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tance of a society whose morals they repudiated, and whose
beliefs they were bent on destroying ?


On the other hand, the social condition of the men who
first attached themselves to the new religion turned them
aside from the studies which are a preparation for real life.
Obliged to conceal themselves, to betake themselves to the
desert, true Pariahs of the pagan world, they lived a life of
contemplation ; they were naturally led to conceive an as-
cetic and monastic existence as the ideal of education.

Moreover, by its mystical tendencies, Christianity at the
first could not be a good school for a practical and humane
system of education. The Christian was detached from the
commonwealth of man, only to enter into the commonwealth
of God. He must break with a corrupt and perverse world.
By privations, and by the renunciation of every pleasure, he
must react against the immorality of Graeco-Roman society.
Man must aspire to imitate God ; and God is absolute holi-
ness, the very negation of all the conditions of earthly life, —
supreme perfection. The very disproportion between such an
ideal and human weakness as an actual fact must have be-
trayed the early Christians into leading a mystical life which
was but a preparation for death. And the consequence of
these doctrines was to make of the Church the exclusive
mistress of education and instruction. Individual initiative,
if called into play, on the one hand, by the fundamental doc-
trines of Christianity, was stifled, on the other, under the
domination of the Church.

71. The Fathers of the Church. — Of the celebrated
doctors who, by their erudition and eloquence, if not by
their taste, made illustrious the beginning of Christianity,
Borne were jealous mystic; and sectaries, in whose eyes phil-
osophical curiosity was a sin, and the love of letters a heresy ;
and others were Christians of a conciliatory temperament,
who, in a certain measure, allied religious faith and literary


Tertullian rejected all pagan education. He saw in classi-
cal culture only a robbery from God ; a road to the false and
arrogant wisdom of the ancient philosophers. Even Saint
Augustine, who in his youth could not read the fourth book

O mi

of the .iEneid without shedding tears, and who had been devo-
tedly fond of ancient poetry and eloquence, renounced, after
his conversion, his literary tastes as well as the mad passions
of his early manhood. It was by his influence that the
Council of Carthage forbade the bishops to read the pagan

This was not the course of Saint Basil, who demands, on
the contrary, that the young Christian shall be conversant
with the orators, poets, and historians of antiquity ; who
thinks that the poems of Homer inspire a love for virtue ;
and who desires, finally, that full use should be made of the
treasures of ancient wisdom in the training of the young. 1
Nor was this the thought of Saint Jerome, who said he
would be none the less a Ciceronian in becoming a Christian.

72. Saint Jerome and the Education op Girls. — The
letters of Saint Jerome on the education of girls form the
most valuable educational document of the first centuries of
Christianity. 2 They have excited high admiration. Eras-
mus knew them by heart, and Saint Theresa read selections
from them every day. It is impossible, to-day, while admir-
ing certain parts of them, not to condemn the general spirit
which pervades them, — a narrow spirit, distrustful of the
world, which pushes the religious sentiment even to mysti-
cism, and disdain for human affairs to asceticism.

1 See the Homily of Saint Basil On the Utility which the young can de-
rive from the reading of profane authors.

2 Letter to Lseta on the education of her daughter Paula (403). Letter
to Gaudentius on the education of the little Pacatida. The letter to Gau-
dentius is far inferior to the other hy reason of the perpetual digressions
into which the author permits himself to he drawn.


73. Physical Asceticism. — It is no longer the question
of giving power to the body, and thus of making of it the
robust instrument of a cultured spirit, as the Greeks would
have it. The body is an enemy that must be subdued by
fasting, by abstinence, and by mortifications of the flesh.

" Do not allow Paula to eat in public, that is, do not let
her take part in famity entertainments, for fear that she
may desire the meats that may be served there. Let her
learn not to use wine, for it is the source of all impurity.
Let her food be vegetables, and only rarely of fish ; and
let her eat so as always to be hungry."

Contempt for the body is carried so far that cleanliness is
almost interdicted.

" For myself, I entirely forbid a young girl to bathe."

