Imágenes de páginas

If we were to put in the shortest form Montaigne's idea of the end of education, we should say that it is this: that a man be trained up to the use of his own reason. 'A man,' he says, 'can never be wise save by his own wisdom.' 'If the mind be not better disposed, if the judgment be not better settled, I had much rather my scholar had spent his time at tennis, for at least his body would by that means be in better exercise and breath. Do but observe him when he comes back from school, after fifteen or sixteen years that he has been there: there is nothing so awkward and maladroit, so unfit for company and employment; and all that you shall find he has got is, that his Latin and Greek have only made him a greater and more conceited coxcomb than when he went from home. He should bring back his soul replete with good literature, and he brings it only swelled and puffed up with vain and empty shreds and snatches of learning, and has really nothing more in him than he had before.' It is true that great men and vigorous natures overcome all this and are none the worse; but it is not enough that our education does not spoil us, it must alter us for the better.' It is not enough 'to tie learning to the soul, but to work and incorporate them together; not to tincture the soul merely, but to give it a thorough and perfect dye; and if it will not take colour and meliorate its imperfect state, it were, without question, better to let it alone.' Knowledge will not find a man eyes; its business is to guide, govern, and direct his steps, provided he have sound feet and straight legs to go upon. Neither Persia nor Sparta made much account of mere knowledge, and Rome was at its greatest in virtue and vigour before schools were much thought of. To train to valour, honesty, prudence, wisdom, justice-these were the aims of the greatest nations. As Agesilaus said when asked what boys should learn.' 'Those things that they ought to do when they become men.'

Montaigne, then, would keep in view the end of education from the very first; and that end is to train to right reason and independent judgment, to moderation of mind, and to virtue. The cultivated and capable man of affairs, capable of managing his own business well and discharging public duties wisely, is his educated man. This is the antique idea of education, and is very much what Quintilian has in view in the training of the Good Orator.' Philosophy is the highest fruit of education-not the philosophy which has logical formulæ for its subject-matter; but philosophy which has virtue for her end. Virtue and philosophy are not harsh and crabbed as dull fools suppose,' but the enemies of melancholy and the friends of wisdom: they teach us how to know and make use of all good things, and how to part with them without concern.' 'Philosophy instructs us to live, and infancy has there its lessons as well as other ages.' We are not, however, to force to virtue and to philosophy, but to attract by showing that they alone yield happiness, and by leading the pupil to recognise their essential beauty and charm. It may be that there are youths who are inaccessible to all No. 607 (No. CXXVII. N. s.)


that is noble and beautiful and ingenuous in thought and action, and turn aside by preference to common pleasures. What is to be done with these? Bind them 'prentice,' says Montaigne, 'in some good town to learn to make mince pies, though they were the sons of dukes;' and in a MS. emendation he recommends that the masters should strangle such youths if they can do it without witnesses!'

What now has Montaigne to say as to the materials of instruction whereby his end is to be attained? The most difficult and most important of all humane arts is education,' he says. The differences among children increase the difficulty; but the promise of the future is with young children so uncertain that it is better, so far as the matter of instruction goes, to give to all the elements of knowledge alike. In any case, let us begin when they are young, when the clay is moist and soft.

From the very first the lessons of philosophy in their simple and practical form can be inculcated. In philosophy Montaigne includes all that we now understand by the religious and moral, and he maintains, and rightly maintains, that a child's mind is more open to all such lessons than to reading and writing. In selecting other materials of instruction we must bear in mind that a child owes but the first fifteen or sixteen years of his life to discipline and the rest to action. Let us therefore employ that time in necessary instruction.' At every stage that which constitutes the ultimate aim of education is to appear in some form or other-philosophy, namely, which forms the judgment and conduct. This has a hand in everything. She is always in place, and is to be admitted to all sports and entertainments because of the sweetness of her conversation. By guiding conduct, as well as by discourse in season, this instruction is to be given and habits thus formed.'

