Story type: Essay
PLANS FOR THE INSTRUCTION OF BOYS IN LARGE NUMBERS.
(April and May, 1824.)
This is the work of a very ingenious man, and records the most original experiment in Education which in this country at least has been attempted since the date of those communicated by the Edgeworths. We say designedly ‘in this country;’ because to compare it with some continental schemes which have been only recently made known to the English public (and not fully made known even yet) would impose upon us a minute review of those schemes, which would be, first, disproportionate to our limits–secondly, out of its best situation, because it would be desirable to examine those schemes separately for the direct purpose of determining their own absolute value, and not indirectly and incidentally for the purpose of a comparison. The Madras system, again, is excluded from the comparison–not so much for the reason alleged (pp. 123-5), by the author before us–as though that system were essentially different from his own in its purpose and application: the purpose of the Madras system is not exclusively economy of expense, but in combination with that purpose a far greater accuracy (and therefore reality) in the knowledge communicated than could be obtained on the old systems; on this account therefore the possible application of the Madras system is not simply to the education of the poor, though as yet the actual application of it may have been chiefly to them, but also to the education of the rich; and in fact it is well known that the Madras system (so far from being essentially a system for the poor) has been adopted in some of the great classical schools of the kingdom. The difference is more logically stated thus–that the Madras system regards singly the quality of the knowledge given, and (with a view to that) the mode of giving it: whereas the system, which we are going to review, does not confine its view to man as a being capable of knowledge, but extends it to man as a being capable of action, moral or prudential: it is therefore a much more comprehensive system. The system before us does not exclude the final purpose of the Madras system: on the contrary, it is laudably solicitous for the fullest and most accurate communication of knowledge, and suggests many hints for the attainment of that end as just and as useful as they are enlightened. But it does not stop here: it goes further, and contemplates the whole man with a reference to his total means of usefulness and happiness in life. And hence, by the way, it seems to us essential–that the whole child should on this system be surrendered to the school; i. e. that there should be no day-scholars; and this principle we shall further on endeavour to establish on the evidence of a case related by the author himself. On the whole therefore we have designedly stated our general estimate of the author’s system with a reference to that of the Edgeworths; not only because it has the same comprehensiveness of object, and is in some degree a further expansion of their method and their principles; but also because the author himself strikingly resembles the Edgeworths in style and composition of mind; with this single difference perhaps, that the good sense and perception of propriety (of what in French would be called les convenances), which in both is the characteristic merit (and, when it comes into conflict with any higher quality, the characteristic defect),–in him is less coloured by sarcastic and contemptuous feelings; which in all cases are unamiable feelings, and argue some defect of wisdom and magnanimity; but, when directed (as in the Edgeworths they sometimes are) against principles in human nature which lie far beyond the field of their limited philosophy, recoil with their whole strength upon those who utter them. It is upon this consideration of his intellectual affinity with the Edgeworths that we are the less disposed to marvel at his estimate of their labours: that, for instance, at p. 192 he styles their work on education ‘inestimable,’ and that at p. 122, though he stops short of proposing ‘divine honours’ to Miss Edgeworth, the course of his logic nevertheless binds him to mean that on Grecian principles such honours are ‘due to her.’ So much for the general classification and merits of the author, of whom we know nothing more than–that, from his use of the Scotticisms–‘succumb,’–‘compete,’–and ‘in place of’ for ‘instead of’ he ought to be a Scotchman: now then for his system.
Plans for the Government and Liberal Instruction of Boys in large Numbers; Drawn from Experience. London: 1822. 8vo.]
The distinguishing excellence of the Madras system is not that it lodges in the pupils themselves the functions which on the old systems belong to the masters, and thus at the same blow by which it secures greater accuracy of knowledge gets rid of a great expense in masters: for this, though a great merit, is a derivative merit: the condition of the possibility of this advantage lies in a still greater–viz. in the artificial mechanism of the system by which, when once established, the system works itself, and thus neutralises and sets at defiance all difference of ability in the teachers–which previously determined the whole success of the school. Hence is obtained this prodigious result–that henceforward the blessing of education in its elementary parts is made independent of accident, and as much carried out of the empire of luck as the manufacture of woollens or cottons. That it is mechanic, is no conditional praise (as alleged by the author before us), but the absolute praise of the Madras system: neither is there any just ground of fear, as he and many others have insinuated, that it should injure the freedom of the human intellect. ]
We have since found that we have not room for it; the case is stated and argued in the Appendix (pp. 220-227); but in our opinion not fairly argued. The appellant’s plea was sound, and ought not to have been set aside. [At the end of the Paper I have restored this ‘CASE OF APPEAL’ from the original work.–H.] ]
Of this we may judge by two criteria–experimentally by its result, or a priori by its internal aptitude for attaining its ends. Now as to the result, it must be remembered that–even if the author of any system could be relied on as an impartial witness to its result–yet, because the result of a system of education cannot express itself in any one insulated fact, it will demand as much judgment to abstract from any limited experience what really is the result as would have sufficed to determine its merits a priori without waiting for any result. Consequently, as it would be impossible to exonerate ourselves from the necessity of an elaborate act of judgment by any appeal to the practical test of the result–seeing that this result would again require an act of judgment hardly less elaborate for its satisfactory settlement than the a priori examination which it had been meant to supersede,–we may as well do that at first which we must do in the end; and, relying upon our own understandings, say boldly that the system is good or bad because on this argument it is evidently calculated to do good or on that argument to do evil, than blindly pronounce–it is good or it is bad, because it has produced–or has failed of producing–such and such effects; even if those effects were easy to collect. In fact, for any conclusive purpose of a practical test, the experience is only now beginning to accumulate: and here we may take occasion to mention that we had ourselves been misinformed as to the duration of the experiment; for a period of four years, we were told, a school had existed under the system here developed: but this must be a mistake, founded perhaps on a footnote at p. 83 which says–‘The plan has now been in operation more than four years:’ but the plan there spoken of is not the general system, but a single feature of it–viz. the abolition of corporal punishment: in the text this plan had been represented as an immature experiment, having then ‘had a trial of nine months’ only: and therefore, as more than three years nine months had elapsed from that time to the publication of the book, a note is properly added declaring that the experiment had succeeded, and that the author could ‘not imagine any motive strong enough to force him back to the old practice.’ The system generally however must have existed now (i. e. November 1823) for nearly eight years at the least: so much is evident from a note at p. 79, where a main regulation of the system is said to have been established ‘early in 1816.’ Now a period of seven or eight years must have been sufficient to carry many of the senior pupils into active life, and to carry many of the juniors even into situations where they would be brought into close comparison with the pupils of other systems. Consequently, so much experience as is involved in the fact of the systems outliving such a comparison–and in the continued approbation of its founder, who is manifestly a very able and a conscientious man,–so much experience, we say, may be premised for the satisfaction of those who demand practical tests. For ourselves, we shall abide rather in our valuation of the system by the internal evidence of its composition as stated and interpreted by its author. An abstract of all that is essential in this statement we shall now lay before our readers.
