Two Educational Ideals

Two Educational Ideals

Editor’s Note: The Fourteenth Annual PNEU Conference was held in July 1910 in London. Charlotte Mason was not present, but the conference opened with a reading of her new paper, presented by her friend Ella Glover. It was a unique essay entitled “Two Differing Ideals and a Danger.” In it, Mason offered a close analysis of the work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, much more thorough than the brief references in Parents and Children. As a contrast, she also interacted with the ideals of John Milton. Her paper was then published in The Parents’ Review in November of the same year.[1]

Twelve years later, Mason was preparing the draft for her sixth volume, Towards a Philosophy of Education. She was racing against the clock to complete it before her passage to eternity. The volume was eventually published in three sections: Book I, Book II, and Supplementary. Mason’s handwritten notes, however, clearly reveal that she intended for the third section to be entitled “Book III,” not Supplementary. Our “Supplementary” has only one chapter, the final chapter of volume 6, entitled “Too Wide a Mesh.” But Mason planned for a second chapter. The title was to be “Two Educational Ideals.”

Mason cut out her article from the 1910 Parents’ Review and added handwritten notations for how she wanted it to be revised for her final book. Most notably, she changed the title from “Two Differing Ideals and a Danger” to “Two Educational Ideals.” She also added a stirring pair of sentences about the heroism of British soldiers in the Great War, a war which she never failed to portray in salutary terms.

Sadly, the trustees ignored Mason’s directions and summarily shortened “Book III” of volume 6 to a single chapter. The dropped chapter was not forgotten, however. The ever-faithful Elsie Kitching became the editor of The Parents’ Review. In 1928, she (who else would it have been?) took Mason’s annotations and had them typeset for publication at last. In the January issue, the article was published with this footnote: “A paper written for the P.N.E.U. Conference, 1910, and revised 1922.”[2]

Later that year, the article was republished as a standalone booklet. Although I have never seen that booklet, several lists of “books and pamphlets” by Charlotte Mason from 1928 onwards begin with her sixth volume and end with Two Educational Ideals. The existence of this pamphlet reflects a partial fulfillment of Mason’s vision to have her paper widely disseminated and read. The excised chapter was reprinted again in the June 1940 Parents’ Review, this time with the footnote, “A paper written for the P.N.E.U. Conference, 1910, and revised 1922. The reader will add illustrations from his own reading of modern thinkers and movements since 1922.”[3] An additional note at the end of the article reiterated that the text was available as a separate pamphlet.

Today we are delighted to revive Mason’s paper again. Using the text of the 1928 Parents’ Review, we here share Mason’s description of two educational ideals, one progressive and one classical. A description that shows that she is not beholden to either, but to an authority that is higher than both.

— Art

By Charlotte M. Mason
The Parents’ Review, 1928, pp. 1-19

“Return to us again;
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.”

We are all willing to admit that education should be a training for wise citizenship. I propose to examine two current ideals of education, one of them summarised in that great and sonorous saying of Milton’s which claims as the end of education that the pupil should be enabled “to perform justly, skilfully and magnanimously, all the offices both public and private of peace and war.”

It takes several generations for an idea to exhaust itself and most of us who have theories of education derive them consciously or unconsciously from Rousseau; his enormous influence appears to me to be due partly to the air of omniscience with which he prescribes for all the occasions of a child’s life, and partly to the aptness of the moment at which his oracle was delivered. He was the avant courier of revolutionary thought; he preached liberty in an age of tyranny, due self-regard in an age of undue subjection, and the right of children to share in all the noble conceptions in the air. No wonder he had an enthusiastic audience! But he is for all time; what gratitude do we all owe to the genius who set courtly mothers to the nursing of their own babies, who told every father that “to the human race he owes men; to society, men fitted for society; to the state, citizens;” adding, that the father who brings children into the world has not only the duty of supporting them but of educating them himself. How wise! we say, and we are right.

How sensible, we add, when we are told that children should be early accustomed to darkness or they will scream in the dark. But when the sage tells us that food and sleep should not be regular, because regularity forms habit and habit adds a new want to those of nature; and, again, that “the only habit a child should be allowed to form is to contract no habits whatever,”—we pause, recognizing that habits are inevitable if they be only habits of irregularity and disorder!

The fortunate connection between a child’s restless, and often mischievous, activity and his powerlessness is indicated, and we are reminded of the danger of letting children think that those about them are instruments for their use. “In this way they become disagreeable, tyrannical, imperious, perverse, unruly. … Power to control others awakens and gratifies self-love, and habit makes it strong.” From this wise perception he deduces certain maxims, to the effect, (1) that we must leave the children freedom in the use of the little strength that they have; (2) that it is our duty to supply what they lack whether in intelligence or in physical strength; (3) that we must give them only the help they need and “yield nothing to their whims”; (4) the fourth maxim is especially interesting as it contains the first protest in Émile against “opinion”—“we must watch the children so that we may judge which of their desires are natural and which of them spring from opinion.”

