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The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
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Education, Part 1

by the Rev. M.R. Lutener
Volume 3, 1892/93, pgs. 96-102


Address delivered to the Altrincham Branch of the P.N.E.U.

On taking up my pen to write on the subject of Education, there is for the moment only one idea quite clear before me, that I must have been in a most audaciously reckless frame of mind on the day that I accepted your invitation. It is partly to justify my own audacity that I commence with a quotation from Herbert Spencer that will be familiar to all of you, at any rate all who are members of the Parents' Union. "The greatest defect in our programme of education is entirely overlooked," says Spencer: "while many years are spent by a boy in gaining knowledge of which the chief value is that it constitutes 'the education of a gentleman'; and while many years are spent by a girl in those decorative acquirements which fit her for evening parties; not an hour is spent by either in preparation for the gravest of all responsibilities-the management of a family. And yet the subject which involves all other subjects, and therefore the subject in which all education should culminate, is the theory and practice of Education."

The results of this, which Spencer calls the greatest defect in our programme of education is thus described by Richter: "If the secret variances of a large class of ordinary fathers were brought to light, and laid down as a plan of studies and reading, catalogued for a moral education, they would run somewhat after this fashion: In the first hour, pure morality must be read to the child; in the second, mixed morality, or that which may be applied to one's own advantage; in the third, 'Do you not see that your father does so and so?' in the fourth, 'You are little, and this is only fit for grown-up people'; in the fifth, 'The chief matter is, that you should succeed in the world, and become something in the State'; in the sixth, 'Not the temporary but the eternal, determines the worth of a man'; in the seventh, 'Therefore rather suffer injustice and be kind'; in the eighth, 'But defend yourself bravely if any one attack you'; in the ninth, 'Do not make a noise, dear child'; in the tenth, 'A boy must not sit so quiet'; in the eleventh, 'You must obey your parents better'; in the twelfth, 'And educate yourself.' So by the hourly change of his principles the father conceals their untenableness and one-sidedness. As for his wife, she is neither like him, nor yet like that harlequin who came on to the stage with a bundle of papers under each arm, and answered to the inquiry, what he had under his right arm, 'orders,' and to what he had under his left arm, 'counter-orders.' But the mother might be much better compared to a giant Briareus, who had a hundred arms, and a bundle of papers under each." This state of things is not readily to be changed. Slow, however, as must be any improvement, even that improvement implies the use of means; and among the means is discussion.

There I take it is the charter of the Parents' Union, and the reason for your presence here to-day. It is beginning to be realised that there is perhaps only one thing in this wide world that a man or woman attempts to do without any preliminary study or serious preparation, and that is the most difficult and most important thing of all, the education of their children.

We are here for discussion, to give a trial to the method of meeting the evil suggested by Herbert Spencer. Then, at the outset, let us have clearly before us what is the subject we are going to discuss; with all emphasis be it said, our subject is education and not mere instruction. That your children should be badly instructed in matters of geography, history, spelling, and so forth, is a matter of comparatively little importance; that they should be badly educated is simply ruin. It has been said, "Education is the end to be obtained, instruction is only one of the means;" or again, "Instruction is given in the class, education is given in the home, and amid natural surroundings."

This will be enough to indicate at starting the distinction between the two. The science of education is the science of building up a human character, and yet that statement fails to suggest the real difficulty of the matter; it is more than this, it is the science of making a human being build up his own character. Here indeed, at the outset is the first great point on which I want you to fix your attention, the great difficulty of the educational problem, the main difficulty with which you have to grapple. I can best bring it before you by an illustration; the training of a young animal is a comparatively simple matter, because you fix your whole attention on subduing the animal's will, conquering it by a system of quiet and firm persistence, securing obedience; but in the case of a child, the matter is not of this simple nature. You have got to face this, side by side with the fact that the character you are training is ruined, unless it learns the duty of obedience, to submit its will to others; it is equally ruined unless the will to do right is strengthened until it is the one paramount power of the man.

The first step in the scientific study of education, that is to say, compels you at once clearly and distinctly to face the crucial difficulty of the task you are undertaking-to train a will at the same time for submission and victory. To attempt to educate without even clearly recognising the nature of the task before you, is to plunge headlong into those hopeless inconsistencies which have ruined the characters of such numbers of children-e.g., to go on, the nature of the difficulty has only to be stated to lead you, I think inevitably, to this conclusion. No matter whether a man is Atheist, Sceptic, or Christian, the question of religion faces him at once-not as an accident, but as an utterly unavoidable factor on the first threshold of educational science. That paradox of subduing and strengthening the will, the basis and center of the whole educational process, must mean an appeal to a higher sanction, to a religion of some sort, disguise it under what name you will.