What is the characteristic difference, in the fewest possible words, of this system as opposed to all others? We nowhere find this stated in a pointed manner: the author has left it rather to be collected from his general exposition; and therefore we conceive that we shall be entitled to his thanks by placing it in a logical, if possible in an antithetic, shape. In order to this, we ask–what is a school? A school is a body of young persons more or less perfectly organised–which, by means of a certain constitution or system of arrangements (A), aims at attaining a certain object (B). Now in all former schemes of education this A stood to B the positive quantity sought in the relation of a logical negative (i. e. of a negation of quantity = ), or even of a mathematic negative (i. e. of-x):–but on this new system of the author before us (whom, for the want of a better name, we shall call the Experimentalist) A for the first time bears to B the relation of a positive quantity. The terms positive and negative are sufficiently opposed to each other to confer upon our contradistinction of this system from all others a very marked and antithetic shape; and the only question upon it, which arises, is this–are these terms justified in their application to this case? That they are, will appear thus:–Amongst the positive objects (or B) of every school, even the very worst, we must suppose the culture of morals to be one: a mere day-school may perhaps reasonably confine its pretensions to the disallowance of anything positively bad; because here the presumption is that the parents undertake the management of their children excepting in what regards their intellectual education: but, wherever the heads of a school step into the full duties of a child’s natural guardians, they cannot absolve themselves from a responsibility for his morals. Accordingly, this must be assumed of course to exist amongst the positive objects of every boarding-school. Yet so far are the laws and arrangements of existing schools from at all aiding and promoting this object, that their very utmost pretension is–that they do not injure it. Much injustice and oppression, for example, take place in the intercourse of all boys with each other; and in most schools ‘the stern edict against bearing tales,’ causes this to go unredressed (p. 78): on the other hand, in a school where a system of nursery-like surveillance was adopted, and ‘every trifling injury was the subject of immediate appeal to the supreme power’ (p. 80), the case was still worse. ‘The indulgence of this querulousness increased it beyond all endurance. Before the master had time to examine the justice of one complaint, his attention was called away to redress another; until, wearied with investigation into offences which were either too trifling or too justly provoked for punishment, he treated all complainants with harshness, heard their accusations with incredulity, and thus tended, by a first example, to the re-establishment of the old system.’ The issue in any case was–that, apart from what nature and the education of real life did for the child’s morals, the school education did nothing at all except by the positive moral instruction which the child might draw from his lessons–i. e. from B. But as to A, i. e. the school arrangements, either at best their effect was = 0; or possibly, by capricious interference for the regulation of what was beyond their power to regulate, they actually disturbed the moral sense (i. e. their effect was =-x). Now, on the new system of our Experimentalist, the very laws and regulations, which are in any case necessary to the going on of a school, have such an origin and are so administered as to cultivate the sense of justice and materially to enlarge the knowledge of justice. These laws emanate from the boys themselves, and are administered by the boys. That is to say, A (which on the old system is at best a mere blank, or negation, and sometimes even an absolute negative with regard to B) thus becomes a positive agent in relation to B–i. e. to one of the main purposes of the school. Again, to descend to an illustration of a lower order, in most schools arithmetic is one part of B: now on the new system it is so contrived that what is technically termed calling over, which on any system is a necessary arrangement for the prevention of mischief, and which usually terminates there (i. e. in an effect = 0), becomes a positive means of cultivating an elementary rule of arithmetic in the junior students–and an attention to accuracy in all: i. e. here again, from being simply = 0, A becomes = + x in relation to B. A school in short, on this system, burns its own smoke: The mere negative conditions of its daily goings on, the mere waste products of its machinery, being converted into the positive pabulum of its life and motion. Such then, we affirm, is the brief abstract–antithetically expressed–of the characteristic principle by which the system under review is distinguished from all former systems. In relation to B (which suppose 20 x) A, which heretofore was =-x, or at best = 0, now becomes = + x, or + 2 x, or 3 x, as it may happen. In this lies the merit of the conception: what remains to be inquired–is in what degree, and upon what parts of B, it attains this conversion of A into a positive quantity: and this will determine the merit of the execution. Let us now therefore turn to the details of the book.
The book may be properly distributed into two parts: the first of which from page 1 to page 125 inclusively (comprehending the three first chapters) unfolds and reviews the system: all that remains from page 126 to page 218 inclusively (i. e. to the end)–comprehending four chapters–may be considered as a second or miscellaneous part, treating of some general topics in the business of education, but with a continual reference to the principles laid down in the first part. An appendix, of twenty pages, contains a body of illustrative documents. The first of the three chapters, composing what we have called the first part, is entitled Outline of the System: and, as it is very brief, we shall extract it nearly entire.
‘A schoolmaster being a governor as well as a teacher, we must consider the boys both as a community and as a body of pupils. The principle of our government is to leave, as much as possible, all power in the hands of the boys themselves: To this end we permit them to elect a committee, which enacts the laws of the school, subject however to the veto of the head master. We have also courts of justice for the trial of both civil and criminal causes, and a vigorous police for the preservation of order. Our rewards consist of a few prizes given at the end of each half year to those whose exertions have obtained for them the highest rank in the school; and certain marks which are gained from time to time by exertions of talent and industry. These marks are of two kinds: the most valuable, called premial marks, will purchase a holiday; the others are received in liquidation of forfeits. Our punishments are fine and imprisonment. Impositions, public disgrace, and corporeal pain, have been for some years discarded among us. To obtain rank is an object of great ambition among the boys; with us it is entirely dependent on the state of their acquirements; and our arrangements according to excellence are so frequent–that no one is safe, without constant exertion, from losing his place. The boys learn almost every branch of study in classes, that the master may have time for copious explanations; it being an object of great anxiety with us, that the pupil should be led to reason upon all his operations. Economy of time is a matter of importance with us: we look upon all restraint as an evil, and to young persons as a very serious evil: we are therefore constantly in search of means for ensuring the effective employment of every minute which is spent in the school-room, that the boys may have ample time for exercise in the open air. The middle state between work and play is extremely unfavourable to the habits of the pupil: we have succeeded, by great attention to order and regularity, in reducing it almost to nothing. We avoid much confusion by accustoming the boys to march; which they do with great precision, headed by a band of young performers from their own body.’
‘Premial marks:’ this designation is vicious in point of logic: how is it thus distinguished from the less valuable? ]
‘Our punishments,’ etc. This is inaccurate: by p. 83 ‘disability to fill certain offices’ is one of the punishments. ]
‘Habits!’ habits of what? ]
‘Performers!’ Musical performers, we presume. ]
Such is the outline of the system as sketched by the author himself: to us however it appears an insufficient outline even for ‘the general reader’ to whom it is addressed: without having ‘any intention of reducing the system to practice,’ the most general reader, if he asks for any information at all, will ask for more than this. We shall endeavour therefore to draw up an account of the plan somewhat less meagre, by separating the important from the trivial details. For this purpose we shall begin–1. with the GOVERNMENT of the school; i. e. with an account of the legislative, the executive, and the judicial powers, where lodged–held by what tenure–and how administered. The legislative power is vested in a committee of boys elected by the boys themselves. The members are elected monthly; the boy, who ranks highest in the school, electing one member; the two next in rank another; the three next a third; and so on. The head-master as well as all the under-masters are members by virtue of their office. This arrangement might seem likely to throw a dangerous weight in the deliberations of the ‘house’ into the hands of the executive power, especially as the head-master might pursue Queen Anne’s policy under the Tory ministers–and, by introducing the fencing-master–the dancing-master–the riding-master, etc. under the unconstitutional equivocation of the word ‘teachers,’ carry a favourite measure in the teeth of the patriotic party. Hitherto however the reigning sovereign has shown so laudable a desire to strengthen those checks upon his own authority which make him a limited monarch–that ‘only one teacher has been in the habit of attending the committee’s meetings’ (p. 5): and, where any teacher himself happens to be interested in the question before the house (e. g. in a case of appeal from any decision of his), ‘it has lately been the etiquette’ for that one who does attend to decline voting. Thus we see that the liberty of the subject is on the growth: which is a sure argument that it has not been abused. In fact, as a fresh proof of the eternal truth–that in proportion as human beings are honourably confided in, they will in the gross become worthy of confidence, it will give pleasure to the reader to be informed that, though this committee ‘has the formation of all the laws and regulations of the school (excepting such as determine the hours of attendance and the regular amount of exercises to be performed),’ yet ‘the master’s assent has never even in a single instance been withheld or even delayed.’ ‘I do not remember,’ says Sir William Temple in 1683 to his son, ‘ever to have refused anything you have desired of me; which I take to be a greater compliment to you than to myself; since for a young man to make none but reasonable desires is yet more extraordinary than for an old man to think them so.’ A good arrangement has been adopted for the purpose of combining the benefits of mature deliberation with the vigour and dispatch necessary for sudden emergencies: by a standing order of the committee a week’s notice must be given before a new law can be introduced for discussion: in cases of urgency therefore a sort of orders of council are passed by a sub-committee composed of two principal officers for the time being: these may of course be intercepted in limine by the veto of the master; and they may be annulled by the general committee: in any case they expire in a fortnight: and thus not only is a present necessity met, but also an opportunity gained for trying the effect of a law before it is formally proposed. The executive body, exclusively of its standing members the upper and lower masters, is composed of a sheriff (whose duties are to levy fines imposed by the court of justice, and to imprison on non-payment)–of a magistrate, and of two constables. All these officers are elected every month by the committee immediately after its own election. The magistrate is bound, in conjunction with his constables, to detect all offences committed in the school: petty cases of dispute he decides himself, and so far becomes a judicial officer: cases beyond his own jurisdiction he sends to the attorney-general, directing him to draw an impeachment against the offending party: he also enforces all penalties below a certain amount. Of the judicial body we shall speak a little more at length. The principal officers of the court are the judge who is elected monthly by the committee, and the attorney-general who is appointed at the same time by the master. The court assembles every week: and the jury, consi
