« AnteriorContinuar »
in our neighbourhood. The words we read are counted the words of wisdom by tens, by hundreds, of thousands; they are to them the “Hebrew tongue,"—the language they understand; they are the enunciation of their political creed, the picture of their social position, as seen by their own imperfect and jaundiced vision ; they betray the aspect in which those who are counted by wise men their friends and enemies, are viewed; they form a catalogue of their discontents, their errors, and aspirations. If the result of the reviews afford little comfort and little encouragement, let us not blame the venal pen that caters to their grovelling tastes and fosters their pernicious prejudices : when these tastes and prejudices are destroyed, the occupation of those who minister to them will have perished. The people are not what cheap literature and cheap journals have made them, but what national education has left them.
The cheap newspaper may therefore belp us to discover, with some additional clearness, what education has left unaccomplished, and thence the nature of the work which remains to be done. Of the large number of weekly prints—which recent financial regulations have, perhaps, multiplied-two, commanding a nearly equal circulation, far outnumber the rest taken in the aggregate. Of one of these, of high-class ability, but questionable principles—we simply express that personal opinion—we imagine that its price confines it to a class above that of which we write; the other, within the reach of the poorest, edited with less talent than skill in gratifying the morbid appetites of its readers for the details of crime and profligacy, and abounding in “leaders” written with that coarse freedom of thought and language which ignorance cannot distinguish from the confidence of wisdom, we take not only as a sample of the mechanic's fireside lessons in politics and morality, but of the ignorance which remains to be removed, and the obstacles that retard its removal. And first it will appear that we have not diffused amongst the masses any high degree of political erudition. This does not appear in the “radicalism,” or republicanism, or “communism,” which is the staple of their manufacture ; with these jarring creeds—which serve, perhaps, in the social system the purpose of antagonistic forces in the solar system, to preserve the due equilibrium of the whole we have nothing to do ; but it is taught, in the evidence of the prevalence of doctrines as subversive of all the ends of education as those propounded by Jack Cade to his gaping followers. The most zealous admirer of that freedom of opinion which balances parties in the State—the most indifferent to the aspect of the political world-must regard with sorrow the existence of prejudices which oppose themselves to the most generous efforts of benevolence, expose its objects to the miseries of discontent, occasionally of physical suffering ; and by diverting their attention from the true origin of the social or domestic evils they endure, prevent that personal effort by which they can only be removed; for it is to be observed, that these papers, however profuse in their strictures upon power, however vigorous in their admonitions to the “ governing class," have little apparent inclination to risk the loss of a subscriber by reminding him of the vices which oppress him with a more terrible despotism ; or that no political franchise can produce the effects of industry, soberness, and self-denial. Few errors have wrought worse results, more enduring distress and immediate misery, than that ignorance
of the simplest laws of political economy_and what is a more powerful teacher of the results of experience that gives birth to the “strikes” and “combinations” which periodically afflict our industrial population. These pages inculcate these calamitous associations as the duty of patriots and Christians. Next to this and its foster children are those antipathies of men who can give no reason for the batred that is in them, beyond the existence of classes socially superior to their own, with their attendant brood of jealousies and suspicions, which repulse or disgust the zeal of their benefactors. These are encouraged with all the vigour of language, unrestrained by the fear of a revolt of taste, or the awakening of latent common sense. Thus, from the numbers of the last fortnight's issue-a period of no strong political excitement-in which, therefore, the peculiar characteristics of the journal are not exaggerated by the necessity of rising to the level of public excitement—we extract the following. The subject is a “strike” of the “ self-acting minders and piercers” at Manchester :
“We are heartily sorry to learn that the operatives are not unionists; we deeply regret that they have no organization; and we fervently hope and pray that their next atteinpt to form themselves into a union will prove more successful than their previous efforts. We believe that if they had been properly organized, and fully prepared for a struggle with their employers, many, if not the whole of their hardships, would have been obviated.” Again,
“As we observed last week, the Manchester men are now in the front rank fighting the good fight of labour. Their victory will inflict a staggering blow on that rampant and rapacious injustice by which the children of toil have been so long and so mercilessly crushed. Their defeat, on the other hand, will contribute to rivet the fetters, and postpone the emancipation of labour. .... The operatives are engaged in a most difficult and soul-trying struggle : they are opposed to powerful and unscrupulous adversaries ; they are beset with many temptations to become cravens and yield.”
“And,” concludes this apostle of mischief and misery, alluding to an attempt at mediation, “this gentleman is one of those foolish teachers who would convert the gospel of freedom into a code of human slavery–who would alienate from religion all its manly, ennobling, emancipating ingredients. He forgets, or does not choose to remember, that resistance to tyrants is one of those duties most solemnly inculcated by Christianity.”
