Percy Arthur Barnett.

Common sense in education and teaching; an introduction to practice online

. (page 22 of 25)
Online LibraryPercy Arthur BarnettCommon sense in education and teaching; an introduction to practice → online text (page 22 of 25)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

all eyes on literature, or, rather, on its antiquities and
apparatus, to the exclusion of other things. And yet
here again the Church preserved within itself Religion and
the antidote to the bane. The "secular" real studies
learning of the Renaissance attenuated itself at last into
an excessive and barren respect for literary authority, for
form ; but the logicians and creed-makers of the Church
dealt with what they demonstrably believed to be realities,
things that mattered as life and death matter. We may
take what view we like about each of the endless religious
controversies ; but their preoccupations were clearly the
antithesis of those of mere formal scholarship. If a text
was to be settled, it was as a question on which human
salvation was staked, and it is this vital quality which dis-
tinguishes the ceaseless process of Christian disputation
down to our own day. Theology, in fact, whatever it may
be now, has for centuries served to divert Western educa-
tion from the worship of mere form, and it is fair to believe
that if Brahmanism, or Confucianism, or Islam had stirred
the same earnest strife on the formulation of creeds, the
minds that have spent themselves for centuries on vain
repetitions and elaborations of literature would have
struck out a practical and progressive philosophy. Lord
Chancellor Bacon may have thought little of the cobwebs

282 Common Sense in Education

of the school-men, yet he was their heir, and enjoyed
the fruits of their strenuous labours ; he stood on their
shoulders, and saw the promised land which they never

Every one knows how the worship of literary form
worked out in the first period of the Renaissance. It
may be, as Mark Pattison said, that there was a great
gap in the cultivation of the literary art until Greek was
rediscovered, and until comparisons instituted between
Greek and Latin authors and their works set people for-
mulating literary laws ; but the truth seems to be that
the reading public of the middle ages, that is the clergy,
The early were too busy with the matter of the Roman
Renaissance writers and the Fathers of the Church to give
a worship of mu ch time to rhetoric and style. With the
Renaissance came a conception of education
as a training in Latin and Greek classics, with a sort of
implicit belief in the sufficiency of such a training as
a complete preparation for life, concealing a remarkable
deterioration in the significance and quality of the prob-
lems which the learning so acquired was to solve. In
fact, a knowledge of literature is indeed necessary to
fulness of life, but, if it is to be effectual as training, it
must be used with other studies for the investigation
of other problems religious, philosophical, historical,
scientific and must not concern itself merely with its
own apparatus and appurtenances, that is, with mere

This worship of literary form was secondary, to be
The classical sure, to the excessive value set upon the Latin
languages and Greek literatures as the depositories of all
knowledge, the effects of which have been denounced by
every reformer from Bacon downwards ; but we must
not forget that, of the two, Latin in particular long and

Warnings from History 283

justly retained an important place in the hierarchy of
studies, which it has not yet lost, merely because so
much of the records of organisation and discovery, of
art, of religion, of law, of medicine, was written in
that tongue.

Of the unsatisfactory result of taking the old classical
method of language teaching as a model for the teach-
ing of languages still in daily use, I have spoken in a
previous chapter. The mischief began in the practice
of teaching the classical before the vernacular tongue,
which necessarily concentrated the main attention on
the instrument of instruction rather than on the subject-
matter, whatever that might be. If everything is to be
taught in a foreign language, most of the teaching will
be.language-drill ; if the teaching is mostly language-drill,
then analytical grammar accidence, and the like will
acquire an importance altogether excessive. We must,
as Ratke pointed out, teach first and mainly through the
vernacular, so that mere language may keep its proper
place in the scheme of studies, and not be elevated at
the expense either of literature or of other subjects.

