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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 53

II.—Educators. Who They Should be

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II.—Educators. Who They Should be.

"Le plus difficile, et le plus important de torn les arts, c' est V education."—Montaigne.


As "true eloquence consists in saying all that is proper and nothing more," so here my duty is—what is always a most difficult one—to be explicit, and at the same time brief. For to define accurately, and criticise successfully, it is worse than idle to shield oneself behind generalities which, as a rule, are only a cloak for ignorance, and a door for misconception. (Hence the law maxim, Fraus latet in generalibus.) So that, on the one hand, I have to avoid the rocks of Scylla —generalities: whilst on the other hand I must beware lest I fall into the equally dangerous whirlpool, Charybdis—by being unnecessarily prolix.

Before, however, endeavouring to realise who educators should be, our first undertaking seems naturally to consist in clearly understanding what an educator is—in other words, what an educator's mission is.

What an Educator is.

And the best definition I can give is that an educator is "a guide, director, or superintendent of the operations by which" the subject-being is developed.

Now, I have already defined education to be a continuous culture—commencing at conception and only ending with death—of the whole being: physical, mental, and moral pari passu,

Educators Classified.

Therefore it follows that the first educator, of the subject-being, must be the only one available for the embryotic state. The next should be the person who is pre-eminently the most suited for the infantile stage of life. Then, he or she most fitted to develop and instruct more advanced childhood and youth. And finally, the most able teacher for the continuous culture of adult life.

Thus, by analysing the various periods, we arrive at the conclusions that the educator of a being should be—
(1.)Until birth, of course the mother.
(2.)Until infancy be passed, the mother; or, in exceptional circumstances, the other parent, or a near relative.
(3.)For advanced childhood and youth, a parent, or delegate employed by a parent or by the State. And
(4.)For adult life, the subject person; himself or herself.

Now, as this article does not purport to be a treatise on embryology or self-culture—because it is written more particularly for the purposes of defining the respective duties, after birth of the subject-being, of the parent and the State, and thereby indicating their errors during that period, as prevalent with us.—I do not propose to discuss in detail now either to what a wonderful extent the fŒtus may be educated; or consider education during the periods of life beyond early manhood and womanhood. Although by such omissions I waive comment on one at least (i.e., the ante-natal) of the most important educational epochs of existence.

So that it must suffice now only to endeavour to define the duties with regard to education.

(1.)Of the parent or guardian from birth, and
(2.)Of the State.

Let us, therefore, first direct our attention to the duties of the parent—i.e., the person who by his own action in originating the child by the process of conception is charged with the onus of the complete education of such child.

Duties of Parents.

And here at the outset it is necessary to realise clearly that this duty on the part of the parent is paramount. And that the State only interferes, and is only justified in interfering, when the natural [unclear: inator] of the child omits or neglects his [unclear: o]

Hence arises the only Justification for free and compulsory education: which in the abstract is wholly indefensible, and only page 9 defensible at all on the principle that individual rights must be subjected to the common weal.

Thus let it be remembered the duty of the parent never ends till the subject-being is sufficiently developed and disciplined as to be armed for the battle of life; in other words not merely till puberty be passed but until an age of competent ability, such as early manhood or womanhood, be attained. And ergo that the duty of the State never commences until the parent omits or neglects the above-mentioned responsibility naturally devolving upon him. Then, and then only, is the State not only justified, but, in the interests of its subjects, called upon to interfere and insist, if necessary (hence compulsory education) on its subject being educated.

Before, however, fully entering upon the questions why and how far the State is justified in interfering with the liberty of its subjects in this matter, and that at the expense of the other of its subjects let us briefly try to understand—what I venture to think is not even faintly understood by the very large majority of parents here, namely—the duties of parents in respect of the education of their offspring.

I especially allude, as I have indicated above, to post-natal influences, and therefore intend only to enter into details in respect of that period; but at the same time I cannot refrain from briefly pointing out, in passing, the strange and almost universal ignorance which appears to prevail amongst parents regarding the obligations they owe to their children before birth, which ignorance seems to assume somewhat the following forms, namely:—

(a) That the conception of children is simply a matter of divertissement to be entered into wantonly and recklessly, and without the interests of the child, in respect of its physical mental or moral faculties—coming into consideration at all, and without any regard to consequences. Thus, parents do not feel called upon to see that such precautionary measures are taken at the time of conception as would ensure to the life-germ physical vigour, or mental strength and morate, [unclear: o] to retrain from creating more children than they can themselves afford to feed, clothe, educate, and launch in life. These are most serious omissions, the latter patent, the former because medical authorities hold that the circumstances immediately surrounding conception have a wonderful influence, in all respects, on all the after-life of the conceived subject.

And the importance of this cannot be overestimated, because not only on the instant of conception taking place is the entire machinery required for the development of the physical and mental organs set in motion—but life is begun. Conception therefore must be deemed the basis on which all education is afterwards based. And therefore is as important to the child as a solid foundation is to the superstructure of a building.