All this has passed into the fabric of our thought about education. So too, have such axioms as that “if children were not so often threatened or caressed, they would be less timid or less stubborn.” And this about toys,—“A little twig with its own leaves and fruit, a poppy-head in which the seeds can be heard rattling, a stick of licquorice he can suck and chew, will amuse a child as well as splendid baubles, and will not accustom him to luxury from his very birth.” How wise, too, is this,—“Even as in his swaddling clothes the child hears his nurse’s babble, he hears in class the verbiage of his teacher”; and Rousseau points out how our injudicious haste to make children speak, issues in their learning slowly, and speaking indistinctly, and, what is worse, in their giving their own meaning to the words they use, which is different from ours. In this way he accounts for the precocious sayings of children.

In the second book of Émile, Rousseau carries the boy from his fifth year to his twelfth. He tells us how he stops the habit of crying and cures the boy of self-pity by taking no notice of his distress, because “to suffer is the first and most necessary thing for him to learn.” This is illuminating; but—we pause when we read—“He should depend, not obey; he should demand not command.” Is this, indeed, we ask, the whole duty of a child, or is not, rather, the power of willing obedience the best gift we can confer on him? But here are words of wisdom,—

“If he believes you weak, he will soon be stubborn,”


“if the body be too much at ease, the moral nature becomes too much corrupted.” “The child who has only to wish in order to obtain his wish thinks himself the owner of the universe.” “At his age, incapable of reasoning, all reasons given seem to him only pretexts.” “Nature has made children to be loved and helped, has she made them to be obeyed and feared?”

When we come to the following, we question gravely,—“Since with years of reason civil bondage begins, why anticipate it by slavery at home?” This “civil bondage” is that obedience to law and custom which civilization demands. We, who believe in the duty of forming habits, prefer that the child should grow up with the habits of a civilized being to ease his way in life; knowing that such habits make for freedom, and that to be without them leaves child or man a bond-servant to a thousand trivial considerations.

Jean Jacques protests against Locke’s maxim, that we ought not to command children but reason with them, because “if children understood how to reason, they would not need to be educated.” “I would rather require a child ten years old to be five feet high than to be judicious.” Here we hold with Rousseau, but not because we think a child incapable of reasoning—his extremely logical mind is often confusing to his elders—but because we believe that he should be brought up in that attitude of “proud submission and dignified obedience,” to use Burke’s noble phrase, which will become him hereafter as a citizen. It is because we would give children the habit of chivalrous obedience that we do not allow them to “wrangle and rebel.” But how right Rousseau is in thinking that when we give our reasons to children and suppose we have convinced them by arguments, we have often to fall back upon “motives of avarice, or of fear, or of vanity, while the children pretend to be convinced by reason.”

We come now and then upon puzzling utterances,—“with children, use force; with men, reason,” we are told; and are aghast until we recollect that that idol of the market-place which the author definitely sets himself to overthrow is—authority. We may “never, absolutely never, command them to do a thing, whatever it may be.” One wonders in what fashion the poor child would grow up who had never, absolutely never, experienced the repose of simple obedience. As it is, this revolutionary theory of Rousseau’s is working havoc with our nerves; the child who has not learned the finality of must becomes the restless prey of “chance desires.” Here, however, is a word to be pondered.

“It is marvellous that in undertaking to educate a child, no other means of guiding him should have been devised than emulation, jealousy, envy, vanity, vile fear, all of them poisons most dangerous.”

We cannot read unmoved; we no longer employ “vile fear,” but what have we to say for the other four? So long as we have a system of education based upon marks, places, prizes, scholarships, we count a child virtuous in proportion as he is moved by emulation, envy, vanity, greed. When Tom has “got up two” in his class and tells you that Ned Somers has “gone down four,” your boy is losing in moral value more than he appears to be gaining in intellectual alertness.

Here is a passage from Émile in precise contradiction to our fundamental doctrine that,—a child is born a person:—

“Do not give your pupil any sort of lesson verbally: he ought to receive none except from experience. Inflict upon him no kind of punishment, for he does not know what being in fault means; never oblige him to ask pardon, for he does not know what it is to offend you. His actions being without moral quality, he can do nothing which is morally bad, or which deserves either punishment or reproof.”

And, again,

“they (children) should not use the mind at all until it has all its faculties… the earliest education ought to be purely negative.”

