Billeder på siden

ture to give effect to the opinions they adopted1." The younger Mill lived to see some of his father's aspirations realised, but he was less hopeful than his father as to the improving effect of any change of circumstance on human nature.

Sir Joshua Fitch, in his little work entitled Educational Aims and Methods, says, "The 18th century was not distinguished in our own country, at least, by any important educational enterprise." No historian will be able to cast that reproach on its successor. The two names which stand prominently forward at the commencement of the century, in connection with the history of popular education, are Dr Andrew Bell and Joseph Lancaster. It was while in India that Bell, owing to the want of a sufficient number of teachers, was reduced to invent what has since been known as the monitorial system, a device for utilising the older children to instruct the younger, which was an important step in school organisation. In the year 1797 he published a pamphlet describing the Madras system of setting pupils to teach each other. He himself was so satisfied with the results of his experiment that he said, “I think I have made great progress and almost wrought a complete change in the morals and character of a generation of boys." This system, which would seem now-a-days to have little to recommend it, was not then regarded as a mere makeshift, but as a method of school management of permanent and real value; indeed, as the best possible means of organising instruction in all schools. Although Bell's pamphlet was published before the close of the 18th century, he himself did not become a public educator in England till a later date.

Meanwhile Joseph Lancaster, the son of a Chelsea pensioner, who had displayed from earliest youth great enthusiasm in the cause of Education and Religion, was preparing the way for the establishment of a system of schools for the people.

1 Autobiography, J. S. Mill, p. 106.


In 1798 he hired a large room in the Borough Road, and announced that all who would might send their children to receive free instruction. The want came with the man, for several circumstances combined at that time to create a demand for education, and Lancaster's invitation met with a fuller response than he had probably anticipated. The success of his efforts aroused unexpected interest in the subject. 1805 George III sent for him to explain his methods, and was gratified to learn that the system Lancaster had adopted owed its success to quasi military methods. Lancaster's efforts led to the formation in 1808 of the Royal Lancastrian Association, on the committee of which were James Mill, Henry Brougham and Samuel Rogers. In 1813 the West London Lancastrian Society was started. It took for its motto "Schools for All." Francis Place, the Radical tailor, who was prominent in all the liberalising efforts of the early part of the century, was a member of this Society. It was in the same year, 1813, that the parent Society developed into the British and Foreign School Society, the well-known organisation for the establishment of Elementary Schools.

About this time Bell returned from India and started schools illustrating his Monitorial System as practised in Madras. As so often happens when rival systems are simultaneously advocated, the differences are brought into undue prominence, and vanish altogether when seen through the perspective of later years. But between the two systems there was a difference somewhat similar to that which distinguishes our Board Schools from our Voluntary Schools. The teaching of religion formed a more essential part of Bell's methods, and his educational ambition was more limited. Froude has told us that "the Ten Commandments and a handicraft make a good and wholesome equipment to commence life with," and the partisans of Bell felt that, whilst the teaching of religion was essential to the elementary training of children, the dangers of over-education had even then to be guarded against. Indeed,

S. M. L.


he protected himself by saying, that "it is not proposed to educate the poor in an expensive manner." In 1811, as the result of Bell's efforts, the "National Society for the Education of the Poor in the principles of the Established Church" was founded, and we owe it to these two rival Societies, differing as to their theories of education, that the possibilities of elementary instruction have been brought within the reach of the children of the poorest classes. It is interesting to note that whilst Bell and his Monitorial System are now almost forgotten, and Pestalozzi stands out as the father of modern pedagogy, it is recorded of Bell that, after a visit to Pestalozzi at Yverdun, he remarked: "In another twelve years mutual instruction will be adopted by the whole world and Pestalozzi's method will be forgotten'." The schools established by these two Societies, unassisted by State aid, but supplemented by Sunday Schools, gave to the children of a large number of poor people the rudiments of primary education. The instruction thus supplied was necessarily of a most elementary kind, and even that did not reach all classes. We learn, however, from the biographies of many who subsequently rose to greatness, that they owed their advancement and success to the advantages they derived from the education provided in the National and Church Schools. These men were amongst the most earnest advocates of National Education, and the success they achieved induced parents to realise the value of providing their children with the rudiments of instruction.

Simultaneously with these efforts, on the part of philanthropic individuals and religious bodies, to secure for the rising generation some measure of elementary education, endeavours were being made to provide adult workmen with a knowledge of those facts and principles of science which underlay the work in which they were engaged. Already, in the early part of the century, steam-power was being applied to

1 Educational Reformers, Quick, p. 352.

machinery and locomotion. The great revolution in productive industry which is the distinguishing factor of the century had commenced. The master minds of all countries were occupied in advancing physical science, and new methods were in process of discovery which were destined to multiply the productiveness of Nature. It was a time when such improvements in production were much needed. The belief was growing that population was increasing more rapidly than the means of subsistence. Communication between distant lands was slow, and each country depended almost entirely upon its own resources for its food supply. England was not then united by rapid steamships, as it now is, with the great producing countries of the world, and the means had not then been discovered of bringing the products of other lands within reach of our own working classes. The population question, which was then anxiously considered by our philosophers and philanthropists as a matter of grave import, no longer troubles us. In 1801 the English language was spoken by about 20 million people, it is now spoken by over 100 million: but the rapid increase of population, which roused the fears and agitated so acutely the thoughts of Bentham and Malthus gives us happily far less concern. In his Life of Francis Place, Mr Graham Wallas truly says: It is difficult at the present time to appreciate with anything like justice the fears of those who studied the population question at the beginning of the century." That is so, but the discoveries of science have changed the conditions of the problem. It is no longer national but universal, and the question of provision is reduced to one of distribution. There is no fear that the world's resources will fail; what we have to consider are the means of bringing them within reach of those who want them. Francis Place grasped the truth that man's inventive power properly applied would add indefinitely to the earth's products. His phrase was:"Machinery should be allowed to beat population in the race." Happily it has done so, and the productiveness of

science has dispelled the fears of Malthus and of Mill as to the unproductiveness of Nature.

The possibilities of science in helping to restore equilibrium between population and production were clearly foreseen by many active workers in the early part of the century; and hence their keen desire to diffuse as widely as possible scientific knowledge. They realised the fact that the changing conditions of industry required that men should not be permitted to degenerate into machines, that those who assisted in the work of production should know something of its processes, that the brain power of the community should be utilised for the well-being of the nation, and that a knowledge of what scientific discovery could effect should be made generally accessible, and particularly among those who were daily engaged in work that illustrated it.

Ideas such as these filled the minds of many practical educationalists in the early part of our century.

Prominent among these was Dr George Birkbeck. Born in 1776 of well-to-do Quaker parents in the quiet market-town of Settle, Yorkshire, George Birkbeck, after receiving a sound general education, chose the medical profession as his career, and studied successively under Dr Garnett and Mr Logan, and afterwards at the Royal Medical Society of Edinburgh. Later on he became a student of the University, and after attending the lectures of Steward, Rutherford and others, he graduated in 1799 as Doctor of Medicine. Among his fellow-students were Walter Scott, Francis Jeffrey, Sydney Smith, and Henry Brougham. At the age of 23, Birkbeck was appointed Professor of Physics at a new Institution at Glasgow, founded under the will of Mr John Anderson, and still known as the Andersonian College. It was in the year 1800 that Birkbeck, wanting some apparatus made to illustrate his lectures, went to a tinman's shop in Glasgow, where he was so much struck with the intelligence and greed for knowledge shown by the workmen, that he decided to admit them to his lectures, and

« ForrigeFortsæt »