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classes. He had no interest in popular education ; he does
not love the lay teacher ; he detests the University. Finally,
he is the man who inspired the law of May 15, 1850.

627. The Spiritualistic School and University Men.
— The philosophers of the French spiritualistic school have
not in general paid great attention to the theory of education.
The most illustrious of them, Cousin (1792-1868), at the
same time that he aided in organizing University instruction,
carefully studied educational institutions abroad, especially
in his two works. Public Instruction in Holland (1837), and
Public Instruction in Germany (18-10). The works of Jules
Simon have the same practical character, but with a marked
tendency to treat by preference the questions of primary
instruction. The School (1864) is a manifesto in favor of
gratuity and obligation.

The University men, on their part, have, in this century,
acted rather than speculated. They have been intent rather
on making good pupils than on composing theories. There


would, however, be valuable truths to cull from the works of
Cournot, 1 of Bersot, 2 and especially of Michel Break 3

[628. Analytical Summary. — 1. One of the main charac-
teristics of the educational thought of this century is doubtless
the effort to deduce the rules of practice from certain first
principles. The principles of instruction are to be found, for
the most part, in the science of psychology, and the principles
of education, in part, in social science and even in jurispru-

2. The purpose of Napoleon to secure the perpetuity of his
dynasty through the influence of his Imperial University, is
a striking proof of the belief in the potency of ideas, and of
the belief in the potency of popular instruction as a means
of national strength.

3. The history of mutual instruction exhibits three impor-
tant facts : 1. the effect of agitation in arousing public inter-
est in educational questions ; 2. the manner in which peculiar
circumstances suggest an expedient which can be justified on
no absolute grounds ; 3. the danger of converting such an
expedient into a " system" for universal adoption.

4. Comenius, Pestalozzi, and Jacotot, attempted to make
instruction universal by simplifying its processes to such a
degree that every mother might be a teacher and every house-
hold a school.

5. In Comte we see the re-appearance of Condillac's doc-
trine, that the historic education of the race is the type of
individual education. The same hypothesis will re-appear in
Mr. Spencer's Education.']

1 Cournot published in 1864 a remarkable book under this title : Des in-
stitutions d'instmction publique.

2 See the Essais de philosophic et de morale, by E. Bersot, and also Etudes
et discours (1879).

3 See especially the well-known book of Bre'al, Quelques mots sur Vin-
Htruction publique en France.




the work; definition of education; human destiny; utili-

629. The Science of Education. — To-day, thanks to
important works, the science of education is no longer an
empty term, an object of vague aspirations for philosophers,
of easy ridicule for wits. Doubtless it is far from being
definitely established ; but it no longer conceals its name
and its pretensions ; it defines its purpose and its methods ;
and manifests its youthful vitality in all directions.

Up to the present period, philosophers had scarcely thought
of organizing pedagogy, of constructing it on a rational


basis. On the other hand, the practice of education is still
less advanced than the conceptions of philosophers. Here
we the more often follow a thoughtless routine, or the vague
inspirations of instinct. The methods in use are not co-
ordinated. They present a curious mixture of old traditions
and modern surcharges. It is this lack of definiteness, of
co-ordination of ideas', and the spectacle of these contradic-
tions, which caused Richter 1 to say : " The education of the
day resembles the Harlequin of the Italian comedy who comes
on the stage with a bundle of papers under each arm.
'What do you carry under your right arm?' he is asked.
'Orders,' he replies. ' And under your left arm ? ' 'Counter-
orders ! '"

Quite a number of the philosophers of the nineteenth cen-
tury have attempted to remedy this incoherence, and, by
appealing to the scientific spirit, to regulate educational
processes that have fallen into excesses of empiricism or of
routine. It is these attempts which we are summarily to

630. The German Philosophers. — Since Kant, and by
his example, the most of German philosophers have asso-
ciated the theory of education with their speculations on
human nature.

Fichte (1762-1814), in his Discourse to the German Na-
tion, proclaimed the necessity of a national education to
secure the regeneration of his country and its restoration to
its former standing. The advocate of a public and common
education, because he would fight against the selfishness
which family life encourages, he contributed b} T his eloquent

1 J. P. Richter, better known under the name Jean Paul (1763-1825), the
author of a spirited and scholarly book, Levana, or the Doctrine of Educa-
tion, 1803.


appeals to restore the intellectual and moral grandeur, and
consequently, the material grandeur, of Germany.

Schleiermacher (1768-1834) wrote a Doctrine of Educa-
tion, which was not published till 1849. In this he develops,
among other ideas, this proposition, that religious education
does not belong to the school, but that it is the affair of the
family and the Church.