It is true that, alarmed at the consequences of such aus-
terity, Saint Jerome, by way of exception, permits children
the use of the bath, of wine, and of meat, but only " when
necessity requires it, and lest the feet may fail them before
having walked."

74. Intellectual and Moral Asceticism. — For the
mind, as well as for the body, we may say of Saint Jerome
what Nicole wrote to a nun of his time: "You feed your
pupils on bread and water." The Bible is the only book
recommended, and this is little ; but it is the Bible entire,
which is too much. Tim Song of Songs, with its sensual
imagery, would be strange reading fur a young girl. The
arts, like letters, find no favor with the mysticism of Saint

"Never let Paula listen to musical instruments; let her
even be ignorant of the uses served by the flute and the

As for the flute, which the Greek philosophers also did
not like, let it be so ; but what .shall we say of this condcm-


nation of the harp, the instrument of David and the angels,
and of religious music itself ! How far we are, in common
with Saint Jerome, from that complete life, from that harmo-
nious development of all the faculties, which modern educa-
tors, Herbert Spencer, for example, present to us with
reason as the ideal of education ! Saint Jerome goes so far
as to proscribe walking : —

"Do not let Paula be found in the ways of the world
(emphatic paraphrase for streets), in the gatherings and in
the company of her kindred; let her be found only in

The ideal of Saint Jerome is a monastic and cloistered life,
even in the world. But that which is graver still, that which
is the fatal law of mysticism, is that Saint Jerome, after
having proscribed letters, arts, and necessary and legitimate
pleasures, even brings hfs condemnation to bear on the most
honorable sentiments of the heart. The heart is human
also, and everything human is evil and full of danger :

' ' Do not allow Paula to feel more affection for one of her
companions than for others ; do not allow her to speak with
such a one in an undertone." And as he held in suspicion
even the affections of the family, the Doctor of the Church
concludes thus : —

" Let her be educated in a cloister, where she will not
know the world, where she will live as an angel, having a
body but not knowing it, and where, in a word, you will be
spared the care of watching over her. ... If you will send us
Paula, I will charge myself with being her master and nurse ;
I will give her my tenderest care ; my old age will not pre-
vent me from untying her tongue, and I shall be more re-
nowned than the philosopher Aristotle, since I shall instruct,
not a mortal and perishable king, but an immortal spouse of
the Heavenly King."


75. Permanent Truths. — The pious exaggerations of
Saint Jerome only throw into sharper relief the justice and
the excellence of some of his practical suggestions, — upon
the teaching of reading, for example, or upon the necessity
of emulation : —

" Put into the hands of Paula letters in wood or in ivory,
and teach her the names of them. She will thus learn while
playing. But it will not suffice to have her merely memorize
the names of the letters, and call them in succession as they
stand in the alphabet. You should often mix them, putting
the last first, and the first in the middle.

"Induce her to construct words by offering her a prize,
or by giving her, as a reward, what ordinarily pleases chil-
dren of her age. . . . Let her have companions, so that the
commendation she may receive may excite in her the feeling
of emulation. Do not chide her for the difficulty she may
have in learning. On the contrary, encourage her by com-
mendation, and proceed in such a way that she shall be
equally sensible to the pleasure of having done well, and to
the pain of not having been successful. . . . Especially lake
care that she do not conceive a dislike for study that might
follow her into a more advanced age." 1

76. Intellectual Feebleness of the Middle Age. —
If the early doctors of the Church occasionally expressed
some sympathy for profane letters, it is because, in their
youth, before having received baptism, they had themselves
attended the pagan schools. But these schools once closed,
Christianity did not open others, and, after the fourth cen-
tury, a profound night enveloped humanity.. The labor of
the Greeks and the Romans was as though it never had

1 For writing, Saint Jerome, like Quintilian, recommends thai children
first practise on tablets of wood on which letters have been engraved.


been. The past no longer existed. Humanity began anew.
In the fifth century, Apollinaris Sidonius declares that
"the young no longer study, that teachers no longer have
pupils, and that learning languishes and dies." Later, Lupus
of Ferrieres, the favorite of Louis the Pious and Charles the
Bald, writes that the study of letters had almost ceased. In
the early part of the eleventh century, the Bishop of Laon,
Adalberic, asserts that " there is more than one bishop who
cannot count the letters of the alphabet on his fingers." In
1291, of all the monks in the convent of Saint Gall, there
was not one who could read and write. It was so difficult
to find notaries public, that acts had to be passed verbally.
The barons took pride in their ignorance. Even after the
efforts of the twelfth century, instruction remained a luxury
for the common people ; it was the privilege of the ecclesias-
tics, and even they did not carry it very far. The Benedic-
tines confess that the mathematics were studied only for the
purpose of calculating the date of Easter.

