Page:The Martyrdom of Ferrer.djvu/59

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53
THE MODERN SCHOOLS

Presidents. Its spirit is the spirit of the Modern Schools, and is expressed in such principles as: "Instruction is only a part of this education. It must also, in addition to the formation of the intelligence, embrace the development of character, the cultivation of the will, the creation of a moral and physical nature, nicely balanced, with faculties harmoniously associated and drawn out to their full power. Moral education, much less theoretic than practical, must chiefly be given by example, and be based on the great natural law of solidarity."

This ideal—the ideal of progressive teachers the world over—is the true spirit of Ferrer's work. It is repeated in every number of his Bulletin, reflected in all his manuals, and informed the whole activity of his schools. Not a line of correct quotation from any authentic document of Ferrer's is out of accord with it. But this is precisely the ideal of education that would soon put a term to the bulas and caciques of Spain, if it were embodied in a general system of education.

The work commenced with the opening of the original and central Escuela Moderna at Barcelona in 1901. Its classes were first attended by twelve girls and eighteen boys. At the end of the first year the number had increased to seventy, in spite of priestly strictures. Its fine rooms, genial teachers, and enlightened lessons could not fail to win adherents. Ferrer quoted in 1907, from a Spanish educational journal (La Escuela Española), some unpleasant facts with regard to the schools which the Jesuits thought sufficient for Spain. They were largely, it seems, "without light or ventilation—dens of death, ignorance, and bad training." It was estimated that 50,000 children died every year in consequence of the mischievous character of these school-rooms; moreover, there were still half a million children without any school accommodation at all, and crowds of hungry, unpaid, incompetent teachers seeking a livelihood.

The Escuela Moderna continued to gain adherents. Demands came from other parts of Catalonia for modern schools, and Ferrer eagerly co-operated and shared his manuals. The Republican schools received a great impetus, and spread equally. By the year 1906 more than fifty