be-
fore sending them to teach their pupils : —

"Are there in France, are there in Europe, are there in
the whole world, two or three hundred men (and we need
more than this number) competent to teach the useful arts
and the necessary branches of knowledge, according to
methods which make minds more acute, and truths more
clear, — methods which, while teaching you to know one
thing, teach you to reason upon all things? No, that number
of men, however small it may appear, exists nowhere on the
earth. It is necessaiy, then, that they be trained. In being
the first to decree normal schools, you have resolved to create
in advance a very large number of teachers, capable of be-
ing the executors of a plan whose purpose is the regenera-
tion of the human understanding, in a republic of twenty-five
millions of men, all of whom democracy renders equal."

The term normal schools (from the Latin word norma, a
rule) was not less new than the thing. Lakanal explains
that it was designed by this expression to characterize with
exactness the schools which were to be the type and the
standard of all the others.

472. The Normal Sciiool op Paris. — To accomplish
his purpose, Lakanal proposed to assemble at Paris, under
the direction of eminent masters, such as Lagrange, Berthol-
let, and Daubenton, a considerable number of young men,
called from all quarters of the Republic, and designated "by
their talents as by their state of citizenship." The masters


of this great normal school were to give their pupils " lessons
on the art of teaching morals, . . . and teach them to apply
to the teaching of reading and writing, of the first elements
of calculation, of practical geornetty, of history and of
French grammar, the methods outlined in the elementary
courses adopted by the National Convention and published
by its orders." Once instructed "in the art of teaching
human knowledge," the pupils of the Normal School of Paris
were to go and repeat in all parts of the Republic the " grand
lectures " they had heard, and there form the nucleus of pro-
vincial normal schools. And thus, saj^ Lakanal with exag-
geration, "that fountain of enlightenment, so pure and so
abundant, since it will proceed from the foremost men of the
Republic of every class, poured out from reservoir to reser-
voir, will diffuse itself from place to place throughout all
France, without losing anything of its purity in its course."
October 30, 1794, the Convention adopted the proposals
of Lakanal. The Normal School opened January 20, 1795.
Its organization was defective and impracticable. First, there
were too many pupils, — four hundred young men admitted
without competitive tests, and abandoned to themselves in
Paris ; professors who were doubtless illustrious, but whose
literal'}' talent or scientific genius did not perhaps adapt itself
sufficiently to the needs of a normal course of instruction and
of a practical pedagogy ; lectures insufficient in number,
which lasted for only four months, and which, on the testi-
mony of Daunou, "were directed rather towards the heights
of science than towards the art of teaching." Thus the
experiment, which terminated May 6, 1795, did not fulfill
the hopes that had been formed of it : the idea of establish-
ing provincial normal schools was not carried out. But no
matter ; a memorable example had been given, and the fruit-
ful principle of the establishment of normal schools had made
a start in actual practice.


473. Central Schools. — The central schools, designed
to replace the colleges of secondary instruction, were estab-
lished by decree of February 25, 1795, on the report of
Lakanal. Daunou modified them in the law of October 25,
1795. They continued, without great success, till the law of
May 1, 1802, which suppressed them.

474. Defects of the Central Schools. — The Central
Schools of Lakanal resembled, trait for trait, the Institutes
of Condorcet. And it must be confessed that here the imi-
tation is not happy. Lakanal made the mistake of borrow-
ing from Condorcet the plan of these poorly defiued establish-
ments, in which the instruction was on too vast a scale, and
the programmes too crowded, where the pupil, it seems, was
to learn to discuss cle omni re scibili. Condorcet went so far
as to introduce into his Institutes a course of lectures on mid-
wifery ! The Central Schools, in which the instruction was
a medley of studies indiscreetly presented to an overdriven
auditory, do honor neither to the Convention that organized
them, nor to Condorcet who had traced the first sketch of

475. Positive and Practical Spirit. — However, there
was something correct in the idea which presided over the
foundation of the Central Schools. We find this expressed in
the Essays on Instruction, by the mathematician, Lacroix. 1
Lacroix calls attention to the fact that the progress of the
sciences and the necessity of learning a great number of new
things, impose on the educator the obligation to take some
account of space ; and, if I may so speak, of clipping the
wings of studies which, like Latin, had thus far been the
unique and exclusive object of instruction.

i Essais sur l'enseignernent. Paris, 1805.



In the Central Schools, iu fact, the classical languages
held only the second place. Not only were the mathematical
sciences, and those branches of knowledge from which the
pupil can derive the most immediate profit, associated with the
classics, but the preference was given to them. In the minds
of those who organized these schools, the positive and prac-
tical idea of success in life was substituted for the speculative
and disinterested idea of mental development for its own sake.
In reality, these two ideas ought to complete each other,
and not to exclude each other. The ideal of education con-
sists in finding; a, svstem which welcomes both. But in the
Central Schools the first point of view absorbed the second.
These establishments resembled the industrial schools of our
day, but with this particular defect, that there was a deter-
mination to include ever3 T thing in them, and to give a place
to new studies without wholly sacrificing the old. Let there
be created colleges of practical and special instruction ; noth-
ing can be better, for provision would thus be made for the
needs of modern society. But let no one force literary studies
and the industrial arts to live together under the same roof.

•476. Great Foundations of the Convention. — In the
first years of its existence, the Convention had given its at-
tention only to primary schools. It seemed as though teach-
ing the illiterate to read was the one need of society. In the
end the Convention rose above these narrow and exclusive
views, and turned its attention towards secondary instruction
and towards superior instruction. It is particularly by the
establishment of several special schools for superior instruc-
tion that the Convention gave proof of its versatility and

In quick succession it decreed and founded the Polytechnic
School, under the name of the Central School of Public Works


(March 11, 1794) ; the Normal School (October 30, 1794) ;
the School of Mars (June 1, 1794) ; the Conservatory of Arts
and Trades (September 29, 1794). The next year it organ-
ized the Bureau of Longitudes, and Anally the National Insti-
tute. What a magnificent effort to repair the ruins which
anarchy had made, or to supply the omissions which the old
regime had patiently suffered ! Of these multiplied creations
the greater number remain and still flourish.

477. Law of October 27, 1795. — Those who ask us to
see in the decree of October 27, 1795, " the capital work of
the Convention in the matter of instruction, the synthesis of
all its previous labors and proposals, the most serious effort
of the Revolution," 1 evidently put forward a paradox. La-
kanal and his friends would certainly have disavowed a law
which cancels with a few strokes of the pen the grand revo-
lutionary principles in the matter of education, — the gratu-
ity, the obligation, and the universality of instruction.

The destinies of public instruction are allied to the fate of
constitutions. To changes of policy there correspond, by an
inevitable l'ecoil, analogous changes in the organization of in-
struction. Out of the slightly retrograde constitution of 1793
there issued the educational legislation of 1794, of which it

Online LibraryGabriel CompayréThe history of pedagogy → online text (page 32 of 48)