77. Causes of the Ignorance of the Middle Age. —
What were the permanent causes of that situation which
lasted for ten centuries? The Catholic Church has some-
times been held responsible for this. Doubtless the Chris-
tian doctors did not always profess a very warm sympathy
for intellectual culture. Saint Augustine had said: "It is
the ignorant who gain possession of heaven (^indocti caelum
rapiurit)." Saint Gregory the Great, a pope of the sixth
century, declared that he would blush to have the holy word
conform to the rules of grammar. Too many Christians, in*
a word, confounded ignorance with holiness. Doubtless,
towards the seventh century, the darkness still hung thick
over the Christian Church. Barbarians invaded the Episco-
pate, and carried with them their rude manners. Doubtless,


also, during the feudal period the priest often became
soldier, and remained ignorant. Jt would, however, be un-
just to bring a constructive charge against the Church of the
Middle Age, and to represent it as systematically hostile to.
instruction. Directly to the contrary, it is the clergy who,
in the midst of the general barbarism, preserved some ves-
tiges of the ancient culture. The only schools of that period
are the episcopal and claustral schools, the first annexed to
the bishops' palaces, the second to the monasteries. The
religious orders voluntarily associated manual labor with
mental labor. As far back as 530, Saint Benedict founded
the convent of Monte Cassino, and drew up statutes which
made reading and intellectual labor a part of the daily life
of the monks.

In 1179, the third Lateran Council promulgated the follow-
ing decree : —

" The Church of God, being obliged like a good and ten-
der mother to provide for the bodily and spiritual wants of
the poor, desirous to procure for poor children the oppor-
tunity for learning to read, and for making advancement in
study, orders that each cathedral shall have a teacher charged
with the gratuitous instruction of the clergy of that church,
and also of the indigent scholars, and that he be assigned a
benefice, which, sufficient for his subsistence, may thus open
the door of the school to the studious youth. A tutor ! shall
be installed in the other churches and in the monasteries
where formerly there were funds set apart for this purpose."

It is not, then, to the Church that we must ascribe the

1 Ecoldtre. The history of this word, as given by Littre, is instructive.
"There was no cathedral church (sixteenth century) iu which a sum was
not appropriated for the salary of one who taught the ordinary subjects,
and another for one who had leisure for teaching Theology. The first was
called escolastre (dcoldtre), the second theologal." Pasquier. (P.)


general intellectual torpor of the Middle Age. Other causes
explain that long slumber of the human mind. The first is
the social condition of the people. Security and leisure, the
indispensable conditions for stud}', were completely lacking
to people always at war, overwhelmed in succession by the
barbarians, the Normans, the English, and by the endless
struggles of feudal times. The gentlemen of the time
aspired only to ride, to hunt, and to figure in tournaments
and feats of arms. Physical education was above all else
befitting men whose favorite vocation, both by habit and
necessity, was war. On the other hand, the enslaved peo-
ple did not suspect the utility of instruction. In order to
comprehend the need of study, that great liberator, one
must already have tasted liberty. In a society where the
need of instruction had not yet been felt, who could have
taken the initiative in the work of instructing the people ?

