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(From the Quarterly Journal of Education, No. XIX.)
The question of discipline, or the management and government of boys in schools, is now beginning to receive that attention in England to which its importance entitles it. But, like many questions of a political and moral nature, it is generally encumbered with considerations foreign to the matter; the consequence of which is, that there is far from being that uniformity of opinion which would probably result from ihe question being clearly stated and fairly argued. Among our older writers, both Ascham and Locke have touched on this head. In Ascham's “Schcolmaster” it forms only a subordinate part of his subject, and is not treated with sufficient method: still his remarks taken singly are good. Locke, in his “Essay on Education," had mainly in view private and domestic education: but the excellence of his remarks on this division of the subject makes us regret that so just a thinker did not handle the whole matter of education, both private and public. It is true that many of his remarks, particularly those on beating boys, apply generally, and may help any dispassionate
* This paper was written in consequence of the opinions expressed in a letter addressed to the Editor of the Journal of Education.—This Letter, signed “A Wykhamist,” is printed in the Journal of Education, No. XVIII.
inquirer in forming his judgment on this part of the question.
The practice of English schools in the government of boys, and particularly the practice of some of our public schools, has ten been condemned in the Journal of Education; sometimes only incidentally, on other occasions in a more direct way. Such observations, it may be presumed, are not agreeable to those engaged in the direction of such schools ; for though many masters may admit, to a certain extent, the truth of what is said, none like to have the establishments with which they are connected held up to public reprobation. There seems, however, to be no way of effecting a reform in such establishments, but by convincing people that they require amendment. No great improvement can be expected from those who have the management of these places of education, unless they see the necessity of making it; and the necessity for such change must have its origin in a conviction, generally diffused among parents, of the importance of a school-reform. This Journal has attempted to show that our schools require great modifications in order to become good places of education; and that our endowed schools particularly require to be remodelled, and to be placed under the superintendence of the State. In treating subjects of this kind, opinions must be founded on a collection and comparison of facts, some of which, supposed to be best suited to the purpose, are stated as the grounds of coming to certain conclusions. There may be error in stating such facts, and, no doubt, mistakes are sometimes made: but no statements as to schools have been made in this Journal without previous inquiry; very few facts here stated have been called in question, and none have been
proved to be erroneous without being afterwards corrected. If any person, whose name is a sufficient guarantee that he deserves credit, will point out any misstatements in the Journal of Education, as to any place of education, his observations shall be inserted, and he shall have our thanks for his pains. As to the nature of the instruction and the discipline in schools, either public or private, those are better, because more impartial, judges who are not engaged in the direction of such schools than those who are-provided they have had sufficient opportunities of knowing what schools are, and provided they have duly reflected on all the parts of this extensive and complicated subject.
After these preliminary remarks, it may be expected that the Editor of the Journal of Education should give his reasons for having sanctioned both attacks on the established modes of education, and on the discipline of the public schools of this country. As the opinions which he holds on the matter of education are nearly altogether inconsistent with those of “A Wykhamist,” it will be better to enter on the general subject without taking the paragraphs of the Letter in regular order and commenting on them. It is only necessary to premise that the following observations refer almost entirely to large boarding-schools; whether they be endowed schools, or speculations of private indivis duals, is immaterial for our present purpose.
The term Education, which is generally used in the limited sense of instruction in certain branches of know, ledge, comprehends, as we use it, all the means for forming the entire character of a man, In ordinary language, and in common practice, it is indeed restricted very nearly to the teaching of two or three languages,
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