[ocr errors]

Montaigne is generally classed by educational writers as a realist as the very founder of realism. Those who so write, write without understanding. Educational realism in our modern sense means the substitution of a knowledge of nature and of the practical work of after life for the study of language and literature and all that we include in the Humanities. Those who advocate the latter are Humanists, and are the true descendants of the Humanists of the Reformation period. All educationalists, however (except, perhaps, the majority of schoolmasters), are realists in this sense-Montaigne's sense-that they desire to see reality, that is, to see the substance of fact or thought in the education of youth. Montaigne's realism opposed itself merely to verbalism, and he fought a good fight in this. But all this belongs to the past, in the region of educational theory at least. We all now seek reality; we are all opposed to verbalism. The difference now consists in this, that one school of philosophy holds by language and literature as introducing youth to the highest and best realities-the realities of feeling and thought if properly handled the other school holds by facts, the facts of nature and of

man's triumphs over nature as yielding the highest and best realities for educational purposes. If we may make a distinction between the real Humanistic and the verbal Humanistic, there can be no doubt that Montaigne belonged to the former class, and not to the utilitarian realists of whom Mr. Spencer and Professor Bain are the best contemporary types.

Ethical training, then, in the broadest sense is the main purpose of education according to Montaigne. Virtue and wisdom sum him up. The ordinary subjects of reading, writing, and casting accounts are of course to be taught. After this, whatever you teach, avoid words simply as words. Most modern Humanists would not go so far as Montaigne certainly in their opposition to words.. They see more in them. But we must bear in mind the state of things at the time Montaigne wrote. The Humanistic revival, which was a revival in the interests of realities, was also a revival of style; and the tendency was to give prominence to art in language. This must always be the case: teachers in their daily work cannot consistently maintain from hour to hour the reality of any subject, be it language, literature, or science. The tendency inevitably is to fall back upon mechanical expedients, on the learning of rules, and on symbolism generally. It is so even with religion and morality. To the end of time the task of the true teacher who desires truly to educate will be a struggle against the dominion of words and forms, and this quite irrespectively of the subjects he may choose to make the basis of his school work. The virtues of the educational profession are all summed up in the words life, reality; but, like other virtues, they are not always easily practised.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

'The world,' says Montaigne, is nothing but babble. We are kept four or five years to learn nothing but words and to tack them together into clauses; as many more to make exercises, and to divide a continued discourse into so many parts; and other five years, at least, to learn succinctly to mix and interweave them after a subtle and intricate manner. Let us leave this to the learned professors!' Words, grammar, style, or rhetoric in the larger sense as embracing all these, constituted the main end of school and college instruction in those days, and this was supplemented by logic. Montaigne held that if a man had really anything to say he could manage to say it without all this training. Let the pupil be well furnished with things,' he says, 'words will follow but too fast.' People who pretend to have great thoughts which they cannot express are deceiving themselves; they are not labouring to bring forth, but merely licking the formless embryo' of their minds. If a man has any clear conceptions he will express them well enough though ignorant of ablative, conjunctive, substantive, and grammar.' When things are once formed in the fancy, words offer themselves in muster. Ipsa res verba rapiunt,' says Cicero. The fine flourishes of rhetoric serve only to amuse the vulgar, who are incapable of more solid and nutritive diet.' attack on mere rhetoric in the sense of style is keen and incisive and

has not a little truth in it. 'Words are to serve and to follow a man's purpose.' He quotes Plato as approving of fecundity of conception rather than of fertility of speech, and Zeno as dividing his pupils into two classes, the philologi, who loved things and reasonings, and logophili, who cared for nothing but words. I am scandalised,' he says, that our whole life should be spent in nothing else.'

[ocr errors]

What would he have then in addition to the usual elements of education, and the teaching of philosophy and of virtue? He would have a man learn thoroughly his own language first, and then that of his neighbour, regarding Greek and Latin as ornamental merely. Little, however, did Montaigne think that instruction, even in our own language, could degenerate into what it has become in these latter days-verbalism of a kind much more offensive than any to be found in classical teaching. He could not foresee detailed analysis of sentences, and the dreary pedantry of school grammars of our native tongue! Pedagogic ingenuity had not yet invented such arid substitutes for the substance of our mother-speech-archenemies of true Humanistic culture -the logical babblement of the primary school. Truly teachers have an infinite capacity for sinking.'



