Front Page Titles (by Subject) REFORM IN EDUCATION 1834 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXI - Essays on Equality, Law, and Education
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REFORM IN EDUCATION 1834 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXI - Essays on Equality, Law, and Education 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXI - Essays on Equality, Law, and Education, ed. John M. Robson, Introduction by Stefan Collini (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984).
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REFORM IN EDUCATION
Monthly Repository, n.s. VIII (July, 1834), 502-13. Headed “Mrs. Austin’s Translation of M. Cousin’s Report on the State of Public Instruction in Prussia.” Title footnoted. “[London:] Effingham Wilson [, 1834].” Running titles “Reform in Education.” Unsigned; not republished. Identified in Mill’s bibliography as “A review of Mrs. Austin’s Translation of Cousin’s Report on the State of Public Instruction in Prussia, in the Monthly Repository for July 1834” (MacMinn, 40). There are no corrections or emendations in the Somerville College copy (tear-sheets). For comment on the review, see xlix-l and lx-lxi above.
The long quotation at 65-6 from Mill’s “Corporation and Church Property” has been collated with its successive versions; in the variant notes “33” indicates Jurist (and the offprint, which does not differ), “59” indicates D&D, 1st ed. (1859), and “67” indicates D&D, 2nd ed. (1867).
Reform in Education
in a recent number we briefly announced the appearance of this important document in an English form.[*] We now return to it, because the reception of Mr. Roebuck’s motion by the House of Commons,[†] and the appointment of a committee to consider the subject of national education,[‡] are tokens, among many others, that the present is an auspicious moment for inviting the attention of the English public to that highest and most important of all the objects which a government can place before itself, and to the great things which have been accomplished by another nation in the prosecution of that object.
The value of M. Cousin’s Report does not consist in the details, though without the details it would be comparatively of little interest. It throws no new or unexpected light upon the means of educating a people; it simply enables us to realize the fact that a government exists virtuous enough to will the end. The machinery is no other than that which common sense suggests, and would suggest to any government animated by the same spirit. Schools for all,[§] without distinction of sect, and without imposing upon any sect the creed or observances of another, the superintendence shared between a Minister of Public Instruction, and local committees of a most democratic constitution, (a fact perfectly accordant with the spirit of the Prussian government, whose municipal institutions are among the freest in Europe;) and finally, that without which the remainder of the system would be of little value, schools for teachers.[¶] In all this there is nothing intricate or recondite; what is memorable is not the conception, but that it has found hands to execute it: that the thing is actually done, done within two days’ journey of our own shores, done throughout a great country, and by a government unrivalled in the art of doing well whatever it does at all, because surpassing all other governments in the systematic choice, for whatever it wishes done, of the persons fittest for doing it.
The spirit which has accomplished this, with us is still to be created; and in the hope of contributing to the creation of such a spirit, Mrs. Austin has employed herself in rendering M. Cousin’s Report accessible to the English reader.
Constituted, [says she,] as the government of this country is, and accustomed as it is to receive its impulses from without, (a state of things approved and consecrated by the national ways of thinking,) it would be contrary to reason and to experience to expect it to originate any great changes. This is not recognised, either by governors or governed, as any part of its duty. It is to the public mind, therefore, that those who desire any change must address themselves.
The preface, from which the above is an extract, well deserves to be separately printed and widely circulated; by the force and conclusiveness with which it combats the shallow opinions and groundless feelings which oppose themselves in this country to a national education, and by the happy union which it exhibits of an earnest spirit and a conciliatory and engaging tone.
If, as from a speech of the Lord Chancellor a year ago[*] we might suppose to be his opinion, it were enough that schools exist, and it mattered not what they teach, or in what method they teach it, we might in this country expect to see all the ends of a national education speedily attained with little assistance from government.
