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THE THOUGHTS ON EDUCATION AND THE CONDUCT OF THE
LOCKE'S tractate on Education, though some of the maxims are reiterated with needless prolixity, abounds in shrewdness and common-sense. Taking as the object of education the production of "a sound mind in a sound body," he begins with the "case," the "clay-cottage," and considers first the health of the body. Of the diet prescribed, dry bread and small beer form a large proportion. Locke is a great believer in the virtues of cold water. Coddling, in all its forms, was to be repressed with a strong hand. My young master was to be much in the open air, he was to play in the wind and the sun without a hat, his clothes were not to be too warm, and his bed was to be hard and made in different fashions, that he might not in after-life feel every little change, when there was no maid "to lay all things in print, and tuck him in warm."
In the cultivation of the mind, far more importance is attached to the formation of virtuous habits, and even of these social qualities which go by the name of "good breeding," than to the mere inculcation of knowledge. "I place Virtue as the first and most necessary of those endowments that belong to a Man or a Gentleman; as absolutely requisite to make him valued and beloved by others, acceptable or tolerable to himself." Wisdom, that is to say, a man's managing his business ably, and with foresight, in this world," comes next in order. In the third place is Good Breeding, the breaches of which may be all avoided by "observing this one rule, Not to think meanly of ourselves, and not to think meanly of others." Learning, though "this may seem strange in the mouth of a bookish man," he puts last. "When I consider what ado is made about a little Latin and Greek, how many years are spent in it, and what a noise and business it makes to no purpose, I can hardly forbear thinking that the parents of children still live in fear of the Schoolmaster's Rod." "Seek out somebody that may know how discreetly to frame your child's manners: place him in hands where you may, as much as possible, secure his innocence, cherish and nurse up the good, and gently correct and weed out any bad inclinations, and settle in him good habits. This is the main point, and, this being provided for, Learning may be had into the bargain, and that, as I think " (a very common de
lusion among the educational reformers of Locke's time), "at a very easy rate, by methods that may be thought on."
These being Locke's ideas as to the relative value of the objects to be aimed at in education, we need feel little surprise at the disfavour with which he viewed the system of the English Public Schools.
"Till you can find a School wherein it is possible for the Master to look after the manners of his scholars, and can show as great efforts of his care of forming their minds to virtue and their carriage to good breeding as of forming their tongues to the learned languages, you must confess that you have a strange value for words when, preferring the languages of the ancient Greeks and Romans to that which made 'em such brave men, you think it worth while to hazard your son's innocence and virtue for a little Greek and Latin. How any one's being put into a mixed herd of unruly boys, and there learning to wrangle at Trap or rook at Span-Farthing fits him for civil conversation or business, I do not see. And what qualities are ordinarily to be got from such a troop of Play-fellows as Schools usually assemble together from parents of all kinds, that a father should so much covet, is hard to divine. I am sure he who is able to be at the charge of a Tutor at home may there give his son a more genteel carriage, more manly thoughts, and a sense of what is worthy and becoming, with a greater proficiency in Learning into the bargain, and ripen him up sooner into a man, than any School can do."
The battle of private and public education has been waged more or less fiercely ever since Locke's time, as it was waged long before, and, although it has now been generally decided in favour of the Schools, many of his arguments have even yet not lost their force.
Not only in the interest of morality, character, and manners did Locke disapprove the Public School system of his day. He also thought it essentially defective in its subjects and modes of instruction. The subjects taught were almost exclusively the Latin and Greek languages, though at Locke's own school of Westminster the upper forms were also initiated into Hebrew and Arabic. This linguistic training, though of course it included translations from the classical authors, was, to a large extent carried on by means of verse-making, theme-making, repetition, and grammar lessons. Against all these modes of teaching Locke is peculiarly severe. Grammar, indeed, he would have taught, but not till the pupil is sufficiently conversant with the language to be able to speak it with tolerable fluency. Its proper place is as an introduction to Rhetoric. "I know not why any one should waste his time and beat his head about the Latin Grammar, who does not intend to be a critic, or make speeches and write despatches in it. . . . If his use of it be only to understand some books writ in it, without a critical knowledge of the tongue itself, reading alone will attain this end, without charging the mind with the multiplied rules and intricacies of Grammar." But without a knowledge of some rules of grammar, which need not, however, be taught in an abstract and separate form, but may be learnt gradually in the
course of reading, writing, and speaking, how would it be possible to attain to any precise understanding of the authors read? The fault of the old system, which even still lingers on in school instruction, consisted not so much in teaching grammatical rules, as in teaching them apart from the writings which exemplify them, and which alone can render them intelligible or interesting to a beginner.