sting of six, is ‘chosen by lot from among the whole number of qualified boys:’ disqualifications arise in three ways; on account of holding a judicial office, on account of conviction by the court within the preceding month, and on account of youth (or, what we presume to be tantamount, being ‘in certain lower classes’). The jury choose their own foreman. The attorney-general and the accused party, if the case be penal, and each disputant, if civil, has a peremptory challenge of three, and an unlimited right of challenge for cause. The judge decides upon the validity of the objections. Such is the constitution of the court: its forms of proceeding we cannot state in fewer words than those of the Experimentalist, which we shall therefore quote: ‘The officers of the court and the jury having taken their seats, the defendant (when the cause is penal) is called to the bar by the crier of the court, and placed between the constables. The clerk of the court then reads the indictment, at the close of which the defendant is asked if he object to any of the jury–when he may make his challenges (as before stated). The same question is put to the attorney-general. A short time is then allowed the defendant to plead guilty, if he be so disposed: he is asked no question however that he may not be induced to tell a falsehood: but, in order to encourage an acknowledgment of the fault, when he pleads guilty–a small deduction is made from the penalty appointed by the law for the offence. The consequence is–that at least five out of six of those who are justly accused acknowledge the offence in the first instance. If the defendant be determined to stand his trial, the attorney-general opens the case and the trial proceeds. The defendant may either plead his own cause, or employ a school-fellow as counsel–which he sometimes does. The judge takes notes of the evidence, to assist him in delivering his charge to the jury: in determining the sentence he is guided by the regulations enacted by the committee, which affix punishments varying with the magnitude of the offence and the age of the defendant, but invest the judge with the power of increasing or diminishing the penalty to the extent of one-fourth.’ A copy of the sentence is laid before the master, who has of course ‘the power of mitigation or pardon.’ From the decision of the court there lies an appeal to the committee, which is thus not only the legislative body, but also the supreme court of judicature. Two such appeals however are all that have yet occurred: both were brought by the attorney-general–of course therefore against verdicts of acquittal; and both verdicts were reversed. Fresh evidence however was in both cases laid before the committee in addition to that which had been heard in the court below; and on this as well on other grounds there was good reason to acquit the jury of all partiality. Whilst appeals have thus been so rare from the verdicts of juries, appeals from the decisions of the magistrate, and even from those of the teachers, have been frequent: generally indeed the decisions have been affirmed by the committee; and, when they have been reversed, in all but two cases the reversal has met with the sanction of the teachers as a body. Even in these two (where, by the way, the original decision was only modified and not annulled); the Experimentalist is himself of opinion (p. 12) that the non-concurrence of the teachers may possibly have been owing to a partiality on their side. So far indeed as his experience had then extended, the Experimentalist tells us (p. 79) that ‘one solitary instance only’ had occurred in which the verdict of the jury did not coincide with his own opinion. This judgment, deliberately pronounced by so competent a judge, combined with the entire acquiescence in the verdict of the jury which is argued by the non-existence of any appeals except on the side of the crown (and then only in two instances), is a very striking attestation to the spirit of conscientious justice developed in the students by this confidence in their incorruptible integrity. ‘Great,’ says the Experimentalist, ‘great, but of course unexpressed, anxiety has more than once been felt by us–lest the influence of a leading boy, which in every school must be considerable, should overcome the virtue of the jury: but our fears have been uniformly relieved, and the hopes of the offender crushed, by the voice of the foreman pronouncing, in a shrill but steady tone, the awful word–Guilty!’ Some persons, who hate all innovations, will pronounce all this ‘mummery,’ which is a very compendious piece of criticism. For ourselves, though we cannot altogether agree with the Experimentalist, who seems to build too much on an assumption that nature and increasing intercourse with human life contribute nothing of themselves without any artificial discipline to the evolution and culture of the sense of justice and to the power of the understanding for discovering where justice lies, yet thus much is evident, 1. That the intellectual faculties must be sharpened by the constant habit of discriminating the just and the unjust in concrete cases such as a real experience of life produces; 2. That the moral sense must be deepened, if it were only by looking back upon so large a body of decisions, and thus measuring as it were, by the resistance which they had often overcome arising out of their own immediate interest, the mightiness of the conscientious power within which had compelled them to such decisions; 3. That all sorts of forensic ability is thus cherished; and much ability indeed of larger application: thus the logical faculty of abstracting the essential from the accidental is involved in the summing up of the judge; in the pleadings for and against are involved the rhetorical arts of narrating facts perspicuously–of arranging arguments in the best order of meeting (therefore of remembering) the counter-arguments; of solving sophisms; of disentangling misrepresentations–of weighing the value of probabilities–to say nothing of elocution and the arts of style and diction which even the records of the court and the committee (as is urged at p. 105) must tend to cultivate: 4. (to descend to a humbler use) that in this way the master is absolved from the grievous waste of time in administering justice, which on the old system was always imperfect justice that it might waste but little time, and which yet wasted much time though it was imperfect justice. The author’s own moral of this innovation is as follows (p. 76); and with this we shall leave the subject: ‘We shall be disappointed if the intelligent reader have not already discovered that by the establishment of a system of legislation and jurisprudence wherein the power of the master is bounded by general rules, and the duties of the scholar accurately defined, and where the boys are called upon to examine and decide upon the conduct of their fellows, we have provided a course of instruction in the great code of morality which is likely to produce far more powerful and lasting effects than any quantity of mere precept.’
We now pass to the other characteristics of the new system, which seem to lie chiefly in what relates to economy of time, rewards and punishments, the motives to exertion, and voluntary labour. For, as to the musical performances (which occur more than twenty times a day), we see no practical use in them except that they regulate the marching; and the marching it is said teaches to measure time: and measuring time accurately contributes ‘to the order and celerity with which the various evolutions of the school are performed,’ and also the conquest of ‘serious impediments of speech.’ But the latter case not occurring (we presume) very frequently, and marching accurately not being wholly dependant on music,–it appears to us that a practice, which tends to throw an air of fanciful trifling over the excellent good sense of the system in other respects, would be better omitted. Division into classes again, though insisted on by the Experimentalist (see pp. 290, 291) in a way which would lead us to suppose it a novelty in his own neighbourhood, is next to universal in England; and in all the great grammar schools has been established for ages. All that distinguishes this arrangement in his use of it–is this, that the classes are variable: that is, the school forms by different combinations according to the subject of study; the boys, who study Greek together, are not the same who study arithmetic together. Dismissing therefore these two arrangements as either not characteristic or not laudably characteristic, we shall make a brief exposition of the others. 1. Economy of Time:–‘We have been startled at the reflection’ (says the Experimentalist)–‘that if, by a faulty arrangement, one minute be lost to sixty of our boys, the injury sustained would be equal to the waste of an hour by a single individual.’ Hence, as the Experimentalist justly argues, the use of classes; by means of which ten minutes spent by the tutor in explaining a difficult point to a class of ten boys become equal to 100 minutes distributed amongst them severally. Great improvement in the economising of time was on this system derived from exacting ‘an almost superstitious punctuality’ of the monitor, whose duty it is to summon the school to all its changes of employment by ringing a bell. It is worthy of notice, but to us not at all surprising, that–‘when the duty of the monitor was easy, and he had time for play, the exact moment for ringing the bell was but seldom observed: but when, as the system grew more complex, he was more constantly in requisition, it was found that with increased labour came increased perfection: and the same boy who had complained of the difficulty of being punctual when he had to ring the bell only ten times in the day, found his duty comparatively easy when his memory was taxed to a four-fold amount. It is amusing to see what a living timepiece the giddiest boy will become during his week of office. The succession of monitors gradually infuses a habit, and somewhat of a love of punctuality, into the body scholastic itself. The masters also cannot think of being absent when the scholars are waiting for them: and thus the nominal and the real hours of attendance become exactly the same.’–2. Motives to Exertion.‘After furnishing the pupil with the opportunity of spending his time to the greatest advantage, our next case was to examine how we had supplied him with motives‘ for so spending it (p. 92). These are ranged under five heads,–‘Love of knowledge–love of employment–emulation–hope of reward–and fear of punishment,’–and according to what the Experimentalist rightly thinks ‘their order of excellence.’ The three last, he alleges, are stimuli; and of necessity lose their power by constant use. Love of employment, though a more durable motive, leaves the pupil open to the attractions of any other employment that may chance to offer itself in competition with knowledge. Love of knowledge for its own sake therefore is the mainspring relied on; insomuch that the Experimentalist gives it as his opinion (p. 96) that ‘if it were possible for the pupil to acquire a love of knowledge, and that only during the time he remained at school, he would have done more towards insuring a stock of knowledge in maturer age than if he had been the recipient of as much learning as ever was infused into the passive school-boy’ by any means which fell short of generating such a principle of exertion. We heartily agree with him: and we are further of opinion that this love needs not to be generated as an independent birth previously to our commencing the labour of tuition, but that every system of tuition in proportion as it approaches to a good one will inevitably involve the generation of this love of knowledge concurrently with the generation of knowledge itself. Most melancholy are the cases which have come under our immediate notice of good faculties wholly lost to their possessor and an incurable disgust for literature and knowledge founded to our certain knowledge solely on the stupidity and false methods of the teacher, who alike in what he knew or did not know was incapable of connecting one spark of pleasurable feeling with any science, by leading his pupils’ minds to re-act upon the knowledge he attempted to convey. Being thus important, how shall a love of knowledge be created? According to the Experimentalist, first of all (p. 97–to the word ‘zest’ in p. 107) by combining the sense of obvious utility with all the elementary exercises of the intellect:–secondly (from p. 108–to the word ‘rock’ in p. 114) by matching the difficulties of the learner exactly with his capacity:–thirdly (from p. 114–to the word ‘attention’ in p. 117) by connecting with the learner’s progress the sense of continual success:–fourthly (from p. 117–to the word ‘co-operation’ in p. 121) by communicating clear, vivid and accurate conceptions. The first means is illustrated by a reference to the art of learning a language–to arithmetic–to surveying, and to the writing of ‘themes.’ Can any boy, for instance, reconcile himself to the loathsome effort of learning ‘Propria quae maribus‘ by any [but] the dimmest sense of its future utility? No, we answer with the Experimentalist: and we go farther even than the Experimentalist is disposed to do (p. 98); for we deny the existence of any future utility. We, the reviewer of this book, at eight years of age, though even then passionately fond of study and disdainful of childish sports, passed some of the most wretched and ungenial days of our life in ‘learning by heart,’ as it is called (oh! most ironical misnomer!), Propria quae maribus, ‘Quae genus,’ and ‘As in praesenti,’ a three-headed monster worse than Cerberus: we did learn them ad unguem; and to this hour their accursed barbarisms cling to our memory as ineradicably as the golden lines of AEschylus or Shakspeare. And what was our profit from all this loathsome labour, and the loathsome heap of rubbish thus deposited in the memory? Attend, if you please, good reader: the first professes to teach the irregularities of nouns as to gender (i. e. which nouns having a masculine termination are yet feminine, etc.), the second to teach the irregularities of nouns as to number (i. e. which want the singular, which the plural), the third to teach the irregularities of verbs (i. e. their deviations from the generic forms of the preterite and the supine): this is what they profess to teach. Suppose then their professions realised, what is the result? Why that you have laboriously anticipated a case of anomaly which, if it do actually occur, could not possibly cost more trouble to explain at the time of its occurrence than you are thus premising. This is as if a man should sit down to cull all the difficult cases of action which could ever occur to him in his relations of son, father, citizen, neighbour, public functionary, etc. under the plea that he would thus have
got over the labour of discussion before the case itself arrived. Supposing that this could be accomplished, what would it effect but to cancel a benevolent arrangement of providence by which the difficulties of life are distributed with tolerable equality throughout its whole course, and obstinately to accumulate them all upon a particular period. Sufficient for the day is its own evil: dispatch your business as it arises, and every day clears itself: but suffer a few months of unaudited accounts, or of unanswered letters, to accumulate; and a mountain of arrears is before you which years seem insufficient to get rid of. This sort of accumulation arises in the shape of arrears: but any accumulation of trouble out of its proper place,–i. e. of a distributed trouble into a state of convergement,–no matter whether in the shape of needless anticipation or needless procrastination, has equally the practical effect of converting a light trouble (or none at all) into a heavy and hateful one. The daily experience of books, actual intercourse with Latin authors, is sufficient to teach all the irregularities of that language: just as the daily experience of an English child leads him without trouble into all the anomalies of his own language. And, to return to the question which we put–‘What was our profit from all this loathsome labour?’ In this way it was, viz. in the way of actual experience that we, the reviewer of this book, did actually in the end come to the knowledge of those irregularities which the three elegant poems in question profess to communicate. Mark this, reader: the logic of what we are saying–is first, that, if they did teach what they profess, they would attain that end by an artificial means far more laborious than the natural means: and secondly, that in fact they do not attain their end. The reason of this–is partly the perplexed and barbarous texture of the verse, which for metrical purposes, i. e. to keep the promise of metre to the mere technical scansion, is obliged to abandon all those natural beauties of metre in the fluent connection of the words, in the rhythmus, cadence, caesura, etc. which alone recommend metre as a better or more rememberable form for conveying knowledge than prose: prose, if it has no music, at any rate does not compel the most inartificial writer to dislocate, and distort it into non-intelligibility. Another reason is, that ‘As in praesenti‘ and its companions, are not so much adapted to the reading as to the writing of Latin. For instance, I remember (we will suppose) this sequence of ‘tango tetigi‘ from the ‘As in P.’ Now, if I am reading Latin I meet either with the tense ‘tango,’ or the tense ‘tetigi.’ In the former case, I have no difficulty; for there is as yet no irregularity: and therefore it is impertinent to offer assistance: in the latter case I do find a difficulty, for, according to the models of verbs which I have learned in my grammar, there is no possible verb which could yield tetigi: for such a verb as tetigo even ought to yield tetixi: here therefore I should be glad of some assistance; but just here it is that I obtain none: for, because I remember ‘tango tetigi‘ in the direct order, it is quite contrary to the laws of association which govern the memory in such a case, to suppose that I remember the inverted order of tetigi tango–any more than the forward repetition of the Lord’s prayer ensures its backward repetition. The practical applicability of ‘As in praesenti‘ is therefore solely to the act of writing Latin: for, having occasion to translate the words ‘I touched’ I search for the Latin equivalent to the English word touch–find that it is tango, and then am reminded (whilst forming the preterite) that tango makes not tanxi but ‘tetigi.’ Such a use therefore I might by possibility derive from my long labours: meantime even here the service is in all probability doubly superfluous: for, by the time that I am called on to write Latin at all, experience will have taught me that tango makes tetigi; or, supposing that I am required to write Latin as one of the earliest means for gaining experience, even in that case the very same dictionary which teaches me what is Latin for ‘touch‘ teaches me what is the irregular preterite and supine of tango. And thus the ‘upshot’ (to use a homely word) of the whole business–is that an effort of memory, so great as to be capable otherwise directed of mastering a science, and secondly (because directed to an unnatural composition, viz. an arrangement of metre, which is at once the rudest and the most elaborately artificial), so disgusting as that no accession of knowledge could compensate the injury thus done to the simplicity of the child’s understanding, by connecting pain and a sense of unintelligible mystery with his earliest steps in knowledge,–all this hyperbolical apparatus and machinery is worked for no one end or purpose that is not better answered by a question to his tutor, by consulting his dictionary, or by the insensible progress of daily experience. Even this argument derived from its utter uselessness does not however weigh so much with us as the other argument derived from the want of common-sense, involved in the wilful forestalling and artificial concentrating into one long rosary of anomalies, what else the nature of the case has by good luck dispersed over the whole territory of the Latin language. To be consistent, a tutor should take the same proleptical course with regard to the prosody of the Latin language: every Latin hyperdissyllable is manifestly accentuated according to the following law: if the penultimate be long, that syllable inevitably claims the accent; if short, inevitably it rejects it–i. e. gives it to the ante-penultimate. The determining syllable is therefore the penultimate; and for the due reading of Latin the sole question is about the quantity of the penultimate. According to the logic therefore which could ever have introduced ‘As in praesenti,’ the tutor ought to make his pupils commit to memory every individual word in which the quantity was not predetermined by a mechanical rule–(as it is e. g. in the gen. plural [=o]rum, of the second declension, the [=e]runt of the third per. plurals of the preterite, etc., or the cases where the vowel is long by position). But what man of sense would forbear to cry out in such a case–‘Leave the poor child to his daily reading: practice, under correct tuition, will give him insensibly and without effort all that you would thus endeavour to communicate through a most Herculean exertion.’ Whom has it cost any trouble to learn the accentuation of his own language? How has he learned that? Simply by copying others–and so much without effort, that the effort (and a very great effort) would have been not to copy them. In that way let him learn the quantity of Latin and Greek penultimates. That Edmund Burke could violate the quantity of the word ‘Vectigal’ was owing to his tutor’s ignorance, who had allowed him so to read it; that Lord North, and every other Etonian in the house, knew better–was owing not to any disproportionate effort of memory directed to that particular word, as though they had committed to memory a rule enjoining them to place the accent on the penultimate of the word vectigal: their knowledge no more rested on such an anticipation by express rules of their own experience, than Burke’s ignorance of the quantity on the want of such anticipation; the anticipation was needless–coming from a tutor who knew the quantity, and impossible–coming from a tutor who knew it not. At this moment a little boy (three years old) is standing by our table, and repeatedly using the word mans for men: his sister (five years old), at his age, made the very same mistake: but she is now correcting her brother’
s grammar, which just at this moment he is stoutly defending–conceiving his dignity involved in the assertion of his own impeccability. Now whence came the little girl’s error and its correction? Following blindly the general analogy of the language, she formed her plural by adding an s to the singular: afterwards everybody about her became a daily monitor–a living Propria quae maribus, as she is in her turn to her brother, instructing her that this particular word ‘man‘ swerved, as to this one particular point, from the general analogy of the language. But the result is just as inevitable from daily intercourse with Latin books, as to the parallel anomalies in that language. In proportion as any case of anomaly could escape the practical regulation of such an intercourse, just in that proportion it must be a rare case, and less important to be known: whatsoever the future experience will be most like to demand, the past experience will be most likely to have furnished. All this we urge not against the Eton grammar in particular: on the contrary, as grammars go, we admire the Eton grammar; and love it with a filial partiality from early associations (always excepting, however, the three lead-mines of the Eton grammar, ‘Propria quae maribus,’ etc. of which it is not extravagant to say, that the author, though possibly a good sort of a man in his way, has undoubtedly caused more human suffering than Nero, Robespierre, or any other enemy of the human race). Our opposition is to the general principle, which lies at the root of such treatises as the three we have been considering: it will be observed that, making a proper allowance for the smallness of the print, these three bodies of absurd anticipations of exceptions, are collectively about equal in quantity, and virtually for the effort to the memory far more than equal, to the whole body of the rules contained in the Accidence and the Syntax: i. e. that which exits on account of many thousand cases is put on the same level of value and burthen to the memory, as that which exists on account of itself alone. Here lies the original sin of grammars, the mortal taint on which they all demand regeneration: whosoever would show himself a great artist in the profound but as yet infant art of teaching, should regard all arbitrary taxes upon the memory with the same superstition that a wise lawgiver should regard the