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NORMAL SCHOOLS IN FRANCE.
The earliest movement towards the professional training of teachers was made in France by the Abbe de Lasalle, while canon of the Cathedral at Rheims, in 1681, and perfected, in his training school for his Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, in 1684.
In 1794, by an ordinance of the National Convention a normal school was established at Paris to furnish professors for colleges and the higher seminaries. The institution was projected on a scale beyond the preparation which its earliest pupils could bring, and beyond the wants to be supplied. The instruction was mainly by lectures, which were delivered by Lagrange, Laplace, Sicard, Laharpe, and other distinguished teachers and men of science. The experiment was abandoned in 1795, and not resumed till 1808, when Napoleon re-established the school in the ordinance creating the “Imperial University of France.” It has since heen maintained for the purpose of training a class of pupils for professorships in the colleges and secondary schools.
In 1810 the first seminary designed for teachers of elementary schools, was established at Strasbourg, through the liberality of Count de Lezai Marnesia, and the co-operation of the Rector of the Academy, and the prefect of the department of the Lower Rhine. It opened in 1811 as a “ Normal class of primary school teachers." No pupil was admitted who was under sixteen years of age, or over thirty, or who was not acquainted with the studies pursued in elementary schools. The course embraced four years, and included as wide and thorough range of studies as is now required in the best Normal Schools of France. The number of pupils was limited to sixty, and those who enjoyed the benefit of a bourse, or scholarship, came under obligation to teach at least ten years in the schools of the department. Those scholarships were founded partly by individual liberality, and partly by the department, and by the communes, which sent candidates to the school. Under the organization established in 1810, with such modifications as experience suggested, this school has continued to exert a powerful influence on the cause of popular education through that section of France, and it now ranks not only as the oldest, but one of the best in Europe. The department of Upper Rhine, witnessing the results of this experiment in the neighboring communes, appropriated six thousand francs to found scholarships, for the benefit of a certain number of candidates in the seminary at Strasbourg. According to a Report of M. Guizot to the King, in 1833, it appears that the state of primary education in the two departments constituting the Academy of Strasbourg, was far in advance of any other section of France. Good schools were more numerous; fewer communes were destitute of schools; and the slow and defective method of individual instruction had given place to more lively and simultaneous methods of class instruction. “ In all respects the superiority of the popular schools is striking, and the conviction of the people is as general that this superiority is mainly due to the existence of this Normal School."
The establishment of two Normal Schools for the departments of Moselle and Meuse, in 1820, was followed by the same results,—the establishment of schools in communes before destitute, and the improvement of schools already in operation, by the introduction of better methods. In 1828 a new impulse was given to educational improvement by publicspirited individuals and teachers' associations in Paris, and other parts of France, which led to the establishment of a fourth Normal School in the department of Vosges, and a fifth in that of Meuth. About the same time a Normal course of instruction was opened in the college of Charleville, for the department of Ardennes, and the foundations of superior Normal Schools were laid at Dijon, Orleans, and Bourges, as well as a Training School for the Brothers of the Christian Doctrine at Rouen. At the close of 1829, there were thirteen Normal Schools in operation. The movement already commenced, received a new impulse in the right direction by the Revolution of 1830, which in this respect was as beneficent as the Revolution of 1791 was disastrous. In the three years immediately following the change of dynasty in 1830, thirty-four new Normal Schools were established in different sections of France, and wherever they were established they contributed to the opening of primary schools in communes before destitute, and of diffusing a knowledge of better methods among teachers who did not resort to these seminaries. But the most auspicious event was the publication of M. Cousin's “ Report on the condition of Public Instruction in several of the States of Germany, and especially in Prussia," in 1832. A considerable portion of this report was devoted to an account of the best Normal Schools of Prussia, and to the most emphatic recommendation of the same policy in France. The following valuable suggestions were made on this subject, most of which were subsequently embodied in the Law of Primary Instruction, and the Regulations of the Minister relating to Normal Schools.
“I have already remarked, that as every commune must have its primary school, so every department must have its primary Normal School. If the same law which shall render the former imperative on the communes, should render the latter equally imperative on the departments, we should have made a great advance. If the law does not go so far as that, you must at all events come at the same results by administrative measures ; you must require every council-general of a department, through the medium of the prefect, to vote funds for the establishment of a primary Normal School, under condition of binding yourself to contribute a greater or less portion of the total expenditure, and to take upon yourself, 1. the salary of the director, whom you would nominate; 2. the books, maps, and instruments necessary for the use of the students. It njust be laid down as a principle, that every department mi... have its Normal School; but that school should be proportioned to the extent and the wealth of the department, and it may, with equal propriety, be small in one and large in another. I take the liberty of referring to a very simple and very economical plan on which a primary Normal School may at first be organized.