(b.) That after conception and prior to birth no efforts need be made to inspire education. But no mistake can be graver: for no post-natal influences can be so direct or potent as those which are ante-natal; when the maternal connection is complete: and when therefore the maternal influence in all respects—physical, mental, moral —is simply all-powerful. For the educatible material is never so plastic as then—to be developed and directed. And the great Napoleon and James I. as regards disposition, and Samson in respect of physical development are quoted as striking instances of this.

Thus, up to the time of birth these serious omissions occur: and thus, so to speak, the child is born seriously handicapped.

But now let us discuss the various stages of educational life after birth and the duties of parents respecting them. And firstly of course we speak of

(1). The period immediately succeeding birth —the infantile period.

And here it has always appeared to me most serious misconception prevails, inasmuch, as up to the time of apparent consciousness the child is treated as not being educatible —the parents altogether ignoring, at that, stage that, as Cicero says, "culture is to the mind what food is to the body." This, however, is a fallacy which must be apparent to any thoughtful person, and I need not therefore further expose it. For, if my argument be sound as to the impressibility of the life-germ, or fœtus, a fortiori it will apply here.

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(2). Childhood, and Youth, immediately succeeding infancy. And this period of course extends from the apparently conscious period until the subject—being is deemed to be fully armoured for the battle of life (and if life be a battle what madness it must be not to be armoured for the contest).

And therefore is the period which is popularly looked upon as the period for Education.

Now, I have so fully defined in my previous article what education is that it is unnecessary for me to go into details here, because all I have there said applies primarily to the parent, and only to the State in default of the parent doing his duty towards the child.

But I may point out to parents in passing a fact which seems generally overlooked—even in these intensely selfish times—that even apart from natural duty no parent can ever make a better investment for himself than the education of his children.

And the reward accrues not only in the proud satisfaction to him in contemplating the gradual development of physique, intelligence, and morale—the result of his efforts and foresight—but also in the happiness and gratitude of the child. For it is always pre-eminently wise to remember that there is no real happiness in this life except the happiness of making others happy. I shrink from enlarging on this question—the duties of parents—for fear of unduly lengthening this article; and am therefore deterred from indicating the best parental modes of influencing aright the young although I think they are almost unknown, or at all events unpractised, amongst us.

And must, in consequence, content myself instead with simply—in passing—reminding parents of the admirable admonitions of the Roman philosopher Seneca, and the celebrated German Richter, that

"The road by precept is long, by example short and effectual."
"For children, there is absolutely no morality, except example, either narrated or seen."

And also of the circumstance that "the t enacity of impressions received in childhood i s a fact that should be held most important n every scheme of early education."

Thus we pass now to enquire—

Duties of the State.

(1.) Why the State is justified in interfering at all with the liberty of its subjects in the matter of education; and

(2.) How far its duties, as a State, extend,

And it is especially important that we have clear views on this, because all the problems concerning the establishment and support by the State of Primary Schools, Universities, and Secondary Schools (including Colleges Grammar and High Schools), and Open Scholarships are soluble only if we form correct conclusions in respect of these two queries, Now, as regards the first query, namely: Why the State is justified in interfering at all. As I have already pointed out, it is clearly not justified until the parent omits or neglects his duty, and is then only justified in the interests of the common good. But it is then justified (see, however, Lord Brougham's argument and views contra in his speech to the House of Lords on the education of the people) on the ground that the State is a society (socius, a friend)—just like a family —whose interest it is that all the members of that society (or family) do the utmost possible for the common good of that society (or family), in order that the society (or family) as a whole may prosper. And as its prosperity largely depends on the ability and inclination of the aggregate of its members, the State (i.e. the society) is directly interested to see that its members are so individually trained (or, in other words, educated) as to contribute, by their labour physical, mental, or moral, to the prosperity of the society. It is on only such a principle that—
(a.)The State (i.e. the society) is justified in interfering with individual liberty of action (hence compulsory education). Or
(b.)Justified in levying contribution on its subject A to educate its subject (hence free education).

But the justification ends when the object of endowing the subject with the, power and inclination to make prosper the State (alias the society) and therefore himself, is attained. Thus the State is not justified either in interfering with liberty, or making its subject A contribute to the education of its subject B, except for the purposes of the prosperity of the State, and therefore not justified in educating B merely for his personal advancement, at the expense of A. page 11 Because that is taxing the industry of A tor the sole benefit of B, and would therefore not only be unjust, but have the effect of discouraging and ultimately suppressing unaided exertion: and thereby injuring the State: (he prosperity of which-as I mention below is largely dependant on the exertions of its subjects. And, moreover, be injurious to B by undermining that self-reliance which is such an important factor in successful character.

And thus we are brought to the next stage to inquire: How far is it requisite for its own prosperity that the State should see that its subjects are educated?

Now, a State or Government exists only (or the purpose of rendering its subjects happy—because the sole object of all government should be the happiness of the governed. So that its subjects should be educated—

Firstly, To clearly comprehend what will render the State (as a society) happy, and

Secondly, To have the power and inclination to render the State (i.e. their society) happy.

