« ZurückWeiter »
The Committee of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge are desirous of explaining the degree of superintendence which they think that they ought to exercise with respect to this publication.
It will of course be their duty not to sanction anything inconsistent with the general principles of the Society. Subject, however, to this general superintendence, they feel that the objects of the Society will be better forwarded by placing before the readers of this work the sentiments of able and liberal men, and thus enabling them to form their own conclusions, as well from the difference as from the agreement of the writers, than by proposing to them, as if from authority, any fixed rule of judgment, or one uniform set of opinions. It would also be inconsistent with the respect which the Committee entertain for the persons engaged in the preparation of these papers, were they to require them strictly to submit their own opinions to any rule that should be prescribed to them. If, therefore, the general effect of a paper be favourable to the objects of the Society, the Committee will feel themselves at liberty to direct its publication: the details must be the author's alone, and the opinions expressed on each particular question must be considered as his, and not those of the Committee. As they do not profess to make themselves answerable for the details of each particular essay, they cannot, of course, undertake for the exact conformity of the representations which different authors may make of the same facts; nor, indeed, do they, for the reasons already given, feel that such conformity is requisite.
By Order of the Committee,
THOMAS COATES, Secretary.
JOURNAL OF EDUCATION.
ON THE ORIGIN OF THE SCHOOLS FOR THE LOWER
CLASSES IN GERMANY. WE cannot but rejoice at the change in public opinion
which has evidently taken place of late years. After pursuing with eagerness, and for a great length of time, the secondary means of promoting the civilization and happiness of this country, the nation has at last begun to show a decided disposition to improve one branch of the social system, which is most intimately connected with its prosperity and its very existence,- that of Public Instruction. We should be proud if we could imagine that this Journal had contributed something to excite or to diffuse this spirit ; and we feel that it is our duty to labour as far as we can, however limited our power may be, to facilitate the attainment of an object of such vital importance.
Those who in this matter may be considered as the leaders of public opinion have, in spite of national prejudices,—by which, however, Englishmen are much less governed than foreigners are inclined to imagine,-directed their attention to the different systems of education adopted by the civilized nations of Europe, and have investigated their effects on the diffu of sound and useful information-they all agree in the opinion, that the system of education established in the Protestant countries of continental Europe, especially in Prussia, deserves the preference before all others.
This opinion is supported by arguments so strong, and the evidence of experience is so undeniably in its favour, that it has produced in the minds of many persons, who have reflected on the subject, a desire to transplant this system of education into our country. It is not questioned that such an undertaking is beset with many difficulties, and some not easy to overcome; but it is reasonably supposed that there are no difficulties which may not be removed by firinness and perseverance on the part of the friends of education, and a judicious adaptation of means to the circumstances of the
country. But before we encounter the difficulties to which we have alluded, it is necessary to know their extent, and to mature by due consideration the means which may be requisite for overcoming them. We shall here state two difficulties which have occurred to us.
The first difficulty refers to the instruction of the upper and middling classes. The great mass of useful knowledge which is commonly found among these classes in Germany, arises evidently from all the institutions of education in which they are brought up being subject to the control of government. This is not only the case with the public schools and other institutions, maintained chiefly, or partly, at the expense of the public, but with every other private institution, such as boarding-schools, day-schools, &c. Of course, government does not interfere with their economical arrangements, but it assumes the power to control them in the choice of the branches of knowledge which are to be taught, and still more in that of the teachers who are to be employed. As to the former, it commonly limits its control to a censure of those subjects which do not appear of such unquestionable utility as to be adopted in a course of general instruction. In the choice of the teachers, the interference of government is much greater. It does not, indeed, prevent the head-masters of boarding-schools from choosing their own teachers; but it limits their choice to such persons as have undergone an examination in the subjects which they intend to teach, and also as to their qualifications as teachers, and whose moral character has been fully proved. The object of government is to exclude incompetent persons from teaching; and in our opinion this policy is wise and necessary, for bad teachers are more numerous than bad doctors, and equally mischievous to the coinmunity.