I say a religion of some sort, some power beyond the individual will. We say religion; the sceptic takes as a substitute one side of religion, practically the duty towards our neighbour, and calls it altruism. I am not here now to contrast the relative educational values of the two appeals, the one to God, the other to an ideal of duty, but simply to insist on what is so often forgotten, that this appeal to a higher power is recognised as clearly by the sceptic as by the Christian, and in either case is the keystone of the whole edifice of education.

To attempt to educate children with the idea that religious education is a separate thing, of which more or less may be given-to treat it as a side issue, I don't say it is wrong, but simply idiotic; it is to display a total ignorance of the whole problem that you are not grappling with, but ignoring. The first necessity of education is consistency, and, in view of the nature of your task, there is no possibility of consistency unless either this idea of God or this ideal of duty is the perpetually displayed inspiration of the will that has got to be so strong and yet so submissive, if the character you are building is to reach the stature of a perfect man. Religion cannot stand as an accidental adjunct to educational work; it must be the heart and center of the whole of it; and if I have induced you to face fairly the first great problem that meets you in your character-building work-the paradox of a will trained for submission and for victory-then I defy you even to imagine a course of action intelligent and consistent unless the whole motive principle is not either God or Altruism.

I make no apology for this long delay on the very threshold of our study, for I believe it is the fact of all others most often forgotten, but I now pass on to the practical question: Does scientific study throw any light on this-how to bring great truths and principles to bear on practical education; how to make them, as it were, from being part of ourselves to become part of those committed to our care? Does it draw attention to the practical method and main instrument in moral education? There is one branch of science which during the last few years has made immense progress, which will, I am convinced, in the near future throw much light on this most important point of the educational problem.

We are perhaps at present hardly prepared to accept the discoveries of hypnotism as a serious contribution to educational science.

We hear that M. Voisin claims to have transformed by hypnotic suggestion a woman whose character was unbearable, and to have made her gentle and affectionate to her husband, and thenceforth free from exhibitions of temper; or we hear that Dr. Liebault succeeded, by means of a single suggestion, in making a persistently idle boy diligent for a period of six weeks. We hear these things, and we accept the statement with a smile, or cry out with horror that we would rather our wife or child were naturally bad than hypnotically good.

I agree with you in that, and yet I venture to maintain that the discoveries of the scientific hypnotists throw much light on the proper educational treatment of children, both in the nursery and the schoolroom; and I am going tot ask you to consider very seriously the line that is already indicated in the small progress yet made in this dark science. But I must beg you to banish from your mind the picture of hypnotism that is probably most familiar to you; the sensational hypnotic exhibitions best known in England are a somewhat disgraceful parody of what is known as the greater hypnotism of the Paris school. The therapeutic hypnotism of the Nancy School is almost unknown popularly in England. I will quote a few words from a recent article by Lloyd Tuckey which may help to bring a truer picture before your minds:

"The theory that hypnotism, when used in the treatment of moral cases, subverts the free will, is erroneous; the originally healthy and well-disposed subject, who has sunk into habits of injurious self-indulgence through temptation from surroundings, exhaustion from overwork, or some other cause outside himself, has for the time being lost his free will; hypnotic suggestion does not contradict, but supports the will, until it is again strong enough to control the man."

I am sure you will not imagine that I am advocating the adoption of hypnotic treatment, even if this milder kind, in the nursery; the object of my quotation is only to show you how the most careful investigation of hypnotic phenomena is bringing the whole subject very closely into connection with the subject on which every educationalist is engaged. More and more it is made evident that scientific hypnotism has much to tell us that is worth our pondering over-you in your nursery, I in my parish, have some light to throw on the deepest mystery in education and religion alike-that mystery, the different parts of which we are looking at when we name those three unutterable contradictions, mutual responsibility, free will, and God's government. And the more closely we examine them, the more clearly I think we realize that the discoveries of the hypnotist are but additional emphasis laid on a conclusion to which our ordinary experience already pointed. For instance, when I say that the power of suggestion is the one great instrument which God has put into your hands for the education of your children, the only practical method of putting into effect the great moralising principle we first looked at, stating that I am stating no new thing, nothing that experience does not fully bear out, but I am stating a fact that the discoveries of scientific hypnotism have set before us in such a startling and thought-compelling manner, that it has almost the effect of a new revelation.

