Imatges de pàgina
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of excellence, and to have prizes open to limited portions of a school as well as to the whole. But it is more important, as a general rule, that prizes should be held in high estimation than that they should be many in number; and it is so easy, on the one hand, by having too many of them, to defeat their object in calling out the highest excellence—so easy, on the other, by having too few, to restrict their operation unduly—that there are few subjects which require a greater exercise of care and judg. ment on the part of the authorities. The system of daily marking is a direct inducement to study and regular diligence; and periodical examinations are useful not only in compelling the boy to prove that he is master of what has been taught, but in cultivating the power of storing up, arranging, and producing knowledge, and of answering questions intelligibly on paper, which is not a universal accomplishment. The publication of school lists is a useful expedient, and at some schools especially has been turned to good account.

We are well aware, of course, that no system, however perfect, of promotion or of instruction, can do much to combat idleness unless the masters thoroughly and conscientiously discharge the hardest and most ungrateful part of their duty-the task of teaching those who are not disposed to learn. We are aware also that emulation has its disadvantages, and that as a stimulus to exertion it is morally far inferior to the sense of duty. We are not ignorant of that vis inertiæ which sheer inveterate idleness opposes to every kind of pressure, or of the difficulty of making, by any means, an idle boy diligent, on whom neither emulation nor duty has any sensible power. Neither do we forget that the cultivation of the intellect is not the sole end of education, nor the only object for which boys are sent to school, But a good system makes good teachers. Secondary motives are wanted for boys, whose habits are unformed and whose chief temptation is to waste time, as much at least as by men; and the desire of immediate success supplies in youth the place of those provident cares and far-reaching aims which take possession of the mind in maturer years. If there is a good deal of unconquerable idleness in every great school, there is much certainly that is not unconquerable ; and whatever else a boy may have gained at school, he has not gained that which school education should give, if he leaves it with men tal powers uncultivated, and without having acquired, in some degree, the habits of exertion, attention, self-denial, and self-control, which are necessary conditions of progress. A lad who makes no progress, or lags constantly behind his fellows, gets little good from his school, to which he is commonly himself a mischievous incumbrance; and it is of the highest importance that no boy should be admitted into any school who is unfit, from want of preparation, to enter upon its course of teaching among boys not much younger than himself, and that no boy should be allowed to remain at any school who does not make reasonable progress in it. The consequence of not exacting sufficient preparation is, that boys come at twelve or thirteen years of age with less knowledge than they should have at pine or ten. The consequence of rermitting them to remain at school without making progress is, that they either stagnate at the bottom of it, or are pushed up without exertion on their own part, are employed at work for which they are unfit, and are a drag and a dead weight on the boys more forward than themselves, with whom they are associated in doing it.

Results of the Instruction. It is a far easier matter to ascertain how much is taught at the public schools than to determine how much is learned. It would appear, from the class-lists and lists of prize-men at the two Universities, that a fair proportion of classical honors at least is gained by the public schools, and that those who enter from the highest forms are, on the whole, well-taught classical scholars. But these notoriously form a small proportion of the boys who receive a public-school education. The great mass of such boys expose themselves to no tests which they can possibly avoid, and there are hardly any data for ascertaining how they acquit themselves in the easy examinations which must be passed in order to obtain a degree of the number of undergraduates at Oxford about one-third, and at Cambridge rather more than onefifth, come from the public schools, and nearly three-fourths of these are from Eton, Harrow, and Rugby. Of the boys educated at the schools who leave for the Universities, none of the nine schools sends as many as half its number—the average proportion is about one-third. As a rule, not only the best scholars at the Universities come from the public schools but also (and in this Eton has a certain preëminence) the idlest and most ignorant men. In the subject of mathematics, however, the public schools hold a position of marked inferiority to other places of education. The Commissioners draw the following conclusions as to the general results :-That boys who have capacity and industry enough to work for distinction, are, on the whole, well taught in the article of classical scholarship, but that even these occasionally show a want of accuracy in elementary knowledge, either from not having been well grounded, or from having been suffered to forget what they have learned ;—That the average of classical knowledge among young men leaving school for college is low;—That in arithmetic and mathematics, in general information and in English, the average is lower still, but is improving ;-That of the time spent at school by the generality of boys, much is absolutely thrown away as regards intellectual progress, either

which they can not advance, or from idleness, or from a combination of these causes ;-That in arithmetic and mathematics the public schools are specially defective, and that this observation is not to be confined to any particular class of boys.

The number of public-school boys who enter the army is not large. Of 1,976 candidates for direct commissions within three years, 122 only had been at any of the schools, and of these but 20 failed--a proportion considerably below the average. Of 96 who passed, 38 came immedi:

ately from school. The scheme of examinations for direct commissions is simple and easy, and requires nothing that is beyond the reach of any boy of moderate industry and ordinary capacity. The public-school candidates for Sandhurst in the same time were 23 out of 375. or the 18 who succeeded (also above the average proportion) 11 came direct . from school. The qualifying examination for Woolwich required, before 1862, an amount of mathematical knowledge difficult of attainment for a boy educated at a public school, but then underwent some changes which inake it easier. In three years previous to this change, 35 public-school candidates passed and 49 failed to pass, the totals of candidates being 545 and 689. Of the whole 84, two only went direct from the schools and these failed.

The Course and Subjects of Instruction proper for the Schools.-For the instruction of boys, especially when collected in a large school, it is material that there should be some one principal branch of study, invested with a recognized and, if possible, a traditional importance, to which the principal weight should be assigned, and the largest share of time and attention given. This is necessary in order to concentrate attention, to stimulate industry, to supply to the whole school a common ground of literary interest and a coinmon path of promotion. The study of the classical languages and literature at present occupies this position in all the great English schools and with the advantage of long possession

an advantage so great that we should certainly hesitate to advise the dethronement of it, even if we were prepared to recommend a successor.

