The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

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

Volume 13, 1902, pgs. 472-475

Special Reports on Educational Subjects: Education in Germany (Eyre and Spottiswoode, 2/7). This excessively interesting volume opens with an important essay, a considerable work in itself, on The Unrest in Secondary Education in Germany and Elsewhere, by the Editor, Mr. M. E. Sadler. This essay is encouraging reading to all who recognise "Education" as a living force rather than a more or less mechanical routine. The Board of Education commissioned Mr. Sadler to visit the Paris Exhibition of 1900, in order to report upon the educational section. The first thing that struck him was that "education is not a thing by itself, but one aspect of national life." It is this recognition which marks the whole essay and is perhaps the key to the unusual discernment and breadth of view with which the subject is treated. There has never been so deep an interest shewn in education, we are told, as there is today, but the nations differ in their aims in this matter. Here is a passage which at the same time encourages and condemns ourselves. "Some are in the habit of identifying 'education' with what is taught in schools, and, therefore, of regarding a tidily organised school system as necessarily the most fruitful kind of national education. Others have preserved a healthier sense of the truth that education is but one aspect of life, and, therefore, as varied and as long as life itself, with the result that some of their children get a very much better education than others, and, that, in the community taken as a whole, the average of intellectual attainments is low." The comparison between English and continental secondary schools is searching and suggestive, but the gist of the whole is that that which we have, that in which we are great, is due to the free play allowed to individuality in English education. This admits of the action of an enormous force in the making of character. "We English have always believed that some of the highest kinds of learning are not necessarily printed in books, but may be embodied in institutions, that some of the noblest combinations of intellectual and spiritual power seek to revive, inspire or create some form of corporate life." It is cheering so far, but we cannot escape the charge, brought home to us by this prophet of our own, that we are intellectually below other nations our compeers, and far below what is possible to ourselves. The problem is how to level up our secondary education intellectually without loss of moral force or physical fibre. If we take the author's advice, two doors are closed to us,--the perpetual examinations by which school life is made an uneasy dream with little or no waking profit and for which we are held in some contempt by our continental neighbours: and that other tempting escape by which we run in and out to this foreign system and that, snatching at a patch here and a patch there to piece up our deficiencies. We must recognise that education is organic--the outgrowth of our nationality--and can only take in new material of thought in proportion as it is assimilated and becomes part of ourselves. Among the nations, two are singled out by Mr. Sadler as having characteristics which are a possession for the world not to be endangered by rash strictures and hasty reforms. England, on the one hand, has that perfect instrument of thought--its literary language--the outcome of ages of education, in its secondary schools, upon literary traditions. In considering the schools of Germany, the author's view is that Germany leans to the production of high attainments, England, to the all-round development of character; and each country perceives that it has much to learn from the other. The rest of the volume contains deeply interesting reports of education in various parts of Germany, Primary and Secondary girls' schools and boys' schools, Realschulen, Commercial schools, Handelsschulen and what not; an examination of the provision for training teachers; and a very interesting article upon the measurement of mental fatigue in Germany which discloses sad facts concerning "overpressure." It is well that the Head of the Empire is aware that the manhood of his people is being sapped in the schools. The whole volume is most interesting reading and we commend it to parents. Probably no step made in England in the promotion of education is more notable than the periodic production of these perfectly adequate yellow books.

Educational Studies and Addresses, by T. G. Rooper, H.M.I., (Blackie and Son). This volume of Educational Essays by Mr. Rooper is singularly refreshing. The range of the essays is considerable. We have the treatment of mentally deficient children in the very enlightening and encouraging article on the great French educationalist, Séguin, who studied education, as it were, at the fountainhead by discovering the possibilities of defective children. Séguin's great discovery was that the normal intellect depends upon the interaction and proper coordination of various parts of the nervous system,--"Now in a normal child the various parts of the nervous organism work so rapidly and promptly that it is almost impossible to follow the process of coordination. It is indeed quick as thought. In the cretinous child, owing to want of coordination, different movements can be studied before they are combined into a whole. The method of training such children consists in doing for them artificially what in the ordinary child is done naturally."

The following lecture, upon manual training, is an application of this principle to the normal as well as the defective child. The author deplores the fact that the home has ceased to be a miniature technical school; and certainly no English person who saw the unique exhibition at Stockholm some six or seven years go could fail to envy a people who showed so much art feeling, industry and capacity, such genuine love of work. Again, in natural sequence, follows the essay on obedience; for the physical possibility of obedience also depends upon the interaction and proper coordination of various parts of the nervous system. This is the rationale of military discipline. This military discipline the author accepts as the physical basis of obedience; but, he contends, obedience must be moral and rational before it is really human. The working out of this thesis is exceedingly interesting and suggestive. All the more so because, as is his custom, the author adds modern instances to his wise saws. He begins with Agnes Grey, the unfortunate governess portrayed by Acton Bell, and concludes the essay with the great speech of the late Lord Russell of Killowen, made before the American Bar in 1896, when the vast audience--many of them lawyers--were so impressed with the beauty and dignity of law that they rose to their feet at the end of the speech and cheered vociferously for a quarter of an hour. The next essay, Lord Collingwood's Theory and Practice of Education, works out the theme in that most delightful form of a practical experiment. Few people will read this essay without added reverence for a great man, increased pride in a country that has produced a Collingwood, and clearer and more forceful notions of how to bring up one's children and how to rule in one's little domain. Personally we feel that this sort of object lesson in education is worth more than many manuals of teaching and many studies in psychology. We cannot dwell on the charming essay on Gaiety in Education, nor on that on Individualism in Education, nor on those on the teaching of special subjects, nor on the especially charming essay on Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. But the thoughtful reader will find in this volume much food for reflection; and, always the pleasant sense of tempered judgment, great experience, and the recognition that education is not an airtight compartment of life, but is a part of life itself, open to all the winds that blow and to a thousand changing lights from literature, philosophy, art,--the things and thoughts which we care about.

The Witness of Creation, being Nature Studies from the book of Job, by Cordelia Leigh (Jarrold & Sons). We are not quite sure that lessons on the book of Job are quite the best medium for explaining crystals, glaciers, currents in the atmosphere, light and electricity, or even for telling us about the Asiatic wild ass. Poetry, such poetry as the book of Job offers, is perhaps best left to take care of itself, the aim of the teacher being rather that the pupil should approach it after getting general knowledge in other ways. Of course this does not preclude a word of explanation here and there, our objection is only to making this great poem the basis of lessons in elementary science. The writer approaches her task with reverence and simplicity.

Erratum.--In the May number, in the review of Miss Bramston's Sunrise of Revelation, line 3, elementary should read secondary.

Typed by Lindy Botha, July 2020; Proofread by LNL, July 2020