The infinite power of suggestion for good or evil was known before, was known by a thousand experiences of natural life; but in the light of the discoveries of hypnotic science, it assumes a terrible and vigorous reality. This hypnotism that startles you is the study of the conditions regulating the power of suggestion; it shows you its tremendous power over a patient isolated from all other counteracting influences. It shows you the power which you yourselves possess over others, only that power under natural conditions is counteracted by a thousand other influences perhaps as strong, perhaps stronger, than the force of your suggestion. But what I want you to notice is that your children are not under natural conditions, the counteracting influences are very few, and those few mainly the results of your own action. The child is unavoidably under conditions approaching the conditions of a hypnotic patient. The power of suggestion is without doubt, I think, the tremendously powerful instrument, sufficient, if properly used, to mould the characters of your children. One or two observations I will add, for the sake of brevity as disjointed notes, for consideration.

First, if you hand your children over to the charge of servants, you are deliberately transferring this tremendous power over your children's characters from yourselves to others.

Secondly, it has been argued, with at least a show of truth, and supported by evidence, that one-half of all the faults of children are the result of direct suggestions contained in the well-meant but utterly foolish words or actions of those in whose charge they are. As a partial explanation of this, I will remind you that a hypnotic patient, who has been assured that he is a pig, immediately proceeds to grunt, and otherwise act as he thinks a pig ought to act.

Thirdly, the force of your suggestion lies in its consistency with the one ruling principle of religion or altruism which has been before mentioned: every inconsistency of yours, whether of word or act, is a disturbing and counteracting force introduced by yourself; it is a counter-suggestion to the one great principle which is to be the moulding force of the character you are aiming to bring up.

Fourthly, the force of hypnotic suggestion depends on two things: the absence of counteracting influences, and the complete clearness and conviction with which it is delivered.

Fifthly, May I conclude this part of my subject with two examples of formula for childish faults? You cannot lie, because the strongest part of your nature is the spirit of God, and He is the truth; all your life you are trying to make this part of you stronger and stronger; therefore you hate all lies and meanness. You cannot sulk, because the greatest pleasure you have is to please and help others; but to sulk only means you want to displease those who have displeased you, therefore you hate sulkiness. I don't say that is the form, but it conveys the gist of the suggestion you are ever impressing on the child and gradually building into his character, and conveys the idea of how every particular suggestion is interwoven with, and receives strength from, the dominating suggestion of the whole educational process. Once again, in leaving this, infinitely the most important, part of my subject, will you pardon my dullness and length, since it is my conviction that if I have helped you even to realise the special difficulty of your task, even seriously to consider the tremendous instrument put into your hands for its accomplishment, then my paper has not been in vain?

(To be continued.)

The Parents Review Volume III 1892/3 pages 176-181
EDUCATION PART II
By the Rev. M.B. Lutener

Part II

The Correspondence Between Moral and Intellectual Education

In the earlier part of the paper we looked at a great principle and a great instrument; or, to put it differently, consistency of principle made operative by persistency of suggestion is the formula or moral education; this formula we do not leave behind us when passing on to intellectual training.

In heading this section of my paper, the correspondence between moral and intellectual education, I want to emphasise the fact that the first object of intellectual training, of instruction, of the lessons you give your children, is still not the acquisition of knowledge, but the formation of character. Does this sound Quixotic? I say it is the highest utility: you have in view the bread-winning profession, the doctor, the soldier, the business man, the carpenter, the gardener, or even the scholar? Of course I don't deny that special qualities and special knowledge are required in each separate profession, or that later a special line of study is required for each; but I do say that there are three qualities on which success in the battle of life, no matter how or where it has to be fought, mainly depends, that the development of these three qualities is the main object of all elementary instruction. These three qualities I believe to be the following: power of perseverance, power of observation, power of attention. As you set your children their tasks, as you choose what nature those tasks shall be, and the duration of each, banish the question what must my child know, and put for it how shall I lay in him the three great foundations of all intellectual progress. No man, I believe, ever really failed in life for want of knowing the names of the rivers of India, the dates of the kings of England or of Israel, or even (preserve me from the gods of the business world) from want of knowledge of the multiplication table. Many and many a million has failed for want of the perseverance, the attention, the observation, which probably was itself the cause of such a want of knowledge.

