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time, we have the results of the extension of the finest culture
of mind to the whole free population of a state. Of formal
teaching and learning there was comparatively little, except the
memorizing of Homer and other poets in the schools ; the new
science of mathematics seems to have taken its name from the
fact that it was the first hranch of knowledge that was not picked
up — like reading, writing, grammar, politics, the arts — from one's
fellow-citizens, from being at the theatre, or from the daily con-
templation of great works of art, the sight of inscriptions, &c. ;
but needed to be learned by direct and formal application. Yet
their intellectual education was perfect ; no accumulations of
knowledge or improvement of methods have enabled any
people or class to attain a higher or more balanced cultivation of
the mind. But they lacked moral balance and self-restraint, and
so became the victims of their own cleverness, as Socrates sav/
and told them.

If the New Testament teaching be true, both these opposite
methods were right and capable of being united, because there
is in man a higher or spiritual nature which education is to
awaken into life and call forth into activity and vigor ; while
there is also in man a lower or animal nature, by which he must
not be governed, and which must be brought under restraint
and discipline.

§ 333. The Roman inherited the Greek method of education,
but never gave such prominence to it. The Greek governments
were systems of education ; Roman education was a branch of
the civil service. The great university of Alexandria, the
Muitseion, was not only cherished by the new rulers, but repro-
duced in other chief cities, especially by the Athenaeum at
Rome. In lesser places, what we might call colleges, professional
chairs and schools were founded, and considerable zeal displayed
for the education of the higher class of citizens. But the learn-
ing chiefly cultivated had no relation to the practical life of the
times. Much time, fur instance, was given to rhetoric and
oratory, although all real use of these had disappeared with the
cessation of free popular assemblies.


In the Byzantine Empire this Imperial system was perpetuated
down to the capture of Constantinople without the slightest
change even in the text-hooks. Except during the brief period
when Julian forbade the Christians to use the old classics, no
Christian literature of any sort was admitted to the schools of
the Eastern Empire, and the use of the Scriptures in such a
place would have been deemed sacrilege.

In the west, Karl the Great sought to trace out and revive the
old imperial foundations throughout his empire, and the monastic
schools at Fulda, Aachen, St. Gall, and other places, were prob-
ably the perpetuation of his efforts. More important still was
the schola- pahtina, or court school, which he made an adjunct of
his household, and which became a tradition of the royal court of
France. It was afterwards transplanted to the new capital, Paris,
and it enjoyed the service of many able men. such as John
Scotus Erigena, who came over from Ireland, then the land of
Christian schools and Christian learning. Karl adopted as the
basis of instruction in the higher schools the system or classifica-
tion of Boethius, in which all learning was divided into the
seven liberal arts, of which three (the trieium) were taught in
the higher classes, and four (the quadrioium) in the lower.
Hence the phrase "Master of Arts." In the lower schools
reading, writing, arithmetic and singing were taught. This
classification lasted till the revival of classical learning.

Out of the court school, or the ecclesiastical school which
succeeded it, grew the University of Paris, the mother and
mistress of all European universities, except Bologna and Oxford,
whose possession made France in the earlier Middle Ages the
Kingdom of the University, as Italy was the Kingdom of the
Holy See, and Germany that of the Holy Roman Empire. The
rise of the University was so very gradual that the steps can
hardly be traced, but at the time when Abadard was drawing
tens of thousands of pupils to Paris to hear him expound the
scholastic philosophy, and partly perhaps through his grea( suc-
cess, the University had taken a distinct shape, which was
chiefly changed by the division of the professors into separate


" faculties," and the students into "nations," and this formed
the model after which others were erected in Bohemia, Germany,
Spain and Scotland. These institutions were hardly instruments
of popular education. They attracted, indeed, an immense body
of students to a few great centres of culture ; we read of forty
thousand at the University of Oxford. But their object was to
form a learned class, not to reach the whole people. He who
received it betook himself to a new sort of life ; he did not go
to the schools to learn what would fit him to fill his place in the
class in which he was born, but to leave that class and enter
another. It was a training for grown men, not for children.
Only monastic schools were open to the latter in the earlier
Middle Ages ; and when others were established they were
chiefly preparatory to the universities, and imparted a highly
abstract and artificial training in a very tiresome and inadequate
way. They were generally trivial schools in which were taught
the arts of grammar, music and arithmetic, i. e., the Latin
grammar of Donatus, the psalms and hymns of the Missal and
their ordinary tuues, and the elements of computation. The
only Latin literature read was the distichs of Cato and a Latin
version of iEsop's Fables; but in course of time, the Catechism
(i. e., the Creed, the Lord's Prayer and the Decalogue) were
added. Even with the revival of the study of classic learning,
no change was made in these schools. Luther went to school
under one of the new Humanists, but read nothing of the new
literature until he went to the University.