Herbart (1776-1841) has composed a series of pedagogi-
cal writings which assign him a special place in the list of
educational philosophers. Let us call attention, in particular,
to his General Pedagogy (1806), and the Outline of my Les-
sons on Pedagogy (1840). That which distinguishes Her-
bart is his attempt to reduce to a system all the rules of
pedagogy by giving them for a basis his own psychological
theory. He inaugurated a new method in psychology, which
does not seem, however, to have given the results that were
expected from it, — the mathematical method. For him, psy-
chology is only the mechanism of the mind, and by means of
mathematical formula calculation may be applied to measure
the force of ideas. The soul does not possess innate facul-
ties ; it is developed progressively.

But it would require long efforts to enter into the secrets
of Herbart's original thought. Let it suffice to sav, that
nurtured from an early period on the ideas of Pestalozzi,
whose friend he was, he has founded a real school of

Beneke (1798-1854) is the author of a Doctrine of Educa-
tion and Instruction, which is, in the opinion of Doctor
Dittes, a masterpiece of psychological pedagogy. Beneke
agrees with Herbart on a great number of points. His
pedagogical methods have been popularized by J. G. Dressier,
director of the normal school :it Bauzen, who died in I860. 1

1 See The Elements of Psychology, on the Principles of Beneke (Lon-
don, 1871).


Charles Schmidt, who died in 18G4, wrote a large number
of works on pedagogy, in which he is inspired by the phre-
nology of Gall and his fantastical hypotheses. Doubtless
this inspiration is not happy, and the works of Schmidt are
more valuable for their details, for their special reflections,
than for their general doctrine. But from his undertaking
there issues at least this truth, that the science of education
should have for its basis, not only psychology, but pbysiol-
ogy also, the science of the whole man, body and mind.

There is no country where pedagogy has received a more
philosophical and a higher development than in Germany.
Even the great poets, Lessing, Herder, Goethe, and Schiller,
have contributed through certain grand ideas to the construc-
tion of a science of education.

631. The English Philosophers. — English philosophy,
with its experimental and practical character, and with its
positive and utilitarian tendencies, was naturally called to
exercise a great influence on pedagogy. There are more
truths to gather from the thinkers who, in different degrees,
have followed Locke and Bain, and who have preserved a
taste for prudent observation and careful experiments, than
from the German idealists, enamored of hypothesis and sys-
tematic constructions.

Without doubt this explains the considerable success which
the recent books of Herbert Spencer and Alexander Bain
have obtained even in France.

632. The Book of Herbert Spencer. — If it were suffi-
cient to define with exactness the end to be attained, and to
discover the true method for constructing the science, Her-
bert Spencer's book on Education, Intellectual, Moral, and
Physical, 1 would be a satisfactory treatise ; but it is one thing

1 The first French translation appeared in 1878.


to comprehend that psychology is the only solid basis of a
complete and exact pedagogy, and another thing to deter-
mine the real laws of psychology.

" Education will not be definitely systematized," says Mr.
Spencer, " till the day when science shall be in possession of
a rational psychology."

This day has not yet come, and Herbert Spencer, who is
the first to recognize the fact, modestly presents his work
only # as an essay. But if it does not yet contain a perfect
and fully worked out theory of education, the essay of the
English philosopher is at least a vigorous effort, and a nota-
ble step towards a rational pedagogy, towards the science of
education, which, as Virchow expresses it, "ought forever
to proscribe the gropings of an ignorant education whose
experiments are ever to be gone over anew."

633. Plan of the "Work. — Every system of education
supposes at the same time an ethics, — I mean a certain con-
ception of life and of human destiny, and a psychology, —
that is, a knowledge more or less exact of our faculties and
of the laws which preside over their development. There are,
in fact, in education, two essential questions: 1. What are
the subjects of study and instruction, proper to create the
qualities, the aggregate of which constitutes the type of the
well-educated man? 2. By what methods shall we teach
the child rapidly and well that which it is proper for him to
learn? There are, in other terms, the question of end and
the question of means. Ethics is necessary to resolve the
first, and psychology, to illustrate the second.

It is in accordance with this plan that Mr. Spencer has
arranged the different parts of his work. The first chapter,
entitled What Knowledge is of Most ]\ r ,,,il> ! is in substance
but a series of reflections on the final purpose, on the differ-


ent forms, of human activity, and, consequently, on the rela-
tive importance, on the rank, which should be assigned to
the studies which go to compose a complete education.

In the three other chapters, Intellectual, Moral, and Phy-
sical Education, the author examines the methods which are
deemed the best for instructing the intelligence, perfecting
the moral character, and fortifying the body.