“Dead as a door-nail!” has been said of the “faculties”: no doubt they are dead, but a theory dies hard; and Rousseau’s elaborate scheme for the development of the intellectual attributes presupposes that the several “faculties” are in water-tight compartments; else, how could any one of them, reason, imagination, or what not, make an independent start, as if one arm, or one ear took to growing by itself! We allow that all the members of the body are one body—fed by one food, wearied by one work, refreshed by one sleep, vitalized upon one air, but still we cling to the notion that the “faculties” are many and that each requires the separate consideration of the teacher; truly, a fond thing and vainly imagined!

But this “faculty” theory is as mischievous as it is mistaken; holding it, we undervalue children; we do not say that they are “wanting”; but we assume it; and talk down to them, dilute their intellectual diet, hold over their moral responsibilities, play fast and loose with them as beings who are not fully accountable and therefore whom we need not consider seriously. This radical error vitiates the whole of Rousseau’s theory; Émile, all through his pupilship, is incapable alike of intellectual comprehension and of moral perception. His master would give him the idea of property, and this is the preamble:—

“Our first natural movements have reference to our own preservation and well-being. Thus our first idea of justice is not as due from us, but to us. One error in the education of to-day is, that by speaking to children first of their duties and never of their rights, we commence at the wrong end, and tell them of what they cannot understand, and what cannot interest them.”

And this, when every nurse knows that the baby gives and takes with quite equal readiness, because there is no first-developed and no second-developed “faculty” in question. We have a charming tale of the boy planting beans and the gardener digging them up, and justifying himself because he has already appropriated the plot: all to teach the boy, what he knows already, that what is another’s is not his, and what is his is not another’s. But in this story we get a worse example of the depreciation of children to which this kind of glass-house culture leads; for the gardener had been carefully instructed to show himself a churl, to play a part, for the edification of Émile, who is to believe that gardener and tutor are behaving naturally.

Always, exquisite little traps, moral and intellectual, are set for the boy, and always, he falls into them, taking fair play for granted, never supposing, for example, that he has been led into the forest in order that he may lose himself and find his way home by means of his compass: no, he is to believe that his tutor is lost also and has no idea what to do next until the happy thought of the compass presents itself.

The conjuror, too, who delivers a homily showing that his tricks are his property and that for Émile to try them is to do him an injury,—well, it is all very pretty, but it has been carefully got up, a little play enacted in several scenes, which the boy is to take in good part as a real occurrence.

Most of us know how quickly children see through plots of the kind and how entirely they disapprove of them: and they are right; the child is taken at a disadvantage; he is as one of the audience called up on the stage to play with an actor who has got up his part. And this, from a philosopher who, on every other page of this treatise on “natural” education, instructs us that the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, must be employed in the education of Émile!

We get another example of ingenious imbecility in that race to the big stone, whoever got there first, tutor or boy, to find a slice of cake. And no doubt the tutor played his part well, lost in the running and acted his disappointment when the cake fell to another. It is a nursery trick, but we do not approve of it in the nursery. Cakes, sweetmeats, the licquorice stick we have already heard of, are the lawful rewards for which Émile is to contend because—greediness is natural to children! We must read Rousseau cum grano, because a man cannot put into a book more than he is, whether morally or intellectually. We remember, no doubt, that Goldsmith “wrote like an angel and talked like poor Poll,” but then he wrote like an angel because he was a little like an angel, and talked like poor Poll because that circle of wits bullied him. Rousseau was sensuous, and the incitements he offered were cakes and lollipops; he was markedly wanting in moral integrity, and we find that his delightful scheme is full of tricky expedients. But Rousseau was a poetic genius with the gift of seeing into the heart of things; and, as long as education remains the concern of most men and women, we shall continue to follow his lead; but because there is much dross with the gold, we must discriminate and eliminate.

The execrable heresy, that, it does not matter what a child knows but only how he learns it, is another by-product of the faculty-theory, an expression of the notion that it is we who make persons, not God Almighty; or at any rate, that it rests with us to fill in a vague sketch. Therefore, says Rousseau, “a child ought to receive no lessons except from experience.” Therefore, “children are incapable of judging, really have no memory.”

I fear we fail as much as did Rousseau to realize the consequences of a contempt of knowledge. This is how it works: The child has not yet developed such and such faculties, may not develop all until he is a man; therefore, our appeal shall be to the “faculty” we know he has; he shall learn about nothing but what he can see with his eyes, handle with his hands; his own experience shall be his teacher; as for the wealth of knowledge the world has acquired, what is that to him or us? Our business is to develop his “faculties” and, by and by, he will use them as he pleases. So we labour to convince the young scholar that he hates knowledge, that books are not for him, that he can only learn from things, and must begin upon them as if he were a young savage to whom the minds of other men brought no gains. And all this, because we suppose our business is to teach a child to think, and to think in a certain order—that in which his “faculties” are developed! As a result, the education we give is sterile—no other word characterizes it justly. Races and ages have their periods of temptation as well as individual men; and we are in the wilderness—being tempted to make bread; nor have we yet learned to reply to the tempter,—“Man shall not live by bread alone,” but by “Words,” by all those words of insight and knowledge which we believe have come down to us since time began, and continue to come as we are able to receive them. And observe, this knowledge is vital: men shall live by it, and without it they shall not live. Because we minimise the knowledge we give in our schools, our pupils leave us intellectually devitalized. “Pity the children, another ‘Subject’ is forced upon them!” is the cry of our newspapers. “Happy children, another way of joy is opened to them!” is what we may live to read!