§ 334. To the Reformation, and especially to Luther, popular
education owes a very great impulse. In some sense we may say
that it began at that date. The claim put forth that the Bible
should become the people's book, and the efforts to circulate the
new translations of it, as well as other edifying books, involved,
as a correlative, a general effort to make the new literature ac-
cessible to the common people by a general diffusion of know-
ledge. But Luther aimed at diffusiug a national education that
should be truly such. In his appeals to the German cities, urg-
ing them to set up good schools — " not such as have been hereto-


fore, where a lad learned at his Donatus and his Alexander for
twenty or may be thirty years, but never learned them " — he
especially pleads for the general study of letters — " good poets
and histories," — and for the formation of city libraries of all
sorts of good books as the complement of the school system.
He would have the chronicles of their own country hold a promi-
nent place in these collections. He would thus provide not only
a competent body of educated men for the service of church and
state, but also " a plenty of fine, learned, rational, honorable,
well-brought-up citizens," as " the best and costliest possession
of a city:"

The Calvinistic Reformers laid still greater stress upon know-
ledge and intelligence, as needful for every true Christian. It
was their ideal to see the Bible in the hands of a community
competent to understand it. In Switzerland, Germany, Holland
and France, they carried out this principle with great thorough-
ness, but nowhere more completely than in Scotland. Knox
aud his associates and successors worked for the establishment
and endowment of English and Latin schools, and the improve-
ment of the universities, as zealously as for the establishment of
the Reformed doctrines. In spite of some temporary defeats,
they carried their point, and the Scotch became a far better
educated and more intelligent people than their richer neighbors
at the other end of the island. In England the Reformation
was a measure carried through by the government and the aris-
tocracy ; it was not so democratic in its character, and it af-
fected but slightly the economic condition of the people. The
agitation for a plan of popular education, to reach and provide
for the most numerous class — as the higher and middle classes
have been provided for by old foundations and private schools —
has hardly been mooted there till within the present century.
The first appropriation of money for the purpose was the vote
of £100,000 in 1847, and only in our own times has there been
adopted a plan of national education large enough to reach the
whole people. It has, of course, been opposed, (1) by some
few consistent free traders, like Herbert Spencer; (2) by those


religionists who regard education as a spiritual function and deny
the power of the state to exercise such functions ; and (3) by
those who object to the existing law, because it takes under gov-
ernment patronage the various Church schools that are already

Ireland has had au excellent national school system for a good
many years past, whose eifects in the dissemination of intelli-
gence forbid us to ascribe the poverty of her people to igno-
rance. They take rank above the English in this respect.

Our chief authorities for the history of education in the old world are
Prof. Franz Hoffmann's Idea of a University (translated and published
in the Perm Monthly for October, 1872); Prof. F. D. Maurice's Lectures
on National Education (London, 1839), and his Learning and Working
(London, 1855); and Karl Jiirgeu's Luther's Leben (Leipsic, 1846).

§ 335. American education was begun by the churches, and
the higher institutions of learning nearly all originated with the
ecclesiastical bodies, as most of them are still under their control.
The University of Pennsylvania was, through the influence of
Franklin, perhaps the first to arise without formal connection
with the churches. The colleges and academies of the New
England States, and of districts settled from New England, were
chiefly modelled after Harvard and Yale, and drew their teachers
from those mother institutions and their daughters. Those of
the Middle and many of the Western States may commonly be
traced to the educational efforts of the Presbyterian clergy from
the north of Ireland and from Scotland. The Puritan and
Presbyterian elements have been the chief agencies in our higher
educational system, and in both cases the interest and the motive
was ecclesiastical. Religion, it would appear, was the only force
at work in American society at large that was strong enough to
overcome the American passion for money-making, to insist on
the excellence of a liberal education, and thus to cherish the
love of learning and of science till it grew strong enough to
stand alone. Only in our own days have institutions of the same
character been endowed in a few places by the state govern-

§ 336. Schools for popular education were very early estab-


lished in nearly all of the colonies. Especially in Pennsylvania
the Society of Friends was most zealous in establishing elementary
schools, and in imparting to all within their reach the elements
of a good English education. At their schools in this city many
who were not of their body received "their training, and it is very
largely to the influence of the Quaker element thus exerted that
the Commonwealth owes the solid sense and practical sagacity
of its best and most influential elements. But the system of state
education originated in New England, and has only been ex-
tended to other parts of the country within the memory of per-
sons now living, and to the South only since the recent war.
The progress of the system has been very rapid, and it is now
recognised as a universally established principle that the state is
responsible for the existeuce of illiteracy and of the crimes and
violences that flow from ignorance. The system is opposed (1)
by a very few consistent free traders, like the late Gerritt
Smith ; and (2) by some religious bodies, which regard educa-
tion as a spiritual function inhering in the church.

