Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

plays well the highest stakes are paid, with that sort of overflowing generosity with which the strong shows delight in strength. And one who plays ill is checkmated—without haste, but without remorse.

“My metaphor will remind some of you of the famous picture in which Retzsch has depicted Satan playing at chess with man for his soul. Substitute for the mocking fiend in that picture, a calm, strong angel who is playing for love, as we say, and would rather lose than win —and I should accept it as an image of human life.

Well, what I mean by Education is learning the rules of this mighty game. In other words, education is the instruction of the intellect in the laws of Nature, under which name I include not merely things and their forces, but men and their ways; and the fashioning of the affections and of the will into an earnest and loving desire to move in harmony with those laws. For me, education means neither more nor less than this. Any thing which professes to call itself education must be tried by this standard, and if it fails to stand the test, I will not call it education, whatever may be the force of authority, or of numbers, upon the other side.

"It is important to remember that, in strictness, there is no such thing as an uneducated Take an extreme case.

Suppose that an adult man, in the full vigour of his faculties, could be suddenly placed in the world, as Adam is said to have been, and then left to do as he best might. How long would he be left uneducated ? Not five minutes. Nature would begin to teach him, through the eye, the ear, the touch, the properties of objects. Pain and pleasure would be at his elbow telling him to do this and avoid that ; and by slow degrees the man would receive an education, which, if narrow, would be thorough, real, and adequate to his circumstances, though there would be no extras and very few accomplishments. The great mass of mankind are the ' Poll,' who pick up just enough to get through without much discredit. Those who won't learn at all are plucked ; and then you can't come up again. Nature's pluck means extermination. Nature's discipline is not even a word and a blow, and the blow first ; but the blow without the word. It is left to you to find out why your ears are boxed.” (Huxley, Lay Sermons, pp.

man.

. 31-34, ed. 1870. London.)

16. “As theory, Education allies itself to Psychology, Physiology, and Sociology. The materials of its teaching it draws from these philosophies, from the practice of the schoolroom, and from the rich domain of History. I have some sympathy with the cynical Love Peacock, who, in describing certain social bores in the shape of men of one idea who hold forth in season and out of season, says :— The worst of all bores was the third. His subject had no beginning, middle, nor end. It was Education. Never was such a journey through the desert of mind, the great Sahara of intellect. The

very recollection makes me thirsty.' Such men are not educationists in any sense in which that term is applicable within these walls. They are men of leisure who have restless minds, and if they have not one fixed idea or crotchet, will find another. An educationist has no crotchets. That man has crotchets who, having seized on that particular corner of a large and many-sided subject which has some secret affinity with his own mind, or affords the quickest passage to notoriety, pursues it to the death. Now, an educationist is, by virtue of his very name and vocation, inaccessible to all petty fanaticisms. He has to deal with a subject of infinite variety, and so variously related to life, that he is more apt to be lost in hesitations and scepticisms than to be the victim of a fixed idea. meet with educational crotchets, you must go to the specialist in this or that department of knowledge, who is unfortunate enough to take up the question of Education, as you see he often in moments of aberration takes up other subjects which are outside his own range of intellectual experience. It is only in such cases that you

will find the confidence and self-assurance which is born of limited knowledge, and the pertinacious insistence which flows from these habits of mind. To him whose subject is Education crotchets are prohibited, because his opinions on this or that point are related on the one side to rational and comprehensive theory, and on the other to the daily practice of the schoolroom and the needs of life.

If you wish to The more abstract treatment of the theory of Education is doubtless, if true in its philosophy, of universal application. It sweeps the whole field. But this will engage our attention only within carefully prescribed limits, and when we leave this portion of our subject, we have to restrict ourselves on all sides. The education of every human being is determined by potent influences which do not properly fall within the range of our consideration here. The breed of men to which the child belongs, the character of his parents, the human society into which he is born, the physical circumstances by which he is surrounded, are silently but irresistibly forming him. The traditions of his country, its popular literature, its very idioms of speech, its laws and customs, its religious life, its family life, constitute an aggregate of influence which chiefly make him what he is.

By their constant presence they mould the future man, himself unconscious. They are the atmosphere of the humanity of his particular time and place, and in breathing it he is essentially a passive agent.

The passive activity of our nature is not to be ignored in our educational methods ; it is to be turned to use as one of our most potent instruments, but it is mainly the self-conscious forces that we have to educe and direct. Even in doing this we are bound by external conditions, and must take note not only of the almost irresistible forces around us, but of minor conditions of time, place, and circumstance. Each successive century, and the tra

[ocr errors]

us.

ditions and circumstances of each country, nay, the genius of each people, present to us the educational problem in ever-changing aspects. Educational systems cannot be manufactured in the study. Our theory of the end of all education and the means by which that end has to be attained may be, or rather ought to be, always the same; but the application of that theory must vary with varying external conditions. What present defects have we here and now, and to what dangers are we exposed ? is the form which the practical question must take with

(Laurie, Inaugural Address, Chair of Ed. ucation, pp. 21-24. Edinburgh, 1876.)

16. To write upon education, means to write upon

almost every thing at once ; for it has to care for, and watch over, the development of an entire, though miniature, world in little, -a microcosm of the microcosm.

All the energies with which nations have labored and signalized themselves once existed as germs in the hand of the educator. 'If we carried the subject still further, every century, every nation, and even every boy and every girl, would require a distinct system of education, a different primer, and domestic French governess, &c.

But although the spirit of education, always watching over the whole, is nothing more than an endeavor to liberate, by means of a freeman, the ideal human being which lies concealed in every child ; and though, in the application of the divine to the child's nature, it must scorn some useful things, some seasonable, individual, or im

« AnteriorContinuar »