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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 26

What Is Education?

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What Is Education?

Education is any process by which the inherent and pre-existent qualities or powers in the human being can be elicited or brought out into practice.

This is a general description of education; and although brief, it is quite correct, yet, like all generalisations, it gives no particular information, and is, therefore, not a full answer to the question : proceed we then to particulars.

The word is from the Latin Educo, to educe, to bring out; not to put in, but to draw forth from within; not filling the mind with crotchets or opinions, as a cistern is filled with water brought in buckets from external sources; but opening up its own fountain, to draw out from its own resources the immortal spirit that is there—to develop our consciousness and bring into action the intellectual conceptions, the instincts and intuitions of our outward and inward selves, the pure and unperverted tastes, inclinations, propensities and powers of human nature, the germs and seeds of the virtues which God and nature have planted within us, to be nurtured, cultivated and matured by us in the manner best suited to ourselves, in order that every one of us may work out his or her own individual character, each respectively, in his or her own proper position and vocation in society, according to the natural constitution with which we are endowed, and which it is the great object and purpose of Education to bring out into light action.

The following original words or first principles are Divine Revelations in the human language. They point and lead to this right action;—they are the finger of Divine Providence.

Equity—First Principles are the laws of God and Nature;—our rule of Faith and Practice.

They comprehend the elements and substance of all the natural and true virtues, useful endowments and gifts of God and Nature, which we have to educate; they are of divine origin, antiquity and wisdom. We may enumerate them without attempting to decide which are first, which secondary; or which are virtues, which gifts. They may indeed be all page 2 esteemed, and should be venerated as the bounteous gifts of God and Nature. They are our rights and duties; they all tend to the well-being and well-doing of mankind. They belong to us as forming our political and social order—our pure and holy religion; they are of all languages, and evidently intended for our practice—for our use and benefit—our government, our rule and guidance. They therefore should be ever scrupulously attended to and manifested and illustrated in all our conduct through life.

First Principles, as Virtues.—Truth, justice, freedom, love, diligence, faith, hope, charity, generosity, peace, patience, mercy, friendship, prudence, fortitude, temperance, morality, benevolence, pity, chastity, love of God above all things, and our neighbor as ourselves.

First Principles as Endowments.—Seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, feeling, eating, drinking, sleeping, walking, talking, thinking, marriage, memory, wit, understanding, reason, instinct, intuition, individuality, and diversity of man, and his sovereignty over his own person, his own time, his own property, and everything that properly pertains to him.

First Principles, as the gifts of God and Nature.—The whole earth, from centre to circumference, the soil, the land, the woods, the trees, the animals, vegetables, wild fruit and flowers, the waters, the rivers, the seas, rains, the flowers of the earth, the birds of the air, the fishes, the light of the sun, the moon, the stars, all spontaneous productions, and the capabilities of further production by man's labor and the knowledge of agriculture and machinery.

Observe 1st. In the gifts of God and Nature, we have all the necessary materials wherewith, whereon and wherein to do the work of humanity.

Observe 2nd. In the endowments, we have the powers, the capabilities of doing the good work voluntarily given to us.

Observe 3rd. In the virtues we have the result—the reward of our efforts—in the universal harmony, peace and happiness of the whole human race; or such would be the result of these virtues, if not perverted by bad laws and bad men.

Each one of these virtues, endowments, and gifts has its own laws, suggests its own method of application and use; their efficiency, fitness and goodness are implanted within us, as part of ourselves, a part of our nature, and are recognised as such by every unperverted, rational human being. They are simple, plain, and easy to understand; delightful and improving in practice. They are profound, eternal, and infinitely comprehensive : therefore not of human invention or party spirit. They bear the impress of divine wisdom and beneficence, for they are suited to each other—suited to all times, to all persons, to all places, to all cases, for universal practice. They are principles and laws of God and Nature : therefore infallibly true. They are our unerring statute book, our tribunal of justice, our court of equity, our universal laws, our politics, our rule of of faith, our true and sure religion. They associate us together in love, page 3 harmony and peace, with plenty of all the good things, good thoughts, and good deeds we can rationally enjoy, and a refined happiness and pleasure in the enjoyment of them.

