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understand ourselves." With more boldness than Saint
Anselm, he applied dialectics to theology, and attempted to
reason out the grounds of his faith.

84. The Seven Liberal Arts. — The seven liberal arts
constituted what may be called the secondary instruction of
the Middle Age, such as was given in the claustral or con-
ventual schools, and later, in the universities. The liberal
arts were distributed into two courses of study, known as the
trivium and the quadrivium. The trivium comprised gram-
mar (Latin grammar, of course), dialectics, or logic, and


rhetoric ; and the quadrivium, music, arithmetic, geometry,
and astronomy. It is important to note the fact that this
programme contains only abstract and formal studies, — no
real and concrete studies. The sciences which teach us to
know man and the world, such as history, ethics, the physical
and natural sciences, were omitted and unknown, save per-
haps in a few convents of the Benedictines. Nothing which
can truly educate man, and develop his faculties as a whole,
enlists the attention of the Middle Age. From a course of
study thus limited there might come skillful reasoners and
men formidable in argument, but never fully developed men. 1

85. Methods and Discipline. — The methods employed
in the ecclesiastical schools of the Middle Age were in accord
with the spirit of the times, when men were not concerned
about liberty and intellectual freedom ; and when they thought
more about the teaching of dogmas than about the training
of the intelligence. The teachers recited or read their
lectures, and the pupils learned by heart. The discipline
was harsh. Corrupt human nature was distrusted. In 1363,
pupils were forbidden the use of benches and chairs, on the
pretext that such high seats were an encouragement to pride.
For securing obedience, corporal chastisements were used
and abused. The rod is in fashion in the fifteenth as it was
in the fourteenth century.

" There is no other difference," says an historian, " except
that the rods in the fifteenth century are twice as long as
those in the fourteenth." 2 Let us note, however, the pro-
test of Saint Anselm, a protest that pointed out the evil
rather than cured it. "Day and night," said an abbot to

1 This is no exception to the rule that the education of an age is the ex-
ponent of its real or supposed needs. (P.)

2 Monteil, IJistoire des Franrais des divers Mats.


Saint Anselm, " we do not cease to chastise the children
confided to our care, and they grow worse and worse."
Anselm replied, "Indeed! You do not cease to chastise
them ! And when the} 7 are grown up, what will they become ?
Idiotic and stupid. A fine education that, which makes
brutes of men! ... If you were to plant a tree in your
erarden, and were to enclose it on all sides so that it could
not extend its branches, what would you find when, at the end
of several years, you set it free from its bands? A tree
whose branches would be bent and crooked ; and would it
not be your fault, in having so unreasonably confined it? "

86. The Universities. — Save claustral and cathedral
schools, to which must be added some parish schools, the
earliest example of our village schools, the sole educational
establishment of the Middle Age was what is called the Uni-
versity. Towards the thirteenth and fourteenth century we
see multiplying in the great cities of Europe those centres of
study, those collections of students which recall from afar
the schools of Plato and Aristotle. Of such establishments
were the university which opened at Paris for the teaching
of theology and philosophy (1200) ; the universities of
Naples (1224), of Prague (1345), of Vienna (1365), of
Heidelberg (1386), etc. 1 Without being completely affran-
chised from sacerdotal control, these universities were a first
expansion of free science. As far back as the ninth century,
the Arabs had given an example to the rest of Europe by
founding at Salamanca, at Cordova, and in other cities of
Spain, schools where all the sciences were cultivated.

87. Gerson (1363-1429). —With the gentle Gerson. the
supposed author of the Imitation, it seems that the dreary dia-

Cambridge (1109), Oxford (1140).


lectics disappear to let the heart speak and make way for
feeling. The Chancellor of the University of Paris is distin-
guished from the men of his time by his love for the people.
He wrote in the common tongue little elementary treatises
for the use and within the comprehension of the plain people.
His Latin work, entitled De parvulis ad Christum trahendis
("Little children whom we must lead to Christ "), gives
evidence of a large spirit of sweetness and goodness. It
abounds in subtile and delicate observations. For exam-
ple, Gcrson demands of teachers patience and tenderness :
"Little children," he says, "are more easily managed by
caresses than by fear." For these frail creatures he dreads
the contagion of example. " No living being is more in
danger than the child of allowing himself to be corrupted by
another child." In his eyes, the little child is a delicate
plant that must be carefully protected against every evil in-
fluence, and, in particular, against pernicious literature, such
as the Roman de la Hose. Gerson condemns corporal punish-
ment, and requires that teachers shall have for their pupils
the affection of a father : —

