Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 68.djvu/34

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30

POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

but proceeding from and at the same time in great part responsible for those characteristics which mark the Chinese under every variety of physical condition. The cast-iron nature of this method has in several hundred years wasted enough energy for ten millenniums of true education, and this has made China what she is to-day. But the walls are breaking down—such a state can not longer endure.

We purpose to sketch the essentials of this method, and later on to notice the renovation it is experiencing under the influence of western thought and life. Although the Chinese classics have often been reviewed, we shall nevertheless treat the subject matter of Chinese education in some detail, so that we may better appreciate the change that is taking place. Free use of the material afforded by Legge, Williams, Martin, Giles, Smith and Lewis will be made, and our only excuse for taking our own wherever we may find it will be that we shall try to borrow with good judgment.

China's youth are denied that domestic training which is the heritage and boon of western childhood, and so are tremendously handicapped at the very start. After seven or eight years of vegetation a Chinese child is put under the family or clan preceptor or, clad in festal robes, starts for the village school, which is maintained either on a semi-private basis by several families together, or under the patronage of philanthropic gentry, who are liberal enough, but do not always see that the schools are efficiently conducted. The central government bestows imperial honors on benefactors of schools; but having no root in the revenue of the state, Chinese education affords even the most elementary schooling to only a small fraction of the youth of the land.

Improper school-rooms, long hours of study, excessive restraint, frequent absences, but no inspiriting vacations, a severity in the teacher that sometimes reaches barbarism, and utter neglect of physical culture and hygiene, all combine in the predominant type of Chinese school to render the students much below par physically. Nor is the 'infanticide' less intellectual than physical. In all grades the mode of acquisition is the same: imitative and servile. The mental vitality which this ancient people have retained is not by reason of their education, but in spite of it. A real scholar in China is the survivor of hundreds who have failed.

There is no pedagogy in the old China, any one who has learned is deemed competent to teach, for there is only one way, viz., as Dr. A. H. Smith has described, to set each pupil a 'stent' by showing him what sounds to utter and then for each student to bawl out his characters at the top of his voice. When the lesson is 'learned,' that is when the scholar can howl it off exactly as the master has pronounced it, he stands with his back to the teacher and repeats (or 'backs') the