The origin of some of the most serious errors in the
aims and organisation of education is to be The concep-
found in the conception of man as a mere tionofman
citizen. It is easy to see how the necessities asacitlzen
of common defence banded families together against
external foes, and it is equally obvious that this necessity
threw all chief power into the hands of those who dis-
posed of the communal weapons. Thus the pressure of
external danger helped to establish internal law and
order, which is necessarily based on physical force, so
long as the best energy of the community is drawn to
the maintenance of such force by the need for vigi-
lance against powerful foes outside, who menace the

284 Common Sense in Education

community's very life. Hence come ordination and sub-
ordination, generals and soldiers, kings and subjects ;
and the most emphatic teaching of the commonwealth is
that every man must comport himself as befits his place
in it. " Virtus " itself, the name given to the quality most
useful in military arts, is the Latin word for the whole
perfection of character, as was also the Greek word cor-
responding. Except in terms of the prosperity of the
state, a man had no value. Roman and Greek philo-
sophy and history are full of this lesson, and it survives
in some very obvious and some rather obscure forms in
our own day.

The civic standard of worth is not a good criterion of
Not a good the value of education. In the first place, it
criterion in assumes that the existing state-organisation is
education final? and that therefore a man's ultimate and
highest function can be found in the framework so
constituted. He must, in consequence, be prepared
strictly for the position which he is certain to occupy ;
and it is perfectly clear that dominant classes will view
with the most serious disfavour any indication of a
tendency to obliterate distinctions of rank. That is,
the civic standard must primarily tend to keep people
stationary, to determine their whole lives by what Maine
calls status rather than by contract. It leads, in edu-
cation, to the prescription of schemes of study or training
designed for the comparatively narrow purpose of pre-
serving existing institutions. It is clearly less hard to
provide for the safety and conservation of the established
state of things than to make the way easy for the most
perfect and varied development of individuals. So
powerful is this conservative sentiment that even the
perpetuation of a particular political constitution, nay, of
a particular dynasty, has been represented as a duty not

Warnings from History 285

civic only, but religious ; and of this opinion Europe of
to-day provides examples in high places. So, from an
adoption of the civic standard, we may get not only an
excessive respect for things constituted, but also a per-
verted, grotesque, and even monstrous " patriotism ".

We do not rid ourselves of it when we have (if indeed
we have) set aside all military considerations.
The " practical" man and the " scientist " are dardsofthe
using the same standard ; they also are measur- practical "
ing worth by its value, as they conceive it, to man and the
the community. It is true that the material " scientlst "

- , . , , . - . . , are both civic

profits on which they base their judgments
may be more generously diffused than are the, advantages
of a military system ; but they still estimate a man, not
by what he is, but by what he contributes to the stock
of things. It is true that the conditions of their success
are more fluid than are those of military prosperity ;
there is greater mobility and interchange of classes ; but
they set up in education a test which is easy, indeed, to
apply, seeing that it is expressed in terms of production,
but most fallacious as a guide to the educator, who should
be considering not what his pupil can do or make, but
what he is becoming.

Education cannot be measured summarily by material
results. We may, to be sure, be justified, as has already
been shown in this chapter, in condemning a system or
systems of education which, after long trial, have not
succeeded in doing what they set themselves to do ; but
we must observe the chief condition of all valid induction
per enumerationem simplicem ; our observations must at
least cover a very large area. And, in the schoolroom,
the teacher must remind himself again and again that he
is not making good men by cultivating merely his
pupils' powers of production, nor will he form a fair

286 Common Sense in Education

estimate of them by what they do, but rather by what
they try to be.