punishment of death: the lawgiver, who sets out with little knowledge (and therefore little veneration) of human nature, is perpetually invoking the thunders of the law to compensate the internal weakness of his own laws: and the same spirit of levity disposes inefficient teachers to put in motion the weightiest machinery of the mind for the most trifling purposes: but we are convinced that this law should be engraven on the title page of all elementary books–that the memory is degraded, if it be called in to deliver any individual fact, or any number of individual facts, or for any less purpose than that of delivering a comprehensive law, by means of which the understanding is to produce the individual cases of knowledge wanted. Wherever exceptions or insulated cases are noticed, except in notes, which are not designed to be committed to memory, this rule is violated; and the Scotch expression for particularising, viz. condescending upon, becomes applicable in a literal sense: when the Eton grammar, e. g. notices Deus as deviating in the vocative case from the general law for that declension, the memory is summoned to an unreasonable act of condescension–viz. to load itself almost as heavily for one particular word in one particular case, as it had done by the whole type of that declension (i. e. the implicit law for all words contained under it, which are possibly some thousands). But how then would we have such exceptions learnt, if not by an act of the memory? Precisely, we answer, as the meanings of all the words in the language are learned: how are they learned? They are known, and they are remembered: but how? Not by any act or effort of the memory: they are deposited in the memory from daily intercourse with them: just as the daily occurrences of our lives are recorded in our memories: not through any exertion on our part, or in consequence of previous determination on our parts that we will remember them: on the contrary, we take no pains about them, and often would willingly forget them: but they stay there in spite of us, and are pure depositions, settlings, or sediments, with or without our concurrence, from the stream of our daily experience.–Returning from this long excursus on arbitrary taxations of the memory suggested to us by the mention of ‘Propria quae maribus,’ which the Experimentalist objects to as disgusting to children before they have had experience of the cases in which it furnishes assistance (but which we have objected to as in any case barren of all power to assist), we resume the course of our analysis. We left the Experimentalist insisting on the benefit of directing the studies of children into such channels as that the practical uses of their labours may become apprehensible to themselves–as the first mode of producing a love of knowledge. In some cases he admits that the pupil must pass through ‘dark defiles,’ confiding blindly in his tutor’s ‘assurance that he will at last emerge into light:’ but still contends that in many cases it is possible, and where possible–right, that he should ‘catch a glimpse of the promised land.’ Thus, for example, to construe the language he is learning–is an act of ‘some respectability in his eyes’ and its uses apparent: meantime the uses of the grammar are not so apparent until experience has brought him acquainted with the real cases to which it applies. On this account,–without laying aside the grammar, let him be advanced to the dignity of actual translation upon the very minimum of grammatical knowledge which will admit of it. Again, in arithmetic, it is the received practice to commence with ‘abstract numbers:’ but, instead of risking injury to the child’s intellect and to his temper by thus calling upon him to add together ‘long rows of figures’ to which no meaning is attached, he is taught ‘to calculate all the various little problems which may be constructed respecting his tops and marbles, their price, and their comparative value.’ Here the Experimentalist turns aside for about a page (from ‘while,’ p. 101–to ‘practicable,’ p. 102) to ‘acknowledge his obligations to what is called Mental Arithmetic–that is, calculation without the employment of written symbols.’ Jedediah Buxton’s preternatural powers in this way have been long published to the world, and may now be found recorded in Encyclopaedias: the Experimentalist refers also to the more recent cases of Porson and the American youth Zerah Colborn: amongst his own pupils it appears (p. 54) that this exercise is practised in the morning twilight, which for any other study would not furnish sufficient light: he does not pretend to any very splendid marvels: but the following facts, previously recited at pp. 16 and 17, he thinks may astonish ‘those who have not estimated the combined power of youth, ardour, and practice.’ The lower classes calculate, purely by the mind without any help from pen or pencil, questions respecting interest; determine whether a given year be bissextile or not, etc. etc. The upper classes determine the age of the moon at any given time, the day of the week which corresponds with any day of any month, and year, and Easter Sunday for a given year. They will square any number not exceeding a thousand, extract the square root of a number of not more than five places, determine the space through which a body falls in a given time, the circumference and areas of circles from their diameters, and solve many problems in mensuration: they practise also Mental Algebra, etc. In mental, no less than in written, Arithmetic, ‘by assimilating the questions to those which actually occur in th
e transactions of life,’ the pupil is made sensible that he is rising into the usefulness and respectability of real business. The imitative principle of man is thus made to blend with the motive derived from the sense of utility. The same blended feelings, combined with the pleasurable influences of open air, are relied upon for creating the love of knowledge in the practice of surveying. In this operation so large an aggregate of subsidiary knowledge is demanded,–of arithmetic, for instance–of mensuration–of trigonometry, together with ‘the manual facility of constructing maps and plans,’ that a sudden revelation is made to the pupils of the uses and indispensableness of many previous studies which hitherto they had imperfectly appreciated; they also ‘exercise their discretion in choosing points of observation; they learn expertness in the use, and care in the preservation of instruments: and, above all,–from this feeling that they are really at work, they acquire that sobriety and steadiness of conduct in which the elder school-boy is so often inferior to his less fortunate neighbour, who has been removed at an early age to the accompting-house.’–The value of the sense of utility the Experimentalist brings home forcibly to every reader’s recollections, by reminding him of the many cases in which a sudden desire for self-education breaks out in a few months after the close of an inefficient education: ‘and what,’ he asks, ‘produces the change? The experience, however short, of the utility of acquisitions, which were perhaps lately despised.’ Better then ‘to spare the future man many moments of painful retrospection,’ by educing this sense of utility, ‘while the time and opportunity of improvement remain unimpaired.’ Finally, the sense of utility is connected with the peculiar exercises in composition; ‘a department of education which we confess’ (says the Experimentalist) ‘has often caused us considerable uneasiness;’ an uneasiness which we, on our part, look upon as groundless. For starting ourselves from the same point with the Experimentalist and the authority he alleges–viz. that the matter of a good theme or essay altogether transcends the reflective powers and the opportunities for observing of a raw school-boy,–we yet come to a very different practical conclusion. The act of composition cannot, it is true, create thoughts in a boy’s head unless they exist previously. On this consideration, let all questions of general speculation be dismissed from school exercises: especially questions of moral speculation, which usually furnish the thesis of a school-boy’s essay: let us have no more themes on Justice–on Ambition–on Benevolence–on the Love of Fame, etc.: for all theses such as these, which treat moral qualities as pure abstractions, are stripped of their human interest: and few adults even could write endurably upon such subjects in such a shape; though many might have written very pleasingly and judiciously upon a moral case—i. e. on a moral question in concreto. Grant that a school-boy has no independent thoughts of any value; yet every boy has thoughts dependent upon what he has read–thoughts involved in it–thoughts derived from it: but these he will (caeteris paribus) be more or less able to express, as he has been more or less accustomed to express them. The unevolved thoughts which pass through the youngest–the rudest–the most inexperienced brain, are innumerable; not detached–voluntary thoughts, but thoughts inherent in what is seen, talked of, experienced, or read of. To evolve these, to make them apprehensible by others, and often even to bring them within their own consciousness, is very difficult to most people; and at times to all people: and the power, by which this difficulty is conquered, admits of endless culture: and, amongst the modes of culture, is that of written composition. The true value of this exercise lies in the necessity which it imposes of forming distinct ideas–of connecting them–of disposing them into such an arrangement as that they can be connected–of clothing them in words–and many more acts of the mind: both analytic and synthetic. All that is necessary is–to determine for the young composer his choice of matter: require him therefore to narrate an interesting story which he has formerly read; to rehearse the most interesting particulars of a day’s excursion: in the case of more advanced students, let them read one of the English state trials, where the evidence is of a complex character (as the trials on Titus Oates’s plot), or a critical dissertation on some interesting question, or anything in short which admits of analysis–of abstraction–of expansion–or exhibition in an altered shape. Subjects for all this are innumerable; and, according to the selection made, more or less opportunity is given for collecting valuable knowledge: but this purpose is collateral to the one we are speaking of: the direct purpose is to exercise the mind in unravelling its own thoughts, which else lie huddled and tangled together in a state unfit for use, and but dimly developed to the possessor’s own consciousness.–The three other modes of producing a love of knowledge, which the Experimentalist relies on, viz. the proportioning the difficulties to the capacity of the learner, the pleasure of success, and the communication of clear, vivid, and accurate conceptions, are treated with good sense–but not with any great originality: the last indeed (to speak scholastically) contains the other three eminenter: for he, who has once arrived at clear conceptions in relation to the various objects of his study, will not fail to generate for himself the pleasure of success; and so of the rest. But the power of communicating ‘accurate conceptions’ involves so many other powers, that it is in strictness but another name for the faculty of teaching in general. We fully agree with the Experimentalist (at p. 118), that the tutor would do well ‘to provide himself with the various weights commonly spoken of, and the measures of content and of length; to portion off upon his play-ground a land-chain, a rood,’ etc. to furnish ‘maps’ tracing ‘the routes of armies;’ ‘plates exhibiting the costumes’ of different nations: and more especially we agree with him (at p. 135) that in teaching the classics the tutor should have at hand ‘plates or drawings of ships, temples, houses, altars, domestic and sacred utensils, robes, and of every object of which they are likely to read.’ ‘It is,’ as he says, ‘impossible to calculate the injury which the minds of children suffer from the habit of receiving imperfect ideas:’ and it is discreditable in the highest degree to the majority of good classical scholars that they have no accurate knowledge of the Roman calendar, and no knowledge at all of the classical coinage, etc.: not one out of every twenty scholars can state the relation of the sestertius to the denarius, of the Roman denarius to the Attic drachma, or express any of them in English money. All such defects are weighty: but they are not adequate illustrations of the injury which arises from inaccurate ideas in its most important shape. It is a subject however which we have here no room to enlarge upon.
