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and a few branches of science; but even those teachers who confine their labours to this narrow and comparatively barren field, admit that education means something more than this : they admit this not by what they do, but by what they profess to do. Certain formal religious observances, the remnant of a more systematic and wholesome discipline, are now called “ religious instruction ;” under which term is comprehended that part of school education, the professed object of which is to make youth acquainted with Christian duties, to train them to the practice of Christian duties, and generally to make religious and moral men. The formal part of this branch of instruction is doubtless in many schools carefully attended to; and the practical part also may, in some schools, be successfully inculcated. Indeed, the terms of the charters and rules of all our endowed schools, and the printed prospectuses of our private boarding-schools, show that the founders in the one instance, and the individual speculators in the other, contemplate something beyond the mere intellectual instruction, which is given in certain hours specially set apart for that purpose. It is not necessary to attempt to ascertain very precisely what is now meant when the directors of schools profess to give youth a religious and moral education ; nor could many of them, if they were asked, tell us exactly what they mean. What some of them mean is simply this: they make the announcement of “religious and moral education" in conformity to the opinions which they suppose to be prevalent among those who are likely to send their children. Others do really mean to say, that they wish, as far as they can, to train boys so that they shall be moral and religious men. They do not mean to say, that they have thought much about the best way of doing this, nor that they feel competent from reflection and experience to do what they have undertaken. Still the terms “moral and religious education," so familiar in every person's mouth at present, show sufficiently, in a general way, what kind of discipline these terms refer to. All persons engaged in education, in some form or other profess to train youth to be virtuous: it only remains to see how they go about it, and whether their methods require improvement.
Among those teachers and those writers on education who have directed their thoughts more particularly to the formation of character, we find, at the present day, two classes, both included in the comprehensive name of friends of education, who are now beginning to show themselves more clearly, and to separate into distinct groups. One party believe that the inculcation of religious dogmas is of primary importance that this inculcation should be commenced at the earliest age—that without a knowledge of, and a belief in, these doctrines, no man can have safe principles for his conduct in lifeand that any attempt at education which is not based on Christian doctrine, and solely guided by Christian rules, is useless and even dangerous. Of this party we may say that the success of their labours seldom equals their expectations, and, mainly as we think, owing to their having neglected those other means without which bare doctrinal instruction can produce no results. The other party believe that the inculcation of religious dogmas at a very early age is not a good way of forming character, and some of them think that it is a very bad way: they believe that a regular systematic training, framed in accordance with the principles of human nature, and superintended by a man whose example shall be a proper model for imitation, is the true way of forming a good character. They mainly trust to the repetition of a number of acts done in conformity to a general principle or truth for the formation of good habits; and they would endeavour to check or counteract all bad tendencies, and the development of all erroneous notions, by a constant and vigilant superintendence. Few schools have yet been administered on these principles, either long enough, or systematically enough, to prove how much can be done in forming youth to good habits. Still, among those who have carefully reflected on early education, there is a large number who believe that religious and moral precepts have in themselves very little weight in early age, and who believe that no mere teaching of doctrines, either religious or moral, is of any efficacy at all compared with the durable impressions made by the constant repetition of certain acts under the superintendence of the teacher.
Many well-meaning persons in this country, who have a firm belief in the necessity of implanting religious truths early in the mind, are apt to overrate the efficacy of this instruction, and to expect results from it which experience does not confirm, and which a calm investigation would never lead us to expect. This is the case with most of the schools for the poor in this country, in which the formal part of religion is almost the only thing taught. It is the case also in many private schools, where religious observances are kept with a strictness that to many parents seems to be the surest guarantee for the formation of a religious character in their children. The compulsory attendance on the ceremonies of religion in our colleges, and in some of our endowed schools, is another instance of this kind. But in all these cases, it is well known, that neither an active religious belief, nor even a mere acquiescence in the truths of revealed religion, is secured in the majority of pupils by this formal teaching --much less are those habits acquired on which a man's right conduct depends. So much are all men governed by habits, and so little is the mass of mankind capable of reflection, that it is surprising that those who have shown so much zeal for the improvement of their fellow-creatures have not availed themselves of these truths. A large part of those who pass through life creditably and usefully never reflect at all either on moral or religious truth: many very ignorant persons are totally incapable of it; and yet they discharge the ordinary duties of life at least blamelessly, and if no very unfavourable influence turns them from the regular tenor of their course, they may pass through the world with a fair character, and on the whole do much more good than harm to society. Many owe this happiness solely to a calm temperament; but a considerable number to the accident of having been early accustoined to regularity and labour, and having had the good fortune, in after-life, to be brought into contact with those only whose example and general mode of lise were decent and orderly. This is not a very high kind of character, it may be said ; but it is a much better character than will be produced, in the majority of instances, by the mere teaching of any set of rules or doctrines, which are in themselves but feeble restraints on the desires and passions, and the feebler in proportion to the weakness of the understanding. It appears, then, that in the schools for the
the practical influence of mere religious teaching has been exceedingly over-rated-a fact now admitted by many well-informed men, who are still zealous for the propagation of Christian truth. It appears also that, in the schools for the wealthier classes, a similar erroneous notion is firmly fixed. The influence of the religious instruction, or the bare religious ceremonial, on the conduct of the boys, has been over-rated, and this mistake has contributed to a neglect of proper discipline. Not that this is the only cause why the discipline of all or nearly all our large schools is in its present deplorable state; for the total absence of a general superintending and corrective power (a power which can only be exercised by the State) has had a large share in producing this want of unity and sound principles of government in all our places of education: but adherence to the miere forms of religious instruction and the concomitant neglect of true discipline have perhaps done more. As the origin of our schools is traced to the ancient religious establishments of the country, it seems likely (indeed, we may say, it is certain) that the teaching of Christian doctrine and strict exercise in Christian discipline were formerly combined. The discipline gradually fell into disuse; but the teaching of the doctrines continued: and as this too has now become, in many schools, a mere matter of form, not considered near so important as the common lessons of the day, we cannot be surprised that it has altogether lost its efficacy, and that “it is so difficult to make a large school a place of Christian education *." It is clear that this must be a natural consequence, as schools are now constituted.