Less can be said for the quality than the quantity of the edu-
cation given by our public schools. Indeed we cannot too
heartily recognise the fact that education is yet in an experi-
mental stage among us, and that beyond the clear duty of teach-
ing a few of the first and plainest elements of learning, every-
thing else is open to question. We have too often forgotten that
education is a means merely, a very flexible means to any end
that we have in view, and that we must first fix the end by care-
ful reflection and then with equal care adjust the means to the
end. Education has been talked of as if there were something
magical in the contact of a young mind with a series of school
books and of teachers. But the magical results have not been

Especially the notion that education — the imparting of know-
ledge and the discipline of the intellect — was of itself sufficient
to abolish all crime, has received a decided refutation. There
is indeed a limited amount of truth in this notion. Crimes of
violence, for instance, as Henry Holbeach says, very commouly


grow out of the imperfect communication of ideas and feelings
between uneducated people. Their heartburnings " are born of
imperfect intelligence of each other in dilemmas of conscience
or affection, upon which such poor means of utterance as they
have are thrown away." Hence we speak of quarrelling persons,
if they be reconciled, as coming to an understanding.

There is also in the discipline of the school-room, its required
order, cleauliuess and self-restraint, a powerful moral training
for the young, if the teacher be equal to the task. And even
the mere power to read, in the great preponderance of good
literature over bad, and the great prominence of the best of books
in modern society, is pretty sure to do far more good than evil
to its possessors, taken as a whole.

Yet our excellent fellow-citizen, Mr. Joseph R. Chandler,
gives it as the result of his fourteen years' devotion to the
cause of prison-discipline, "that learning has little or nothing
to do with preventing or promoting crime, however it may influ-
ence the character of the act. . . . While in the lowest order
of crime I may have found more unlettered than lettered crimi-
nals, I have found the former more amenable to gentle moral
dealing than the latter were." But this generalization is not
based upon a comparison of two societies of different degrees of
intelligence, or two stages of intelligence of the same society,
and is, therefore, hardly justified. Indeed, the fact last alleged
in its support, and which Mr. Chandler's authority puts beyond
question, points to exactly the opposite conclusion. The edu-
cated criminal is more hardened, because his fall has been
greater: he "sinned against light," and that light of his intelli-
gence was one of the deterrent forces that might have held him
back. The more and the stronger those forces, the greater the
fall, and the more hardening its effect upon the character. Con-
science, however, uutil enlightened by intelligence, is a mere
and not a true guide in life. It has been, when un-



enlightened, the source of a great multitude of crimes against
humanity. There are, indeed, cases in which education has been
so abstractly intellectual, so devoid of all moral drift and tone,


that the conscience has been almost suppressed. But education
may easily be made, or rather can hardly help being made, veiy
different from that, — can never be truly national, truly in ac-
cordance with the very first notion of the state, without being
very different.

§ 337. Without discussing in detail the merits and defects of
our present systems, we shall seek to discover what idea is
rightly conveyed by the term national education. This term
carries us back to the idea of the state as the institution of
rights, and as distinguishable into three departments of national
activity, — the jural estate, the culture state and the industrial
state. Manifestly the second of these now engrosses attention,
whereas we hitherto have been chiefly considering the third. A
national education, then, is (1) one that develops in the man the
intellectual powers and capacities that fit him to understand the
ideas and the truths that are the common possession of his fel-
low-citizens, and that fits him to act with at least that degree of
mental freedom that his nation has attained. (2) It is one that
impresses upon him the characteristics of an upright and good
citizen, a man of public spirit, and a devoted patriot, and that
fits him to exercise such political powers as are intrusted to him
by the constitution of his country. (3) It is one that gives him
such general instruction, and offers him the opportunity to ac-
quire such special training, as will fit him for his special profes-
sion, calling or industry, and will enable him to pursue it in the
most effective manner.

§ 338. Firstly, education to fit a man for his position in the
culture state will have reference to the rank in knowledge, in-
sight and mental power possessed by his own nation. The pub-
lic schools of China or Japan should not give lessons in German
philosophy, or in the English language, or any language but
their own. Even the intellectual growth of a nation is chiefly
from within, and the attempt to import a foreign culture by
wholesale, can only result in crushing out that which is of native
growth, and in retarding the normal progress of the people.
It will merely root out the native plants, and substitute a hortus


siccus of dry and dead specimens, without sap or root. For every
country possesses a certain average of intelligence, and has at-
tained a certain stage in the great historical march of the human
spirit from childish subjection to manly freedom. And as the
nature of that march is governed by the historical constitution
and course of nature, each country must take the next step for-
ward before it can take any subsequent step, — must start from
the position that it now occupies, and build upon the foundation
that it has already laid.