To comprehend the former requires physical development, and disciplined intelligence; to obtain the latter, these qualities coupled with a trained conscience.

Therefore, the State is justified in insisting on education thus far, but no farther. So that when the State has ascertained that its subject has been so developed and disciplined

(1.) That he is in a position to clearly comprehend what will render the State (or society) happy, and

(2.) And that he has had the discipline which should ensure the power and inclination to render the State (or society) happy

Then its duty to its subjects, in other words to the aggregate society, not only ceases, but is absolutely barred from further action by considerations of unwarrantable interference with the rights of the educatable person, and of its subjects at whose expense the public education is being sustained.

Because the ambition of one subject must not be encouraged by the State at the expense of its subjects, otherwise such encouragement handicaps (i.e., taxes) unaided exertions, and thereby impoverishes the State; inasmuch as the wealth of a State is largely derived from the labour of its subjects, and the greater the wisely directed labour of its subjects the greater (ceteris paribus) the wealth of the State (i.e., the society), and, therefore, the greater the prosperity of its individual subjects. Consequently, any action on the part of the State (that is, on the part of the society as a whole) that tends to tax and thereby discourage unaided individual labour tends to impoverish the State, because discouraging, and therefore repressing industry; and is also objectionable because, as I remark above, inclining to injure—instead of promoting—that self-reliance which is so indispensable to success.

Thus I hold that Universities and State Secondary Schools—such as Colleges, Grammar Schools and High Schools—and Open Scholarships (i.e., scholarships to pupils other than those educated in the primary schools) ought not to be established or assisted at the public expense; because the requisite power and intelligence that I have spoken of should be easily attainable by the curriculum which should be provided in our primary schools. I do not say that it is now so attainable, but that is merely in consequence of the errors of the system on which our primary schools are conducted—the main phases of which I have endeavoured to exhibit in my first article. But with our primary schools conducted as they should be, all that the State requires of its subjects can and ought to be obtained in them without further expenditure of public money.

Here, however, I anticipate an objection that I make no provision for exceptionally clever or deserving boys, who should be encouraged to persevere for the purpose of becoming brilliant ornaments to the State. In other words, to fulfil the main purport of the ancient Greek code of education—to become brilliant citizens. But the answer to such an argument I conceive as conclusively applicable to our colony, is that such exceptionally clever or deserving boys who have distinguished themselves at the primary schools have the district scholarships (as distinguished from the open scholarships) expressly provided and therefore available for them.

For when living—as here—in a place where no one is clogged or handicapped page 12 with hereditary or class privileges or advantages, and where everyone therefore has distinction depending solely on his own merits, and where, therefore, the principle of "the survival of the fittest" has fair play, no boy under such circumstances can complain if he does not achieve all that he desires to accomplish.

Moreover, I cannot—as I mention above—but think that extraneous aid, under such circumstances, is positively pernicious to the boy, because the very struggles requisite to success are the best endowments which a boy can possibly possess when success is secured. In other words, cement his character, and thereby make the boy a permanent success. Thus, if my views be correct, the establishment and support at the expense of the State of Universities, Secondary Schools (including Colleges, Grammar and High Schools), and Open Scholarships are unjustifiable—that is, if A receive the advantage of such establishment and support at the expense of B. Do not, however, let me be misunderstood; because, although I deprecate the establishment and support at the ultimate expense of the State of such nurseries of education, I would expressly advocate their establishment and support by the State—an entirely different matter—for reasons which I have not space at the moment to explain.

I am well aware that there is a second ground urged by political economists, as expressed by Professor Fawcett in his work on political economy, viz., "The State must resolutely interfere and boldly assert the great principle that every child shall be protected against the irreparable wrong which is inflicted on him if he is permitted to grow up in ignorance."

But it is unnecessary for me to comment on this as a ground for State interference, as it is fully embraced in the ground) already mentioned by me.

Let me now, therefore, briefly sum up the main gist of this article as follows:—


(1.) An educator is "a guide, director, or superintendent of the operations by which" the subject being is developed.

(2.) That the parent's duty—as an educator—is paramount, and commences at conception,

(3.) That the State is only justified in interfering—as an educator—when the parent omits or neglects his duty.

(4.) That even then its duty terminates with Primary Schools, because the ends of State education should be therein fully attain-able. And

(5.) That, therefore, Universities, Secondary Schools (including Colleges, Grammar and High Schools), and Open Scholarships ought not to be established or aided at the expense of the State.

We must beware, therefore-with our State educational establishments of Universities, Colleges, Grammar Schools, High Schools, and Open Scholarships—lest our schemes, in the words of the poet Gray,

Are like the false, illusive light,
Whose flattering, unauspicious blaze
To precipices oft betrays.

Or, as Bishop Wilson says, as quoted by Mr. Matthew Arnold in his essay on "Culture and Anarchy," "First, never go against the best light you have; secondly, take care that your light be not darkness." For "the man who stumbles twice on the same stone is a fool."