In a country containing thirteen millions of people, the whole expense of the schools to the state, not only for the lower but for the middling classes, did not amount, in the year 1831, to 35,000l. When we remember that, as it is asserted on the highest authority, 1,200,000l are voluntarily raised for the support of our extremely defective popular schools, we have surely no reason to despair that if our management were equal to our means, ample provision would be found for the suitable education of the whole people.*
The £20,000 granted by Parliament last year for building schoolhouses called forth private contributions of nearly treble the amount. Independently of all this, we have the immense endowments which the charity commissioners have brought to light, and proved to have been for generations embezzled and wasted. As far, therefore, as quantity of teaching is concerned, the education of our people is, or will speedily be, amply provided for. It is the quality which so grievously demands the amending hand of government. And this is the demand which is principally in danger of being obstructed by popular apathy and ignorance. The very first condition of improvement is not yet realized; the public are not sufficiently discontented. They are not yet alive to the bad quality of the existing tuition. The very people who furnish so vast an annual sum for the maintenance of schools, often oppose themselves to the wish of their own schoolmasters to give valuable instruction. With many of these patrons of education, whose support Lord Brougham fears will be withdrawn if a state provision be made for education,[*] the constant alarm is, not lest too little, but lest too much, should be taught. And even where the state of their inclinations is unexceptionable, can we expect any judgment or intelligence in providing education for their inferiors in the scale of society, from people who allow the places of education for their own children to be in the wretched state in which we find almost all the schools for the higher and middle classes of England? Are not those schools, and the influence which parents exercise over them, correctly described in the following passage:
a Let us b look at home, and examine whether with all the grievous abuses of the endowed seminaries of Great Britain, they are, after all, ca particlec worse than, or even so bad as, almost all our other places of deducation.d We may ask, whether the desire to gain as much money with as little labour as is consistent with saving appearances, be peculiar to the endowed teachers? Whether the plan of nineteen-twentieths of our unendowed schools be not an organized system of charlatanerie for imposing upon the ignorance of ethee parents? Whether parents do, in point of fact, prove themselves as solicitous, and as well qualified, to judge rightly of the merits of places of education, as the theory of Adam Smith supposes?[†] Whether the truth be not, that, for the most part, they bestow very little thought upon the matter; or, if they do, show themselves in general the ready dupes of the very shallowest artifices? Whether the necessity of keeping parents in good humour does not too often, instead of rendering the education better, render it worse, the real ends of instruction being sacrificed, not solely (as would fbe the case under other circumstancesf ) to the ease of the teacher, but to that, and galsog to the additional positive vices of clap-trap and lip-proficiency? We may ask, whether it is not matter of experience, that a schoolmaster who endeavours really to educate, instead of endeavouring only to seem to educate, and laying himself out for the suffrages of those who never look below the surface, and only for an instant at that, is almost sure, unless he have the genius and the ardour of a Pestalozzi, to make a losing speculation? Let us do what we may, it will be the study of the hmereh trading schoolmaster to teach down to the level of the parents, be that level high or low, as it is of the trading author to write down to the level of his readers. And in the one shape as in the other, it is iati all times and in all places indispensable, that enlightened individuals and enlightened governments should, from other motives than that of pecuniary gain, bestir themselves to providej that good and wholesome food for the wants of the mind, for which the competition of the mere trading market affords in general so indifferent a substitute.*
To quote another author:
As regards the common run of day and boarding schools, it is well known that they are, as much as any shopkeepers, obliged to gratify the tastes, and satisfy the wishes of their customers; and that, even if some establishments have risen into such popularity, as to render it truly difficult to insure places in them, this enables them no more to resist and combat the prevailing prejudices, than the most fashionable shop in the metropolis has it in its power to abolish all fanciful fashions, and to introduce a plain and simple dress. Their high popularity is founded upon the opinion, that by them the public taste will be gratified more than anywhere else; but let it for a moment be suspected, that there is a design radically to reform that taste, or merely to correct and purify it, and all the popularity will be gone in an instant. Nowhere is there a more extensive application made of the maxim, Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur;[*] that is to say, in education,—the vanity and folly of the parents will be flattered, therefore let us flatter them. And although the weakness of the parents, and the servility of schoolmasters, has been fully explored, and although they heartily despise one another, yet the practical language of a father, when putting his child to school, is still, “I want to be deceived,—I want to be flattered;” and the schoolmaster’s answer is no less, “You may rely upon it, it shall be done, in general matters, on the usual terms, and in special matters, at so much extra.”†
What wonder, then, if they who so ill provide for what most nearly concerns themselves, should be the wretchedest purveyors for the wants of others? What wonder that, as Sir William Molesworth affirmed in his speech on seconding Mr. Roebuck’s motion,
The so-called education, provided for the working classes of England, deficient as it is admitted to be in quantity, is immeasurably more deficient in quality; as instruction, it is lamentably meagre, incomplete, and inappropriate; as education, as nearly as possible, absolutely null. All instruction consists in the mere repetition by rote of certain words, to which the children affix either no idea at all, or ideas too indistinct to have any hold on their minds, or influence on their conduct.[†]
“The schoolmaster,” (says the Cornish paper from which we take our report of this excellent speech,) “the schoolmaster may be abroad,* but it is in quest of his daily bread, which he earns hardly and ungratefully,” and with as little thought and as little labour to himself as possible.