" Above all else, let the teacher make an effort to be a
father to his pupils. Let him never be angry with them.
Let him always be simple in his instruction, and relate to his
pupils that which is wholesome and agreeable." Tender-
hearted and exalted spirit, Gerson is a precursor of Fenelon. 1

88. Vittorino da Feltre (1379-1446). — It is a pleas-
ure to place beside Gerson one of his Italian contemporaries,
the celebrated Vittorino da Feltre, a professor in the Uni-
versity of Padua. It was as preceptor to the sons of the

1 In the Traite de la visite des dioceses, in 1400, he directed the bishoj>s to
inquire whether each parish had a school, and, in case there were none, to
establish one.


Prince of Gonzagas, and as founder of an educational estab-
lishment at Venice, that Vittorino found occasion to show
his aptitude for educational work. With him, education
again became what it was in Greece, — the harmonious devel-
opment of mind and body. Gymnastic exercises, such as
swimming, riding, fencing, restored to honor ; attention to
the exterior qualities of fine bearing ; an interesting and
agreeable method of instruction ; a constant effort to discover
the character and aptitudes of children ; a conscientious
preparation for each lesson ; assiduous watchfulness over the
work of pupils ; such are the principal features of the peda-
gogy of Vittorino da Feltre, a system of teaching evidently
in advance of his time, and one which deserves a longer

89. Other Teachers at the Close of the Middle Age.
— Were we writing a work of erudition, there would be
other thinkers to point out in the last years of the Middle
Age, in that uncertain and, so to speak, twilight period
which serves as a transition from the night of the Middle
Age to the full day of the Renaissance. Among others, let
us notice the Chevalier de la Tour-Landry and iEneas Sylvius

The Chevalier de la Tour-Landry, in the work which he
wrote for the education of his daughters (1372), scarcely rises
above the spirit of his time. Woman, as he thinks, is made
to pray ami to go to church. The model which he sets be-
fore his daughters is a countess, who ' ; each day wished to
hear three masses." He recommends fasting three times a
week in order " the better to subdue the flesh," and to pre-
vent it " from diverting itself too much." There is neither
responsibility nor proper dignity for the wife, who owes
obedience to her husband, her lord, and " should do his will.


Whether wrong or right ; if wrong, she is absolved from
blame, as the blame falls on her lord."

^Eneas Sylvius, the future Pope Pius II., in his tract on
The Education of Children (1451), is already a man of the
Renaissance, since he recommends with enthusiasm the read-
ing and study of most of the classical authors. However,
he traces a programme of studies relatively liberal. By the
side of the humanities he places the sciences of geometry
and arithmetic, " which are necessary," he says, " for train-
ing the mind and assuring rapidity of conceptions " ; and
also history and geography. He had himself composed his-
torical narratives accompanied by maps. The distrusts of
an overstrained devotion were no longer felt by a teacher
who wrote, "There is nothing in the world more precious
or more beautiful than an enlightened intelligence."

90. Recapitulation. — It is thus that the Middle Age in
drawing to a close came nearer and nearer, in the way of
continuous progress, to the decisive emancipation which the
Renaissance and the Reformation were soon to perpetuate.
But the Middle Age, in itself, whatever effort may be put
forth at this day to rehabilitate it, and to discover in it
the golden age of modern societies, remains an ill-starred
epoch. A few virtues, negative for the most part, virtues
of obedience and consecration, cannot atone for the real
faults of those rude and barbarous centuries. A higher
education reserved to ecclesiastics and men of noble rank ;
an instruction which consisted in verbal legerdemain, which
developed only the mechanism of reasoning, and made of
the intelligence a prisoner of the formal syllogism ; agreea-
bly to the barbarism of primitive times, a fantastic pedantry
which lost itself in superficial discussions and in verbal
distinctions ; popular education almost null, and restricted to


the teaching of the catechism in Latin ; finally, a Church,
absolute and sovereign, which determined for all, great and
small, the limits of thought, of belief, and of action ; such
was, from our own point of view, the condition of the Mid-
dle Age. It was time for the coming of the Renaissance to
affranchise the human mind, to excite and to reveal to itself
the unconscious need of instruction, and by the fruitful
alliance of the Christian spirit and profane letters, to prepare
for the coming of modern education.