Let us add that the Middle Age presented still other con-
ditions unfavorable for the propagation of instruction, in
particular, the lack of national languages, those necessary
vehicles of education. The vernacular languages are the in-
struments of intellectual emancipation. Among a people
where a dead language is supreme, a language of the learned,
accessible only to the select few, the lower classes necessarily
remain buried in ignorance. Moreover, Latin books them-
selves were rare. Lupus of Ferrieres was obliged to write
to Rome, and to address himself to the Pope in person, in
order to procure for his use a work of Cicero's. Without
books, without schools, without any of the indispensable
implements of intellectual labor, what could be done for the
mental life ? It took refuge in certain monasteries ; erudi-
tion flourished only in narrow circles, with a privileged few,
and the rest of the nation remained buried in an obscure


78. The Three Renascences. — It has been truly said
that there were three Renascences : the first, which owed its
beginning to Charlemagne, and whose brilliancy did not last ;
the second, that of the twelfth century, the issue of which
was Scholasticism ; and the third, the great Renaissance of
the sixteenth century, which still lasts, and which the French
Revolution has completed.

79. Charlemagne. — Charlemagne undoubtedly formed the
purpose of diffusing instruction about him. He ardently
sought it for himself, drilled himself in writing, and learned
Latin and Greek, rhetoric and astrononry. He would have
communicated to all who were about him the same ardor for
study. " Ah ! that I had twelve clerics," he exclaimed, " as
perfectly instructed as were Jerome and Augustine ! " It
was naturally upon the clergy that he counted, to make of
them the instruments of his plans ; but, as one of his
capitularies of 788 shows, there was need that the clergy
themselves should be reminded of the need of instruction :
k - We have thought it useful that, in the bishops' residences,
and in the monasteries, care be taken not only to live accord-
ing to the rules of our holy religion, but, in addition, to teach
the knowledge of letters to those who are capable of learning
them by the aid of our Lord. Although it avails more to
practise the law than to know it, it must be known before it
(•.in be practised. Several monasteries having sent us
manuscripts, we have observed that, in the most of them,
the sentiments were good, but the language bad. We
exhort you. (lieu, not only not to neglect the study of letters,
but to devote yourselves to them with all your power."

On the other hand, the nobles did not make any great
effort to justify their social rank by the degree of then-
knowledge. One day, as Charlemagne entered a school,


displeased with the indolence and the ignorance of the } T oung
barons who attended it, he addressed them in these severe
terms: "Do you count upon your birth, and do you feel a
pride in it? Take notice that you shall have neither govern-
ment nor bishoprics, if you are not better instructed than

80. Alcuin (735-804). — Charlemagne was seconded in
his efforts by Alcuin of England, of whom it might be said,
that he was the first minister of public instruction in France.
It is he who founded the Palatine school, a sort of imperial
and itinerant academy which followed the court on its
travels. It was a model school, where Alcuin had for his
pupils the four sons and two daughters of Charlemagne, and
Charlemagne himself, always eager to be instructed.

Alcuin's method was not without originality, but it is a
great mistake to say that it resembles the method of Socrates.
Alcuin doubtless proceeds by interrogation ; but here it is
the pupil who interrogates, and the teacher who responds.

" What is speech? asks Pepin, the eldest son of Charle-
magne. It is the interpreter of the soul, replies Alcuin.
What is life? It is an enjoyment for some, but for the
wretched it is a sorrow, a waiting for death. What is
sleep? The image of death. What is writing? It is the
guardian of history. What is the body? The tenement
of the soul. What is day? A summons to labor." 1

All this is either commonplace or artificial. The senten-
tious replies of Alcuin may be fine maxims, fit for embellish-
ing the memory ; but in this procedure of the mere scholar,
affected bv the over-refinements of his time, there is nothing
which can call into activity the intelligence of the pupil.

1 For other examples, see the Life of Alcuin, by Lorenz ; and for Middle
Age education in general, consult Christian Schools and Scholars, by
Augusta Theodosia Drane. (P.)


Nevertheless the name of Alcuin murks an era in the
history of education. His was the first attempt to form an
alliance between classical literature and Christian inspiration,
— to create a " Christian Athens," according to the emphatic
phrase of Alcuin himself.

