The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Conversazion, held at St. Martin's Town Hall

by Professor Earl Barnes
Volume 11, 1900, pgs. 486-496

Teachers "may become a great professional body . . . That is a possibility. The other possibility is that we shall go on extending the tendencies operative in the way of organization, crush out individual variations, and become a great bureaucracy--the handy arm of the State. There are, in England, many indications that this is to be the case in the immediate future, that we shall become a Civil Service body, the convenient servant of the State for carrying out whatever ideals it may wish to organize in the people."

Wednesday, May 16th.

Lady Campbell (Chairman) regretted to be obliged to announce that Lady Aberdeen was unable to take the chair owing to the death of Lord Aberdeen's mother, but was also extremely pleased to have the good news to impart to the meeting that Lord and Lady Aberdeen had consented to resume their joint presidency of the Union.

(Letter from Lady Aberdeen read.)

The Chairman added that, the Report for 1900 being in the hands of the audience, it was unnecessary to dwell upon it, except to express the gratitude of the Executive Committee for the excellent work of the Secretary, Miss Blogg.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Professor Earl Barnes said: Lady Campbell, members of the Parents' National Educational Union, ladies and gentlemen, it will seem at first sight that a man who is primarily interested in the general work of education as carried on in State schools, should make some excuse for bringing before an association like this a consideration of the large educational problems of the day, most of which gather around organized educational institutions. Personally, it seems to me that there is a special reason for bringing such a subject before this group of people. You who are responsible for the education of children in private homes, living isolated lives somewhat withdrawn from the larger democratic influences which mark this period, have special need and reason to consider those large world movements around us into which these special charges must fit themselves later on, and so I wish to bring before you, in the first place, a brief sketch of what seem to me the great educational changes of these last three decades, in the second place, to raise the prominent questions which grow out of these changes, and thirdly, to try to express what seems to be the relation of the Parents' National Educational Union to these momentous and far-reaching changes.

If you look at the general scheme of educational work all over the world since 1870, you must feel that there has been a very great change in the organization, the management, control and support of existing education. Down to our own time, to this present century, education has looked primarily to the Church for direction, and largely for support. Since 1870, throughout the civilized world, education has passed increasingly into the care of the State. In my own country (America) down to the beginning of this century, while there was nominally State support of all education, the real control and much of was in the hands of the Church; and, down to 1840 or 1850, education throughout my country was dominated by the Church, but increasingly, since 1850 and almost entirely since 1870, that control has passed into the hands of the State, and even the higher institutions of learning have passed out of the hands of clerical control, so that Harvard and Yale Universities are now under State control, and a few days ago the last of the great universities, with the exception of Princeton College, passed out of Church control. Now, I do not mean to trace the movement in England; you are familiar with it. Whether the control is exercised by the Church or not, there has been a very steady growth of State control since 1870; starting with little or nothing, we have reached a point to-day where the State is, in a large sense, controlling the education of the mass of children up to the age of 13 years. Legislation has pushed that age up, and will push it higher, and the direction of the State in some form is pending in secondary education. To an outsider who is not a foreigner, it is very interesting and striking to see the way in which the new universities are increasingly turning in the same direction as the State universities which mark the higher education in my own country. In France, the struggle is not yet won; in Germany control has passed largely into the hands of the State; in Belgium it is still undetermined; but all the world over, broadly speaking, the education of the masses of the nation's children has passed into the hands of the State. This raises a great question which I want you to consider for a moment.

If you look upon material equipment, the change since 1870 is quite as striking. Formerly our schools bore traces of their descent from old monastic foundations; nowadays, in old parts of London, all buildings have traces of that architecture upon them; the residence buildings were the important buildings: they had a touch of the monastic architecture about them. We have to-day a new school of architecture, we have a new conception of a building. If you were to go to my country, you would be impressed with the great buildings; and the great house which rises above all other buildings is the new school--the Temple of Learning erected by the State. Here, in England, the same thing holds true, and, since 1870, you have developed tremendously in material plant, as you all know quite well. Take some of the new Board School buildings in London; they mark a development in the new type of architecture which has come into the world with State control. Inside the buildings, the material equipment is quite as marked as the change it stands for. In my own country, in a small town just outside the city of Boston--and in Brooklyn, that wealthy suburb--the State schools are decorated with statuary and bas-relief and the casts and with pictures in a way that reminds you of some of the finest municipal buildings of the continent. In this small town with only six school buildings, there are 270 pianos in those buildings. The material equipment of modern education would make a most interesting study in tracing the wonderful material development along the lines of educational plant during the last three decades.