But we are not without excuse; we have all gone wrong in the train of Rousseau; we have been taught to think that knowledge does not matter, that sharpened faculties are our concern; that, given these, the person will get all the knowledge he wants hereafter; which may easily be, for if he has not been nourished on knowledge as a child he never acquires the appetite. It was not for nothing that the two sorts of life and the two sorts of nutriment were brought before us in that wilderness scene: are we not able to understand a parable? Can we not comprehend that as the body is able to deal with its meat, without interference from us, so spirit (including, I suppose, mind, heart, soul, whatever is not body), is able to deal with the knowledge laid before it, without impertinent interference? The “faculties,” if there be faculties, are not our business; and our concern with knowledge is not that we may know, but that we may be nourished and grow; for it is as possible to secrete knowledge as to secrete proteids, unhealthily.

Rousseau maintains that children cannot learn geometry because they rarely retain ideas and still more rarely the relation of one idea to another, and this, though not a century before, Blaise Pascal, a boy of twelve, had built up a science of geometry all his own! As has been well said, Mathematics, like Music, take little account of age. For the same reason, he repudiates the study of languages for children, because “the child cannot grasp ideas.” But how true is this of the study of Geography.

“In any study, words that represent things are nothing without the ideas of the things they represent. We, however, limit children to these signs, without ever being able to make them understand the things represented. We think we are teaching a child the description of the earth, when he is merely learning maps. We teach him the names of cities, countries, rivers; he has no idea that they exist anywhere but on the map we use in pointing them out to him.”

A child must begin by learning to know the country about him, to make and follow a plan of his father’s garden, for example, and here, as in so much else, all that is best in modern teaching is derived from Rousseau. What can be better than the way he takes the boy out to watch the sunrise, and later, the sunset, and sees to it that he observes for himself without instruction that sunrise and sunset take place at opposite points of the heavens—so, the sun has travelled!

“A spherical top, turning on its point, shall represent the heavens revolving on their axis; the two extremities of the top are the two poles. The child will be interested in knowing one of them, which I will show him near the tail of Ursa Minor… We have seen the sun rise at mid-summer; we will also watch its rising at Christmas or some other fine day in winter… ‘How queer that is! the sun does not rise where it used to rise! Here are our old landmarks, and now it is rising over yonder…’ While the child, studying the sphere, is transported into the heavens, bring him back to the measurement of the earth and show him first his own home.”

Equally sound is Émile’s introduction to Physics.

“When lying at full length in the bath, raise the arm horizontally out of the water, and you feel it burdened by a great weight: air is therefore heavy. Put air in equilibrium with other bodies, and you can measure its weight. From these observations were constructed the barometer, the siphon, the air-gun, and the air-pump. All the laws of statics and hydrostatics were discovered by experiments as simple as these. I would not have my pupil study them in a laboratory of experimental physics. I dislike the array of machines and instruments. The parade of science is fatal to science itself. All those machines frighten the child; or else their singular forms divide and distract the attention he ought to give to their effects.”

Here, is a lesson which we should take to heart to-day, writing in letters of gold upon every school house: “the parade of science is fatal to science itself.”

Here, again, are words of wisdom:

“All ideas of manhood that a child can understand give us opportunities of teaching him; but of those he cannot understand he should remain in entire ignorance.”

Could there be more delicate counsel on a delicate subject which tempts some of us to rush in all too rashly?

The teaching of History is condemned with more consistency than wisdom.

“A more ridiculous method obliges children to study history, supposed to be within their comprehension because it is only a collection of facts… Do we imagine that the true understanding of events can be separated from that of their causes and effect? and that the historic and the moral are so far asunder that the one can be understood without the other?”

Of course, Émile is necessarily without imagination and judgment, and cannot study history intelligently. But we, who believe that a child is a person, do not presuppose these intellectual lacunæ; and we find children full of eager interest in the subject and very capable of just reflection; fit from an early age, in fact, to derive ideas of worthy citizenship from Plutarch’s Lives, and to bring their reading of history to bear upon what is going on to-day.

Perhaps, Rousseau has said the last word as to the cultivation of the Senses.

