Зображення сторінки

from place to place; and as they appreciated their occupation meanly, they exercised it mechanically.

It is to the Reformation that Europe owes an education of the people in the fullest acceptation of the word.

In all Protestant countries about the period of that great convulsion a generous provision was made for the intellectual elevation of the children of the middle classes and of the poor. Except through Protestantism, popular instruction has for three centuries and a half been modified and improved only by the efforts of individuals such as Pestalozzi, Jacotot, and a few more.

In the general progress of civilization, education must always profit, and it may yet be moulded by some fresh influence—such as it received from Christianity and the Reformation.

How far the great Old Schools of England can be or ought to be effected by that primordial influence, or by other influences of a minor kind, cannot be determined by what at first sight might seem most reasonable. England cherishes the exceptional and anomalous, and nothing can well be more exceptional and more anomalous than her great Endowed Schools. Though most of them arose when the Middle Ages were drawing to an end, they are yet in the main supremely mediæval in character, and it is difficult to see how the mediæval element can be removed without changing their nature. Utilitarianism, left to itself, would probably sweep them away altogether, and substitute an equivalent in the shape of the German Gymnasia or Realschulen. But Utilitarianism is not the highest wisdom, and these Schools have to be regarded less in themselves, perhaps, than in relation to a particular fashion of society. No English institution can be fairly measured by an ideal standard; for if so estimated nearly every English institution would be forthwith condemned. The simple question must be whether a particular institution

harmonizes with other institutions, and with a certain rude, vague, yet quite intelligible something, which may be called the English Scheme of Life. The Great Endowed Schools are less to be considered as educational agencies, in the intellectual sense, than as social agencies.

In many respects they are undoubtedly defective. They neither furnish the best moral training nor the best mental discipline, nor the most salutary and substantial mental enrichment; they do not form the most accomplished scholars or the most heroic, exalted, and disinterested men, but they are the theatres of athletic manners, and the training places of a gallant, generous spirit for the English gentleman. This is the highest merit claimed for them by the warmest and most discerning of their admirers. England will, doubtless, in due time succeed in creating institutions aiming mainly at stimulating and storing the mind; but by no process of transfigurement are the great Endowed Schools likely to be rendered institutions of this stamp. To be convinced of this, let any one read the valuable evidence given before, and the elaborate Report published by, the late Schools' Commission. The Members of the Commission were notable alike for integrity and intelligence. Their prejudices-if prejudices they had-were all of a conservative kind. Eton and the other Schools were dear to them as the homes and sanctuaries of their boyhood. We are not, therefore, to deem their opinions, conclusions, and suggestions those of innovators, but the results of sound sense, and of enlightened experience, tempered by patriotic feeling. Now it is plain the Commisioners wish the Institutions not so much to be remodelled as to be amended. The Schools are still to be more aristocratical than cloistral, more classical than national. It is here that we encounter the pith and pinch of the case. How far the Schools carry out the intentions of the founders

should be treated as a subordinate point, though by no means to be lost sight of. It is of vastly more importance to decide to what extent they achieve a national purpose. The aristocratical element has immense force in England. The English aristocracy is the only aristocracy in Europe which is still powerful, and even the progress of democracy adds seemingly to its strength. The aspiration of the English aristocracy is to be, not the best educated, but for practical purposes the most cultivated. This class, however, does not exist for its own sake; does not exist merely to monopolize certain privileges; it exists that it may be the national ornament and bulwark; it exists that it may crown that social hierarchy which should symbolize the hierarchy of nature.

Now it is in reference to the interests of the social hierarchy that the English aristocracy should be always contemplated, otherwise its doom may be the same as that which befell the aristocracies of Venice and of Poland. If English society as a whole is intensely aristocratic, the English Universities, the great English Endowed Schools, the English Church, the English Army, the English Navy should be aristocratic also, though still in entire subserviency to the most glorious of the national destinies. Theorising on the subject will profit little, and the English are wisely impatient of theories. But it is evident that conservative realists as the English may be, prone though they are to let the aristocratic element have its due empire, they must yet allot the foremost place to the National idea. It is not then timid conservatives, neither is it innovators, theorists, utilitarians, common-place mechanical reformers, that should deal with the Great Endowed Schools ; but what we may fairly term the heart, and conscience, and reverence of the nation. If the noblest instincts of the people were consulted, they would assuredly oppose organic change in these venerable institutions, but they might demand that

their cloistered aspect should be diminished, their aristocratic associations elevated, their classical power expanded and fertilized, and their national leaven and lineaments increased. The best friends of these Schools confess that they contain much that is pedantic, much that is puerile, much that is antiquated, much that is obsolete, much that is obstructive, and not a little that is barbarous, and that, like other English institutions, they are apt to confound stolidity with solidity. Let then abuses be removed ; let absolute obscurantism cease, and let such improvements be adopted as commend themselves, not to superficial progress, but to the most exalted wisdom.

To make the loftier kind of education in England what it ought to be, three measures are chiefly needful : the appointment of a Minister of Public Instruction, with somewhat of autocratic authority; the establishment of a National University, and the formation of Academies and Schools corresponding to the Gymnasia and the Realschulen of the Germans, in which the business of instruction should not be monopolized, to the extent it is in our Great Schools, by the Ministers of the Church.

Education in England is at present very much of a chancemedley affair. It has neither unity of object nor of spirit. The whims of individuals, the bigotry of sects, the timid interference of the Government, the tricks of charlatans, sciolism, incompetency, coarse popular feeling, and necessity, all commingle and counteract. What fruits can such a system, or rather such an absence of system, bear? A Minister of Public Instruction would not, it is true, eradicate the whole evil, would not provide a perfect remedy, but he would be an efficient instrument of a great reformation. He would potently help to bring order and unity; he would infuse energy, and would compel even the most recalcitrant and incapable to follow a comprehensive plan. In this country there is a dislike, and a very proper dislike, to that bureaucratic meddling

which is the bane of Continental States. But we sometimes suffer as much from the want of centralization as other nations do from its excess. By all means let bureaucracy, which is the pedantry of despotism, be opposed. Let no dread, however, be entertained of centralization where education is concerned; for vigorous centralization would quicken and stimulate public instruction, enlarge its scope, and hasten its march.

A National University in or near the Metropolis, is one of the most urgent national needs. This might be the noblest University on the earth. The British Empire is not limited to the British Islands; and British influence is not limited to the British Empire. London is the centre of the world's material commerce ; it might be the centre of a diviner commercethat of mind. The cosmopolitanism which would destroy earnestness and efface nationalities is not to be commended, but how desirable a point would that be, where, what is best in all nationalities, could meet!

In certain social agencies and aspects, France must rule, as heretofore ; and Germany for ages must remain the teacher of deepest thought to mankind. As, however, England has produced the most catholic of poets, Shakespeare, she could be the most catholic of countries, and a National University would aid her in the magnificent design.

The Gymnasia of Germany, though of Mediæval origin, retain few Mediæval features. They are a more perfect kind of Grammar Schools than those with which we are familiar in England. To the science and art of teaching not much attention has been given amongst us. In Germany it has been thoroughly and comprehensively studied. The German Gymnasia are the preparatory Schools for the Universities. They have therefore in a supreme degree attracted the attention of German educationists.

Originally, the Greek Gymnasium had simply a physical, an

« НазадПродовжити »