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There are indeed no specific subjects in education. Whatever it is impossible to work into the ordinary life of a primary or secondary school belongs to some other kind of institution. Specific subjects are for specific schools. Can anyone doubt that a scheme of education such as that sketched would result in a far more widespread intelligence, a far deeper interest in scientific truth and literary expression, and a far finer moral spirit, than labouring against the grain with the dry teaching of words and technical details based on text-books constructed so as to teach the minimum which will earn a Government grant? And how much more acceptable to the true teacher would a code conceived in so liberal a spirit be!
If it be said that there is not time for all this, the answer is that it can all be accomplished simply by using properly selected reading books, and by the oral teaching of the master in extension of the suggestions of these books, if he is supplied with proper apparatus.2
Consider for a moment how the time is now spent that is not devoted to such studies and training. To history so called, and to grammar and to geography, in the teaching of which every demand made by the Department is right in the teeth of all sound educational principle. Go into a school where the children are learning history, and you will find a huge black-board covered with the names of kings and battle-fields, and an accumulation of dates that would provoke the laughter of every cultivated mind not depraved by working the system. As to grammar, we have more than once met little ragged boys on the road not more than ten years of age with Morell's Analysis' in their hands, and little girls of seven with their slates covered with lists of nouns! As well might we ask them for lists of the fixed stars. This cannot be in accordance with sound educational principles and method, for it shocks our common sense. Even where the Department does open a passage for the entrance of an educational principle, it converts it into an absurdity the moment it tries to manipulate it. For example, it is a recognised part of educational method that the learning of geography should start with a child's immediate parochial and county surroundings. This the Department seizes on, and immediately perverts it by requiring the children to waste their valuable time in getting up the names of every insignificant locality in the county,-localities unknown to the inspectors themselves, although they have traversed the county again and again in the discharge of their duties, until they specially got them up for the special purpose of torturing children and turning the study of geography into ridicule. We speak what we do know.
This is the way the precious hours of childhood are passed, and this is what we are paying for. And all to please whom? We should like to know. Not certainly the school boards, who care only for the Government gold, and watch, lynx-eyed, the teacher lest he
2 It may be difficult and dangerous for the State to prescribe reading books, but it can name books from which the teacher's oral teaching is to be given.
should cheat them out of a three-shilling pass. Not the schoolmaster, who, if he be an under-educated drudge, may be content, for he can conceive nothing higher than the mechanical ideal of the Department, but who, if he be a true teacher, with a living soul in him, is crushed with the dead weight of official demands; or, if he smiles at all, smiles the smile of educational despair as he sees the inspector take up his pack and go. Not the children, who not many years ago were beginning to love school, but who now regard it as a task-shop and a thing to be avoided-one of the pains instead of one of the pleasures of their little lives-with what effect on their disposition to learn and obey may be conceived. Not the inspector: he cannot love his life of itinerating schedule-mongering, for he is an educated man. Not the Department: it only wants to get its honest pennyworth, and does not see how else to do it.
We are very far from being blind to the fact that, spite of all this wasted energy, the mere collecting of children together and subjecting them to organisation, obedience, and discipline, is a distinct gain to the community, and worth a good deal in the shape of taxation; and we gladly recognise in the Code-improvements which introduce examination by classes and grants for discipline and intelligence, a distinct evidence of right intention. We still more gladly welcome the action of the present Chief-Inspector of Training Colleges in the direction of liberalising the education of teachers. We are not blind to the groping good intentions of the Department. But the Code is vitiated throughout: it is rotten at the heart. The supposed necessity of maintaining the leading characteristic of the Revised Code of '61 makes of the Code of 1880 a piece of patchwork. Two shillings a head for intelligence, and 18. 6d. for organisation and discipline! As if any school should be regarded as a school at all where these conditions are not fulfilled!
So much for the school up to thirteen years of age. Children instructed on the lines which have been (necessarily in this place) very generally indicated, would go forth to sow and to reap and to mine and to weave, ignorant of electricity and magnetism, it is true, but with an open eye. They would be ignorant of the precise date of the death of Henry VI.'s grandmother, but they would have in their souls some bright visions of British patriotism and valour, and some inspiring recollections of duty sublimely done. They would be ignorant of botany, but we hope that they would know something of the wayside flowers and trees: they would be ignorant of physiology, but we hope that they would know a good deal about the conditions of physical health: they would be ignorant of mathematics, but we hope that they would know something of weighing and measuring: they would be ignorant of Latin, French, and German, but they would, we hope, be able to read with pleasure, because with intelligence, the simpler prose and poetical literature of their own country, and to sing its songs. Their whole intellectual and spiritual life would have been started into activity, and the State's
duty to the masses' would have been discharged. Note also that if the elementary knowledge acquired at school have a direct bearing on the ordinary and daily life of the people, we thereby secure a continuity between the education of school and the education of life; and it is only in so far as this continuity is established that the boy becomes a wiser, a more intelligent, and more virtuous citizen than he would have been without the school. The material of school work must be of the same stuff as human life is made of.