[91. Analytical Summary. — 1. The fundamental char-
acteristic of Middle Age education was the domination of
religious conceptions. The training was for the life to come,
rather than for this life ; it was almost exclusively religious
and moral ; was based on authority ; and included the whole
human race.

2. This alliance of church and school, while giving an
exclusive aim to education, also gave it a spirit of intense
seriousness and earnestness. The survivals of this histori-
cal alliance are church and parish schools, and a disposition
of the modern Church to dispute the right of the State to

3. The supreme importance attached to the Scriptures
made education literary ; made instruction dogmatic and
arbitrary ; exalted words over things ; inculcated a taste for
abstract and formal reasoning ; made learning a process of
memorizing ; and stilled the spirit of free inquiry.

4. The inclusion of the whole world in one Christian
Commonwealth, led to the intellectual enfranchisement of
woman and to the list' of primary education proper.

5. The general tendency was towards harshness in disci-
pline, coarseness in habits and manners, and a contempt for
the amenities of life.


6. Scholasticism erred by exaggeration ; but its general
effect was to develop the power of deductive reasoning, to
teach the use of language as the instrument of thought, and
to make apparent the need of nice discriminations in the use
of words.

7. The great intellectual lesson taught is the extreme
difficulty of attaining compass, symmetry, and moderation.]]



general characteristics of the education of the sixteenth
century; causes of the renaissance in education; the
theory and the practice of education in the sixteenth
century j erasmus (1467-1536) j education of erasmus j the
jeromites; pedagogical works of erasmus; juvenile
etiquette ; early education j the instruction of women ;
rabelais (1483-1553) ; criticism of the old education ; gar-
gantua and eudemon j the new education j physical edu-
cation ; intellectual education j the physical and natural
sciences; object lessons; attractive methods j religious
education; moral education; montaigne (1533-1592) and
rabelais ; the personal education of montaigne ; edu-
cation should be general j the purpose of instruction ;
education of the judgment ; educational methods j studies
recommended; montaigne's errors; incompleteness of his
views on the education of women ; ANALYTICAL summary.

92. General Characteristics of the Education of
the Sixteenth Century. — Modern education begins with
the Renaissance. The educational methods that we then
begin to discern will doubtless not be developed and
perfected till a later period ; the new doctrines will pass
into practice only gradually, and with the general progress
of the times. But from the sixteenth century education
is in possession of its essential principles. The educa-
tion of the Middle Age, over-rigid and repressive, which
condemned the body to a regime too severe, and the
mind to a discipline too narrow, is to be succeeded,


at least in theory, by an education broader and more
liberal ; which will give due attention to hygiene and
physical exercises ; which will enfranchise the intelligence,
hitherto the prisoner of the syllogism ; which will call into
play the moral forces, instead of repressing them ; which
will substitute real studies for the verbal subtilties of dia-
lectics ; which will give the preference to things over words ;
which, finally, instead of developing but a single faculty, the
reason, and instead of reducing man to a sort of dialectic
automaton, will seek to develop the whole man, mind and
body, taste and knowledge, heart and will.