Surely, national education has failed in one of its immediate objects, if it has simply opened the ears of ignorance to such pernicious lessons as these. For what are their results? Not only does the disciple receive his inevitable share of the injury which loss of capital, paralysis of trade and commercial activity entail upon the community, but he loses the spirit of reliance on personal effort, in looking for a Millennium of labour, to the advent of which his habit of lounging and opposition will contribute. He expects to be legislated into comfort, and attributes what is consequent upon his vices to “ class legislation ” and “class oppression." The means of averting the common calamities of life are dissipated in the hours of voluntary and factious idleness, in the support of “secretaries,” “ delegates," and brother “unionists.” Above all, the angry spirit of antagonism to all existing circumstances vexes him like a shirt of hair, or thorn in the flesh ; his home becomes a chaos of neglect, discomfort, and discontent. Poverty, if not vice, is the sure attendant upon all this ; and society is taxed to support the burden. Thus, funds which might supply the necessity of a score of schools, are devoted to the erection of a new wing to the workhouse, if not to add a new ward to the bridewell. Yet, for all this, the remedy seems sufficiently easy. Men well instructed in the principles of sound political economy-versed in the simple rules that regulate wages and capital-ridicule these follies, dangerous only when suggested to ignorance. Were the true principles taught in the school, false principles would make no figure in the newspapers ; and, in accordance with the general law that links to the efforts of selfishness the effects of generosity and benevolence, Capital, while assuring its interests ; Property, while lightening its burdens; and Government, in easing the grating and straining motion of its machinery, would turn, for individual advantage, into worthier channels, energies that waste themselves in follies ; bring content into a thousand homes, and peace into ten thousand bosoms.
Thus much for political errors. We shall find no greater wisdom displayed by these columns when touching on popular prejudices. We select from the same sheet some passages from an article on “The Bases of Human Tyranny,” in which the writer, with evident design, alludes to no actual form of despotism, but leads the reader to apply the term to every form of government excepting that which never can exist. Thus :
“The main foundation of every existing form of oppression is the cowardice of the oppressed. Hence the fundamental principle of every tyranny is terror .... But there could be no terror if there was no cowardice. By cowardice is then meant that disposition of mind which fears death more than dishonour, and loves life more than liberty. ..... One of the most solemn injunctions of our religion—Fear not him who can kill the body.' Indeed, until this fear be cast out, every man is at heart a slave."
After proceeding with this tirade, which might be called nonsense but for its wickedness, and telling his unhappy scholar that his contempt of death must be governed by reason, “ that no risk ought to be incurred without a probability of success,” and informing him that as there are two species of terror, so there are two races of slaves governed by those terrors-sensualists, who are subject to physical force, and the superstitious, who are governed by the ecclesiastic; but that a few, “courageous and intelligent, disdain alike the fear of death and the menaces of a hireling priesthood, because they believe that the free and the brave are more acceptable than the craven and the enslaved, to Heaven ;" yet that these few are so divided “as to be powerless against the stupendous masses of cowardice, craft, and superstition with which they have to contend,” this precious teacher concludes :
“Sir,-looking at these difficulties, it must be confessed that the prospects of freedom are not the most encouraging in the world. Yet there is something to make us hope. With the increase of popular intelligence, the weak points of the tyrant will be discerned. When slaves learn to reflect, they will perhaps reason that liberty is worth contending for ; inasmuch as if even life is lost, it is only anticipating by a few days a debt which all must pay. Slaves and cowards die as well as the brave; and, in the battle of life, it is always more honourable to have our wounds in front. Strange, that many for fear of a bullet, submit to death by starvation.”
We need waste no words to prove that no institution, unless it be that of property, is imperilled by this miserable effusion ; but is it only to the standard measured by such trash that we have raised the morality and intelligence of one generation of citizens ? Will the material now under our hands be moulded into a nobler shape-will the process which has done so little to elevate the fathers, do more to elevate their children ? Is the national school still the preparatory school for the demagogue ? Is it enough to confer the power of communing with evil spirits at the fireside, who in time past confided their evil counsels to the taproom orator, but now exalt his ravings to the dignity, and, to the ignorant, the high authority, of print ? Were none of these taught religion in their youth-versed in the catechism of the faith—and able to prove every dogma from the written Word ; or has that religion, a thing of memory, vanished at the portals of the school like morning mists ? Is the religion we are teaching of more enduring nature ? will it withstand the attacks of flippant infidelity, or the audacious assertions of rationalism ? Do we teach the theory and wisdom of that system of government which we expect our scholars to revere? Do we defend from the feeblest assaults of doubt, or the vaguest plausibility, the fabric of religious training we have toiled to raise ? Does the school catalogue of “common things” embrace the laws affecting civil as well as physical existence ? These are questions pressed upon us by the contents and tone of the popular journal. We shall not approach the end of political education until we can affirm that the education of the citizen is such as to assure him against this revolt against his own interests and sin against his own soul.
S. D. W.
SIMULTANEOUS TEACHING. TO THE EDITOR OF THE ENGLISH JOURNAL OF EDUCATION. SIR,—In your number for this month there is a short article signed J. S., on “Simultaneous Teaching," on which I, as one of the parties referred to in it, wish to make a few remarks.