“To exercise the senses is not merely to use them, but to learn how to judge correctly by means of them; we may say, to learn how to feel. For we cannot feel, or hear, or see, otherwise than as we have been taught.” After commending every sort of muscular activity, he adds: “Use, then, not only your bodily strength, but all the senses which direct it. Make as much of each as possible, and verify the impressions of one by those of another. Measure, count, weigh, and compare. Use no strength till after you have calculated the resistance it will meet… If the boy wishes to carry a burden exactly as heavy as his strength will bear, without the test of first lifting it, must he not estimate its weight by the eye?”

As regards an open-air life, physical exercise and physical training, we are still far from realizing this eighteenth century ideal. For Rousseau’s young savage living en plein air was the rule, living under shelter the exception, an ideal for us to struggle towards. And so attractive are this open-air life, the apparent self-dependence, these seemingly casual studies pursued by inductive processes, that we must moderate our enthusiasm by allowing the Master himself to expose the system of subtle and absolute tyranny, which, in the name of liberty, he imposes on Émile:

“Let your pupil suppose himself master, while you are really master. No subjection is so perfect as that which retains the appearance of liberty; for thus the will is itself made captive. Is not the helpless, unknowing child at your mercy? Do you not, so far as he is concerned, control everything around him? Have you not power to influence him as you please? Are not his work, his play, his pain, in your hands, whether he knows it or not? Doubtless he ought to do only what he pleases; but your choice ought to control his wishes. He ought to take no step that you have not directed; he ought not to open his lips without your knowing what he is about to say.”

We perceive that the Jesuit schools had left their mark on Rousseau’s thought; it is not thus that Englishmen are made; but are we doing nothing towards establishing a tutorial hierarchy? It is not only that parents still feel they have the power (and the right) to influence their child as they please, but when he goes to school do we teachers not endeavour to keep his mind in our hands, to pose before him as fountains of all knowledge, and to deny him immediate access to the great minds which should affect him through the books they have written?

I have tried to give a sketch of Rousseau’s educational scheme, desultory, after the manner of Émile, and necessarily very inadequate. But let us consider the Result in the Master’s own words, and contemplate Émile at fifteen:

“Émile understands only the natural and purely physical sciences. He does not even know the name of history, or the meaning of metaphysics and ethics. He knows the essential relations between man and man. He does not readily generalise or conceive of abstractions. … He makes no attempt to learn the nature of things, but only such of their relations as concern himself. He estimates external things only by their relation to him; but this estimate is exact and positive, and in it, fancies and conventionalities have no share. He values most those things that are most useful to him; and never deviating from this standard, is not influenced by general opinion.

(I have italicized certain phrases to bring out more strongly points of resemblance between Émile and our own schoolboys and girls).

“Émile is industrious, temperate, patient, and full of courage. His imagination, never aroused, does not exaggerate dangers. He feels few discomforts, and can bear pain with fortitude, because he has never learned to contend with fate… In a word, Émile has every virtue which affects himselfHe considers himself independently of others, and is satisfied when others do not think of him at all. He exacts nothing from others and never thinks of owing anything to them. He is alone in human society, and depends solely upon himself… He has sound constitution, active limbs, a fair, unprejudiced mind, a heart free and without passions. Self-love, the first and most natural of all, has scarcely manifested itself at all.”

We have him here with us in England in the twentieth century and know him well. He is an attractive person, but aloof; perhaps the more attractive because he is aloof, and because he is healthy, well-grown, vigorous; “a nice boy,” we say, and we are glad that he is not a “bookworm.” The only thing to be urged against the education that turns him out is—that he remains what he is now. As a man he is still aloof—from pictures and books, from social movements, from the making of history, from civic affairs. Sport rouses him for he believes it will make him “fit.” His country may be in the throes of a political crisis and he asks: “How’s the cricket?” It is not that he is a bad fellow or consciously selfish, but his imagination is dormant. Comprehensive ideas do not appeal to him though he is apt enough for partisan strife; and as we have learned to our delight and gratitude he is faithful unto death to country and cause. But a great war is a costly instrument to bring out the best that is in a man; it rests with us to try if education may not serve the same purpose.

When he comes to choose a career, he asks (or rather asked), Does it offer a snug berth? Not that he cares much for money, but, for a certain manner of living, and neither wife nor vocation tempts him from this individualistic standpoint. They might be worse, these young people whom we are educating, but somehow their point of view is wrong, and Milton shows us how: their standpoint is purely individualistic; his, purely altruistic. Milton with a mind formed upon classical ideals perceives that a man must be brought up for the uses, and for all the uses, his city or his country may have for him—for uses public and private—in peace and war.