And I may impress this on you, that geography and arithmetic, history and science, modern languages and the ancient classics have often served by the wrong method of their teaching to kill the very qualities towards the attainment of which they should be the stepping-stones. A word as to the cultivation of each of these qualities in so far as they are separable from each other, for, of course, they are very closely connected. Perseverance-I put it first partly because it represents the one of the three qualities that is most essentially a part of the moral as distinguished from the intellectual side of development, and partly as a protest against the great tendency of the present day to represent the ideal of children's tasks as games to be enjoyed, not victories to be won. And may I utter a word of warning against the captivating elusions on this point of those two most delightful of educationists, most suggestive of writers, and most untrustworthy of oracles, Herbert Spencer and Count Lyof Tolstoi. Any of you who know the charming chapter on natural reactions by the farmer, or the most delightful account of that theory of practice in the latter's "School Scenes at Yasnaya Polyana," will, I think, realise the meaning of my epithets and the danger of the fashion they have set of treating children's tasks as a new sort of game.

Kant was right when he said: "It is a fatal thing to accustom the child to look at everything as a game, it is of the utmost importance to teach children to work, for man is the only animal compelled to work." How do you teach this-the habit of perseverance, this faculty for work? How are you to take this into the consideration of the lessons you set your children? The two main things to consider seem to me simple;--First, that the task shall be such that, at first, a very little perseverance shall be sufficient to secure victory; secondly, that the actual victory in itself, apart from an accidental reward of marks or otherwise, shall, as far as possible, be felt by the child to be worth having. For instance-well, in so simple a matter, it is hard to give one that does not sound idiotic in its simplicity; but, for instance, in place of a copy set the child to write a letter to his father or mother, make much of the pleasure of receiving it, of the astonishment and interest of the new contained in it. For the dates of the kings of England substitute an account from memory of things seen when the child has been for his walk. Send the child definitely out to discover something for you, taking care to supplement the child's want of observation by your intelligent leading questions, not your answers. But you see I have already overstepped the shadowy boundary line and reached the second quality on the development of which intellectual progress so much depends-the power of observation.

It is a wise saying, that Leonardo de Vinci, "That all the discoveries have been made by the eye." The eye must be, in early childhood to a far greater extent than in later life, the doorway to the mind, and I think, also, to the soul. I am sure that the true method of education should, in its early stages, be concrete-not abstract-teaching by things and actions more than by words. For instance, M. Guyeau [Guyeau, "Education and Heredity," p. 168] suggests the American practice of giving the child a miniature model of a steam-engine, which he has himself to take to pieces and put together again, instead of having it explained on paper; or Herbert Spencer's suggestion for teaching the weights and measures by experimental use of scales and quart pots; or his practical demonstration of the laws of perspective by means of the window-pane, [Herbert Spencer, "Education," p. 83] or the adaptation of geometry to practical gardening or house-building. Many such illustrations might be easily piled up, the point of them all being, of course, not only that the act of learning in this way becomes far more attractive and interesting, and the facts far more effectually impressed upon the mind, but, what is of much greater importance, the thinking and observing power of the child is apt to be much more fully developed.

But once again it is obvious that I have unwittingly crossed the shadowy boundary line between the faculty of observation and that of attention. Attention, that has been called the secret of all intellectual training, what is it, after all, but perseverance applied to observation-the faculty of observing not only separate facts, but the connection between them? What has been said in practical illustration of the last two points will, therefore, hold good also, I think, with this; perhaps with this one educational suggestion-that to read aloud a chapter of a story to a child, and see how far the child is able to repeat the story for the benefit of another child, will form an admirable method of developing attention, because it is a claim on the two things which make attention-intensity and continuity of observation at the same time. M. Guyeau says, when a child passes a long time over learning a lesson, the learning is probably done the help of only a few moments of real attention, and the ideal of good education is to increase the intensity of attention and to diminish the time that is given neither to work nor rest. One last suggestion in this connection I would specially call to your notice. I believe the cultivation of attention is the true cultivation of the memory. I am convinced that, amidst all the painful and unprofitable hours I have spent in the schoolroom, the most hideous, the most idiotic, the most intensely useless, were those spent in what my persecutors were pleased to call the exercise of my memory; and, with the utmost feeling, I would commend most earnestly to your minds these words of M. Guyeau before you next proceed to exercise your children's memory:

"The phrases to exercise, to develop the memory are of common occurrence; but, as a matter of fact, we can only exercise and develop particular forms of memory-memory for words, for figures, &c. Memory is a habit, and memory in general is no more developed by cramming the children's brain with masses of words and figures than habit in general is developed by contracting the habit of leaping with the feet together or of playing cup-and-ball. When we force a child to remember trivial details, we do not strengthen, we really weaken, its memory, because these useless details take the place in his brain of more important ideas."

Memory is a habit that is best exercised simply by the development of the power of attention. Attention is itself the registration in the brain of facts whose relation to each other have been duly noted. Attention means the habit of grasping and retaining in the mind the significant points and links of a subject, and rejecting what is irrelevant and unimportant. This, I fancy, is just the habit of memory we need to develop.

In passing from this subject, I should, of course remind you, that I have only attempted a mere suggestion as to the central idea in elementary education, and the general line of practical conduct that it indicates. Before concluding, one word on an important subject often forgotten, "The Ethics of Rewards." The great qualities you want to cultivate are the altruistic qualities, the side of the child's character that sets the happiness of others as the highest good; the great qualities you want to subdue and suppress are the egotistic qualities, the side of character that makes the pleasure of self the highest good. There is no mistake more fatal than the very common one of leaving this fact entirely out of sight among the incentives to intellectual activity, the prize and reward question. I think any one who observes children closely will notice that the altruistic qualities are strong and active in them, that they feel an intense pleasure and satisfaction in being able to do something for those they are fond of. No one who has ever watched the great delight of a child giving a surprise present to his parents can fail to realise this.

"It is more blessed to give than to receive," is the text on which scientific education is ever enlarging, and half the dullness of our schoolroom, half the inefficiency of our intellectual training of children, is due simply to the fact that their lessons are receiving, receiving, receiving from beginning to end. If you can remedy this, you have made a very long stride in the right direction. Some of the instances I have already used will illustrate the kind of thing I mean, that, as far as possible, the tasks should be either actual doing of things to be given to others, or the acquiring of information which has the appearance of real interest and novelty to the person to whom it is retailed; or, where neither of these is convenient, that the reward should be as far as possible the natural result of the pains expended. That is to say, make the lessons not a game, but as certainly not a mere treadmill of meaningless toil, with sugar-plums after a certain number of turns.

In conclusion, taking one hasty glance backwards over the considerations that have passed before us, the prevailing note seems to be the indivisibility of the educational work; the religious training, the moral training, the intellectual training are not separate, or even separable items, but indivisible parts of one complete whole. All moral progress depends on the consistency with which the great religious idea is made to permeate every suggestion: and yet all intellectual progress is possible only through the constant development of such qualities as perseverance, observation and attention, which are themselves but a continuation of moral growth; even in the case of physical training the motto of one and indivisible is still continued, and Bousseau's saying: "The weaker the body is, the more it commands; the stronger it is, the more it obeys," will perhaps serve to remind you of what I am thinking, and how the disregard of even this lowest point in the educationalist's programme is sufficient to bring to ruin a work that aims at the building up the stature of a perfect man. Your work is one, indeed, that reaches literally from the low level of the animal creation to the infinite height of the throne of God, and from the consideration of conditions under which your children may indeed see God, you dare not refuse to pass to the consideration of the conditions which shall secure the adequate digestion of a mutton-chop; from the grandest principles and the deepest and highest thoughts that the soul of man can reach to, you must not hesitate to descend to the minutest details of practical management. It is the highest work you can have to do, certainly the most difficult, and yet certainly-to you, at any rate-the most interesting; and to you alone possible in its perfection. For coming through all your work and all your perplexities, will be Augustine's great words of encouragement:

"Ama et fac quod vis."

Note-In preparing for the above lecture I had at first in view as my title, "Time's Modern Educationalists: England, France and Russia," and many of the suggestions in the above outlines will be found fully discussed and illustrated in Herbert Spencer, "Education"; Guyeau, "Education and Heredity"; and Tolstoi, "The Long Exile." In apology for the slipshod English in which the suggestions are doled, I would point out that they were cast simply with a view to oral delivery."