While the Lords' then were substantially right in their assault on the Code in its present patchwork form, they were wrong in failing to see that it erred by defect much more than by excess, and above all, that it erred by misreading popular education in respect both of matter and method. Neither Lord Norton nor the Bishop of Exeter, while complaining of the promotion by the Department of what are called 'secondary' subjects, indicated why those particular subjects were to be reserved for a higher class of schools than the primary. What is suitable in education for the sons of ploughmen is, speaking generally, equally suitable for the sons of noblemen of the same age. Except in so far as foreign languages and mathematics are studied with a view to a profession, they are, as instruments of education, equally good or bad for all. The question is a social one. If boys can continue their education from thirteen to seventeen or eighteen, the subjects we have named are held, rightly or wrongly, to be the best discipline for them and an indispensable preparation for the studies of a university. But neither on grounds of discipline nor of utility can the introduction of such subjects be justified, if circumstances prevent their being prosecuted beyond the initial stages; and as ninety-five per cent. of the pupils of primary schools must cease to attend school at thirteen at latest, it may be fairly argued that their attention should be confined to subjects having a more direct relation to their future lives. But what of the five per cent. of superior organisation? Brains are not confined to a class. It is of far more importance to the wellbeing of the State and to the position it is to hold relatively to other communities, that the finer spirits should be educated out of the sphere in which they have been born, than it is to the individuals themselves. The country cannot afford to waste brain-power on hedging and ditching. And there is another and a potent consideration. Social equality is a dream, and communism is an injustice, if not a crime; but it is not only possible for the State, but incumbent on it, to make a passage from one class to another and a higher, at least possible. Scotland is liberal in politics, but we cannot imagine it becoming socialistic, and this simply because the finer and more ambitious spirits have a career opened to them. The path they have to traverse may be rough, and it is right it should be so; but it is at least practicable. The potential mental energy of the country is not dammed up. Outlets are provided, and no boy can say that he has been unjustly used. Were the stronger spirits among
the poor repressed-crushed down by an educational organisation separating the lower from the upper in perpetuity, the nation would ere long hear of it. It would have to pay a much higher price than the trifling addition to taxation which education continued in the primary school beyond the age of thirteen demands. On grounds, then, quite apart from that of Christian humanity, provision ought to be made for the construction of the ladder.' In primary schools, whenever the managers are willing, the Department is, we hold, unquestionably right in encouraging more advanced teaching. Whether this encouragement should take the wholesome form of special grants to teachers to meet an equal grant from the local board, or the trading form of capitation payments in accordance with the genius of a nation of shopkeepers, is not wholly a matter of detail. The curriculum of study would be probably best determined by the local authorities, and should in any case be a curriculum, and continue till a boy is fifteen. By that time the special line of activity for which he is fitted would have declared itself, and if he still gave high promise, an exhibition should carry him to a Real or Classical high school. Few might get so far; but none could say that the machinery of society was so contrived as to block the way to the poor and deny them free scope for their powers. What is of much more importance, ten would receive the benefit of the more advanced instruction for one who went out of his social class: these would carry into their daily work a higher intelligence, and so leaven the lower stratum of society.
The establishment of certain exhibitions at county schools open to country boys, may be of service to the sons of clergymen and medical practitioners, and the larger farmers; but it can never solve the question of the secondary instruction of the poor. The son of the poor man would soon find these advantages taken out of his hands by the lower middle-class whose domestic habits and means enable them to prepare their children for competition while the peasant's son is labouring in the fields. Moreover, it is quite open to question whether such a system of connecting country with county schools would be salutary in its effects. It is certainly desirable to open a path for very promising boys and girls; but even were this path opened and strictly reserved for the peasant poor, only one boy probably in every three or four years would tread it, and the district from which he came would be only indirectly benefited. The true course, we repeat, is to provide for the intellectual and moral life of the people's schools up to the age of fifteen, wherever local authorities desire it. By such provision all the parish will be benefited, and a fair proportion of thoroughly intelligent citizens added to the agricultural and artisan class, not removed out of it. In the course of such advanced primary instruction the boy born for what is conventionally considered to be a higher line of life (in any case a life where mental power is more needed) would mark himself out from the others in ways that would be unmistakable. The main purpose
of these advanced classes would not be the discovery of such boys or girls, but the promotion of the intelligence of the parish itself, and the raising of the body of the people out of their cloddish indifference to all save physical requirements, thereby making them fitter occupants of the church pew and the village reading-room.
In small towns and populous places the higher classes of the primary school, to which we have referred, naturally separate themthemselves from the primary school and specialise themselves into high schools which carry the instruction of boys and girls still further; and this simply because in such localities a larger number of parents can afford to maintain their children after the age of fourteen or fifteen without the aid of their labour. It would be superfluous in these days to argue for the increase and organisation of schools of this class. The various occupations of life require the services of men and women, who have as boys and girls gone through a much more prolonged education than can be obtained even at the best primary schools; and, apart from this, the tone of provincial, and consequently of national, life must always be low, and its aims narrow and contemptible, where such schools do not exist. Permissive power should be given to England, in terms similar to those of the Scottish Education Act of 1878, to institute such schools. This for a time might suffice until a Minister of Public Instruction or an Educational Council could take the matter in hand. In all localities so provided, the primary school should not carry its instruction beyond the age of thirteen, and this, if for no other reasons, because it would be a waste of power to do so. It will scarcely be maintained that the encouragement (not the enforcement) of advanced primary instruction in country districts could affect the institution of high schools situated in fit localities. In any case it would scarcely be just to sacrifice the children of the country to those of the country-town. The object is always to get as much educational work done as can be accomplished with the means at our disposal, and without waste of power.
We often hear it said that the middle classes should pay for their own education, and that they are in many cases now taking advantage of board and other primary schools conducted under the Government fee-maximum of nine-pence per week. But we are not aware that the middle classes themselves complain of this. On the contrary, they say, Why are we to pay for the education of the poor, and also for our own schools? May we not share in the educational machinery which our own self-imposed rates and imperial taxation provide? Is a child to be excluded from a country school because his father farms 100 acres? If not, then 200? Or, at what point are we to draw the line? Is it not enough to rest satisfied with the operation of social causes, feeling well assured that as soon as a man has money enough he will seek to separate his children from the mass? What is applicable to the country is equally applicable to the town. It is only men who are raised far above the struggle for a livelihood and