It may not always have been noticed that the status
of women has been lowered and their educa-

The status ,. . , ,, . . . . , r

and educa- corrupted by this same civic standard of

tion of worth. If women had been able to con-

women in tribute as directly as men to the offensive and
relation to defensive power of the state, they would always
have shared equal consideration and have been


treated as well as men in schemes of education.
Women are now enjoying the same consideration as men
and equal chances with them most unrestrictedly in those
communities in which the civic standard is least strictly
applied, and especially where there is least militarism.
The state organised on the military basis will, of course,
devote its best efforts to perfecting its military class and
organisation. The state which is organised mainly on
an industrial basis will honour most and educate most
assiduously those persons and qualities which are aptest
for industrial production ; that is why the girls in our
primary schools, and in some called secondary, are oc-
casionally taught, without protest, just as boys are taught,
not a few subjects which, except on commercial or in-
dustrial grounds, have nothing to recommend them.
Such are among the results of applying the civic stand-
ard in its modern form. The industrial principle is,
indeed, an improvement on the military principle of
organisation, but the one is a transitional stage no
less than the other ; and neither is a good standard in

The Civitas Dei is the only state which might justly
grade men according to the efficiency of their citizenship,
but it is generally agreed that it is unsafe for human
societies to claim for themselves the privileges of the

Warnings from History 287

divine kingdom ; the best we can do is to cultivate in
our pupils the desire to deserve the gift of its freedom.

Psychological errors, that is errors arising out of
mistaken views as to the constitution of the Psychoiogi-
human mind, seem to divide themselves under cai Errors
two main heads.

The first of these was put into its most striking peda-
gogical form by Locke, although it was implicit in most
of the educational practices of ^ his predecessors. He
regarded the pupil's mind as a tabula rasa or sheet of
white paper on which anything could be written. Sen-
sation and reflection are only more or less complicated
forms of the same intellectual operation ; and you may
therefore begin to reason with your pupil from the first,
and from the first expect him to perform the most
complicated mental operations. The effect of this view
was to exaggerate the power of the teacher, and to
leave him free to exact whatever he chose from the
pupil without regard to the gradual development of
mind, or, indeed, of even the logical order of the sciences.

There is next a doctrine which has taken various
forms, but under all guises lays it down that the main
work has been already done by Nature. The child is
either, as Rousseau formulated it, " good, as he comes
out of the hands of the Author of things " ; or he is,
as so many theologians have held, hopelessly vicious
and therefore to be perpetually coerced.

These theories all represent very partial truths. We
can agree heartily with Locke that teaching can do a
great deal ; with Rousseau that the teacher's interference
has often been excessive and injurious ; and with (say)
Calvin that evil tendencies are strong in the natural
man and call for strong measures of repression. But
the way out of all the psychological difficulties seems

288 Common Sense in Education

to be the frank recognition of life itself and childhood
in particular as a process. The child is not merely a
little man, but something not-yet-a-man ; his mind not
yet equally capable of all operations, but growing in
complexity and power. This is the great lesson which
we learn from Pestalozzi and Froebel.

For reference : Quick's Educational Reformers. Compayre's
History of Pedagogy. Painter's History of Education. Rousselot's
Pedagogic. Cadet's Port-Royal Education. Guizot's History of
Civilisation in Europe. Lecky's History of European Morals.
Laurie's Occasional Addresses and The Rise and Early Constitution
of Universities.




" Such address and intelligence as I chance to possess" said Mr.
Micawber, " will be devoted to my friend Heep's service. I have
already some acquaintance with the law as a defendant on civil

David Copperfield, chap, xxxvi.

IT ought not to be necessary to prove to this generation
the need for some technical preparation of its
teachers for their work. The whole trend of J
the time is to division of labour, and if or- function
dinary men and woman are to discharge makes the
special functions satisfactorily, one would trainin g f
naturally think that they must have some-

J J e necessity

thing besides the ordinary training. The
butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker, are all in-
ducted under supervision into the practice of their
respective crafts, and they must all be the better for
it, or else the practice of training them for their work
would long ago have been discontinued. The work of
teaching is not such work as can be undertaken by any one
" dumped " into it at any time of life without preparation.
At the same time the opposition to the special training
of teachers, such as it is, should not be dismissed as
mere obscurantism or prejudice. It is based partly on
a very wholesome sense of the primary importance and
effectualness of a liberal education as a preparation for