634. Definition of Education. — Herbert Spencer begins
witli a definition of education : —

"Education," he says, "is all that we do for ourselves,
and all that others do for us, for the purpose of bringing us
nearer the perfection of our nature. . . . The ideal of edu-
cation would be to furnish man with a complete preparation
for life as a whole. . . . Do not attempt to give an exclu-
sive development of one order of knowledge at the expense
of the rest, however important it may be. Let us distribute
our attention over the whole, and justly proportion our efforts
to their relative value. ... In general, the object of educa-
tion ought to be to acquire as completely as possible the
knowledge that is best adapted to develop individual and
social life under all its aspects, and to do no more than
glance at the subjects which contribute the least to this
development." 1

This definition is wrong in being a little pretentious and
in not adapting itself to all the forms of education. It is
true, perhaps, if it is a question of the ideal to be attained in
a complete instruction, accessible to a few privileged men,
but it could not be applied to popular education. It soars
too hio-h above human conditions and social realities.

1 In this, as in several other instances, Monsieur Compayre gives a sum-
mary of the author's thought rather than an exact quotation. (P.)


635. Human Destiny. — The conception of human destiny,
as Mr. Spencer outlines it in the opening of his book, has
very marked utilitarian tendencies. His first complaint
against the current education is that it sacrifices the useful
to the agreeable ; that as matters now go, everything which
pertains to mental adornment and display has precedence
over the knowledge which might increase our well-being and
assure our happiness. As in the history of dress, with
savages for example, it is proved that the ornamental in
dress precedes the useful ; so in instruction, ornamental
studies are preferred to useful studies. This is especially
the case with women, who have a decided preference for the
qualities of pure decoration. 1

In his rather vigorous reaction against the luxuries which
in classical instruction would wrongly substitute themselves
for more necessary studies, Mr. Spencer goes so far as to
say : —

"Just as the Orinoco Indian paints and tattooes himself,
so the child in this country learns Latin because it forms a
part of the education of a gentleman."

However, we do not construe this literally. Mr. Spencer
does not go so far as to suppress the disinterested studies
which are as much the more necessary as the} 7 seem to be
the more superfluous. He merely demands that instruction
be not reduced to a training in the trivial elegancies of a
dead language, or to a study of trifles in history, such as the
dates of battles, and the birth and death of princes.

630. Utilitarian Tendencies. — Utility, that is, the influ-
ence on happiness, — such is the true criterion by which are

1 As, historically, ornament precedes dress, on Mr. Spencer's main prin-
ciple, it need not be till late in life that worn en dress sensibly. Or ought not
the genesis of dress in the individual to follow the same order as the gene-
sis of dress in the race? (P.)


to be estimated, admitted or excluded, and finally classified,
the subjects proposed for the study of man as the elements
of his education. It is understood, however, that happiness
is to be considered in its widest and highest sense. Happi-
ness does not consist in the satisfaction of such or such a
privileged inclination. It consists in being all that it is
possible to be, — in complete living. To prepare us for a
complete life, — such is the function of education.

637. Different Categories of Activity. — Complete life
supposes different kinds of activity, which ought to be subor-
dinated one to another according to their importance and
dignity. The following statement shows how Mr. Spencer
proposes to classify these different categories of activities
according to an ascending scale of progress : —

1. In the first rank is placed the activity which ministers
simply to self-preservation. It would be of no consequence
to be an eminent scholar, or a citizen and a patriot, or a
devoted father ; or rather, all this would be impossible, if
one did not first know how to assure his safety and his life.

2. Then comes the series of activities which tend indirectly
to the same end of physical well-being, by the acquisition
and production of the material goods necessary for existence,
that is, industry and the different occupations.

3. In the third place, man employs his activities in tht
service of his family, — he has children to support and to
bring up.

4. Social and political life is the fourth object of his
efforts. This supposes, as a previous condition, the accom-
plishment of family duties, just as family life itself supposes
the normal development of the individual life.

5. Finally, human existence is consummated and crowned,
so to speak, in the exercise of the activities which, in a single


word, we might call aesthetic, find which, taking advantage
of the leisure left from care and business, will find satisfac-
tion in the culture of letters and the arts.

638. Criticism of this Classification. — What excep-
tions can be taken to this exact and methodical table of the
different elements of an existence complete, normal, and
consequently human? Is it necessary to remark that the
happiness thus understood does not differ from what we call
virtue? None of the five elements distinguished by Mr.
Spencer can be safely omitted. The first could not be
neglected without endangering the material reality of life;
nor the last, without impairing its moral dignity. In some
degree they are mutually necessar}', in this sense, that the
lower, or selfish activities, are the conditions which make
possible the other parts of human duty ; and that the higher,
or disinterested activities, become, as it were, the justifica-
tion of the toil we endure in order to exist and to satisfy
material necessities.

