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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 53

Inferences from My Definition

Inferences from My Definition.

But the inferences to be drawn from it are so serious that I must ask grave attention to them. Because, if mine be correct, our public system of education requires complete revision and re-organisation. And those I draw are as follow:

(1.) That physical culture-that is the imparting of "strength, dignity, and grace to every movement of the body "-should be pre-eminent as the basis of all education. Because corporeal vigour is the first necessary factor in success in everything. For as Sir B. Brodie has said "In order to make the most of the intellectual powers, the animal system should be maintained in a state as nearly as possible approaching perfect health." Hence the saying by a Roman sage "The mind cannot grapple well any task where the body is languid." The Greeks also had a similar proverb showing that they regarded animal vigor as the primary consideration—thus "Health and understanding are the two blessings of life." And the great genius, the Earl of Beaconsfield, probably page 5 the wisest and most experienced man of the world of this generation, at all events, says in Lothair "The essence of education is the education of the body. Beauty and health are the chief sources of happiness. Man should live in the air; there exercises should be regular, varied, scientific. To render his body strong and supple is the first duty of man. He should develop and completely master the whole muscular system."

So that athleticism should, above all things, even for the purposes of thereon building a mental and moral superstructure, form the basis of any system of public education. And this more especially when we remember that not only does the State undertake the education of its subjects for the purpose of obtaining physically strong bodies with, therefore, sound minds, capable of the dissection of truth from error, good from evil; but also for the purpose of securing men physically capable for manual labour, and foreign and civil war, and commotion in times of trouble; for competing successfully with other States in times of peace; and with the view of ensuring that both men and women are corporeally and mentally fit to produce the most perfect offspring possible.

It is not necessary to refer to the wisdom of the ancients in this respect, for even now in modern times the Germans—probably the beat educated of modern peoples—not only carry out practically the principle in their State schools, but even mark their sense of its importance by designating certain of their higher class State schools "Gymnasien." And even if physical culture were not the necessary factor that it is in education, I cannot refrain from pointing out that muscular exertion is recognised by authorities in physiology as the preeminent antidote for mental strain. So that even for such a reason alone—if as I say it were not the indispensable element which it is in education—it should be scientifically taught in our schools.

(2.) That State mental instruction should be imparted, not primarily (as apparently is the case in our system) with the idea of communicating a certain amount of technical knowledge—although this is a valuable tertiary consideration—but above everything with the view of training and disciplining the mind to reason and weigh propositions and probabilities. Because the main goal of education is not the acquirement of knowledge, but physical development and mental discipline in order to form a capable and competent man. (For, as has been said by a writer on "Popular Fallacies in Education," "Knowledge puffed up, but disciplinary exercise trained up.") For even "the possession of facts is not knowledge correctly speaking. Knowledge is rather a discernment of the relations of facts than the facts themselves, and it is knowledge in this sense only which can form the groundwork of opinion worthy of the name, how the great majority of persons form opinions, which they are quite unable to analyse into their elements. The fact seem to be that the mind has this power, but the operation goes on unconsciously, a species of unconscious cerebration." Hence the incalculable value of mental discipline.

Further, that such technical knowledge as is imparted should be especially such as places the pupil on the highway of knowledge, giving him indications where he may seek further information, rather than inspiring him with the belief that with his school curriculum ends his education.

(3). That to avoid our educational system resulting in training scientific footpads, burglars, and swindlers—preyers on society —(which would indeed be "nursing the pinion that impels the steel")—which physical culture combined only with intellectual training would tend to create—those moral considerations should be imparted which alone save a learned man from being an intellectual prig. Thus "to train to valour, honesty, prudence, justice—these were the aims of the greatest nations," and should be ours. Or, in other words, "to encourage virtuous inclinations, sentiments, and passions, and to repress those that are evil; to cultivate habits of truthfulness, obedience, industry, temperance, prudence, and respect for the rights of others." Hence the wonderful influence in after-life of the tone of chivalry, honour and fair play inculcated at the great English public schools, such as Rugby, especially in the days of Dr. Arnold. For the inclination of human nature is such that, as Whyte-Mel- page 6 ville has cleverly written, "Principle is principle, and honour is honour, so long as circumstances are not too overwhelming, or necessity too urgent." Thus Guizot when Minister of Public Instruction in France said in a circular sent to each public teacher in France that "It is absolutely necessary that popular instruction should not be confined to the development of the intelligence. It should enhance the whole soul; it should awaken the conscience, which ought to be elevated and strengthened according as the intelligence is developed." For as Byron in his Childe Harold says:

"Whatever creed be taught or land he trod
Man's conscience is the oracle of God."

(4.) That as the main ends of education should be physical development and mental discipline, and as the younger the child so much greater the susceptibility to impressions which mould his future, so the most accomplished teachers should be the teachers of the junior scholars because, as Horace says, "With moist clay you may imitate anything you please." Thus "the Jesuits when they found a teacher showing real skill and knowledge in teaching the higher classes, promoted him to the charge of the lowest." (And see also Lord Brougham's speeches on the education of the people.)

(5.) That in view of the foregoing propositions teachers should not only possess the requisite technical knowledge (to superintend and direct the study of their pupils, but not to directly communicate knowledge to them), but should understand the art of teaching, and also equally well understand and act according to human nature; in other words, sympathetically realise the nature of the subject person to be educated.

Thus, we might reasonably hope to train our youth to all that constitutes true manhood and womanhood, and thereby—not only arm them but—endow them at maturity, with the most valuable of all wealths-health and wisdom. (For wisdom is wealth, although, as Goldsmith says "She is a coquette, and must be courted with unabating assiduity) Instead of giving them, as now, that mere smattering of technical knowledge—without physical development or mental or moral discipline—which I fear has mainly the effect of supplying them with superficial intellectual food, without supplying them with the power of digesting or utilising it. Thereby simply implanting crude ideas i having the tendency principally to excite in them discontent with their lot; instead of affording them the animal power and training of the intellect and conscience which would in all probability secure to them the acquisition by sure methods of the end of all existence—happiness; or, as Lord Macaulay puts it in his essay on Lord Bacon, "the multiplying of human enjoyments and the mitigating of human sufferings." And which implanting therefore I fear results in no real benefit to the State or to the subject, Thus let us beware lest "we perish by means of things permitted."

For "one crack in the lantern may let in the wind to blow out the light; one leak unstopped will sink the ship and drown all on board."

Dread of wearying deters me from extending the article, but I hope I have made its main purports to be clear, namely:—