290 Common Sense in Education

any profession ; it is a protest against the excessive speci-
alisation which makes men one-eyed and one-
tion to the sided. If a liberal education is the chief thing
training of necessary in any walk of life, it is most indu-
teachers is bitably indispensable to those who are to teach
others how to walk through life, more necessary


than any other part of their equipment. And
a teacher's information must not be wide only, but exact
as well ; for as R. L. Stevenson said, "a man must be
very sure of his knowledge ere he undertakes to guide a
ticket-of-leave man through a dangerous pass". Any
scheme that affects to give a teacher the power of teaching
others something that he does not himself know, which
is the definition of training once scornfully propounded
by a supercilious and badly informed critic, is self-
condemned ; only this same critic had not conceived of
a system which required the aspirant to get something
approaching exact knowledge of the object as well as of
the subject of instruction. It is emphatically true that
one of the first qualifications for teaching well is a liberal
education, and that nothing will take its place. But that
is not the only equipment necessary.

Something further is to be said for the view which
Primary deprecates the general systematic training of
teachers' secondary teachers for their profession. There
greater need are different grades of teaching, the result not
of training o f mere c j ass prejudice or selfish political
action, but of hard social and economical facts ; we may,
we ought to, do what we can to attenuate distinctions,
but we cannot ignore them. The primary teachers, in
comparison with their brethren in other grades, labour
under two marked disadvantages which impose upon
them a more pressing need for training. In the first
place, they have had to acquire the liberal foundations

The Making of the Teacher 291

of their own education under all but insuperable diffi-
culties ; a liberal education calls for a certain Because
leisure during adolescence, whereas the young of their own
primary teacher has, for the most part, spent difficulties in
his most strenuous years in earning his living, securing a
The Training College can undo only part of liberaledu '

,. . , cation

the mischief which economic conditions nave
made inevitable. The liberal education of the bulk of
our primary teachers has been therefore a perpetual
struggle against adversity, and can hardly be said to be
uniformly satisfactory in the end. The many examples
of exceptional individuals who have burst the bonds of
circumstance and acquired a cultivation and range of
knowledge which greater leisure could hardly have
augmented serve only to prove the general rule.

The next consideration gives a dubious force to the
arguments of the few who oppose the training ,* Because
of teachers for the secondary and higher much of the
grades. An inferior teacher may safely be work of
entrusted with work in the secondary grade, Secondai 7
whereas in the primary, if the best effects are
to be secured, none but the best teaching is curriculum
good enough. We tend to forget the extreme and environ-
importance and effectualness of curriculum ment
and environment. In a real secondary school the range
of the subjects of instruction gives a proper place to
Language, to genuine Mathematics, to History, in
short, to the " humanities " ; and pupils have the neces-
sary leisure to work by themselves, enjoying at the
same time an environment that of itself civilises and
expands. In such a school, therefore, a vast amount
of educating work is done by pure curriculum and en-
vironment ; and the teacher may be, and he often is,
entirely lacking in the technical knowledge needed to

292 Common Sense in Education

make a very little opportunity go a very long way.
Now this last need is just the peculiar and ever-present
problem that confronts and is successfully tackled by
his brother in the National or Board school ; who,
manipulating an inevitably starved curriculum, dealing
with children often demoralised by home surroundings
and street experiences, struggling against such most
depressing circumstances as the spasmodic attendance
and physical incapacity of his scholars, labours from
morn till night to turn out good citizens turn them
out straight from the school into the work of making
a living. The primary teachers, and it may be added,
those who administer the primary system, are compelled
by economic facts to make their bricks with the smallest
modicum of straw. From such difficulties the teacher in
the higher schools is relieved by the automatic virtues
of a richer curriculum and more civilising surroundings ;
so that the primary teacher must be taught to do what
is already done for his brother by " the nature of things ".
He should therefore be a better man, better educated
and better trained. He should know better how to
economise teaching force and how to get a great deal
done in a very short time ; he must have a better know-
ledge of the mistakes recorded in history because he
cannot trust to time to undo any he may commit him-
self; he must have reasoned schemes and technical
devices where his brother can rely for help on a hun-
dred other influences of curriculum and society. In
short, he must be a better man.