To earn his living is not a chief end of man, but to fill his place as a citizen, with a comprehensive outlook upon all the offices, public and private of a citizen and a patriot. Therefore, he is not to be brought up to one thing, whether to grind the points of pins or add up figures on a stool. He must understand, think worthy thoughts of, every part of a citizen’s life and duty, so that he shall not only fulfil his own share, but shall bring just and magnanimous thoughts to bear on other men’s offices as well as his own, and shall have skill and judgment, not only for his own but for the general use. For, see what it would be to the State to have citizens of this magnanimous type: “Tammany”—could not grow up in such a State, nor professionalism in games, nor payment for every office of honour held for the public good.

Rousseau claims that he is showing his pupil a path of knowledge, long, endless and tedious to follow; “I am showing him how to take the first steps so that he may know the beginning, but allow him to go on farther.” Émile certainly has the advantage of our young people in that he knows “the natural and purely physical sciences;” but we are making headway in that respect and may yet do well when we come to realize the force of Rousseau’s axiom that “the parade of science is fatal to science itself.” Like Émile, our boys and girls hardly know the name of history or the meaning of metaphysics and ethics. How then can they perform justly the offices to which they are called as men and women, citizens and patriots? We are almost without general conceptions as to what is required by justice towards the persons, characters, opinions and interests of the persons with whom we come into contact. We say damaging things recklessly, we misrepresent opinions, falsify statements, wink at public jobbing, allow unhindered play to malice and envy in our thoughts and speech. If all this came of what used to be called “original sin,” and was not to be helped or hindered, there would be little use in discussing the matter. My contention is, that these social faults, exhibited in private life and public offices, are the result of an education faulty in theory. Of course, there will always be base and malicious persons, but it is against well-meaning and kindly folk (including ourselves) that these railing accusations may with justice be brought. We mean well enough and have our own loyalties and generosities, but, like Émile, we have not been taught ethics, nor do we know “the meaning of metaphysics” in any sense that would help us to understand the interaction of thought and feeling in other minds. Like Émile, again, “we know nothing of the moral relations between man and man.” How is it possible for such an one as our system of education turns out to deal justly in all his relations, public and private? It will be urged that Rousseau undertakes only to lead his pupil into a path of knowledge which should prove endless; he will learn this delicate justice and respect for the feelings of others as he grows older: but that is the whole contention. People go on as they begin because they are not imperfect, partially-developed, defective beings during the time of their education, but are persons, with, in their degree, all the powers of a person and all the duties of a person. If boys and girls are taught on narrow individualistic lines, if they learn just what will pay in an examination and be of service to them in after life, they will get the habit of considering what will “pay” and will not learn to think sympathetically and therefore justly.

But Milton would have the pupil taught to perform his various offices “skilfully.” Here, I think, the sort of “Robinson Crusoe” life that Émile was to lead should help a man to be skilful for his own uses at any rate; and we are giving a good deal of attention to this line of education. We are offering all sorts of hand and eye training, and are opening out splendid fields for practice, whether as School Cadets, Scouts, or what not. This is first-rate work, the more so because Milton’s third essential, “magnanimity,” is taken into account. Here, however, is our great failure: we not only fail to be magnanimous as a generation but we do not realize what a great quality this is. If we want the right man or woman for any office, public or private, we need not look for experience, cleverness, organising power, knowledge of detail, in the candidate. What we want is Magnanimity, a certain largeness of mind and wideness of outlook, which will see the bearing of one thing upon another, the relation of every part to the whole, and of the whole to the whole of human society. Magnanimity is the perfect fruit of character, the outcome of a wide knowledge of men and affairs, past and present, upon which insight and imagination have been brought to bear. It is the finest result of education, and Émile, who does not know what history means, can have none of it. If we would have our boys and girls look at life with “larger, other eyes,” we must see to it that they are saturated with history, poetry, all that literature which recognises that the proper study of mankind is man, man in particular, ethics, metaphysics, poetry, (by the way, Émile never seems to have heard of poetry!) and men in general,—civics, economics, history, above all, history, without too much care to point the moral or adorn the tale. It is as examples, parallels, warnings, strike himself, and not as they are pointed out to him, that history begins to be of service to the boy and he begins to perceive that his country is of more consequence than himself, and that it is a better thing to help in the general progress than to advance himself.

Isaac Walton tells us of that most admirable mother, Mrs. Herbert (the mother of the saintly George)—

“In this time of her widowhood, she being desirous to give Edward, her eldest son, such advantages of learning and other education as might suit his birth and fortune, and thereby make him more fit for the service of his country, did,” etc. Let us note, the end towards which this mother deliberately educated her son was, “the service of his country.”