First principles will expel vice and establish virtue; their proper application will lead us on in true wisdom's path, in the true and wisest policy, true morality, true philosophy, true science, and true religion.

First principles are our highest and infallible authority—should be our guide and rule of action in all the affairs of life. They should be the standard laws of all civilised nations and peoples;—indeed if the people be not guided by first principles, they are not educated or civilised. The present unhappy defection from first principles arose from the love of money, the domination of priests, and those combinations of interested, money-loving men, called government, whose principles and laws are based on war, falsehood, force, frauds, thereby establishing odious systems of rents, rates, taxes, money, interest on money, and other fraudful imposts, which can be eradicated only by first principles, the laws of God and nature being put into practice by education, and the practice thereof is heaven on earth, conscience without reproof, for truly it is written, "The kingdom of God is within you."

Education is also a work of scrutiny and diligent observation, in order to discover the natural tastes, talents, capacities and powers in each individual, and to ascertain for what occupation in life he or she may be best fitted, so that they may in the best manner fill their proper places in society.

Instructed, not educated as man has hitherto been in the depths of enlightened and unenlightened error, false policy and the pride of life, little does he know at present what may be his capacities, his attainments and enjoyments when justice shall have been done to him, and he shall have done justice to himself; when all his faculties and powers shall be developed, and in their free and proper action shall manifest the majesty of human nature in the exercise of first principles. Then tyranny and oppression must hide their diminished heads, when war must cease, and peace reign triumphant in its stead. The sovereign dominion of mankind over all nature's terrestrial productions, properly directed, will work all for good,—man and woman, promoting the happiness of each other, will contribute also to the happiness of their neighbours, "learn to make others happy." Thus we might establish and secure in perpetuity the diversified peace, harmony, and happiness of the whole human family, whereby, without toilsome effort, but, as it were, incidentally, we advance ourselves in a state of preparedness for whatever of higher destiny may be in reserve for us hereafter.

And this beautiful, harmonious, and progressive enjoyment of humankind is anticipated in society—yea, even exists—in the physical structure, physiological functions, and propensities of man,—yea it resides in the very depths of man's physical organization; and from the wider range of page 4 his mental, intellectual, and spiritual constitution, they flow in streams, magnificent and glorious. It is conceivable that from the first to the last moment of his rational existence he might drink of them to the full extent of his capacity. Why does he not? What must happen before this be possible? The attainment of clear and just conceptions of things of which the knowledge hitherto acquired by the most enlightened men is imperfect. Physical nature, every department of it, capable of securing to every individual, and to the whole community, the maximum of happinesss with the minimum of suffering; this must be known.

But first principles—the principles of humanity which are the basis, and lead directly on to this knowledge—have not been cared for, were and are not recognised or taught in our schools; our schools were nut instituted for true and real education, but for false and artificial instruction, and for inculcating the will, the superstitions, the idolatrous notions and dictations of high priests and rulers.

The universities and colleges were instituted in the middle ages, in the greatest height and lowest depth of religious idolatry, superstition, and ecclesiastical arrogance, and instituted for the avowed purposes of teaching Greek and Latin, and exclusively inculcating the faith and doctrine and discipline of the Church and State authorities of Rome, the then prevailing creed, statues, sacrificial rites, superstitions, mortifications, idolatries, humiliations, ceremonial and useless observances called Loyalty and Religion. To all these absurdities such implicit obedience was insisted on, and with such rigor by the assumed Roman Catholic Church and State authorities, and with such dictatorial coercive injunctions as were deemed expedient to maintain Church and State dominion, and fit the scholars for the priesthood of that church.

Since the Reformation in England, the universities and colleges have been and are still continued in the essentially same superstitions and idolatries called religion, and in like manner appropriated, though not exclusively, to the teaching articles of faith, false and idolatrous doctrine, discipline for giving their scholars such instructions, dictations, and inculcations of obedience to the assumed authority in Church and State, as may fit them for parsons or ministers, for carrying out the purposes of the high priests and rulers of the Church and State of England—which purposes are chiefly the acquisition of money, wealth, and dominion over the people.