81. The Successors of Charlemagne. —It had been the
ambition of Chailemagne to reism over a civilized societv,
rather than over a barbarous people. Convinced that the
only basis of political unit}' is a unity of ideas and of morals,
he thought to find the basis of that moral unity in religion,
and religion itself he purposed to establish upon a more
widely diffused system of instruction. But these ideas were
too advanced for the time, and their execution too difficult
for the circumstances then existing. A new decadence fol-
lowed the era of Charlemagne. The clergy did not respond
to the hopes which the great emperor had placed on them.
As far back as 817, the Council of Aix-la-Chapelle decided
that henceforth no more day-pupils should be received into
the conventual schools, for the reason that too large a num-
ber of pupils would make impossible the maintenance of the
monastic discipline. No one of Charlemagne's successors
seems to have taken up the thought of the great emperor ;
no one of them was preoccupied with the problems of educa-
tion. It is upon despotic authority, and not upon the intel-
lectual progress of their subjects, that those unintelligent
rulers wished to found their power. Under Louis the Pious
and Charles the Bald there were constructed more castles
than schools.

The kings of France were far from imitating the Anglo-
Saxon kino-, Alfred the Great (84 ( J-!><>1), to whom tradition
ascribes these two sayings : " The English ought always to
be free, as free as their own thoughts"; ••Free-born sons
should know how to read and write."


82. Scholasticism. — It was not till the twelfth century
that the human mind was awakened. That was the age of
Scholasticism, the essential character of which was the stud}'
of reasoning, and the practice of dialectics, or syllogistic
reasoning. The syllogism, which reaches necessary con-
clusions from given premises, was the natural instrument of
an age of faith, when men wished simply to demonstrate
immutable dogmas, without ever making an innovation on
established beliefs. It has often been observed that the art
of reasoning is the science of a people still in the early stage
of its progress ; we might almost say of a barbarous people.
A subtile dialectic is in perfect keeping with manners still
rude, and with a limited state of knowledge. It is only an
intellectual machine. It was not then a question of
original thinking. All that was necessary was simply to
reason upon conceptions already acquired, and the sacred
depository of these was kept in charge by Theology. Con-
sequently, there was no independent science. Philosophy,
according to the language of the times, was but the humble
servant of Theology. The dialectics of the doctors of the
Middle Age was but a subtile commentary on the sacred
books and on the doctrines of Aristotle. 1 It seems, says
Locke, to see the inertness of the Middle Age, that God was
pleased to make of man a two-footed animal, while leaving
to Aristotle the task of making him a thinking being. From
his point of view, an able educator of the seventeenth cen-
tury, the Abbe Fleury, pronounces this severe judgment on
the scholastic method : —

1 The following quotation illustrates this servile dependence on authority:
" At the time when the discovery of spots on the sun first began to circu-
late, a student called the attention of his old professor to the rumor, and
received the following reply: ' There can be no spots on the sun, for I have
read Aristotle twice from beginning to end, and he says the sun is incor-
ruptible. Clean your lenses, and if the spots are not in the telescope, they
must be in your eyes ! ' " Naville, La Lor/ique de VHypothese. (P.)


" This way of philosophizing on words and thoughts, with-
out examining the things themselves, was certainly an easy
way of getting along without a knowledge of facts, which
can be acquired only by reading " (Fleury should have added
and by observation) ; " and it was an easy way of dazzling
the ignorant laics by peculiar terms and vain subtilties."

Rut Scholasticism had its hour of glory, its erudite doe-
tors, its eloquent professors, chief among whom was Abelard.

83. Abelard (1079-1142). — A genuine professor of
higher ^instruction, Abelard, by the prestige of his eloquence,
gathered around him at Paris thousands of students. Hu-
man speech, the living words of the teacher, had then an
authority, an importance, which it has lost in part since
books, everywhere distributed, have, to a certain extent,
superseded oral instruction. At a time when printing did
not exist, when manuscript copies were rare, a teacher who
combined knowledge with the gift of speech was a phenome-
non of incomparable interest, and students flocked from all
parts of Europe to take advantage of his lectures. Abelard
is the most brilliant representative of the scholastic pedagogy,
with an original and personal tendency towards the emanci-
pation of the mind. " It is ridiculous," he said, " to preach
to others what we can neither make them understand, nor

Online LibraryGabriel CompayréThe history of pedagogy → online text (page 7 of 48)