Page:EB1911 - Volume 08.djvu/986

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

widely used since the 13th century, chiefly by their greater baldness and aridity of statement.

In the universities, too, the 16th and 17th centuries saw a continuous decadence. The 16th century was not ripe for real intellectual freedom; and Protestantism, having based its revolt on the right of private judgment, Decadence of universities. soon produced a number of conflicting theological systems, vying with each other in rigidity and narrowness, which, as Paulsen says, “nearly stifled the intellectual life of the German people.” Further, the idea of national autonomy, which exercised so great an effect on the politics of the time, included the universal adherence of the citizens to the religion of the state. Hence, till the end of the 17th century the universities of Protestant Europe were regarded mainly as instruments for securing adhesion to the national theological system on the part of future clergy and officials, and the state interfered more and more with their organization and work. Theology occupied the most important place in the higher studies pursued, which for the rest differed little in content and less in spirit from those of preceding centuries, except that more attention was paid to the study of classical literature. Even that decayed into formal linguistics as the Renaissance enthusiasm for poetry and oratory died out, and interest in logical and philosophical questions, fostered by the dominance of dogmatic controversial theology, again became dominant. In Paris, on the other hand, the faculty of theology had decayed through the withdrawal of those preparing for the priesthood into episcopal seminaries, and the higher studies pursued were mainly law and medicine. Thus, generally, the universities were less and less fulfilling the function of providing a general liberal education. Another change, due to the same causes and making for the same results, was the isolation of universities, often directly fostered by the state governments, which for the universal interchange of medieval thought substituted a narrow provincial culture and outlook. It is no wonder that numbers everywhere decayed and that complaints as to the habits of the students were loud and frequent.

At the close of the 17th century, then, universities as well as schools had reached a very low level of efficiency and were held in little respect by the cultured. Indeed, from the middle of the century, the main current of intellectual Education of the higher classes. life had drifted away from the orthodox centres of learning. The formation of the Berlin Academy in Germany and of the Royal Society in England, and the refusal of Leibnitz to accept a chair in any German university, were signs of the times. In France, and later in Germany, the education of the noble youth was increasingly carried on apart from the schools, and was really an outgrowth from the education of chivalry. In the 16th century Castiglione and Montaigne had advocated a training directly adapted to prepare for polite life, and Elyot wrote on similar lines. But the most important movement in this direction was the formation of the courtly academies which flourished in France in the 17th century, and were soon imitated in the Ritterakademien of Germany. In these schools of the nobility French was more honoured than classics, and the other subjects were chosen as directly adapted to prepare for the life of a noble at the court. Milton in his Tractate advocated the foundation of such academies in England, though he proposed a curriculum far more extensive than had ever been found possible. More and more, too, foreign travel had, from the middle of the 16th century, been looked upon as a better mode of finishing the education of a gentleman than a course at a university.

The later years of the 17th century saw a revival of university life in Cambridge, through the work of Newton and the increasing attention paid to mathematics and the physical sciences, though the number of students continued Revival of university life. very small. In Germany, also, a new era opened with the foundation of the universities of Halle (1694) and Göttingen (1737), which from the first discarded the old conception that the function of a university is to pass on knowledge already complete, and so opened the door of the German universities to the new culture and philosophy. It was soon seen that students could thus be attracted, and the influence spread to the other German universities, which by the end of the 18th century had regained their position as homes of the highest German thought.

At Halle, too, was set the example by Francke of providing for the education of the children of the poor, and to his disciple Hecker Germany owes the first Realschule. Simultaneous Education of the poor. movements for the education of the poor were made by St Jean-Baptiste de la Salle and the Brothers of the Christian Schools in France, and by the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge in England. But the total results were not great; the mass of the people in every European country remained without schooling throughout the 18th century.

The intellectual movements of that century were, indeed, essentially aristocratic. Voltaire and the Encyclopaedists aimed at the enlightenment of the select few, and Rousseau declared baldly that the poor need no education. 18th-century thought and education. That these movements influenced education profoundly is undoubted. The individualistic and abstract rationalism of Voltaire, derived from the sensationist philosophy of Locke through the more thorough-going Condillac, and finding its logical outcome in the materialistic atheism of La Mettrie and the refined selfishness of Rochefoucault, infected the more cultured classes. In Lord Chesterfield’s Letters to his Son is shown its educational outcome—a veneer of superficial culture and artificial politeness covering, but not hiding, the most cold-blooded selfishness. Against this fashionable artificiality, as well as against the obvious social and political abuses of the time, Rousseau’s call for a return to nature was a needed protest.

Rousseauism, however, was not merely a transitory revolt against a conventionality of life that had become unbearable; it was emphatically the voicing of a view of life and of education which has profoundly influenced Europe Rousseauism. ever since. In that Rousseau (1712-1778) attempted to look at life as a whole he was on truer ground than were the intellectualists of the “Enlightenment”; but in that he found the essence of life in the gratification of the desires and impulses of the moment, he enunciated a doctrine which banished high principle and strenuous effort from life and consequently from education. In the Émile is presented a purely fantastic scheme of education based on a psychology of development so crude as to be absolutely false, and producing a young man utterly unable to guide his own life or to control his emotions and impulses. Rousseauism is, indeed, in its essence the application to education of the doctrines of naturalism—the philosophy which regards human life as a mere continuation of physical process, and consequently as determined wholly by environment. So Rousseau would abolish all moral training and leave the child to the reactions of the physical world upon his actions.

Against this position the educational teaching of Kant (1724-1804), influenced though he was by the Émile, is essentially a protest. The most necessary element in education, Kant. according to Kant, is constraint, which by the formation of habit prepares the young to receive as principles of conduct the laws at first imposed upon them from without. And the supreme guide of life is the law of duty which is always more or less opposed to the promptings of inclination. Kant exaggerates the dualism: Rousseau would abolish it by ignoring the more important of the two antitheses.

The French Revolution—the natural outcome of the teachings of Voltaire and of Rousseau—was the second stage in the movement of which the Reformation was the first. It was essentially the assertion of the natural rights of Educational outcome of the Revolution. man, and, as a logical sequence, of the right of every child to be properly trained for life. The reaction due to the excesses of the revolutionists no doubt delayed the acknowledgment for a time, but its gradual recognition is emphatically the characteristic mark of the educational history of the 19th century.