Well was it said by Sir W. Molesworth, that,
In order to obviate all doubts upon this subject, and at the same time to provide us with the data required for legislation on it, some means should immediately be adopted to ascertain distinctly what is actually taught in the popular schools throughout the country.[*]
Such should be the main object of the committee recently appointed by the House of Commons: and a committee being essentially an unfit instrument for conducting inquiries which must be protracted far beyond the duration of the session, and for collecting from all parts of the country evidence much of which can be obtained only on the spot, the best proof which the committee could afford of wisdom and zeal in the cause, would be to follow the example of the committee on municipal corporations, and recommend an address to the king for the appointment of a commission, to inquire into the quality of the existing popular education in all its branches.[†]
The sort of facts which such an inquiry would elicit, may be judged by the passages we are about to quote from a series of Lectures on Christian Education, delivered in 1829 and published in 1830, by Dr. Biber; a man of remarkable powers and attainments, and a most unexceptionable witness to the narrowing and perverting tendency of the religious instruction pretended to be given at our schools; as his own religious sentiments are most fervent, and his hostility to latitudinarianism in religion touches the verge of intolerance.
Of the Church-of-England, or self-styled National, schools:
What affords the most convincing evidence on this subject, and what I wish, therefore, all those that are interested in it to witness themselves, if they have the opportunity, is the yearly public examination of the central school at Baldwin’s Gardens. I have been present on one of those occasions, and what I then witnessed, far exceeded all my conceptions of manufacture-teaching. What struck my mind most forcibly in the whole display, was a sort of co-operative plan in the solution of an arithmetical question. This was done, like all the rest, in rotation, the first boy beginning, for instance, 6 times 3 are 18, second boy: put 8 and carry 1, third boy: 6 times 2 are 12; fourth boy: 12 and 1 are 13, fifth boy: put 3 and carry 1; sixth boy: 6 times 7 are 42; seventh boy: 42 and 1 are 43; eighth boy: put 3 and carry 4 and so all round and round, again and again, till the whole of it was gone through. Now, although unquestionably all the children could, with a moderate degree of attention, get the ciphers correctly on their slates, it is evident that, with all this, there might, perhaps, not have been more than two in the whole number, who could have solved the same problem for themselves. But what is far more important is, that such a plan of instruction is the direct way of preventing them from ever thinking about what they are doing, and thus cutting off every chance of their understanding it. With their memory-knowledge of the multiplication, addition, and other tables, they are put into this machinery, which, like the wheel of a treadmill, although put in motion by the joint exertions of those in it, overpowers the individual, and forces him to go on at any rate, whether he be disposed to do so or not. Not to mention the absolute ignorance in which the children in those schools always remain concerning number, their attention being only directed to ciphers, I question whether the above plan is calculated to make even good cipherers. For if there be no knowledge of numbers, there should be some understanding, at least as far as it can be had without the other, of the ciphering system, that the pupil may not be the blind instrument of rules, blindly learned by rote. Nevertheless the solution of the question, as I have described it to you, gave general satisfaction to a number of the bishops, and a large public, assembled on the occasion; and so did the reading of a long list of alms—or reward—givings, at the end of the examination, decreeing to one girl an apron, to another girl a pair of shoes, to such a boy half a crown, to such another boy a pair of trowsers, &c.; that both the givers and receivers might be seen and known of men! The observations I made at that examination, I found confirmed by private visits to the schools; and, among the rest, to one which I may, with the more propriety, instance in support of the charges I have brought against the system, as I can, from personal acquaintance, bear the highest testimony to the zeal, as well as the generally