If you turn to the curriculum that marks the modern education, the change is far-reaching. Formerly, it was almost entirely humanistic, or at least humanistic with mathematics and perhaps a little science; to-day it is increasingly scientific the world over. In elementary, secondary and higher education it is increasingly scientific. Even the so-called humanistic or literary studies are presented with a certain quality of scientific method running through them. The boy or girl, man or woman, studies on a comparative and evolutionary basis, and by a method that is scientific. In the more advanced of the world's works to-day, with the exception of the older classics, it is fair to say that the whole curriculum marks the last three decades of the new scientific spirit, while the subject matter itself has come practically into existence in these decades. This has led to one or two of the most important changes in the whole educational line, none greater than the necessity for some form of selection. At one time, it was possible for each man to know the knowledge of his time. To-day it is impossible that he should know more than a fragment. This has led to an increase in selection, even down to elementary lines of school work. If you look at the student body, the change is still more wonderful; we have doubled the student body by extending the whole of the educational opportunities and advantages that were formerly available to men only, to women as well, old and young; so that one may say in these three decades we have virtually doubled the body of the students in the civilized world working on organized educational lines; we have further extended the application of educational activity to little children, so that with the extension of the kindergarten ideal, we have pushed the age down from six or seven to--say, 2 ½ years of age. When the same extension is pushed upwards through the multiplication of university opportunities and post-graduate opportunities, it will be fair to say to-day that the age limit is well up in the thirties. In my own country to-day, the universities are filled with men and women of all ages carrying on all sorts of specialized and individualized lines of study and education, so that we have immeasurably extended the educational limit by pushing the age down and up at the same time. This development, combined with the State control of education in my own part of the world, has extended educational opportunities to the mass of the adult population.

With the development of democracy, it is felt that democracy must be educated. I saw in my last visit home--I was in parts of the city not by any means the slums--classes devoted, say, to the development of art or the study of Dante and Goethe, classes conducted for adults in school buildings where the doors stood open, and any adult might come in, and where instruction was given in regular consecutive courses by men engaged by the Education Department--paid by the Education Department, and in buildings belonging to the Education Department--for the purpose of increasing the intelligence of the adult population. There seems to be no limit to the extension of organized intelligent education, until it takes in and holds all the people making up the commonwealth. So, too, with the blind, the deaf, the lame, even the epileptics, the abnormal who were formerly crowded out, we are extending every opportunity to them, and we are increasing the average amount of money expended upon the defective as compared to the normal children; and this is not merely an isolated movement in England or London, it goes all over the civilized world. And now we have embodied the greatest extension of all, the extension of educational effort over the subject races of the world, so that England is taking upon herself the problem of educating seven or eight times as many men and women and children as there are of Anglo-Saxon races in the British Empire.

In the teaching force, the changes are quite as striking. In the first place, the teaching force has become to-day a force of women. If you were to visit my country, in two months you would see our National Education Association in session, with an attendance of 12,000 to 15,000 teachers, and you would hardly see a man in the audience. In California, where there are 72 buildings, each having a special principal, there were only five men in charge of these school buildings. Half of the population of the United States of America to-day live in urban communities; of the teachers in urban communities, over 90 per cent are women. The men fill almost entirely administrative offices. So you have a condition of things where it is perfectly possible, in the higher education, for a boy to enter a school and pass through the whole of elementary education, and prepare for College, without ever coming, even for a single day, under the direct influence of a man. In the same way here, the movement in England is of the same kind, though not quite so fast. Still more marked is the great spread of active organization among teachers themselves. They have consolidated organizations in all parts of the world, which are giving them effectiveness and larger power to express themselves as never before; and with this active organization, this new spirit, it has become a respectable thing to be a teacher. In most parts of the world to-day, the teacher has a position in a society of men or women which is fairly desirable. This is a new creation of the last three decades, too. Of course, along with this has gone something of special training. To-day in all the Colleges and Universities of my country, even in a conservative institution like Harvard, important departments of education have been established. In England, the same influence is moving. In all the Welsh Colleges there are departments of education--we see this at Aberystwith, Bangor and Cardiff. A new department has been started at Owen's College, at Manchester; Birmingham, too, has established such a department, and the new University of London must start such a department. This means special University training, a body of superior leadership for the teaching force of the world. This means superior opportunity, standing, and professional position.