It is not without reason, however, that the foremost place has been assigned to this study. Grammar is the logic of common speech, and there are few educated men who are not sensible of the advantages they gained as boys from the steady practice of composition and translation, and from their introduction to etymology. The study of literature is the study, pot indeed of the physical, but of the intellectual and moral world we live in, and of the thoughts, lives, and characters of those men whose writings and whose memories succeeding generations have thought it worth while to preserve.

We are equally convinced that the best materials available to Englishmen for these studies are furnished by the languages and literature of Greece and Rome. From the regular structure of their languages, from their logical accuracy of expression, from the comparative ease with which their etymology is traced and reduced to general laws, from their severe canons of taste and style, from the very fact that they are “dead," and have been handed down to us directly from the periods of their highest perfection, comparatively untouched by the inevitable process of degeneration and decay, they are beyond all doubt the finest and most serviceable models we have for the study of language. As literature, they supply the most graceful and some of the noblest poetry, the finest eloquence, the deepest philosophy, the wisest historical writing; and these excellencies are such as to be appreciated keenly, though inadequately,

by young minds and to leave, as in fact they do, a lasting impression. Besides this, it is at least a reasonable opinion that this literature has had a powerful effect in molding and animating the statesmanship and political life of England. Nor is it to be forgotten that the whole civilization of modern Europe is really built upon the foundations laid two thousand years ago by two highly civilized nations on the shores of the Mediterranean; that their languages supply the key to our modern tongues ; their poetry, history, philosophy, and law, to the poetry, history, philos. ophy, and jurisprudence, of modern times; that this key can seldom be acquired except in youth, and that the possession of it, as daily experience proves, and as those who have it not will most readily acknowledge, is very far from being merely a literary advantage.

It may be objected that this is only true provided the study is carried far enough, and that in a large proportion of cases it is not carried far enough. Of the young men who go to the Universities a great number never acquire so much Latin and Greek as would enable them to read the best classical authors intelligently and with pleasure, and more than half of those who leave school do not go to the Universities at all; among these the average of classical attainment is certainly lower still, and probably in nine cases out of ten they never, after they have quitted school, open a Greek or Latin book. It may be asked whether the mental discipline which such boys have received could not have been imparted to them at least as well by other studies, in which they might perhaps have made more sensible progress, and which would have furnished them at the same time with knowledge practically and immediately serviceable to them in the business of life.

This objection supposes that there should be different courses in each school for different capacities, (a question discussed farther on) or that there should be but one course in which the classics should not enter or should hold a subordinate place. Now it is and ought to be the aim of the public schools to give an education of the best kind, not of the second best. Their great service consists in giving such an education to boys who have capacity and industry enough to take advantage of it, and they should not forego this office for the sake of bringing down their teaching to a level adjusted to the reach of dull, uncultivated, or listless minds. They are bound indeed to adjust it to the scope of ordinary intellects, for the vast majority of boys intrusted to them are not clever. But it is not necessary to be clever in order to gain solid advantage from the study of Latin and Greek; it is only necessary to be attentive, a condition equally indispensable to progress in any other study. And without doubt, a boy of ordinary capacity, and even a dull and backward boy who can be induced to take pains, is likely to profit more on the whole in a school where he has highly cultivated masters, and travels the same road with companions who are being highly educated, where there is a higher standard of taste and attainment, and the instruments and whole machinery of instruction are of the finest and most perfect kind, than he would under a system sedulously lowered to the pitch of his own intellectual powers.

Yet the course should not be exclusively classical. It is the office of education not only to discipline some of the faculties, but to awaken, call out, and exercise there all so far as this can usefully be done in boyhood ; to awaken tastes that may be developed in after life; to impart early habits of reading, thought, and observation; and to furnish the mind with such knowledge as is wanted at the outset of life. A young man is not educated-indeed, is not educated at all-who can not reason or observe or express himself easily and correctly, and who is unable to bear his part in cultivated society from ignorance of things which all who mix in it are assumed to be acquainted with. He is not well educated if his information is all shut up within one narrow circle, and if he has not been taught at least that beyond what he has been able to acquire lie great and varied fields of knowledge, some of which he may afterwards explore if he has inclination and opportunity to do so. The kind of knowledge which is necessary or useful, and the best way of exercising or disciplining the faculties, must vary, of course, with the habits and requirements of the age and of the society in which his life is to be spent. No system of instruction can be framed which will not require modification from time to time. The highest and most useful office of education is certainly to train and discipline; but it is not the only office. And whilst in the busy world too great a value perhaps is sometimes set upon the actual acquisition of knowledge and too little upon the mental discipline which enables men to acquire and turn it to the best account, there is also a tendency which is exactly the reverse of this, and which is among the besetting temptations of the ablest schoolmasters; and if very superficial men may be produced by one of these influences, very ignorant men are sometimes produced by the other.

The objections commonly made to any extension of the old course of study are of a more or less practical character. It is said that many things which ought to be learned ought not to be learned at school, and are best acquired before going thither or after leaving it; that they can not be imparted there effectively nor without injury to more important studies, without dissipating the attention and overloading the mind; that the capacity for learning which an average boy possesses is, after all, very limited, and his capacity for forgetting very great; that ability is rare and industry not very common; that if the apparent results are small, they do not quite represent the real benefit received; and that the actual results, such as they are, are the best which in practice it is possible to obtain.

There is truth here, yet these arguments have in fact been used against all the improvements that have been already introduced and with proud success. It is quite true that much less can, generally speaking, be mastered and retained by a young mind than theorists might suppose; and true that it is not easy to win steady attention from a high-spirited

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