The practice of filling up a large part of a boy's time with making Latin themes and verses meets with still more scathing censure than that of initiating him into the learned languages by means of abstract rules of grammar, and we may well imagine the cordial assent with which many of Locke's readers, smarting under a sense of the time they had in this way lost at school, would receive his criticisms.
"For do but consider what it is in making a Theme that a young lad is employed about; it is to make a speech on some Latin saying, as Omnia vincit amor, or Non licet in bello bis peccare, &c. And here the poor lad, who wants knowledge of those things he is to speak of, which is to be had only from time and observation, must set his invention on the rack to say something where he knows nothing; which is a sort of Egyptian tyranny to bid them make bricks who have not yet any of the materials. ... In the next place consider the Language that their Themes are made in. "Tis Latin, a language foreign in their country, and long since dead everywhere: a language which your son, 'tis a thousand to one, shall never have an occasion once to make a speech in as long as he lives after he comes to be a man; and a language wherein the manner of expressing one's self is so far different from ours that to be perfect in that would very little improve the purity and facility of his English style.
If these may be any reasons against children's making Latin Themes at school, I have much more to say, and of more weight, against their making verses; verses of any sort. For if he has no genius to poetry, 'tis the most unreasonable thing in the world to torment a child and waste his time about that which can never succeed; and if he have a poetic vein, 'tis to me the strangest thing in the world that the father should desire or suffer it to be cherished or improved. Methinks the parents should labour to have it stifled and suppressed as much as may be; and I know not what reason a father can have to wish his son a poet, who does not desire to have him bid defiance to all other callings and business. Which is not yet the worst of the case; for if he proves a successful rhymer, and get once the reputation of a Wit, I desire it may be considered what company and places he is likely to spend his time in, nay, and estate too. For it is very seldom seen that any one discovers mines of gold or silver in Parnas'Tis a pleasant air, but a barren soil; and there are very few instances of those who have added to their patrimony by anything they have reaped from thence. Poetry and Gaming, which usually go together, are alike in this too, that they seldom bring any advantage but to those who have nothing else to live on."
Repetition, as it is called, or "learning by heart great parcels of the authors which are taught," is unreservedly condemned as being of "no use at all, uuless it be to baulk young lads in the was to learning languages, which, in my opinion, should be made as
easy and pleasant as may be." "Languages are to be learned only by reading and talking, and not by scraps of authors got by heart; which when a man's head is stuffed with, he has got the just furniture of a pedant, than which there is nothing less becoming a gentleman." This unqualified condemnation of the practice of committing to memory the choicer pieces of classical authors, whether in the ancient or modern languages, would hardly be adopted by the educational reformers of our own day. To tax the memory of a child or a boy with long strings of words, ill understood or not understood at all, is about as cruel and senseless a practice as can well be conceived. It is one of the strange devices, invented by perverse pedagogues and tolerated by ignorant parents, through which literature and all that is connected with books has been made so repulsive to many generations of young Englishmen. But if the tastes and interests of the pupil skilfully consulted, and the understanding is called into action as well as the memory, a store of well-selected passages learnt by rote will not only do much to familiarize him with the genius of the language, but will also supply constant solace and occupation in those moments of depression and vacuity which are only too sure to occur in every man's life.