Now as to some of the new departures. First, with regard to the State. Is the State to have absolute control of education? It looks like it. If so, there are one or two things which we must be content to miss. For State education, absolute State control of education, as in France, for instance, where all private teachers come under State examinations and all private education under State inspection, or where, as with us--in my own part of the country--it is considered somewhat disloyal to send a child away from the State school--under these conditions, you will destroy individual variation, we shall not be able to survey these important individual variations which spell genius. If we must take children in great crowds, we must be content to accept the leveling-up process, which is always at the same time the leveling-down process. Personally, I believe the best use of education must be met by sharing the responsibilities expressed in educational affairs between family, Church, State, classes, professions and callings. Yet the economy of modern life, the wonderful inventions for organization, the facility for handling things on the same system, all these things make it increasingly difficult to preserve parts of education from State control.

With regard to the curriculum, we have, confronting us in England to-day, the great problem of a curriculum for elementary education. Since 1870, at least nine-tenths of the best intellectual energy of English educational leadership has been given to school administration and school organization. To-day there is a crying need for some large comprehensive treatment of the curriculum of elementary education, especially in this country. How can we bring to the elementary school a curriculum that shall have the old humanistic qualities of the older education of England--say, of the great public school--and, at the same time, be informed with the scientific spirit, so that it shall train boys and girls prepared to uphold the industrial, political, and commercial supremacy of this great empire. It seems to me we are less ready to answer this than any of the other great questions that confront us. In my own country, with the freedom of election, we have gone further, and yet to-day there is hardly a thoughtful man or woman in America who is not raising the question as to the educational value of scientific as compared with humanistic study. Lately, in conversation, one of our ablest men--Edmund James--told me he had recently compiled statistics, showing work that was actually being done by the young men who had specialized in the field of political science and psychology.

In my country, we have greater need of an intelligent body of political leadership than anything else. We had hoped that through our University life, and especially through these new humanities, sociology, economics, political science, and the rest, we should have been able to train up a body of young leadership that would displace the political boss and the place hunter. Professor James has found, from a study of the men going out in the last ten years from three representative American Universities, where the election system was followed, and where a large number of students were taking these lines of work, that the great body of young men who go out from these courses devote themselves to law, and of them, the majority--about sixty per cent--are involved in active politics, and more than half of those so involved are the danger sources of their community. He explained it in this way. If a man, who has made a Natural History study of Tammany Hall, so that he has taken it as a specimen, noting the way in which it has gained its power, its force over public opinion, the way in which it manipulates the press, gains its funds and manipulates the caucuses so that he understands it all, and then goes out into the community and becomes an active member in public life, finds himself surrounded by forces which he understands and knows how to manipulate, he cannot withstand or resist the temptation to manipulate them in his own interests, and feels it would be useless to manipulate them in any other interest. It comes to this:--a direct intellectual study by scientific method of any phenomenon in the world means the intellectual comprehension and understanding of that phenomenon. It does not necessarily mean an aroused sense of personal responsibility, the inspiration of great ideas, the touch of lofty human thought and feeling; nor does it necessarily mean the debasing association. It simply means a keen, well-developed, well-equipped and well-informed mind.

With regard to equipment, I would like to raise one question. The one great problem which confronts us, it seems to me, in equipment of modern education, is the problem of getting the child back on the ground [on their own land, when the move is toward centralized schools]. In some domains we have become municipalized in cities; to-day the movement is no more marked in England than in Germany, America, or anywhere else. In these commercial states, there is a tendency to push the children off the ground. I saw it at any rate in my own State--Connecticut--as many as twenty omnibuses drive up to the school ground. I said, "Where are they driving to?" "Oh," I was told, "they are going to their homes in the country side." It means that it has been found convenient, for purposes of classification, to have the children all together on large centres; that they take the children away from the farms and bring them up to the municipality in order that they may be educated en bloc in State buildings. How to get the children back to the ground seems to me a great educational problem.