enlightened views, of the clergyman who presides over it, and in whose company I visited it. I asked the children to read the parable of the Prodigal Son,[*] and among other questions which I put to them was this. “What is meant by riotous living?” “Dissipated living.” “And what does dissipated living mean?” “Wasteful living.” “And what is the meaning of wasteful living?” To this question, as their collection of synonymes was exhausted, I received no answer, and therefore, to get upon intelligible ground I asked then what things were necessary for subsistence, and what not; when some of the girls contended that beer, and cheese, and cakes, and patties, were indispensably necessary for life. And as in this case, so I found it invariably, whenever and wherever I travelled out of the road of those questions, which have for their object to direct the children’s attention to mere words, on the most common subjects I found their ideas unclear and confused, and the same children, who would use the most correct language as long as they remained in the track of what they were just then reading, or what they had learned by rote, were unable to express themselves even with tolerable correctness on other matters; a clear proof that their apparent knowledge was a mere word-knowledge, in the acquisition or advantages of which the mind had no share. Thus, on another visit, the boys were exhibiting their slates, on which they had written various words. I stopped one among the rest, who had the word “disadvantageous.” “What does that word mean, my boy?” “I don’t know.” “You know, perhaps, what disadvantage means?” “No.” “Do you know what advantageous means?” “No.” “Or, have you ever heard the word advantage, what does that mean?” “I don’t know.” “Well, but suppose you lost your jacket, would that be an advantage or a disadvantage to you?” “An advantage!” was his answer.
It would be unfair, however, to let it be supposed that facts, such as these, are only to be met with in National schools. On this head the British system is quite as defective. Its method of ciphering, though different in some of the details, is, on the whole, no less objectionable, as it is, like the other, a mere mechanical application of the mechanical rules of ciphering, mechanically inculcated into the memory. And, as regards the preposterous exercise of learning to read and to write words, selected merely from a regard to the number of their syllables, by which the children are so stupified, that they lose the habit of thinking altogether, and do not care about the meaning even of that which they might understand, I recollect a fact which far outdoes the boy, who thought it an advantage for him to lose his jacket. It was at a Lancasterian school, and one which has the name of being among the best conducted; so at least I was told by my friend who went with me, and who is one of the managers. When we entered the room, we found the boys engaged in writing words of different lengths, according to the order of their seats, I passed by those in which such words as “approximation, superintendency,” and the like, caught my eye, and, looking over the sentences which some of the more advanced boys were writing, I found one who had copied, about half a dozen times, the words “Live in love.” “What are you writing here?” I asked, “Live in love.” “And what does that mean?” “I don’t know!” “You don’t know! But don’t you know what ‘love’ means?” “No!” “Or do you know what ‘live’ means?” “No!” “What must you do to live in love?” “I don’t know!” “Do you know what you must not do, to live in love!” “No, I don’t.” “Well, but you should know something about what ‘Live in love’ means. Does it mean that you are to fight with the other boys?” “I can’t tell!” “Well,” said I, turning to my friend, “what do you say to this?” Upon which the school-master, observing somewhat of the scope of our conversation, came up to us and said, “I dare say you might ask such questions all over the school, without getting a better answer, they none of them know what they are writing.”[*]
Of the Lancasterian schools:
It is worth while to examine, in detail, the operations of this system. “Tickets of nominal value are given to deserving boys each school time, which are called in at the end of every three months, and rewards are paid to the holders in exchange. These tickets are valued at the rate of eight for one penny.” It is not a mere prospect of reward, by which the pupils are encouraged, a prize stuck up at the end of a long career, which they must run through to attain it:—no, a reward is immediately bestowed upon every performance of duty, the very same morning or afternoon. A distant prospect, it is apprehended, might not act powerfully enough; thus the children are accustomed to “love a reward upon every cornfloor,”[†] and in whatsoever they do, instead of doing it, according to the apostle’s injunction, for the glory of God,[‡] to “love gifts, and follow after rewards.”[§] So effectual is the operation of this admirable principle, that the fact has actually occurred in a Lancasterian school that, upon the mistress proposing a task of rather a novel description, the girls asked her, whether they should have tickets for doing it, openly declaring, that if there was no reward attached to it, they would not do it. “Point d’argent, point de Suisse.”[¶] The daily getting of a reward for every thing that is called “deserving,” by the British system, is, however, not sufficient, properly to cultivate an hireling spirit. To complete this part of its education, the system gives proper encouragement to a calculating spirit, first of all by the conversion of the reward tickets into substantial rewards every three months, and, secondly, by a popish sort of indulgence-trade, which the children are permitted to carry on with them before their conversion into real property, and by which those reward tickets come fully under the denomination of the “Mammon of unrighteousness.”[∥] Under the head “Punishments,” we are informed that at the close of each school-time, “the bad boys are classed into divisions, corresponding with the number of their offences, and are required to pay one ticket for each offence; those who do so are dismissed, and those who have no tickets are confined a quarter of an hour for every offence reported against them.” And lest any doubt should remain on the subject, it is further stated that “in all cases, the parties may be excused from confinement, if they are in possession of reward tickets, by forfeiting them, at the rate of one ticket for every quarter of an hour’s detention.” Not enough that the child is taught to do his duty, not from conscientious feeling of obligation, but for reward’s sake; he is also taught, and that in the most effectual manner, viz., by practice, that past good conduct amounts to a license for the commission of sin. This may not be the intention of the framers of those ill-contrived regulations, but it is the necessary effect of them. How easy is it, for instance, for a clever boy to gain reward tickets, to a considerable amount, by attention to reading, spelling, and arithmetic, all of which he may, if he prefer present indulgence to future gratification, convert into as many tickets of license for the perpetration of such offences as are particularly to his taste. I call upon those that are candid, among the advocates of the British system, to deny, if they can, on the score of principle, that from such causes such effects must follow, or, on the ground of practical experience, that such effects are actually taking place. And if they have not been observed as frequently as might be anticipated, is there not reason to suppose, that this may partly be owing to the want of close contact, on the part of the master, with every individual child, an evil which is the necessary consequence of the much-extolled machinery of the British system, and which, on more than one ground, calls loudly for a remedy? Be that as it may, the effect of the remission of punishment, for the forfeiture of rewards, is obvious enough, and the fact has been admitted to me by some who have had opportunities, more than myself, of watching the practical effects of the system. But even without such an admission it would be evident, from the combination of all the influences enumerated, that the British system must beget a set of hirelings, who, for hire’s sake, do the good, and, for hire’s sake, abstain from evil. But, as if there had been an anxiety to collect, on the score of motives, all that is unscriptural, and to put it into practice in those schools, the conversion of the reward tickets into actual rewards, at the expiration of each three months, is celebrated in the following manner: “When all the boys have received the prizes, they are conducted round the school-room by the general monitors, who proclaim that they have obtained their prizes for good behaviour, regular attendance, and improvement in learning; after walking two or three times round the school, they are permitted to go home.” Is not this, in plain language, sounding a trumpet before the boys?