In proportion as our outlook becomes altruistic rather than individualistic—and that is the development to be expected of a Christian people—we shall, no doubt, arrive at Machiavelli’s science of politics, that is, we shall compare that which happens under our own eyes with that which in similar circumstances occurred in the past, here or elsewhere. By means of such comparison we may succeed in understanding what we should do, since “men are always the same and have the same passions, and when circumstances are identical, the same causes lead to the same effects and therefore the same facts ought to suggest the same” (or opposite) “rules of conduct.” “I have heard,” says Machiavelli, “that history is the teacher of our actions and especially of our rulers; the world has always been inhabited by men with the same passions as our own, and there have always been rulers and ruled, and good subjects and bad subjects, and those who rebel and are punished.” There is good in things evil, would men observingly distil it out, and the Florentine’s science of statesmanship may yet unfold itself under those moral and religious sanctions he would away with.

I am inclined to think that the doctrine, that a child is born a person, that every child is a person, should make for magnanimity. We shall perceive that we are no such great people after all, that the very great amelioration in the conditions of life which we must recognize is due rather to the spread of Christian principles than to the inventions and discoveries about which we are a little puffed up. Was not that smith of ancient chronicle, who according to the mediævalists, perceived, conceived, or as we would say, invented, Music—from the ring of the hammer on the anvil at least as great an inventor as any we have produced? We are suffering from megalomania, the symptoms of swelled head appearing in one class of persons in reference to their country, and in another class in reference to the age they live in, this wonderful twentieth century:—

“We throw out acclamations of self-thanking, self-admiring,
With, for every mile run faster, ‘Oh, the wondrous, wondrous Age!’”
E. B. B.

But a knowledge of history should cure all that, and we should be inclined, with Machiavelli, to look to history for the solution of many a problem.

Consider Plutarch’s narrative of how Numa Pompilius was made king. We need not ask how much is Numa and how much is Plutarch, but the young person who has ruminated quietly and after his or her own fashion, between, say, the ages of eight and eighteen, upon matters of this kind, has some definite conception of the meaning of citizenship; and, as every child is a person, open to the fine impulses proper to a person, the outcome of such reading must needs be profitable, alike to the nation and the individual. We must be on our guard as to the sort of history books we give our scholars. It is rather the custom to make the study of history entertaining by depreciating all that has gone before our own wonderful times; and truly wonderful they are; but we must remember that so long as there have been persons in the world, there have been persons of heroic mould and magnanimous spirit, and a cavalier way of treating history is an indication of both ignorance and bad taste.

If magnanimity is the essential quality of a good citizen, and, further, if magnanimity is a gradual and unconscious development of mind and character upon great thoughts and great studies, we are able to understand why the Humanities have been the staple of education during a good many ages of the world’s history. Perhaps both the matter and method of these studies require a good deal of overhauling; perhaps, our young people must read not only a few books in a “dead” language, even though these be incomparably good, but must have a wide range of reading both in literature and history, for the most part in the mother tongue. But, allowing for due and necessary changes, it must always remain true that the Humanities should form the staple of the education of the child.

The Danger to which I referred arises from our good intentions and our zeal in following what seems to us a forward movement. All that which is considered educational progress to-day is founded upon Rousseau; we are content that our boys and girls should know “nothing of the moral relations between man and man”; that “the boy,” to quote Rousseau, “should estimate external things only by their relation to him”; and that he should “consider himself independently of others.” This is the consummation of what Rousseau calls natural and what we call scientific education. That scientific education in due measure is a good and necessary development no one will deny. To live under the dominance of, and in relation to, innumerable natural laws of whose workings we are ignorant, would be to revert to a condition of brutish ignorance and superstition. Never again can Science be excluded from our curriculum.

But a new idea is presenting itself; our sons and daughters must be brought up to be good citizens; and to play their part, not merely as individuals but as members profitable to the community, they must be humane. Now, science does not belong to the humanities. It is entirely unhumane, because it is concerned with matters which are of accidental rather than of essential importance to men. No doubt science is a good schoolmaster and produces very fine individual virtues, but not of a kind directly serviceable and sympathetic to the community. We are, I know, inclined to protest and to say that doctors are the most humane class of men among us; certainly they are, but not because they are scientific men but because they are past masters in the humanities, learned at first-hand in the school of life. On the whole, young men decline the professions; they do not take Orders nor enter the Services; curates are not to be had for love or money, and both Woolwich and Sandhurst sometimes have been reduced to the necessity of allowing men to enter without due qualifications. The young men do not care for these careers because they can “do themselves” better. They are fine, rather splendid fellows, but their concern is about themselves, and this, not through any natural depravity, but through the temper of their education, for even in schools where there is little enough science taught, the general spirit is scientific or practical.

To sum up:—Rousseau is the inspirer of modern progressive education.

We must avail ourselves of the scientific spirit of the age in our educational work.

But the scientific spirit is not humane, and if we wish to train good citizens we must see to it that the Humanities are widely studied in our schools.

We must not allow ourselves to be handicapped by Rousseau’s doctrine of faculties progressively developed.

If we believe that children are Persons, we are inexcusable if we do not supply them with liberal knowledge of all those things which affect persons.