It is not my intention to try to prove the excellency of the simultaneous plan of teaching. I am, perhaps, unequal to the task, and, besides, from the emphasis with which J. S. condemns it, as an “arrant mockery and vicious delusion,"*—words put in your good-sized capitals, Mr. Editor,it not only appears to me that J. S. has thoroughly weighed the matter, and logically come to this gentle conclusion, but I am also reminded of the proverbial futility of trying to convince a man against his will.
Amongst the many “systems” of education at present in vogue, the best, undoubtedly, with every man is his own. Now if J. S. is a practical schoolmaster--and the practical schoolmaster is the fittest critic in these matters, and if he has had the good fortune to invent a better system than the one he condemns, in all fairness, and with all my heart, let him enjoy it and be quiet. I also am a practical teacher; and if I have found a system of instruction and education at once elegant and effective, let me be excused if I like my plan too. Or if J. S. has tried the “ simultaneous system,” as an unskilful rider might mount a thorough-bred racer, and if he has been thrown, much to the danger of his neck, let us charitably excuse his prejudice against said racer : has he not reason on his side ?
* This is not what J. S. said. He applied these terms not to simultaneous teaching, but to the teaching thus of dry things, not interesting to children, so “ that two or three bellwethers of the flock may answer questions correctly enough, loudly echoed by the rest.” (See vol. ix. p. 458.) This being the case, Mr. Sutcliffe merely mistakes what was said, and so far from answering it, in effect maintains what J. S. held, for both approve of simultaneous teaching, judiciously applied, and within its proper scope.-ED. E. J. E.
But if J. S. is not a teacher-if he is, who shall say what l-it is with a certain disagreeable fear and trembling that I next point out that he is, perhaps, mistaken in the definition of the term on which the whole discussion turns. Putting a number of children in a gallery, like so many narrow-necked bottles, to use the old figure, and throwing a bucket-full of watery information on, is not what we call simultaneous teaching. If he means that there is no care, on this plan, to see that every child is going on with the teacher ; that there is no holding up of hands, no questioning ; no individual questioning much of it; no rigorous testing of the effectiveness of the lesson by searching questions at the end ; no care that the lesson be reproduced in writing, if the children can write ; then I can only say he is attacking a windmill which I have no wish to defend. He talks about schools relying on it alone. I can venture to say that no master of a school where this system and not some weak and miserable semblance of it is carried out ever thought of such a thing. It certainly would be “ a farce” if it were so, and as certainly the poor “jackdaw back” should have its “peacockfeathers stripped off," as J.S. recommends. But whilst J. S.-who I have not a doubt hates “simultaneous teaching” as a name unjustly applied to a sort of higgledy-piggledy anyhow style of indiscriminate talking-is heroically tearing off from the unfortunate daws the feathers they had never any business to don, let me ask him if he will have the goodness to allow the harmless birds whose feathery honours have been so wantonly stolen, to live at peace.-Your obedient servant, JOHN SUTCLIFFE.
Normal College, Cheltenham, December 22nd, 1855.
POPULAR USE OF MATHEMATICS.—There is, perhaps, no subject with which it is more valuable for a man to gain some acquaintance than the elements of Mathematics. Even for a working man, there is nothing which can be studied with greater advantage, provided that what he reads he reads thoroughly and soundly. And why? It teaches him several things : it teaches him, for instance, to value the difference between a bad argument and a good one ; it teaches him to consider whether one consequence really does follow from another; it teaches him to consider whether there is any connexion between a conclusion and the premises from which it is said to be drawn. For you will understand, that Mathematics is fundamentally the science of reasoning; of reasoning, that is, on certain subjects—subjects which are capable of being treated with the utmost exactness, and in which we are quite certain of the results to which we come. And it is very valuable for a person to have seen examples of thoroughly sound reasoning, because there is nothing scarcer in the world than reasoning really pure. Take an ordinary man's conversation, and there is hardly one conclusion he draws out of twenty that will really hold when you examine it carefully; and I say that, in order to give you the habit of mind which leads you, on all subjects, to consider whether conclusions are good, or only false and specious, the best mode of training that you can adopt, according to my judgment, is the study of Mathematics, thoroughly digested as far as you go. It does not matter whether you go a short way or a long way, but you must thoroughly understand what you do read ; and if a person could only deinonstrate the first twenty propositions of Euclid, I should say that he was raised to a perfectly different level of intellect from that of one who knew nothing about them : the process raises a man to quite a different department of thought. On these grounds I am very glad we have got a large class to learn Mathematics. Whether the dryness of the study, as it is sometimes considered, will frighten some of those away who have put down their names I do not know, I hope not; I feel almost sure, that any one who will really give his attention, and get over the first difficulties, will find Mathematics a delightful and beautiful study. -- Rev. H. Goodwin's Address on Education of Working Men, at Cambridge.