Now, I would ask my Christian friends—for so, I know, some of the managers and supporters of the British system will permit me to call them, in spite of what I have said against that system—I would ask them, as Christians, whether they can justify any of these practices individually: the setting aside of genuine moral feeling, the stimulus of appearing greater and better, one than the other, the seeking a reward for every performance of duty, the exemption from punishment through rewards before gained; the calculation of the total amount of these rewards within a given period; and lastly, the going round “the corners” of the school, with the monitors as trumpeters before them?[*]
Lastly, of the infant schools: and this is the most frightful perversion of all. That any kind of technical instruction should, in vulgar and unintelligent hands, degenerate into mechanical routine, is less wonderful: but that an institution designed for moral culture only—a place where the child learned nothing, in the vulgar sense of learning, but only learned to live; that places designed exclusively for the cultivation of the kindly affections, should by dulness, hardness, and miserable vanity, be converted into places for parroting gibberish; this is a more wretched example than any other, of the state of mind of the people who subscribe the 1,200,000l. which Lord Brougham is afraid they should prefer to keep in their pockets if more rational views of education were substituted for their own.[*]
The original design of the infant system has been entirely perverted; and, as a natural consequence of this, the system itself has undergone considerable alterations. The first idea, if I am correctly informed, was to collect those children who were below the grasp of the other systems, and to endeavour, at the very tenderest age, to awaken them to a life of love and intelligence.[†] Positive instruction was not made an object of, but merely considered as a means for the attainment of that higher object, the development of the soul in the true life. With this view, the first infant schools were founded, and it seemed as if, from the mouths of babes, the public would receive evidence, to convince them of the errors of long cherished prejudices. But, as it is written, “Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat, with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him,”[‡] so did it prove to be the case with the prejudices of the public. Infant schools, indeed, became the fashion, for there was a something in them to win the feelings, which has since very much worn off, but which, then, was in all its freshness, and made converts by hundreds. But the consequence of this was, not that the public adopted the principles of the new system, but that they grafted upon it their old prejudices, their sectarian sympathies and antipathies, and all their paltry party feelings and interests. Originally, the infant schools were calculated to show, what could be done by appealing to a principle of love in the child, which would subdue the wrath of its nature, and to a principle of truth, which would enlighten its darkness; and thereby eventually to subvert those systems in which, as we have seen, the evil tendencies of our nature are made the levers of education. This was no sooner discovered, than a stir was made, for the purpose of suppressing the rising opposition in its very germ. A society was formed, which, under the pretence of advocating the infant system, succeeded in gradually commuting it into the very reverse of what it was originally meant to be, and which, after having accomplished so praiseworthy an object, has at length absconded, by a sort of mystification, in a stationer’s shop. But although the agents have vanished, the baneful effects of their labours have remained. The infant schools are now no more than preparatory for the Lancasterian and National schools, especially the latter, which had most to dread from the rising system, and whose influence, therefore, was most powerfully exerted in defeating its success. The machinery of those two systems has found its way into the infant schools, and has made them, with rare exceptions, mere miniature pictures of the others. You see the little monitors spelling, with their classes, over the A, B, C, and a variety of lesson tables without sense and meaning, you hear them say, by rote, the multiplication table, the pence table, and so on. The same things are repeated over and over again, so that a parrot hung up for some time in one of those schools, would unquestionably make as good an infant school mistress as any. There is hardly one of the means introduced at the beginning, which has not been turned to a bad purpose. Thus, for instance, among other things, sets of geometrical figures and bodies, cut out of wood, were used, for the purpose of questioning the children respecting the number and proportion of their angles, sides, &c.; but, instead of making them the means of intellectual exercises, in which the children would be led every day to make new discoveries, and to think for themselves, those figures are now pulled out, chiefly in the presence of visitors, and then the whole school bawls out together, “This is a pentagon—this is a hexagon—this is an octagon, and so on.” One of the most pleasing features of the infant system, in its origin, was the social feeling, the cordiality, and cheerfulness of the little company, which was greatly promoted by some short and easy tunes, to which occasionally some infantine words were sung. The effect which this had, in soothing the irritation of some, moderating the violence of others, and arousing the dull ones into life, was truly wonderful; but no sooner was the discovery made, that there was, so early in life, a way to man’s heart and mind by singing, than the machinists of education availed themselves of this fact, for the purpose of conveying to the memory some of their dead stock, which would not otherwise have found its way there so easily, and, presently, the multiplication, and other ciphering tables, the pence table, avoirdupois weight, and more of the like kind, were set to music, and occasionally better fitted for the infantine taste, at least so it was supposed, by the addition of the most silly rhymes. What intellectual or moral effect, I should like to know, can be anticipated from a child learning such a verse as this:
Or, still more vulgar, in the song about the cow:
In one infant school, I have known the children to be made to laugh, or to cry, or to look happy, or unhappy, or kind, or angry, at the master’s command, in another school, in which the picture of a farm yard was hung up on the wall, the master assured me that he was expressly enjoined by his committee, to ask the children for scripture references to every object represented in that picture. Thus, when he pointed to a cow, the children were to quote him chapter and verse of those passages in scripture in which a cow was mentioned, the same with the sheaves, the clouds, and whatever else the picture contained, this was considered, by the committee, as an excellent method of connecting religious instruction with all other subjects. To enumerate all the nonsense that has been practised, and is still practised, in this manner, would be an endless task; but what has most effectually contributed to the ruin of the infant system, is the manner of propagating it. The renown of the system penetrates into some country place, or into some district of a large town, and some persons take it into their heads, upon hearing what excellent things the infant schools are, that they too will have an infant school. They then go in search of a place, and find out some old barn, or coach-house, which, with a few alterations, can be turned into a school-room. So far all is right, for it is better that a good school should be in a wretched place, than, as we so often see it before our eyes in the metropolis, that a wretched school should be in a splendid place. But the great difficulty arises in the choice of the future master or mistress. Each of the originators and patrons of the proposed institution, has some client in view, whom he has nominated in his heart. A poor fellow, a tailor, a shoe-maker, or a fiddler by trade, who is not prosperous in the exercise of his calling, has the suffrage of the most active member of the committee, or an old dame, whose school would suffer by the opposition of the new system, is patronized by some charitable ladies; or the richest contributor has an old servant, whom she wants to put into a snug place, a struggle arises between these contending interests, the result of which is, that the client of the most influential party is selected for the situation, although, perhaps, the most unfit of all the candidates. The next question then is, how the new master or mistress is to learn the system, of which they must be presumed to be entirely ignorant. Some friend, perhaps, advises the committee to send the teacher to London, or some other place, for three months, and have him regularly trained under a good infant school master. In vain! they cannot wait so long, it will protract the business, and the zeal of the good people in the town might get cool in the mean time. The infant school must be opened in a fortnight or three weeks at the latest, and this is consequently all the time that can be permitted to the newly chosen master for his preparation. The question of time being settled, another arises to what place is he to be sent? The expense of sending him up to London, or to some other place of note, is found too great, particularly for so short a time, and it seems, therefore, better that he should be sent the least distance possible, to the nearest infant school, to “catch” the system. But suppose even he come to London, or to Exeter, or Bristol, to one of the best schools that are, what can he learn in so short a time? What strikes him chiefly, is the singing of the tables, the distribution in classes, the marching round the room, the clapping of hands, and all the other machinery. This he catches, as well as he can, and back he goes, and opens his school, and his chief endeavour is to follow the system which he has caught, as closely as he can. And what can be expected after this? What else, but that the infant school should become a treadmill for the minds of the poor children!
Such has been the history of the infant system, it has been misapprehended by prejudice and narrow-mindedness, and perverted by bigotry and false zeal, so much so that those who were its warmest advocates, are tempted to wish that never so much as one infant school had been established in the country.[*]
We can add nothing to this. Surely every member of the committee of the House of Commons who reads it, will be eager to make the labours of that committee instrumental to the reform of such abominations.
We conclude in the words of the same author, with the following general summary, every word of which accords with all our own information.
I have had a sad picture to lay before you, when speaking of the neglect of education, and of the numbers of children who are left without any instruction at all, but no less sad is the picture of the present state of our charity schools. All the evils under which society at large labours are, as it were, concentrated upon this point, as if to destroy the very vitals of the nation. The universal motive is money-getting, the means are all devised upon the analogy of large manufactures, carried on by mechanical power; and, to make the measure of evil full, the cloak of it all is a dead profession of the gospel. The principle of mammon is recognized as the life of education, the existence of mental and moral powers is set aside, and the spirit of religion is supplanted by the letter. Such is the general character of the education which is imparted to the poorer classes of this country, whatever may be the name of the system under which it is done. I leave you to judge, what must become of the nation![*]
[[*] ]See “New Publications,” Monthly Repository, n.s. VIII (May, 1834), 383.