Indeed an Etonian must in consistency condemn either the Latin or the Greek grammar of Eton. For, where is the Greek ‘Propria quae maribus‘–‘Quae genus‘–and ‘As in praesenti‘? Either the Greek grammar is defective, or the Latin redundant. We are surprised that it has never struck the patrons of these three beautiful Idylls, that all the anomalies of the Greek language are left to be collected from practice. ]
REWARDS AND PUNISHMENTS.–It has already been mentioned that corporal punishments are entirely abolished; and upon the same principle all such disgrace as ‘would destroy self-respect.’ ‘Expulsion even has been resorted to, rather than a boy should be submitted to treatment which might lead himself and his school-fellows to forget that he was a gentleman.’ In this we think the Experimentalist very wise: and precisely upon this ground it was that Mr. Coleridge in his lectures at the Royal Institution attacked Mr. Lancaster’s system, which deviated from the Madras system chiefly in the complexity of the details, and by pressing so cruelly in its punishments upon the principle of shame. ‘Public disgrace’ (as the Experimentalist alleges, p. 83) ‘is painful exactly in proportion to the good feeling of the offender:’ and thus the good are more heavily punished than the bad. Confinement, and certain disabilities, are the severest punishments: but the former is ‘as rare as possible; both because it is attended with unavoidable disgrace’ (but what punishment is wholly free from this objection?) ‘and because, unlike labour, it is pain without any utility’ (p. 183). The ordinary punishments therefore consist in the forfeiture of rewards, which are certain counters obtained by various kinds of merit. These are of two classes, penal (so called from being received as forfeits) and premial, which are obtained by a higher degree of merit, and have higher powers attached to them. Premial counters will purchase holidays, and will also purchase rank (which on this system is of great importance). A conflict is thus created between pleasure and ambition, which generally terminates in favour of the latter: ‘a boy of fourteen, although constantly in the possession of marks sufficient to obtain a holiday per week, has bought but three-quarters of a day’s relaxation during the whole of the last year. The same boy purchased his place on the list by a sacrifice of marks sufficient to have obtained for him twenty-six half-holidays.’ The purchase of rank, the reader must remember, is no way objectionable–considering the means by which the purchase-money is obtained. One chief means is by study during the hours of leisure–i. e. by voluntary labour: this is treated of (rather out of its place) in Chap. VII., which ought to be considered as belonging to the first part of the work, viz. to the exposition of the system. Voluntary labour took its rise from the necessity of furnishing those boys, who had no chance of obtaining rank through their talents, with some other means of distinguishing themselves: this is accomplished in two modes: first, by giving rewards for industry exerted out of school hours, and receiving these rewards as the price of rank; making no other stipulation than one, in addition to its being ‘tolerably well executed’–viz. that it shall be in a state of completion. The Experimentalist comments justly at p. 187, on ‘the mental dissipation in which persons of talent often indulge’ as being ‘destructive beyond what can readily be imagined’ and as leading to ‘a life of shreds and patches.’ ‘We take care’ (says he) ‘to reward no boy for fragments, whatever may be their excellence. We know nothing of his exertions until they come before us in a state of completion.’ Hence, besides gaining the ‘habit of finishing’ in early youth, the boy has an interest also in gaining the habit of measuring his own powers: for he knows ‘that he can receive neither fame nor profit by instalments;’ and therefore ‘undertakes nothing which he has not a rational hope of accomplishing.' A second mode of preventing rank from being monopolised by talents is by flinging the school into various arrangements, one of which is founded on ‘propriety of manners and general good conduct.’
On this point there is however an exception made, which amuses us not a little. ‘In a few instances,’ says the Experimentalist, ‘it has been found or supposed necessary to resent insolence by a blow: but this may be rather called an assertion of private right, than an official punishment. In these cases a single blow has almost always been found sufficient, even the rarity of the infliction rendering severity unnecessary.’ He insists therefore that this punishment (which, we cannot but think, might have been commuted for a long imprisonment) shall not be called a punishment, nor entered on the public records as such: in which case however it becomes a private ‘turn-up,’ as the boxers call it, between the boy and his tutor. ]
The details of the system in regard to the penal and premial counters may be found from pp. 23 to 29. We have no room to extract them: one remark only we must make–that we do not see how it is possible to ascribe any peculiar and incommunicable privileges to the premial as opposed to the penal counters, when it appears that they may be exchanged for each other ‘at an established rate.’ ]
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We have thus gone through a pretty full analysis, and a very accurate one, of the new system as contained in the three first chapters. Of the five miscellaneous chapters, the seventh or last but one (on voluntary labour), has been interwoven with our analysis; and the eighth, which contains a comparison of public and private education, we do not purpose to notice; the question is very sensibly discussed; but it is useless to discuss any question like this, which is a difficult problem only because it is an unlimited problem. Let the parent satisfy himself about the object he has in view for his child, and let him consider the particular means which he has at his disposal for securing a good private education, and he may then determine it for himself. As far as the attainment of knowledge is concerned,–it is always possible to secure a good public education, and not always possible to secure a good private one. Where either is possible indifferently, the comparison will proceed upon more equal grounds: and inquiry may then be made about the child’s destination in future life: for many destinations a public education being much more eligible than for others. Under a perfect indetermination of everything relating to the child–the question is as indeterminable as–whether it is better to go to the Bank through Holborn or through the Strand: the particular case being given, it may then be possible to answer the question; previously it is impossible.—-Three chapters therefore remain, viz.–Chap. IV. on Languages; Chap. V. on Elocution; and Chap. VI. on Penmanship.
Chap. IV. On the best method of acquiring Languages.–The Experimentalist had occasion to observe ‘that, in the Welsh towns which are frequented by the English, even the children speak both languages with fluency:’ this fact, contrasted with the labour and pain entailed upon the boy who is learning Latin (to say nothing of the eventual disgust to literature which is too often the remote consequence), and the drudgery entailed upon the master who teaches Latin,–and fortified by the consideration, that in the former instance the child learns to speak a new language, but in the latter only to read it,–first drew his attention to the natural mode of learning languages, i. e. learning them from daily use. This mode never fails with living languages: but how is it to be applied to dead languages? The Experimentalist retorts by asking what is essential to this mode? Partly the necessity which the pupil is laid under of using the language daily for the common intercourse of life, and partly his hearing it spoken by those who thoroughly understand it. ‘Stimulus to exertion then, and good models, are the great advantages of this mode of instruction:’ and these, he thinks, are secured even for a dead language by his system: the first by the motives to exertion which have already been unfolded; and the second by the acting of Latin dramas (which had been previously noticed in his Exposition of the system). But a third imitation of the natural method he places in the use of translations, ‘which present the student with a dictionary both of words and phrases arranged in the order in which he wants them,’ and in an abstinence from all use of the grammar, until the learner himself shall come to feel the want of it; i. e. using it with reference to an experience already accumulated, and not as an anticipation of an experience yet to come. The ordinary objection to the use of translations–that they produce indolent habits, he answers thus: ‘We teach by the process of construing; and therefore, even with the translation before him, the scholar will have a task to perform in matching the English, word by word, with the language which he is learning.’ For this natural method of learning languages he alleges the authority of Locke, of Ascham, and of Pestalozzi. The best method, with those who have advanced to some degree of proficiency, he considers that of double translations–i. e. a translation first of all into the mother tongue of the learner, and a re-translation of this translation back into the language of the original. These, with the help of extemporaneous construing, i. e. construing any passage at random with the assistance of a master who supplies the meaning of the unknown words as they arise (a method practised, it seems, by Le Febvre the father of Madame Dacier, by others before his time, and by Condillac since)–compose the chief machinery which he employs for the communication of dead languages.