We must discriminate wisely; a person is equally a person whether he walks on foot or uses a motor-car or an aeroplane; therefore we are not free to regard advance in such matters as these as essential to human progress.

It is necessary, then, that we exercise judgment in selecting such aliment of knowledge for our children as shall cause them to grow into efficient citizens.

Milton promises generously. Could anything be more inviting than this?

“I shall straight conduct you to a hillside, where I will point you out the right path of a virtuous and noble education; laborious indeed at the first ascent, but else so smooth, so green, so full of goodly prospect and melodious sounds on every side, that the harp of Orpheus was not more charming. I doubt not but ye shall have more ado to drive our dullest and laziest youth, our stocks and stubs from the infinite desire of such a happy nurture, than we have now to haul and drag our choicest and hopefullest wits to that feast of sow-thistles and brambles which is commonly set before them as all the food and entertainment of the tenderest and most docile age. I call, therefore, a complete and generous education, that which fits a man to perform, justly, skilfully, and magnanimously all the offices, both private and public, of peace and war.”

But it is rather in the spirit than in the letter of his further indications that we find help towards Milton’s ideal of a “complete and generous education.” We may agree with him that, “we do amiss to spend seven or eight years merely in scraping together so much miserable Latin and Greek as might be learned otherwise easily and delightfully in one year,” but we have certainly not yet discovered how to do the work easily and delightfully in one year. The point upon which some of us are inclined to argue with Milton is that young people are capable of carrying on a great many more studies contemporaneously with delight and profit than we exact of them: and this larger scheme of studies may be covered in a very much shorter schoolday than is usually allowed, if the habit of perfect attention is required from the first, a habit which is to be acquired easily by children who are accustomed to use the best books for themselves and have not to listen to what Rousseau calls “the verbiage” of the teacher.

It is well that we should be reminded in these too tolerant days of what Milton held to be the end of learning—not the chief end, or an important end—but the end.

“The end, then, of learning is, to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him, as we may the nearest by possessing our souls of true virtue, which, being united to the heavenly grace of faith, makes up the highest perfection.”

The Nemesis which has come upon us for our careless neglect of this ‘end’ is a curious example of how incalculable may be the consequences of a more or less casual neglect. We have ceased to think it our most important concern to teach religion to children, and, as a corollary, we have withdrawn one of the three or four great literatures of the world from the knowledge of the people,—a literature including just laws, pure ethics, sublime poetry, history as instructive as, and no more mythical than any history of any nation, biography, epistles of wonderful power and charm, and the great epic of the world written in the four Gospels.

Time was when the children of working-men had as perfect a phrase by phrase and line by line familiarity with a very large part of this great literature as a good “Grecian” has with his Æschylus and Plato. Then we had character as a people; then we made for ourselves a great name among the nations; then we were, there is reason to believe, the magnanimous citizens to whom a Shakespeare could appeal. But we have changed all that; it is not that we do not give careful and conscientious religious instruction, but rather perhaps that we are in a transition stage when we no longer feel that it is legitimate, in face of the great access of knowledge with which the world is endowed, to educate in our Public Schools upon the Classics only, and, in our elementary schools, upon Bible literature only; and we have not yet found out a perfect way, nor exactly what to substitute for the curricula followed through many generations.

But we need not be discouraged. Those who listen to the myriad voices of the hour will hear the cry arising from many an unexpected quarter—“My soul is athirst for the living God!” The young people are beginning to discover for themselves that they want the Bible; and when they do so we shall have to give it to them: perhaps the day will come when we shall not consider John Stuart Mill and Herbert Spencer the best guides to propose to those young people overseas to whom we offer the benefits of a western education. I have come across no sign of the times more interesting than the movement which is going on among what in America are called “College Men.” It appears that in one University after another men have quite spontaneously formed themselves into groups for the definite study of the Scriptures—not of books about the Bible, but the Bible itself; not in obedience to any Church or sect or revivalist movement, but merely with the desire to search the Scriptures, do several thousands of these young men devote some part of their leisure to a study which, there, as here, is out of their ordinary curriculum. This seems to me one indication of a great impulse which is moving Christian peoples in various manners towards that “end” of education which Milton recognized; and for this and other reasons, it is not amiss to close the consideration of these Two Ideals of Education with the noble invocation of Wordsworth:—

“Milton, thou shouldst be living at this hour:
England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters; altar, sword and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;
Oh, raise us up, return to us again;
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power;
Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart:
Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,
So didst thou travel on life’s common way,
In cheerful godliness: and yet thy heart
The lowliest duties on herself did lay.”

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Endnotes for the Editor’s Note

[1] The Parents’ Review, vol. 21, pp. 801–820.

[2] The Parents’ Review, vol. 39, p. 1.

[3] The Parents’ Review, vol. 51, p. 314.

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