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‘IT IS CLEAR that in whatever it is our duty to act, those matters also it is our duty to study.' These words of Dr. Arnold's seem to me incontrovertible. So a sense of duty, as well as fondness for the subject, has led me to devote a period of leisure to the study of Education, in the practice of which I have been for some years engaged.
There are countries where it would be considered a truism that a teacher in order to exercise his profession intelligently should know something about the chief authorities in it. Here, however, I suppose such an assertion will seem paradoxical; but there is a good deal to be said in defence of it. De Quincey has pointed out that a man who takes up any pursuit without knowing what advances others have made in it works at a great disadvantage. He does not apply his strength in the right direction, he troubles himself about small matters and neglects great, he falls into errors that have long since been exploded. educator is, I think, liable to these dangers if he brings to his task no knowledge but that which he learnt for the tripos, and no skill but that which he
acquired in the cricket-ground or on the river. If his pupils are placed entirely in his hands, his work is one of great difficulty, with heavy penalties attached to all blundering in it; though here, as in the case. of the ignorant doctor and careless architect, the penalties, unfortunately, are paid by his victims. If (as more commonly happens) he has simply to give a class prescribed instruction, his smaller scope of action limits proportionally the mischief that may ensue ; but even then it is obviously desirable that his teaching should be as good as possible, and he is not likely to employ the best methods if he invents as he goes along, or simply falls back on his remembrance of how he was taught himself, perhaps in very different circumstances. I venture to think, therefore, that practical men in education, as in most other things, may derive benefit from the knowledge of what has already been said and done by the leading men engaged in it, both past and present.
All study of this kind, however, is very much impeded by want of books. 'Good books are in German,' says Professor Seeley. I have found that on the history of Education, not only good books but all books are in German, or some other foreign language.*
*When the greater part of this volume was already written, Mr. Parker published his sketch of the history of Classical Education (Essays on a Liberal Education, edited by Farrar). He seems to me to have been very successful in bringing out the most important features of his subject, but his essay necessarily shows marks of over-compression. Two volumes have also lately appeared on Christian Schools and Scholars (Longmans, 1867). Here we have a good deal of information which we
I have, therefore, thought it worth while to publish a few such imperfect sketches as these, with which the reader can hardly be less satisfied than the author. They may, however, prove useful till they give place to a better book.
Several of the following essays are nothing more than compilations. Indeed, a hostile critic might assert that I had used the scissors with the energy of Mr. Timbs and without his discretion. The reader,
however, will probably agree with me that I have done wisely in putting before him the opinions of great writers in their own language. Where I am simply acting as reporter, the author's own way of expressing himself is obviously the best; and if, following the example of the gipsies and Sir Fretful Plagiary, I had disfigured other people's offspring to make them pass for my own, success would have been fatal to the purpose I have steadily kept in view. The sources of original ideas in any subject, as the student is well. aware, are few,* but for irrigation we require troughs
want, and also, as it seems to me, a good deal which we do not want. The work characteristically opens with a 10th century description of the personal appearance of St. Mark when he landed at Alexandria. The author treats only of the times which preceded the Council of Trent. A very interesting account of early English education has been given by Mr. Furnivall, in the 2nd and 3rd numbers of the Quarterly Journal of Education (1867).
* Study of the old authors proves that the utterances of some of our most conspicuous reformers-of Mr. Lowe and Mr. Farrar, for instancedo not give much evidence of originality, as no doubt those gentlemen would readily acknowledge.
as well as water-springs, and these essays are intended to serve in the humbler capacity.
A word about the incomplete handling of my subjects. I have not attempted to treat any subject completely or even with anything like completeness. In giving a sketch of the opinions of an author one of two methods must be adopted; we may give an epitome of all that he has said, or by confining ourselves to his more valuable and characteristic opinions, may gain space to give these fully. As I detest epitomes, I have adopted the latter method exclusively, but I may sometimes have failed in selecting an author's most characteristic principles; and probably no two readers of a book would entirely agree as to what was most valuable in it: so my account must remain, after all, but a poor substitute for the author himself.
For the part of a critic I have at least one qualification-practical acquaintance with the subject. As boy or master, I have been connected with no less. than eleven schools, and my perception of the blunders of other teachers is derived mainly from the remembrance of my own. Some of my mistakes have been brought home to me by reading works on education, even those with which I do not in the main agree. Perhaps there are teachers who on looking through the following pages may meet with a similar experience.
Had the essays been written in the order in which they stand, a good deal of repetition might have been