Now with regard to the student body--how about the education of girls and boys together? All these problems of co-education are so pressing. How far shall the State go on feeling its responsibility for the education of adults? With the extension of democracy, must we carry on an increased education of adults? How far shall we push the education of the abnormal? Is it a waste to devote two or three times as much to the education of the abnormal boy of nine as to the normal boy of nine?

The education of subject races is one of the greatest importance to us all--how the subject races are going to educate us, what the reflex action of the coloured classes of the world is going to be upon us, what our influence is going to be upon them, whether it is absurd to send out equipped educational machinery, and place it at the disposal of a body of coloured people: if not, what we are going to do to educate these people into efficiency and preserve their variations as races?

With regard to the teaching forces, there are two questions for the human race. The first is the question of the woman teacher. Ought all the boys in the world to be educated by women exclusively? That puts it very badly. Nowadays, with co-education, all schools become open to women teachers, and every influence which has been operative for the last three decades in bringing an increased number of women into the teaching profession, is increasingly operative to-day, and there is no indication, that I can see, that it is going to stop. How are we going to correct this difficulty? It is a question which the women are as much interested in answering as the men, especially from the point of their own professional standing.

The other great question is--what is to be our destiny as a body of teachers? There are two distinct things--two possibilities--before us now, and we stand at the parting of the ways. We may become a great professional body, modeling ourselves increasingly upon the pattern of the doctors; if we can develop a body of knowledge and a special line of training, there is no reason why, in the future, the teacher should not occupy the same position in relation to the home that the family physician occupies. That is a possibility. The other possibility is that we shall go on extending the tendencies operative in the way of organization, crush out individual variations, and become a great bureaucracy--the handy arm of the State. There are, in England, many indications that this is to be the case in the immediate future, that we shall become a Civil Service body, the convenient servant of the State for carrying out whatever ideals it may wish to organize in the people.

One word in conclusion. What is the place of this body represented here to-night in relation to this range of problems? It seems to me it bears a most important relation to these problems, and has an important work to do. It is a constant corrective to State and clerical control. In my country, notwithstanding the right of the State to educate by force every individual, one-tenth of our children are to-day in private schools of one sort or another. Mr. Harris maintains that the province of the private school is to work out possibilities in the way of educational experiments, for which the State is not fitted; bring them to the attention of the State to constantly correct a tendency towards mechanical quality in the State system. It seems that, in this direction, this body can be powerfully operative.

With regard to the curriculum, this body is especially well fitted in its admirably trained teachers and perfect freedom of experiment to test the possibilities that lie along the lines of scientific humanism. With the teaching esprit de corps I need not concern myself. We all know the wonderful qualities of the woman who has given to this body the teaching qualities and the esprit de corps which belong to it. I question whether anywhere in the realm we have the possibility of a finer spirit of professional unity than in the body represented here to-night. On the other hand, there are three or four dangers from which this body is peculiarly exempt. It has none of the troubles which confront the great municipal schools. Its children can easily be put on the ground, and brought into contact with those things which make this work possible. It has one great advantage--it can avoid the evils of mass education, it can preserve the very best qualities of individual instruction, and, with that, it must meet its greatest problem and difficulty, for to-day, more than ever before, no man stands alone. We stand as a community, not only as a nation, we stand by races. Democracy is the great fact of this modern world of ours, not merely the mere raising of a forgotten level, but a democracy which runs through all grades of society and marks all human life. The man and woman of the coming generation must be able to enter into long, living, vital, strong, working relations with the democracy of the forces around him; he must be able to come into vital touch with them through his own spiritual life. One of the best things to make him do this is, it seems to me, the contact of individual groups of children, and so I should say in sitting down, the greatest problem he has to meet is the gaining for individuals living under isolated conditions, the benefit that comes from the contact with large numbers of one's fellows.

Proofread May 2011, LNL