AW' have, however, one grave reserve to make. Mr.
Spencer is wrong in putting into the last category of activi-
ties that which is the crown of the others, all that which con-
cerns the moral development of the individual. Between the
second and the third class of activities we ask to interpolate
another form of activity, — that which constitutes the indi-
vidual moral life, that which, in every man, even the humblest
and the poorest, calls into exercise the conscience, the rea-
son, and the will. Mr. Spencer's system is decidedly too
aristocratic. It seems to reserve the moral life for men of
leisure. In a democratic society, which believes in equality
and which would not have this an empty term, there are ef-
forts which must be made for the moral development of the
human being in all conditions, and it would be wrong to


reduce personal activity to the care of health and material

639. Effects on Education. — It is now easy to com-
prehend the duties of education. Conforming its efforts to
nature, distributing its lessons according to the exact divis-
ion of human functions, it will seek the branches of knowl-
edge the most fit for making of the pupil, first, a sound and
healthy man, then a toiler, a workman, — a man, in a word,
capable of earning his livelihood ; then it will train him for
the family and the State, by endowing him with all the
domestic and civic virtues ; finally, it will open to him the
brilliant domain of art under all its forms.

640. Science is the Basis of Education. — When we
have once divided human life into a certain number of super-
imposed stages which education should teach us to ascend
one after another, it becomes necessary to know what are the
facts and the branches of knowledge which correspond to
each one of these different steps. To this question Mr.
Spencer replies that in all the grades of human development
that which is pre-eminently necessary, that which is the basis
of education, is science.

641. Science for Health and Industrial Activity. —
It is in the first part of education, that which has for its object
self-preservation, that science is the least useful. So far,
education may be in great part negative, because nature has
taken it upon herself to lead us to our destination. The
child cries at the sight of a stranger, and throws himself
into the arms of his mother when he feels the slightest sor-
row. However, in proportion to his growth, man has more
and more need of science, and he could not do without physi-
ology and hygiene. By this means will he shun all those


little acts of imprudence, all those physical faults, which
shorten life, or pave the way for infirmities in old age. By
this means he will diminish the interval, which is so consid-
erable, between the length of life as it might be and the
brevity of life as it is. Evident truths, but too often un-
heeded !

" How many scholars," exclaims Mr. Spencer, " who
would blush if caught saying Iphig^nia instead of Iphigenia,
show not the slightest shame in confessing that they do not
know where the Eustachian tubes are, and what are the
actions of the spinal cord ! "

"With respect to the activities which might be called lucra-
tive, and to the kind of instruction which they require, Mr.
Spencer still shows the utility of science. He knows how
great a disposition there is in modern society to promote pro-
fessional or industrial instruction ; but he thinks, not without
reason, that we do not proceed as we should in order to be
completely successful in this direction. All the sciences,
mathematics through its applications to the arts, mechanics
through its connection with industries where machines play
so great a part, physics and chemistry through the knowledge
they furnish on matter and its properties, even the social
sciences by reason of the relations of commerce with poli-
tics, — all the sciences, in a word, contribute to develop the
skill and the prudence of the man who is employed in any
trade or occupation whatever.

642. Science for Family Life. — A point in which the
originality of Mr. Spencer's thought is distinctly marked,
and which he develops with an eloquent earnestness, is the
necessity of enlightening parents, and particularly mothers,
upon their obligations and duties, and of putting them
in a condition to direct the education of their children by


teaching them the natural laws of body and mind : "Is it
not monstrous," he says, "that the fate of a new genera-
tion should be left to the chances of unreasoning custom,
impulse, fancy, — joined with the suggestions of ignorant
nurses and the prejudiced counsel of grandmothers. . . .
In the actual state of things the best instruction, even
among the favored by fortune, is scarcely more than an
instruction of celibates." We are ever saying that the voca-
tion of woman is to bring up her children, and yet we teach
her nothing of that which she ought to know in order to ful-
fill worthily this great task. Ignorant as she is of the laws
of life and of the phenomena of the soul, knowing nothing
of the nature of the moral emotions or of physical disorders,
her intervention in the education of the child is often more
disastrous than her absolute inaction would be.

643. Science in ./Esthetic Education. — Mr. Spencer
next shows that social and political activity also has need of
being enlightened by science. One is a citizen only on the
condition of knowing the history of his country.

That which it is more difficult to grant Mr. Spencer, is
that aesthetic education, in its turn, is based on science. Is
there not some exaggeration, for example, in asserting that
poor musical compositions are poor because they are lack-
ing in truth? and that they are lacking in truth "because
they are lacking in science " ? Does one become a man of
letters and an artist as one becomes a geometrician? To
cultivate with success those arts which are as the flower of
civilization, is there not required, besides talent and natural

Online LibraryGabriel CompayréThe history of pedagogy → online text (page 42 of 48)