Choose the best-conducted primary school in the department, that which is in the hands of the master of the greatest ability and trust-worthiness. Annex to this school a class called Normal, in which this same master shall teach his art to a certain number of young men of the department, who are willing to come to it to form themselves for schoolmasters. None should be admitted till after an examination, made by a commission appointed by you. This commission must send you the results of its labors; and it would be well that the admission of the students to the primary Normal School should be signed by you, as is the case in the admission of students to the great Normal School for the instruction of the second degree. This small Normal School ought never to be placed in a very large town, the influence of which would be adverse to that spirit of poverty, humility and peace, so necessary to the students. There is no objection to their being day-pupils, provided they are responsible for their conduct out of the house. "Nor is it necessary that all should receive exhibitions, or purses, especially whole purses. In all small towns there are families in which a young man may be boarded and lodged for about 300 francs a year, ($60;) so that 3000 francs, ($600,) prudently divided into whole, half, and quarter purses, would easily defray the cost of ten or fifteen students. Give the master the title of Director of the Normal School, which would be a real gain to him, inasmuch as it would increase his consideration; and for the additional labor you impose upon him, give him a salary of 700 or 800 francs. Add a yearly allowance of 400 or 500 francs for books, maps, and other things required in teaching; and thus, for 5000 francs, ($1000,) at the utmost, you have a small Normal School, which will be extremely useful to the department. The pupils should be permitted to leave it if they choose, in a year, provided they be able to go through the examination at quitting, on which depends their obtaining the brevet of primary teacher. Yes, it rests with you, by means of a circular to this effect, addressed to all the prefects of the kingdom, to have in a few months, eighty-four small primary Normal Schools in France. The plan which I propose does not commit you to any future measures, yet it at once covers France with Normal Schools which will supply our first wants. It is for time, zeal, intelligence, and perseverance to do the rest. There must always necessarily be a great difference among the Normal Schools of our eighty-four departments; but the best way is, to go on gradually improving, in proportion as experience shows you what is required. Even with this wise tardiness, three or four years will suffice to improve all these small Normal Schools, and to raise a great number to the rank of complete great Normal Schools..
The difference between a great and a small Normal School consists in this: a small Normal School is only an appendage to a primary school, whilst a great Normal School is an establishment subsisting by and for itself, to which a primary school (and if possible that should comprise both an elementary and a middle school) is annexed.
This difference gives the measure of all other differences. In the small Normal School there are only day-pupils, or at most a few boarders. In the great, the majority may be boarders. In the one, the course may be terminated in a year; in the other, it should extend through two years, as at Bruhl; and even, in time, according to the resources of the
departments and the progress of public education, it might embrace three years, as in most of the great Normal Schools of Prussia,-Potsdam, for example. The departments must be the judges of their resources and of their wants. A department which wants twenty schoolmasters a year, and which has a certain number of middle or burgher schools, as well as many elementary schools, can very well receive twenty pupils a year; which, supposing the course to occupy two or three years, amounts to forty or sixty pupils at a time in the school. Then there must be accommodation for boarding them, a large building, a greater number of masters, more exhibitions, (bourses,) more expense of every sort.
In the hope that the few great primary Normal Schools we already possess will soon be succeeded by others, I beg your attention to the following maxims, deduced from general experience, and from all the data I have accumulated here.