[[†] ]John Arthur Roebuck, Speech in Introducing a Motion on National Education (3 June, 1834; Commons), Parliamentary Debates (hereafter cited as PD), 3rd ser., Vol. 24, cols. 127-30.
[[‡] ]See “Report from the Select Committee on the State of Education,” Parliamentary Papers (hereafter cited as PP), 1834, IX, 1-261.
[[§] ]Cf. James Mill, Schools for All, in Preference to Schools for Churchmen Only (London: Longman, et al., 1812).
[[¶] ]See Cousin, pp. 23-33, 4-21, and 62-7, respectively.
[[*] ]Henry Peter Brougham, Speech on National Education (14 Mar., 1833, Lords), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 16, cols. 632-8.
[* ]Sir W. Molesworth’s speech [on National Education (3 June, 1834; Commons), reported in The Cornish Guardian and Western Chronicle (Truro), 13 June, 1843, pp. 2-3]. [The report of the speech in PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 24, cols. 130-1, does not contain the passages quoted here and at pp. 66 and 67 below.]
[[*] ]Brougham, speech of 14 Mar., 1833, col. 634.
[a]33,59,67 [no paragraph]
[[†] ]See Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 2 vols. (London: Strahan and Cadell, 1776), Vol. II, pp. 185, 206.
[f-f]59,67 otherwise be the case
[j]33,59,67 (though by no means forcibly to impose)
[* ]From a pamphlet, entitled, “Corporation and Church Property resumable by the State. From the Jurist of February, 1833.” [An offprint of the article by Mill, “Corporation and Church Property,” Jurist, IV (Feb., 1833), 1-26; in Essays on Economics and Society, Vols. IV-V of Collected Works (hereafter cited as CW) (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967), Vol. IV, pp. 214-15.]
[[*] ]The maxim combines elements found in Sebastian Franck, Paradoxa ducenta octogenta ([Ulm: Varnier, 1535]), p. 141 (no. 237), and Auguste De Thou, Historia sui temporis, 5 vols. (Paris: Drouart, 1604-08), Vol. II, p. 299.
[† ][George Edward] Biber’s Lectures on Christian Education [Christian Education, in a Course of Lectures (London: Wilson, 1830)], p. 181.
[[†] ]Molesworth, speech of 3 June, 1834, p. 2.
[* ]The Cornish Guardian and Western Chronicle, published at Truro (June 13, 1834). [An anonymous leading article, on Henry Peter Brougham, Speech on the Address on the King’s Speech (29 Jan., 1828; Commons), PD, n.s., Vol. 18, col. 58.]
[[*] ]Molesworth, speech of 3 June, 1834, p. 2.
[[†] ]“First Report of the Commissioners Appointed to Inquire into the Municipal Corporations in England and Wales,” PP, 1835, XXIII, 48.
[[*] ]Luke, 15 11-32.
[[*] ]Biber, pp. 162-5.
[[†] ]Hosea, 9:1.
[[‡] ]I Corinthians, 10:31.
[[§] ]Isaiah, 1:23.
[[¶] ]Jean Baptiste Racine, Les plaideurs (1668), in Oeuvres, 7 vols. (Paris: Le Normant, 1808), Vol. II, p. 277 (I, i, 15).
[[∥] ]Luke, 16:9.
[[*] ]Biber, pp. 167-70.
[[*] ]Cf. p. 65 above.
[[†] ]See Robert Owen, A New View of Society (London: Cadell and Davies, 1813), Essay III, pp. 2-4.
[[‡] ]Proverbs, 27:22.
[[*] ]Cf. Samuel Wilderspin. The Infant System, for Developing the Intellectual and Moral Powers of All Children from One to Seven Years of Age (1823), 6th ed. (London: Simpkin and Marshall, 1834), pp. 265, 277.
[[*] ]Biber, pp. 172-7.
[[*] ]Ibid., pp. 177-8.