But neither of these considerations proves that the
teacher of the higher schools is in no need of training ;
they prove merely that an untrained teacher does less
harm in a secondary than he would in a primary school ;
and they explain in some measure the disinclination

The Making of the Teacher 293

sometimes shown to admit the need for the training of
secondary teachers. Yet most secondary teachers begin
their career as Mr. Micawber began the practice of the
law. He was well acquainted with the law, as a de-
fendant ; they are well acquainted with teaching, because
they have been taught.

Before proceeding farther it may be frankly laid down
that no one who has had any real acquaintance with
the procedure of training, even on such generally un-
satisfactory lines as those which obtain in this country,
and who has had the opportunity of seeing what training
can do for the ordinary person, has ever doubted the
efficacy of the process. And when critics point to them-
selves and say that they were never trained and have yet
done pretty well, they are certainly open to the retort
that they might conceivably have been the better for

The fact is that training at least enables a teacher
to teach all that he knows, to turn all his wares to profit.
The untrained teacher may or may not be so effective ;
as a rule a good deal of at least his earlier work is
wasteful and unnecessarily exhausting.

Let us see what can be done for the teacher, and

The first necessity is to be sure that the natural
aptitudes and sympathy are not lacking. A Natural apti .
sympathetic imagination and a taste for teach- tude the first
ing are the gifts of Providence, not to be con- necessary
ferred, though they may certainly be improved, <i ualification
by study and practical training. The fact is that a teacher
is both born and made. On the other hand, it is diffi-
cult to discover the aptitude unless the candidate is
brought into actual contact with the problems of teach-
ing a pupil or pupils in the flesh; and this fact is a

294 Common Sense in Education

sufficient reason, if there were no other, for some sort of
modified probation or apprenticeship. At all events, no
one ought to enter definitively on the career of a teacher
before he is well assured that he possesses the chief
constitutional qualities that make for success.

He must next have a good liberal education, such an
Next, a education as will enable him to make a just
jiberai edu- survey of the field which he is to deal with, in
cation j|- s double aspect, of character and intelligence

to cultivate and of material to be used in instruction.
He must certainly not be a mere specialist, informed
in his own " subject" alone. However willing such a
teacher may be to listen to the claims of other "subjects,"
he is yet liable to the danger of attaching an excessive
importance to the study over which he has spent his own
absorbing endeavours. It is, in fact, one of the duties of
the trained teacher, aided by the man in the street who has
himself had a liberal education, to prevent the domineer-
ing of the specialist ; and a man will teach a " special"
subject all the better if he has been subjected to the
moderating and widening influence of a good liberal

It must be remembered that what we have to say here
The quaiifi- Applies mainly to the general preparation for
cations and such duties as are usually discharged by the
place of the form-master. The tendency to distribute
form-master stuc jies amongst specialist teachers is very
much to be regretted, for it necessarily limits the area
which the form-master controls ; and yet it has even
been suggested that " English" should be taught by a
specialist. It ought to be clear that until pupils have
advanced a considerable distance, it is most undesirable
to divide up the direction of their work in several hands,
if only because they thus lose the advantage of the

The Making of the Teacher 295

consistency of treatment which is secured by the form-
master's interest in individuals.

A form-master ought, then, to be an all-round man ; or,
at least, his education should not have been specialised
too narrowly. If he has been, as he should have been, a
member of a university, he will almost certainly have
ultimately followed some favourite line of study in par-
ticular detail, but it may be taken for granted that the
more general and " humanistic " the foundation of his
studies has been, the better qualified will he find himself
for the management of a form. We need not dispute,
what is now often enough maintained, that a liberal

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 22 24 25

Online LibraryPercy Arthur BarnettCommon sense in education and teaching; an introduction to practice → online text (page 22 of 25)