93. Causes of the Renaissance in Education. — The
men of the sixteenth century having renewed with classical
antiquity an intercourse that had been too long interrupted,
it was natural that they should propose to the young the
study of the Greeks and the Romans. What is called
secondary instruction really dates from the sixteenth cen-
tury. The crude works of the Middle Age are succeeded by
the elegant compositions of Athens and Rome, henceforth
made accessible to all through the art of printing ; and, with
the reading of the ancient authors, there reappear through the
fruitful effect of imitation, their qualities of correctness in
thought, of literary taste, and of elegance in form. In
France, as in Italy, the national tongues, moulded, and,
as it were, consecrated by writers of genius, become the
instruments of an intellectual propaganda. Artistic taste,
revived by the rich products of a race of incomparable artists,
gives an extension to the horizon of life, and creates a new
class of emotions. Finally, the Protestant Reform develops
individual thought and free inquiry, and at the same time,
by its success, it imposes still greater efforts on the Catholic


This is not saying that everything is faultless in the edu-
cational efforts of the sixteenth century. First, as is natural
for innovators, the thought of the teachers of this period is
marked by enthusiasm rather than by precision. They are
more zealous in pointing out the end to be attained, than
exact in determining the means to be employed. Besides,
some of them are content to emancipate the mind, but forget
to give it proper direction. Finally, others make a wrong
use of the ancients ; they are too much preoccupied with the
form and the purity of language ; they fall into Ciceromania,
and it is not their fault if a new superstition, that of rhetoric,
does not succeed the old superstition, that of the syllogism.

94. The Theory and the Practice of Education in
the Sixteenth Century. — In the history of education in the
sixteenth century, we must, moreover, carefully distinguish
the theory from the practice. The theory of education is
already boldly put forward, and is in advance of its age ;
while the practice is still dragging itself painfully along on
the beaten road, notwithstanding some successful attempts
at improvement.

The theor}' we must look for in the works of Erasmus,
Rabelais, and Montaigne, of whom it may be said, that before
pretending to surpass them, even at this day, we should
rather attempt to overtake them, and to equal them in the
most of their pedagogical precepts.

The practice is, fust, the development of the study of the
humanities, particularly in the early colleges of the .Jesuits,
and, before the Jesuits, in certain Protestant colleges, partic-
ularly in the college at Strasburg, so brilliantly administered
by the celebrated Sturm (1507-1589). Then it is the revival
of higher instruction, denoted particularly by the foundation
of the College of France (1530), and by the brilliant lee-


tures of Ramus. Finally, it is the progress, we might
almost say the birth, of primary instruction, through the
efforts of the Protestant reformers, and especially of Luther.
Nevertheless, the educational thought of the sixteenth
century is in advance of educational practice ; theories
greatly anticipate applications, and constitute almost all that
is deserving of special note.

95. Erasmus (1467-1536). — By his numerous writings,
translations, grammars, dictionaries, and original works,
Erasmus diffused about him his own passionate fondness for
classical literature, and communicated this taste to his con-
temporaries. Without having a direct influence on education,
since he scarcely taught himself, he encouraged the study of
the ancients by his example, and by his active propagan-
clism. The scholar who said, " When I have money, I will
first buy Greek books and then clothes," deserves to be
placed in the first rank among the creators of secondaiy

96. The Education of Erasmus : the Jeromites. —
Erasmus was educated by the monks, as Voltaire was by the
Jesuits, a circumstance that has cost these liberal thinkers
none of their independent disposition, and none of their
satirical spirit. At the age of twelve, Erasmus entered the
college of Deventer, in Holland. This college was con-
ducted by the Jeromites, or Brethren of the Common Life.
Founded in 1340 by Gerard Groot, the association of the
Jeromites undertook, among other occupations, the instruc-
tion of children. Very mystical, and very ascetic at first;
the disciples of Gerard Groot -restricted themselves to teach-
ing the Bible, to reading, and writing. They proscribed, as
useless to piety, letters and the sciences. But in the
fifteenth century, under the influence of John of Wessel and


Rudolph Agricola, the Jeromites became transformed ; they
were the precursors of the Renaissance, and the promoters
of the alliance between profane letters and Christianity.
" We may read Ovid once," said John of Wessel, " but we
ought to read Virgil, Horace, and Terence, with more atten-
tion." Horace and Terence were precisely the favorite
authors of Erasmus, who learned them by heart at Deven-
ter. Agricola, of whom Erasmus speaks only with enthu-
siasm, was also the zealous propagator of the great works
of antiquity, and, at the same time, the severe critic of the
state of educational practice of the time when the school
was too much like a prison.