Locke, like Milton (see Milton's Pamphlet on Education addressed to Master Samuel Hartlib, and cp. Pattison's Life of Milton, published in this series, pp. 42-46), had embraced the new gospel of education according to Comenius, and supposed that, by new methods, not only might the road to knowledge be rendered very short and easy, but almost all the subjects worth learning might be taught in the few years spent at School and College. The whole of Milton's "complete and generous education" was to be "done between twelve and one-and-twenty." And similarly Locke thinks that "at the same time that a child is learning French and Latin, he may also be entered in Arithmetic, Geography, Chronology, History, and Geometry too. For if these be taught him in French or Latin, when he begins once to understand either of these tongues, he will get a knowledge in these sciences and the language to boot." To these subjects are afterwards added Astronomy, Ethics, Civil and Common Law, Natural Philosophy, and almost all the then known branches of human knowledge, though, curiously enough, Greek is omitted as not being, like Latin and French, essential to the education of a gentleman, and being, moreover, easy of acquisition, "if he has a mind to carry his studies farther," is after-life. Concurrently with these intellectual pursuits, the model young gentleman is to graduate in dancing, fencing, wrestling, riding, besides (and on this addition to his accomplishment the utmost stress is laid) "learning a trade, a manual trade, nay, two or three, but one more particularly." And all this programme apparently was to be filled up before the age of one-andtwenty, for at that time Locke assumes that, notwithstahding all reason and remonstrances to the contrary, my young master's parents will insist on marrying him, and "the young gentleman being got within view of matrimony, 'tis time to leave him to his mistress."
This idea of an education embracing the whole field of human knowledge and accomplishments is a vision so attractive, that it would be strange indeed if it did not from time to time present itself to the enthusiast and the reformer. But wherever the experiment has been tried on boys and youths of average ability, the vision has invariably been dissipated. And, as the circle of human knowledge is constantly widening, whereas the capacity to learn remains much the same from generation to generation, the failure is inevitable.
Any account of Locke's views on Education, however meagre, would be very imperfect, if it neglected to notice the motives to obedience and proficiency which he proposed to substitute for what was then too often the one and only motive on which the Schoolmaster relied, fear of the rod. Corporal chastisement should be reserved, he thought, for the offence of wilful and obstinate disobedience. In all other cases, appeal should be made to the pupil's natural desire of employment and knowledge, to example acting through his propensity to imitation, to reasoning, to the sense of shame and the love of commendation and reputation. Many of Locke's suggestions for bringing these motives effectually to bear are very ingenious, and the whole of this part of the discussion is as creditable to his humanity as to his knowledge of human nature.
There is a large literature on the theory of education, from the Book of Proverbs and the Republic of Plato downwards. It is no part of my task even to mention the principal writers in this field. But, besides some of the works of Comenius, the Essay of Montaigne De l'institution des infants, and the tractate of Milton already referred to, we may almost take for granted that Locke had read the Schoolmaster of Roger Ascham. This author, who was instructor to Queen Elizabeth, is already sufficiently independent of scholastic traditions to think that "children are sooner allured by love, than driven by beating, to attain good learning," and to suggest that "there is no such whetstone to sharpen a good wit, and encourage a will to learning, as is praise." He protests almost as strongly as Locke againt the senseless mode, then and long afterwards prevalent, of teaching grammar merely by means of abstract rules, and proposes, as in part substitute, the method of double translation, that is, of translating from the foreign or dead language into English, and then back again. Of the many works on education subsequent to Locke's, the most famous is, undoubtedly, the Emile of Rousseau. On Rousseau's theories there can be no question that Locke, mediately or immediately, exercised considerable influence, though the range of speculation covered in the Emile far exceeds that of the Thoughts concerning Education. Of the points common to the two writers, I may specify the extension of the term "education" to the regulations of the nursery, the substitution of an appeal to the tender and the social affections for the harsh discipline mostly in vogue among our ancestors, the stress laid on the importance of example and habituation in place of the mere inculcation of rules, and, as a point of detail, the de