Vernacular and modern languages once secured, Montaigne would thereafter limit the course of study to those things only where a true and real utility and advantage are to be expected and found. To teach a boy astronomy, for example, instead of what will make him wise and good, is absurd. After you have done this last, the pupil may be admitted to the elements of geometry, rhetoric, logic, and physics; and then the science which his judgment most affects, he will generally make his own.' But we must above all teach him what it is to know and what to be ignorant, what valour is, and temperance and justice; the difference between ambition and avarice, servitude and subjection, licence and liberty, in brief, season his understanding with that which regulates his manners and his sense, that which teaches him to know himself, and how both well to die and well to live. Over and above this, let us make a selection of those subjects which directly and professedly serve for the 'instruction and use of life.' But the direct instruction of the master is not all. Human understanding is marvellously enlightened by daily conversation with men, for we are otherwise of ourselves so stupid as to have our sight limited to the end of our own noses. One asking Socrates of what country he was, he did not make answer, "of Athens," but " of the world."" We must learn to measure ourselves aright: whosoever shall represent to his fancy, as in a picture, that great image of our mother nature pourtrayed in her full majesty and lustre, whoever in her face shall read her so universal and constant variety, whoever shall observe himself and not only himself but a whole kingdom no bigger than the least touch or prick of a pencil in comparison with the whole, that man alone is able to value things according to their true esti

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

mate and grandeur.' The great world is the mirror wherein we are to behold ourselves, to be able to know ourselves as we ought to do. History naturally suggests itself in this connection as a leading subject of study, for thereby we converse with those great and heroic souls of former and better ages an empty and an idle study as commonly conducted, but of inestimable fruit and value' when prosecuted with care and observation.

Meanwhile the body is not to be forgotten, for, not to speak of the moral instruction which may be conveyed in connection with leaping and riding and wrestling, &c., we have to form the youth's outward fashion and mien at the same time as his mind: for 'tis not a soul, 'tis not a body we are training only, but a man, and we ought not to divide him.' And, as Plato says, 'we are not to fashion one without the other, but make them draw together like two horses harnessed to a coach.' 'It is not enough to fortify the soul: you are also to make the sinews strong, for the soul will be oppressed if not assisted by the bodily members, and would have too hard a task to discharge two offices at once.' Effeminacy in food or clothes or habits is also to be eschewed.

So much for the end of education according to Montaigne, and the materials of instruction whereby that end is to be attained. Montaigne's public school, if he had to construct one in these days, would certainly be somewhat after the fashion of a German Realschool, and, so far, he is rightly named a realist. But the leading purpose of all his instruction would essentially be ethical and humanistic. The only respect in which his curriculum would be realistic in the utilitarian meaning would be in the subordinate place assigned to Latin and Greek. So far is he from being a realist in the modern sense, that he may be rather set down as an enemy of mere knowledge or information. The cares and expense our parents are at in our education, point at nothing save to fill our heads with knowledge,' he says, but not a word of judgment or virtue. We toil and labour to stuff the memory, and in the meantime leave the conscience and the understanding unfurnished-void.'

[ocr errors]

It has to be noted that Montaigne, and after him Milton and Locke, think only of the education of the few and not of the many of the sons of gentlemen only: but while the extent to which school instruction goes, depends for the most part on the social position of the parent, the principles which regulate a prolonged education are equally operative in the briefest, if they are worth anything at all as principles.

Of equal importance with end and means is method. On this Montaigne has less to say, but what he says contains probably the germs of the most important principles of all method.

'Tis the custom of schoolmasters to be eternally thundering in their pupils' ears as if they were pouring into a funnel, whilst the business of the pupil is simply to repeat what the teacher has before

« AnteriorContinuar »