Chap. V. On Elocution.–In this chapter there is not much which is very important. To read well, the Experimentalist alleges, presupposes so much various knowledge, especially of that kind which is best acquired by private reading, and therefore most spares the labour of the tutor, that it ought reasonably to bestow high rank in the school. Private reading is most favourable to the rapid collection of an author’s meaning: but for reading well–this is not sufficient: two great constituents of that art remain to be acquired–Enunciation and Inflection. These are best learned by Recitation. Thus far there is no great novelty: the most interesting part of the chapter is what relates to Stammering. This defect is held by the Experimentalist to result from inattention to rhythmus: so much he thinks has been proved by Mr. Thelwall. Whatsoever therefore compels the pupil to an efficient perception of time and measure, as for example, marching and music (p. 32), he resorts to for its correction. Stammerers, he observes, can all sing: let them be taught to sing therefore, if not otherwise corrigible: and from this let them descend to recitative: then to the recitation of verses distinguished by the simplicity of their rhythmus, marching at the same time and marking the accented syllables by the tread of the foot; from this to the recitation of more difficult verses; from that to measured prose; thence to ordinary prose; and lastly to narrative and dialogue.
Chap. VI. Of Penmanship.–This is a subject on which we profess no experience which could warrant us in contradicting a writer who should rest his innovations solely upon that ground: but the writer before us does not rely on the practical issue of his own experiment (he does not even tell us what that issue was), but on certain a priori arguments, which we conceive to be ill-reasoned. The amount of the chapter is this–that to write a good running hand is the main object to be aimed at in the art of caligraphy: we will go farther, and concede that it is the sole object, unless where the pupil is educated for a writing-master. Thus far we are agreed; and the question is–as to the best means of attaining this object. On which question the plan here proposed differs from those in use by the very natural error–that what is admitted to be the ultimate object, this plan would make the immediate object. The author starts from a false theory of the practice amongst writing-masters: in order that their pupils may write small and running hands well, writing-masters (as is well-known) begin by exacting from them a long praxis in large hands. But the rationale of this praxis escapes the Experimentalist: the large hand and the small hand stand related to each other, in the estimate of the masters, as a means to an end; whereas the Experimentalist supposes them to be viewed in the relation simply of two co-ordinate or collateral ends: on which false presumption he grounds what would on his own view be a very sound advice; for justly conceiving that the small hand is of incomparably more use in life, he argues in effect thus: let us communicate the main object, and then (if he has leisure and taste for it) let the pupil direct his attention to the lower object: ‘when the running hand is accomplished,’ says he, ‘the pupil may (if it be thought necessary) learn to write the larger hands according to the received models.’ When it is acquired! ‘Aye, but in order that it may be acquired,’–the writing-master will reply, ‘I must first teach the larger hands.’ As well might the professor of dancing hold out as a tempting innovation to the public–I teach the actual dances, the true practical synthesis of the steps and movements, as it is in fact demanded by the usage of the ball-room: let others teach the analytic elements of the art–the mere useless steps–to those who have time to waste on superfluities. In either art (as in many others) that, which is first (or rather sole) in order of importance, is last in the order of attainment: as an object per se, the larger hand is not wanted at all, either before or after the running hand: if it does really contribute nothing to the more accurate formation of the letters, by compelling the pupil to exhibit his aberrations from the ideal letter more clearly because on a scale of greater magnitude (which yet in the second sentence of this chapter our Experimentalist himself admits), then let it be abandoned at once: for not doing this service, it does nothing at all. On the other hand, if this be its specific service, then it is clear that, being no object per se, but simply a means to an object, it must have precedency in the order of communication. And the innovation of our Experimentalist is so far (in the literal sense of that word) a preposterous inversion of the old usage: and this being the chief principle of his ‘plan’ we desire to know no more of it; and were not sorry that (p. 178) we found him declining ‘to enter into a detail of it.’–The business of the chapter being finished however, there yet remains some little matter of curiosity. 1. The Experimentalist affirms that ‘Langford’s copper-plate copies, or indeed any other which he has seen, fail’ if tried by a certain test: what test? Why this: that ‘the large hand seen through a diminishing glass, ought to be reduced into the current hand; and the current hand, magnified, ought to swell into a large hand.’ Whereas, on the contrary, ‘the large hands reduced appear very stiff and cramped; and the magnified running hand’–‘appears little better than a scrawl.’ Now to us the result appears in a different light. It is true that the large hands reduced do not appear good running hands according to the standard derived from the actual practice of the world: but why? Simply because they are too good: i. e. they are ideals and in fact are meant to be so; and have nothing characteristic: they are purely generic hands, and therefore want individualisation: they are abstractions; but to affect us pleasurably, they should be concrete expressions of some human qualities, moral or intellectual. Perfect features in a human face arranged with perfect symmetry, affect us not at all, as is well known, where there is nothing characteristic; the latency of the individual in the generic, and of the generic in the individual, is that which gives to each its power over our human sensibilities. And this holds of caligraphy no less than other arts. And that is the most perfect hand-writing which unites the minimum of deviation from the ideal standard of beauty (as to the form and nexus of the letters) with the maximum of characteristic expression. It has long been practically felt, and even expressly affirmed (in some instances even expanded into a distinct art and professed as such), that it is possible to determine the human intellectual character as to some of its features from the hand-writing. Books even have been written on this art, as e. g. the Ideographia, or art of knowing the characters of men from their hand-writings, by Aldorisius: and, though this in common with all other modes of physiognomy, as craniology, Lavaterianism (usually called physiognomy), etc. etc. has laboured under the reproach of fancifulness,–yet we ought not to attribute this wholly to the groundlessness of the art as a possible art–but to these two causes; partly to the precipitation and imperfect psychology of the professors; who, like the craniologists, have been over-ready to determine the indicantia before they had settled according to any tolerable theory the indicanda; i. e. have settled what A, what B, what C, shall indicate, before they have inquired what it was presumable upon any systematic development of human nature would have a right to be indicated; and thus have assigned an external characteristic to a faculty of the third order–suppose (or perhaps a mere accidental effect of a fa
culty or a mere imaginary faculty), whilst a primary faculty went without any expression at all:–partly, I say, to this cause which is obviously not merely a subjective but also an accidental cause; and partly also to the following cause, which is objective (i. e. seated in the inherent imperfections of the art itself, and not removeable therefore by any future improvements to be anticipated from a more matured psychology); viz. that the human mind transcends or overflows the gamut or scale of the art; in other words, that the qualities–intellectual or moral, which ought to be expressed, are far more in number than the alphabet of signs or expressions by which they are to be enunciated. Hence it follows as an inevitable dilemma, that many qualities must go unrepresented; or else be represented by signs common to them with other qualities: in the first of which cases we have an art imperfect from defect, in the other case imperfect from equivocal language. Thus, for example, determination of character is built in some cases upon mere energy of the will (a moral cause); and again in other cases upon capaciousness of judgment and freedom from all logical perplexity (an intellectual cause). Yet it is possible that either cause will modify the hand-writing in the same way.