"If there is anything which has a contradictory name,"
he said, " it is the school. The Greeks called it a-xoXr], which
means leisure, recreation; and the Latins, Indus, that is,
play. But there is nothing farther removed from recreation
and play. Aristophanes called it ^povrLa-T-qpiov, that is,
place of care, of torment, and this is surely the designation
which best befits it."

Erasmus then had for his first teachers enlightened men,
who, notwithstanding their monastic condition, both knew
and loved antiquity. But, as a matter of fact, Erasmus
was his own teacher. By personal effort he put himself at
the school of the ancients. He was all his life a student.
Now he was a foundation scholar at the college of Montaigu,
in Paris, and now preceptor to gentlemen of wealth. He
was always in pursuit of learning, going over the whole of
Europe, that lie might find in each cultivated city new oppor-
tunities for self-instruction.

{ M. Pedagogical Works of Erasmus. — Most of the
works written by Erasmus relate to instruction. Some of
them are fairly to be classed as text-books, elementary
treatises on practical education, as, f«* example, his books


On the Manner of writing Letters, Upon Rules of Etiquette
for the Young, etc. We may also notice his Adages, a vast
repertory of proverbs and maxims borrowed from antiquity ;
his Colloquies, a collection of dialogues for the use of the
youug, though the author here treats of many things which
a pupil should never hear spoken of. Another categoiy
should include works of a more theoretical character, in
which Erasmus sets forth his ideas on education. In the
essaj' On the Order of Study (de Ratione Studii) , he seeks out
the rules for instruction in literature, for the stud} 7 of gram-
mar, for the cultivation of the memory, and for the explica-
tion of the Greek and Latin authors. Another treatise,
entitled Of the First Liberal Education of Children (De pueris
statim ac liberaliter instituendis) , is still more important, and
covers the whole field of education. Erasmus here studies
the character of the child, the question of knowing whethei
the first years of child-life can be turned to good account,
and the measures that are to be taken with early life. He
also recommends methods that are attractive, and heartily
condemns the barbarous discipline which reigned in the
schools of his time.

98. Juvenile Etiquette. — Erasmus is one of the first
educators who comprehended the importance of politeness.
In an age still uncouth, where the manners of even the cul-
tivated classes tolerated usages that the most ignorant rustic
of to-day would scorn, it was good to call the attention to
outward appearances and the duties of politeness. Eras-
mus knew perfectly well that politeness has a moral side,
that it is not a matter of pure convention, but that it pro-
ceeds from the inner disposition of a well-ordered soul. So
he assigns it an important place in education :

" The duty of instructing the young," he says, " includes
several elements, the first and also the chief of which is,


that the tender mind of the child should be instructed in
piety; the second, that he love and learn the liberal arts;
the third, that he be taught tact in the conduct of social
life ; and the fourth, that from his earliest age he accustom
himself to good behavior, based on moral principles."

We need not be astonished, however, to find that the
civility of Erasmus is still imperfect, now too free, now too
exacting, and always ingenuous. "It is a religious duty,"
he says, " to salute him who sneezes." " Morally speaking,
it is not a proper thing to throw the head back while drink-
ing, after the manner of storks, in order to drain the last
drop from the glass." " If one let bread fall on the ground,
he should kiss it after having picked it up." On the other
hand, Erasmus seems to allow that the nose may be wiped
with the fingers, but he forbids the use of the cap or the
sleeve for this purpose. He requires that the face shall be
bathed with pure water in the morning; "but," he adds,
" to repeat this afterwards is nonsense."

99. Early Education. — Like Quintilian, by whom he is
often inspired, Erasmus does not scorn to enter the primary
school, and to shape the first exercises for intellectual cul-
ture. Upon many points, the thought of the sixteenth cen-
tury scholar is but an echo of the Institutes of Oratory, or
of the educational essays of Plutarch. Some of his maxims
deserve to be reproduced : "We learn with great willingness
from those whom we love;" "Parents themselves cannot
properly bring up their children if they make themselves

Online LibraryGabriel CompayréThe history of pedagogy → online text (page 8 of 48)