The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
"THE HISTORY OF EDUCATIONAL THEORIES." by Oscar Browning.
In the succeeding articles of this series we propose dealing with the life work of many of the eminent educationists of the past and the present, especially Locke, Froebel, Pestalozzi, Thring and Spencer, and it will be advantageous, first, to obtain a brief summary of the achievements of each of the great educationists, more particularly at the present time, when education is being discussed in every part of the country.
Mr. Oscar Browning, M.A., of King's College, Cambridge, has done much to promote the welfare of education, and his writings are appreciated by an ever-increasing public. He claims rank not only as an educationist, but also as an historian. The volume before us has evidently been a labour of love, and is exceedingly useful to teachers and parents alike in giving an admirable resumé of the aims and achievements of those whose names will ever be honoured in the history of education. Looking down the long vista of the past we, of modern times, are able to estimate the work of those who claim to have been "reformers."
The chapters are:--I. Education among the Greeks; II. Roman Education; III. Humanistic Education; IV. The Realists; V. The Naturalists; VI. English Humanists and Realists; VII. Locke; VIII. Jesuits and Jansenists; IX. Rousseau; X. Pestalozzi; XI. Kant, Fichte and Herbart; and XII. The English Public School.
The book was primarily written for teachers. In the preface Mr. Browning writes: "The history of Educational Theories may be of practical use to teachers in two ways. It may show what is the historical ground for retaining existing practices in education, or for substituting others; and it may, by telling us what great teachers have attempted and what great thinkers have conceived as possible in this department, stimulate us to complete their work, or to carry out their principles under easier conditions."
Among the Greeks until the time of Alexander the two main subjects were music and gymnastics, but it must be remembered that the former included grammar and music proper. Later, we find the following subjects in the curriculum of a Greek school: grammar, rhetoric, philosophy or dialectic, arithmetic, music, geometry and astronomy. "The first duty of a Greek boy was to learn his letters. This was coincident with learning to swim, so that 'one who knows neither swimming not his letters' was the Greek term for an ignoramus." Boys were accompanied to school by the "pedagogos," "a faithful slave who had charge of their moral supervision." Hence our term "pedagogue." Owing to the nature of the subject it will be impossible to enter into full detail; we shall merely give a broad outline of each theory.
"The object of Greek education was to foster to the highest development the inner life of man, to form the philosopher who should guide the man of action. Roman education aimed at no higher object than to mould the man of action himself, to make a citizen fit, in the language of Milton, to 'perform justly, skilfully, and magnanimously, all the offices, both public and private, of peace and war!'" The influence of the mother was one of the great characteristics of the education of a Roman boy. At the age of seven, a Roman boy learned the elements of reading and writing. When twelve years of age, the study of Greek was undertaken, orthography, grammar, and history were added, and finally a course of rhetoric.
The greatest of the Humanists was Sturm, whose school, in 1578, contained several thousand scholars. His influence reached the classical schools of Eton, Winchester, and Westminster, but the humanistic scheme was "narrow and incomplete." The study of words was the central idea of humanistic education. Latin, Greek, and German were the three languages studied.
The aphorisms of Ratich, one of the eminent "Realists," may be summed up tersely thus:--(1) Follow the order and course of nature; (2) Teach only one thing at a time; (3) Reception of facts learned essential; (4) No compulsion in learning; (5) Learn nothing by heart; (6) Uniformity in everything; (7) Teach everything by experience and enquiry.
Comenius devised a system of school work planned out for seven classes, and wrote numerous works on education under the title of "Opera Didactica," which were published in 1657. According to the theories of Comenius, there must be simultaneous teaching of words and things. "The more we reflect on the method of Comenius the more we shall see that it is replete with suggestiveness, and we shall feel surprised that so much wisdom can have lain in the path of schoolmasters for two hundred and fifty years, and that they have never stooped to avail themselves of its treasures." Mr. Browning gives an elaborate analysis of the system of education drawn up by Comenius.
The representatives of the school of Naturalists are Rabelais and Montaigne. "This school of educationalists may conveniently be called by the name of naturalists, not only because they professed to follow nature as much as Comenius, but because they set before themselves as the chief good the development of the entire nature, and not merely the intellect or any part of it." The chief points on which Rabelais insists have been thus summed up by Mr. Oscar Browning: "(1) Teaching through the senses; (2) Independence of thought; (3) Training for practical life; (4) Equal development of the mind and body; (5) Gentle treatment and improved methods." Mongaigne attacked the pedantry of his time and recommended "as means of education conversation with men and travel into foreign countries."
Ascham and Milton were the leaders of the English humanistic school. The former wrote The Scholemaster, and the latter a Tractate on Education. The "Tractate" is written in the form of a letter to Mr. Samuel Hartlib, "the son of a Polish merchant who resided mainly in London." Milton's definition of education has already been quoted above. His scheme of education falls into three divisions: (1) Studies; (2) Exercise; (3) Diet. He insisted on the study of Latin and Greek, the use of globes and maps, the outlines of ancient and modern geography and natural philosophy. Trigonometry, fortification, architecture, engineering and navigation, anatomy and the principles of medicine also find a place in his comprehensive scheme.
Locke gave the world his scheme of education in Thoughts on Education, which contains much valuable information and much which, nowadays, may be conveniently neglected. A private tutor is, in the opinion of Locke, essential. Spare no care or cost, he says, to get a good tutor. Travel at an early age is recommended, or on the other hand it might be deferred until the youth is fit to travel alone. "Locke agrees with the rest of the advocates of the naturalistic school in insisting on a practical education which is to fit a man for the world."
Speaking of the Jesuit schools Mr. Browning says: "They have never stood the test of modern criticism. They have no place in a rational system of modern education. We have long ceased to regard them as models, but we still suffer our schools to be encumbered with methods and practices which we should never have thought of introducing if it had not been for their brilliant but ephemeral success."
The effect of Rousseau's Émile can hardly be estimated, as it was so far reaching. "He is the progenitor of the educational theories of Kant, Basedow, Pestalozzi, and Froebel." Rousseau's system is that of education according to nature. Physical training, childish games, absence of books because they are harmful, mechanical arts and the study of history are the main features of Rousseau's theory. "He violently opposed the current practices of his day in education by sketching out a scheme equally full of contradictions, and equally unsatisfactory results."
The friend and student of children was Pestalozzi, and to him and Froebel, the exponent of self-activity, children owe much of the pleasure of their early life in school. The Kindergarten of Froebel is really a continuation and expansion of Pestalozzi's general scheme. Of Pestalozzi the author writes: "He may have had many faults as an organizer and an instructor, but he gave his life for the lambs of his flock. He was the first teacher who inculcated unbounded faith in the power of human love and sympathy."
Kant, Fichte and Herbart constitute what may be called the Metaphysical school, and of the three Herbart is the most important, for his disciples are daily increasing, and many modern methods are, strictly speaking, Herbartian. The leaders of the metaphysical school "approached the science of education through the science of psychology." "With Kant and Fichte it formed but a minor or subordinate part of their investigation, with Herbart it was the main object of inquiry."
The chapter dealing with the English Public School is very readable and full of interest, tracing, as it does, the history of the public school from its foundation to the present day.
Those who read Mr. Browning's Educational Theories from cover to cover will have an idea of the gradual growth of education from the days of the Greeks to the twentieth century. They will also gain much information concerning the reformers who have done so much to make education what it is to-day.
Typed by Noella M. April 2021
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