1. To begin by giving instructions rather than rules; to confine yourself in these instructions to the establishing of a few essential points, and to leave the rest to the departmental committee. To discuss and decide this small number of points in the royal council; not to multiply them, but inflexibly to enforce their execution. The fewer they are, the more easy will this execution be, and the more susceptible will they be of application to all the Normal Schools of France; so that there would be a common groundwork for all; a unity, which, passing from the Normal Schools into the whole body of popular education, would have a beneficial influence in strengthening the national unity. At the same time, this unity would not be prejudicial to local diversities; for the departmental committee would be desired to apply your general instructions according to the peculiar manners or usages of the department. From the combination of the uniformity of these instructions, with the diversity of arrangements which the prudence and intelligence of the committee, and the experience of each year, will recommend, a set of regulations for each Normal School will gradually arise, more or less definitive, and therefore fit to be made public. The plan of study of the great Normal School at Paris, for the supply of the royal and communal colleges, is the fruit of fifteen years' experience. This school, which was founded in 1810, had no written laws till 1815. We made important modifications in those laws at the Revolution of 1830, and it was not till then that we ventured to print them, as the result, nearly definitive, or at least likely to endure for some time, of all the experiments successively tried. Let us imitate this caution, and begin with a simple set of instructions from the minister. Rules for the studies and the discipline will gradually arise. Every year will modify them. The important thing is, to exact an accurate account of the proceedings and results of the year, drawn up by the director, and transmitted to you, together with all the necessary documents, by the departmental committee and the prefect, who will subjoin their own opinion. Then, and then only, you will interpose your authority, with that of the royal council, which will revise this report every year at the vacation, and pronounce on the improvements to be introduced.
II. To attach the greatest possible importance to the choice of a director. It is a principle generally established in Prussia, that the goodness of a Normal School is in exact proportion to the goodness of the director ; just as the primary school is what its master is. What constitutes a Normal School is not a fine building; on the contrary, it is not amiss that it should not be over commodious or splendid. It is not even the excellence of the regulations, which, without a faithful and intelligent execution of them, are only a useless bit of paper. A Normal School is what its director is. He is the life and soul of it. If he is a man of ability, he will turn the poorest and humblest elements to account; if he is incapable, the best and most prolific will remain sterile in his hands. Let us by no means make our directors mere house-stewards. A director ought to be at the head of the most iinportant branches of instruction, and to set an example to all the other masters. He must have long fulfilled the duties of a master; first, in different classes of a Normal course of education, so that he may have a general knowledge of the whole system ; secondly, in several Normal Schools, so that he may have experience of difficulties of various kinde; lastly, he must not be placed at the head of a Normal School or the highest class, till he has been director of several of an inferior class, so as to graduate promotion according to merit, and thus keep up an honorable emulation.
III. An excellent practice in Germany is, to place the candidates, immediately on their leaving the Normal School, as assistant masters in schools which admit of two. The young men thus go through at least a year of apprenticeship,-a very useful novitiate: they gain age and experience, and their final appointment depends on their conduct as assistant masters. I regard every gradation as extremely useful, and I think a little graduated scale of powers and duties might be advantageously introduced into primary instruction,
1st. Pupil of a Normal School admitted after competition, holding a more or less high rank in the examination list at the end of each year, and quitting the school with such or such a number. 2d. Same pupil promoted to the situation of assistant master. 3d. Schoolmaster successively in different schools rising in salary and in importance, 4th. After distinguished services, master in a primary Normal School. 5th. Lastly, director of a school of that class, with the prospect of gradually rising to be director of a numerous and wealthy Normal School, which would be a post equal to that of professor of a royal college. The human soul lives in the future. It is ambitious, because it is infinite. Let us then open to it a progressive career, even in the humblest occupations.
IV. We can not be too deeply impressed with this truth-that paid instruction is better than gratuitous instruction. The entire sum paid for board at a Normal School must be extremely moderate, for the young men of the poorest classes to be able to pay it. We must give only quarter or half exhibitions, (bourses,) reserving two or three whole ones for the two or three young men, out of the fifteen admitted annually, who stand first on the list; and even this should not be continued to them the second year, unless their conduct had been irreproachable and their application unremitting.
On the same principle as that laid down above, the elementary school annexed to the Normal School ought not to be entirely gratuitous; it ought to have no other masters than the forwardest pupils of the Normal School, acting under the direction of their masters. The profits of the elementary school for practice would go to diminish the total cost of the Normal School. As for the middle school for practice, it would be contrary to the principle of all middle schools to have it gratuitous.
V. Divide the studies of all Normal Schools into two parts: during the first, the pupils should be considered simply as students, whose acquirements are to be confirmed, extended, and methodized: during the second, as masters, who are to be theoretically and practically taught the art of teaching. If the Normal course only lasts a year, this part of it ought to occupy at least six months; if it lasts two years, it ought to occupy a year; it three years, it would still occupy only a year. The students in this last year would give lessons in the elementary and middle schools annexed to the Normal School
VI. The examination at quitting ought to be more rigid than that at entering the school. The important thing is to have young men of good capacity, even if they know little; for they will learn rapidly ; while some, who might not be deficient in a certain quantity of acquired know