Mr. Palgrave, the English art critic, for instance, expressed his fears
that Japanese art will be stopped in its natural course of development,
through the imitation of foreign models.

The language and literature of each country are at once the
perfect expression of the degree and quality of its culture, and
the means of education in conformity with that. The sure
foundation of all national education, on its national side, is the
study of the native speech, through books that record it in its
highest and purest forms. But text-books that give only the
result of such studies, and teach nothing of their method, such
as spelling books, school dictionaries, grammars, manuals of
etymology, and the like, are not educational instruments in any
true sense. They impart information, without impartingdiscipline;
they give no impulse, save in a very few cases, to the further pur-
suit of the same studies, but rather weary and disgust the student.
They do not render the service that all rightly directed study of
a lano-uasre through its literature will render, in training the
judgment to decide between greater and lesser probabilities, by
the problems it presents as to the meaning and connection of
words. They give rather a phantasm of knowledge about words,
a mass of definitions and statements, than an actual acquaintance
with words in their living uses. They are more likely to hide
from the student than to declare to him the wonder and beauty
of the language, as a work of art at once human and divine, as
the result of a great process of education, by which men were
led on from the sense perception of things material, to the appre-
hension of the more real and less tangible verities of life.


The study of another than the native language, especially of
a language of the same family but of earlier date, gives a great ad-
vantage, in enabling the student to compare and contrast the two,
and suggests to him open secrets that would otherwise have es-
caped him. Hence the great use made of Greek and Latin in the
higher education, one of which gives the most perfect illustration
of the living force of words, the other of the laws of their govern-
ment, and both correspond to earlier stages in the world's intellec-
tual development. Both have been subjected to an analysis by
great scholars that has extended over centuries, and are therefore
provided with an apparatus of study the most complete possible.

But these studies cannot be introduced into our public schools
generally, chiefly because their curriculum of study is not pro-
tracted to years in which these could be effectively pursued.
The best substitute attainable in those schools, is that of our
own language in its earlier stages, as presented, let us say, by the
great English classics from Chaucer to Milton. That literature
is as much the heritage of the American as of the English people ;
while un-American elements may be traced in all the great
writers of the following centuries, those earlier masters are free
from them. And they furnish a long series of noble books,
which embalm the wisdom and the excellency of lives not less
noble. With wise guidance, and not too elaborate an apparatus for
their study, the scholar might learn from them at once the method
of studying words and their history, and the personal friendship
for great authors, that constitutes a large part of the truest culture.
But mere volumes of extracts, however excellent for some pur-
poses, will not answer here ; they prevent the study of literary
works as artistic wholes ; they do not ordinarily give a full ex-
hibit of the state of the language at any one era ; and they cul-
tivate the habit of dipping into books rather than continuous

There is another language, not national but universal, address
ing itself not to the understanding but the heart of man — touch-
ing fibres of his human nature too fine to vibrate to ordinary
language, — fibres that lie closer to his very self and deeper than


his ordinary self. Music should, in the opinion of Plato and
Milton, form a part of human education ; and the general sense
of mankind has assigned it a very large place in the great up-
lifting process which we call civilization. The hold which it
has taken upon the working classes in our own days, especially
in England, its power to elevate and refine, to harmonize and
humanize, to remind men of the ideal to which all worthy life
is ever striving, to cheer them with far-off glimpses of it amid
the sordiduess of the actual, all confirm this high estimate of the
human use and worth of music as an educating force. What-
ever danger there may be in an excessive devotion to it, it
should be made a subject of universal training, and its introduc-
tion into our public schools, though something late, is a most
excellent revival of what was once a study practised in every

Mathematical science, in contrast to language, represents the
most general form of intellectual culture; it calls forth and disci-
plines the reason, the universal intellectual power, which belongs
toman as man, and apprehends not probabilities but certain and
unquestionable truth. Arithmetic, geometry, algebra, have in
modern times held a high place in education. In our schools
arithmetic is not taught thoroughly, because after a slight amount
of instruction in the pure science, the student's attention is
diverted to its application to commercial computations. A more
thorough discipline in the analysis of number would be of far
more use even in practical life than these rules and methods,
which are mostly obsolete in our counting-houses. Geometry, for
the same reason that too much heed is given to what is thought
practical, is either entirely omitted, or is postponed till after the
student has mastered the more difficult subject of algebra.

The physical sciences are a means of education only when pur-

Online LibraryRobert Ellis ThompsonSocial science and national economy → online text (page 36 of 38)