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From the long analysis which we have thus given of the book recording this new system of education, it is sufficiently evident that we think very highly of it. In the hands of its founder we are convinced that it is calculated to work wonders; and so strong is the impression which his book conveys, that he is not only a man of very extraordinary talents for the improvement of the science of education, but also a very conscientious man–that, for our own parts, we should confide a child to his care with that spirit of perfect confidence which he has himself described at p. 74. There is an air of gentlemanly feeling spread over the book which tends still further to recommend the author. Meantime two questions arise on the system,–first, is it a good system? which we have answered:–secondly, is it a system adapted for general diffusion? This question we dare not answer in the affirmative, unless we could ensure the talents and energy of the original inventor in every other superintendent of this system.–In this we may be wrong: but at all events, it ought not to be considered as any deduction from the merits of the author–as a very original thinker on the science of education, that his system is not (like the Madras system) independent of the teacher’s, ability, and therefore not unconditionally applicable.–Upon some future occasion we shall perhaps take an opportunity of stating what is in our opinion the great desideratum which is still to be supplied in the art of education considered simply in its intellectual purposes–viz. the communication of knowledge, and the development of the intellectual faculties: purposes which have not been as yet treated in sufficient insulation from the moral purposes. For the present we shall conclude by recommending to the notice of the Experimentalist the German writers on education. Basedow, who naturalised Rousseau in Germany, was the first author who called the attention of the German public to this important subject. Unfortunately Basedow had a silly ambition of being reputed an infidel, and thus created a great obstacle to his own success: he was also in many other respects a sciolist and a trifler: but, since his time, the subject has been much cultivated in Germany: ‘Paedogogic’ journals even, have been published periodically, like literary or philosophic journals: and, as might be anticipated from that love of children which so honourably distinguishes the Germans as a people, not without very considerable success.
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CASE OF APPEAL.
Our little Courts of Justice not unfrequently furnish cases of considerable interest; and we are always willing to make the resemblance between our microcosm and the world at large as close as possible, at least in every useful point we are trying to collect a volume of Reports. As all the boys are expected to be present during a trial, to give importance to the proceeding, the time of such as are capable of the task must be profitably employed in taking notes. A useful effect may also be produced upon the parties; and these records will be valuable acquisitions for those boys who wish to study the laws, and enable themselves to conduct the jurisprudence of the school. We shall detail a case which lately occurred, not because it is the most interesting which could have been selected, but because there will be nothing in its publication to hurt the feelings of any person engaged in the transaction.
It would be vain to attempt any concealment of the fact that our pupils, like all boys in the full tide of health and spirits, do not always see the folly of an appeal to the ultimo ratio regum in so strong a light as that in which it sometimes appears to older eyes; and resort is now and then had to trial by combat, in preference to trial by jury. The candid and experienced teacher, who knows the difficulty and the danger of too rigorously suppressing natural impulses, will not censure us for endeavouring to regulate this custom, than to destroy it altogether. In the hope of lessening the number of those fracas (never very large), a law was proposed, which the committee adopted, to render it penal for any person, except the Magistrate and the Constables, to be present at a battle. Six hours’ notice must be given by both parties, and a tax paid in advance. During the interval, it is the duty of the Magistrate to attempt a reconciliation. These regulations were intended to give opportunity for the passions to cool, and to check the inclination for display which is often the sole cause of the disturbance.
We consider the effect on the minds of the spectators as the worst part of the transaction. There is something dreadfully brutalising in the shouts of incitement and triumph which generally accompany a feat of pugilism. Neither boys nor men ought ever to witness pain without sympathy. It is almost needless to say, that, with us, fighting is anything rather than a source of festivity and amusement.
To return to our story.–A day-scholar, whose father’s grounds adjoin ours, was discovered by the Magistrate to have witnessed a battle from a tree which he had climbed for that purpose. The Magistrate fined him. He appealed, and the question of his liability was argued at some length before the Committee.
The ground which the appellant took was, that no day-scholar could be amenable to the laws of the school, except during the hours of business, or while on the premises of the school, and that the alleged offence was committed out of school hours, and on his father’s land.
Public opinion ran in his favour. The plea that he was on his father’s land seemed to have great weight with his schoolfellows. To fine a boy under such circumstances appeared to them like an attempt to invade the paternal sanctuary, and the motion for quashing conviction of the Magistrate, at first received the support of several members of the Committee.
The attending Teacher saw that it would be necessary to call the attention of the Committee to general principles, and proposed as an amendment to the general motion, the following resolution, ‘That it is desirable that the laws should be obeyed at all times, and in all places.’ In support of this amendment he argued, that as the laws had the happiness of the school in view, a breach of those laws must certainly be in some degree destructive of the general good. That to allow this in certain individuals would be injurious to the great body, but still more so to the individuals themselves; and that what was wrong in the schoolroom or on the playground at eleven in the morning, could not be right in the fields at six in the afternoon. In conclusion he said, ‘Whether or not we have the power to fine a person for a breach of our laws when he is at a distance from the schools, is a question which it is not our present business to determine; but I firmly believe that our laws are calculated to promote in the highest degree our welfare, and I wish the advantages to be derived from obeying them to be as widely diffused as possible.’
The amendment was carried unanimously.
Having determined ‘that it was desirable that the laws should be obeyed at all times and in all places,’ it was necessary in the next place to ascertain whether it was not a part of our law that such should be the case.
With this view an amendment was proposed which declared, that such was the intention of the law, and in support of it cases were cited in which day-boys had been punished for offences committed at a distance from the school. It was also insisted, that in no single instance had the laws made an exception in favour of the day-boys. They universally begin by saying, that, if ‘any one,’ or ‘any pupil,’ or ‘any boy,’ shall commit such and such an offence, etc., and not ‘any boarder,’ or ‘any day-boy then at school.’
The second amendment was also carried without opposition.
The question was now confined within very narrow limits. The Committee had declared that it was ‘desirable that the laws should be obeyed at all times and in all places;’ and also, that by law no exception was made in favour of day-scholars. It only remained therefore for the Committee to consider, whether the police of the school had the power to enforce the laws.
It was argued that in this case they had been enforced, for that the fine had actually been paid, and that unless the Committee interfered to prevent it, they would continue to operate as they had done, for the welfare of the school at large, and for the ultimate advantage even of the individuals who might at first appear to be injured.
The amended motion was now put, and the conviction was unanimously confirmed.
This detail will furnish the reader with a more correct conception than we could otherwise give him, of the opportunities with which the sittings of our little Committees furnish the members for making some important acquirements.
In the first place, they study the art of reasoning, and that too under very favourable circumstances; being fully acquainted with the facts on which they are called to exercise their judgments, and seeing them in all their bearings. We believe that intimate acquaintance with the facts of which we speak to be the first and most important element in practical logic. Reasoning, strictly speaking, being no more than the art of tracing analogies and differences. The reality of the business in which the students are engaged is very valuable, inasmuch as it furnishes them with strong motives to exert all their powers in the investigation. The matter at issue ‘comes home to their business and bosoms;’ it may deeply affect their interests, and will not pass unnoticed by their constituents; among whom the question will be again discussed, and the Committee-men will in conversation have to defend the opinions they have officially expressed. Thus every argument is well canvassed in their minds, and the ideas remain under consideration for a sufficient time to become permanently fixed in their remembrance. The power of public speaking is also in some degree acquired, and, we hope, without the countervailing evils which have been so justly deprecated. The great defects of all artificial methods of learning the art of debating is, that it is seldom of any real importance to either speaker or hearer, on which side the question under discussion is determined; consequently, the speaker is more anxious to display his own talents, than to convince the audience; which, on its part, wishes rather for amusement than instruction, or seeks the latter only by watching the conduct of this mental fencing-match, in order to learn the most skilful manner of handling the foils. Every one who addresses the company assembled, feels that he shall be more applauded for agreeably wandering, than for pointing out and following the best and straightest road. In short, discussion, instead of being a means employed to gain an object, is the end itself.
The orator, if such a name is to be so degraded, rises not to gain the votes of his hearers, but to make them laugh and clap their hands; and, this is most easily done by advancing smart sophisms, and uttering well-delivered absurdities with mock solemnity, we may readily conceive how little the powers of investigation can be exercised and improved by such practice as that of spouting clubs and debating societies. No doubt there are many exceptions to these remarks, but the vice we complain of is, we fear, inherent in some degree in the nature of the institutions, although by care in the choice of members, and the selection of an audience, it may, in a great measure, be counteracted.
We must not forget to state the advantages enjoyed by the Teacher’s attendance on the sittings of our Committees. He becomes most intimately acquainted with the minds of his pupils. He sees their difficulties and their errors in a strong light, and is placed in a situation for addressing himself more completely to the state of their wants than he could be, unless they were thus induced, and almost compelled, to disclose all the workings of the mental machine. In general, nearly every person who knows a boy at all, has an opportunity of becoming better acquainted with him than his instructor. No wonder, considering the many painful sensations which the latter, in his various offices of accuser, witness, judge and executioner, is compelled to exite. We are happily relieved from these difficulties, but we still seize with avidity every means by which our pupils may be induced to develop their minds to our view, feeling that our acquaintance with their springs of thought and action can never be too accurate and complete. The votes at the conclusion of the debate show us the measure of our success. Every influence except that of mind, is, we trust, out of the question: we do not always carry a majority with us; and this fact gives us hope, that when we do, a sincere effect has been wrought on the convictions of the boys.
To conclude, we must in candour acknowledge, that we search more industriously for arguments and illustrations to support our opinions, than we should or could do, under other circumstances. The effect on the mind of the Master is not a bad test of any method of education.