It cannot be doubted that the German governments have completely attained this important object ; and here we ask, how shall we, in England, prevent incompetent persons from meddling with the instruction of the nation? Shall we adopt the German policy, and subject, by act of parliament, all the teachers of boarding schools to the control of government? Such a measure would not be in accordance with the prevailing feelings of the nation, and probably could neither be inade a law by the legislature nor carried into effect by the executive. We are too strongly impressed with the feeling that erery man should be left to exercise his faculties and his skill in the best way he can, ever to consent to a law by which the situation of a great number of teachers, probably one half, and perhaps much more, would be materially affected. But we apprehend that unless some change in the feelings of the public on this question is effected, we shall no more be able to command, for the education of our children, the assistance of good teachers, than we can hope to have the benefit of good physicians, without some legislative security as to their capabilities to cure. But as it has long been admitted as an undisputed principle, that private interests ought to yield to those of the public, which principle has often encroached even on the right of property, we shall not refrain from making a few more observations on this matter, and we shall endeavour to ascertain the degree of liberty which would be sacrificed by the heads of institutions for instruction and by the public at large, in the event of parliament subjecting the teachers to a control similar to that exercised in Germany. When, at present, a person intends to establish a boarding-school, the first step is generally to fit up a house in good style, for it is well known that on this circumstance, as much as on any other, depends his success. Having done this, it is in the next place important to gain the interest of some persons of rank and of extensive acquaintance, and to obtain their recommendations. If this be accomplished, success is tolerably certain. Pupils readily pour into the school, which circumstance much diminishes the necessity for choosing able teachers: on the contrary, the least qualified are often chosen, because they can be had cheapest. The reputation of such a school does not depend on the ability of the teachers; and the proprietor knows, that if he were to choose able assistants, he would be obliged to pay them well for their labour, whereas the ignorant are ready to work for half the price, and even less. The proprietor, if he manages well, may retire from business with a fortune after ten or twelve years, and exactly at the time when the public begin to be aware that they have been imposed upon. Now, in considering how far this system, which at present is common (we do not say universal), would be affected by a law conferring on government the control over these schools, it does not appear that any persons except the proprietors of schools and their assistants would come under its direct operation. The proprietors themselves would be obliged to undergo an examination, and they could only choose those teachers who also had received a proper certificate. The heads of schools being thus placed under the necessity of choosing good masters, would be obliged to pay them larger salaries, which might, it is true, render the acquisition of wealth somewhat less rapid than it often is under the present system; but this would be so much gain to the assistants, and still greater to the community, because the assistants would be men of superior character.
Under such regulations the public would not lose the choice of the schools to which they might send their children, but there would, in a short time, be no possibility of choosing a school in which the instruction was conducted by bad teachers. As the matter now stands, many parents who are anxious to give a good education to their children are very much puzzled in the choice of a school. They know that bad and good schools are recommended in the same way and nearly in the same expressions, and even if they are so fortunate as to obtain more particular information concerning schools, they are often unable to form a proper judgment as to their relative merits. This circumstance, inore than any other, we think, has contributed to the practice, which is by no means uncommon, of sending children to the continent for education. In the actual condition of a large part of our schools, this practice is rather to be encouraged than blamed. But we cannot help remarking, that youths educated altogether abroad are apt to acquire a distaste for the manners and customs of their own nation, to set little value on the institutions of their own country, and to lose their attachment to their families. It is not profitable for a youth to pass those years, in which the character receives the most lasting impressions, in a foreign country, and in the midst of a nation differing considerably in opinion and mode of thinking from that in which he is designed to live.
We are inclined, then, to consider those feelings of the public which would oppose the placing in the hands of government a control over all establishments for education, as arising from a prejudice which originates in a good principle; but as no prejudice can long withstand sound reasoning, we are confident that it will wear away, if all those who can influence public opinion will carefully consider the question here proposed, and, if convinced, unite their efforts in putting it fairly before the public.
The second difficulty which opposes the introduction of the German system of education among us is of a different nature, and one not so easy to overcome. It regards not the instruction of the wealthier, but of the poorer classes of society; and this difficulty is not solely caused by prejudices, but by the circumstances inseparable from the necessitous condition of a large part of the poor.
It is no difficult matter to erect a great number of schools for the poorer classes ; but how parents are to be induced or compelled to send their children to these schools is indeed