This required obedience and submission to all this coercive and unreasoning assumed authority is more like slavery than freedom—this dictatorial teaching is not Education; at best, it is but instruction, putting into the mind erroneous notions or crotchets which interested men or parties of men in assumed and unjust authority may wish to prevail for their own party purposes and views, that they may live in ease and affluence out of the labor of the industrious millions without themselves laboring at all.

The difference between Education and instruction is very clear and distinct. Education is to draw out from within; instruction is to put in page 5 from without. Yet the difference is never pointed out by our legalised teachers,—the two words are commonly confounded or mixed up together, as if it was not intended that they should be distinguished; yet the difference is wide as the poles are asunder, although, like the poles, they are connected with and necessary to each other. Education is to draw out from within, the first principles and laws there implanted by God and Nature, and to nurture the divine virtues as best suited to man's prosperity and happiness. Instruction is to receive from without the errors of the world, the false teachings, the superstitions and idolatries and doctrines of the high priests and rulers.

The high priests and rulers of the church dictate to and rule over the state, and the state dictates to and rules over the church; they quietly endure each other's rule, that church and state may both of them be able the more completely to rule over the people. True education is for man's advancement in knowledge, wisdom and virtue, health and happiness. But instead of true and real education, the more he has been taught of mere man-made laws, old usages, superstitious, and idolatrous teachings, ritual observances, ceremonies, forms of church and state policies, the classics and classical languages—the more a man has been crammed with this sort of useless learning, the better is he said to be educated. "O, he has received the very best of education," because, perhaps, he has been to college or university, while the real fact is that he has only been instructed and taught much error with very little truth, and not properly or really educated at all. Education is to learn to practise the virtues of all the virtues or first principles : this is never thought of. He may have been a good boy at school—learnt his lessons and catechism, and done as he was told. The word school means, the dictionary tells us, "a rule of government; a state of subjection and chastisement." Of course discipline and instruction is for inculcating and preserving, in strict rigour and full vigour, the present corrupt church and state order of things. Therefore we have lots of schools—day schools, evening schools, Sunday schools, boarding schools, grammar schools, collegiate schools, commercial schools, charity schools, and ragged schools—till the word school becomes vulgar; then we have academies, genteel establishments, seminaries, institutions, working men's colleges, university colleges for ladies, penitentiaries, reformatories for both sexes, etc.;—all for discipline, subjection and chastisement, in order to keep things as they are, or to prevent their being as they ought to be and as they would be by proper education.

But proper education would teach them to inculcate and practise only justice and truth, restrain them from evil and error, and lead them on in the path of virtue; onward to wisdom and virtue, first principles always point. But governments are generally fixed in error, injustice and wrong doing; they cannot go on in virtue, justice, and truth; they require to be supplied with food for their wrong doing and delusions, which means wealth, money and dominion over others. Hence, in order that Jesus of Nazareth may be taken for God, we have the Anno Domini dodge, its page 6 idolatries and superstitions; and other errors preached in the old churches called by the names of the Roman Catholic saints, who were the support and upholders of the Anno Domini church, and state doctrines and dogmatisms. Then we have the Jewish Bible dodge, the missionary dodge—to send men to preach idolatry and superstition to foreign nations; the church building dodge, the street preaching dodge—calling upon us "miserable sinners" to come to Jesus, etc. Then for supporting all these teachings, preachings, doctrines, dodges, and dodgers, we have armies of soldiers, armies of priests, armies of lawyers, armies of policemen, armies of officials, and supernumeraries, at a cost of hundreds of millions of money every year extorted out of the industrious wealth-producers. As a natural consequence of all these abominations, we have large lunatic asylums, prisons, hospitals, pest and poor houses all over the kingdom.

But as for a house, college or school expressly for and appropriated to what can be properly called the true and real education of the people, I know not one in Europe. I should be glad to see England set an example of such an institution,—which in fact would only be to follow nature's laws, with reason and common sense, as Cod has written them everywhere in everything, especially in the conscience and heart and soul of every human being.

Dunedin: Mills, Dick and Co., Steam Printers, Stafford Street.