Popular Science Monthly/Volume 48/December 1895/Professional Institutions VIII

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TEACHING implies knowledge of things to be taught; and as, for various reasons, the priest comes to be distinguished by his possession of knowledge, from him more especially is it to be obtained. Moreover, being released from life-sustaining activities, he has more time than others for giving information and enforcing discipline.

A deeper reason for this primitive identity of priest and teacher may be recognized. Though during early years each youth gathers, in miscellaneous ways, much which is properly to be called knowledge, and which serves him for guidance in ordinary life, yet there is a kind of knowledge, or supposed knowledge, particularly precious, which does not come to him through the irregular channels of daily experience. Equally in savage tribes and among early civilized peoples, ghosts and gods are believed to be everywhere, and always influencing men's lives for good or evil; and hence of chief importance is information concerning the ways in which conduct may be so regulated as to obtain their favors and avoid their vengeance. Evidently the man who knows most about these supernatural beings, the priest, is the man from whom this information of highest value is to be obtained. It results that the primitive conception of the teacher is the conception of one who gives instruction in sacred matters.

Of course the knowledge thus communicated is first of all communicated by the elder priests to the younger, or rather by the actual priests to those who are to become priests. In many cases, and for a long time, this is the sole teaching. Only in the course of evolution along with the rise of a secular cultured class, does the teacher as we now conceive him come into existence.

Necessarily in early stages of all evolving aggregates the lines of organization are indefinite. In groups of the uncivilized we can not expect the function of educator to have become distinctly marked off. Still we soon detect that inculcation of secret and sacred things which, as above indicated, constitutes the earliest kind of teaching: the "mystery men" being the instructors. Says Bernau concerning the Arawaks:—

"The son of a conjurer, as soon as he enters his twentieth year, or even sooner, is made acquainted by his father with the art of conjuration, and enjoined the greatest secrecy concerning it."

And whether the neophyte be a descendant or not, there is always this injunction of silence respecting the communicated information, which invariably has reference to dealings with supernatural beings; so that, from the very first, there is shown the rise of an esoteric cult such as the priesthoods of early historic peoples show us.

But in groups of savages we may trace an extension of this sacred teaching, or rather part of it, to all young men on their arrival at the fit age. The Australians, for example, have everywhere an initiation ceremony during which the youth, circumcised after a fashion, or in other cases having a tooth knocked cut, is thereby dedicated to a supernatural being supposed to be present, as in the case of Daramūlǔn, who is doubtless the hero of the tribe: the dedications being obviously akin in spirit to those of more civilized peoples. On these occasions the medicine-men are the operators and instructors.

The more advanced of the uncivilized, whose medicine-men have gained in some measure the character of priests, furnish better evidence. We have the case of the New Zealanders, among whom, according to Thomson, one of the duties of the priests is to instruct children in the songs and traditions of the people—to instruct them, that is, in the sacred lore of the tribe. Then in Africa, where the social organization is more developed, we meet with a more definite form of priestly tuition. Bastian tells us that in Congo the fetich-priest yearly collects the boys who have arrived at puberty, and leads them into the forest, where they remain six months, forming a sort of colony under the control of the priest. During this time they undergo circumcision. Then in Abyssinia and in Madagascar we find the teaching function of the priest shared in by a non-priestly class—a step in differentiation.


Peoples, past and present, in sundry parts of the world, who have reached higher stages of civilization, yield fragments of evidence which I string together in as orderly a way as is practicable. Writing of the Mexicans, Torquemada says that the whole education was in connection with the temples. Very many boys were sent there to be educated from the fourth year of their age until their marriage. Clavigero tells us the same thing. Of the priests of Yucatan we read:—

"They instructed the sons of other priests, and also the younger sons of the lords, who were given to them from childhood when they appeared to be inclined to that office. The sciences which they taught were the computation of years, months, and days, festivals and ceremonies, the administration of their sacraments, etc., etc."

Of existing peoples the Japanese may be first named as supplying us with a relevant fact.

"The secular teacher's vocation can scarcely be said to have existed prior to the days of the founder of the Tokugawa dynasty. . . . The bonzes [priests] of Japan are to be credited with being mainly instrumental in spreading a knowledge of the rudiments of education throughout the length and breadth of the Empire." In his Embassy to Ava Syme writes:—

"All kioums or monasteries are seminaries, in which boys are taught their letters and instructed in moral and religious duties."

To like effect, from a work entitled The Burman, by Shway Yeo, we learn that—

"When a boy has reached the age of eight or nine years he goes as a matter of course to the Pohngyee Kyoung [Monastic School]. It is open to all alike—to the poor fisherman's son as well as to the scion of princely blood."

And the Catholic missionary Sangermano testifies similarly: implying, also, that this education given by the priests is nominally in preparation for the priesthood, since the students all put on "the habit of a Talapoin" during the period of their education. The Mahometans, too, yield evidence. At the present time in Cairo the university is in a mosque.


Illustrative facts taken from the accounts of extinct and decayed civilizations in the Old World, may be next grouped together—some of them mere hints and others sufficiently full.

Concerning ancient India, Dutt states that education consisted of learning the Vedas, and that in the later as in the earlier periods it was under the priests. He also says:—

"There were Parishads or Brâhmanic settlements for the cultivation of learning. . . and young men went to these Parishads to acquire learning."

To this there must be added the significant fact that in the Epic Period (ca. b. c. 1400 to 1000)—

"Besides these Parishads, individual teachers established what would be called private schools in Europe, and often collected round themselves students from various parts of the country. . . . Learned Brâhmans who had retired to forests in their old age often collected such students round them, and much of the boldest speculations in the Epic Period has proceeded from these sylvan and retired seats of sanctity and learning."

Taken in conjunction with the preceding statements this last statement shows us how teaching was in the beginning exclusively concerned with religious doctrines and rites, and how there eventually began to arise a teaching which, in some measure detached from the religious institutions, at the same time entered upon other subjects than the religious.

A kindred, if less elaborated, system existed in ancient Persia.

"It is pretty clear that the special training of boys for future callings went hand in hand with their religious education, and that it was chiefly regulated according to the profession of the father. . . . It was evidently also no uncommon practice to commit children to the care of a priest for training and instruction in the same manner as the Indian Brahmins were wont to do."
Respecting Babylonia and Assyria Professor Sayce, describing the social life there, says:—
"The libraries were established in the temples, and the schools in which the work of education was carried on were doubtless attached to them."

"The 'house of males' into which the young men were introduced, seems to have been a sort of monastic establishment attached to the great temples of Babylonia."

Of educational arrangements in Egypt the like is said by various authorities Brugsch, Erman, and Duncker.

"Schools were established in the principal towns of the country; and human and divine wisdom was taught in the assemblages of the holy servants of the gods."

"The high priest of Amon, Bekenkhonsu, tells us, that from his fifth to his seventeenth year he was 'chief of the royal stable of instruction,' and thence entered the temple of Amon as an under-priest."

"The colleges at these temples [Thebes, Memphis, and Heliopolis] were the most important centers of priestly life and doctrine."

That absence of a priestly hierarchy in Greece which, as before pointed out, interfered with the normal developments of other professions, interfered also with the normal development of the tutorial profession. The temples and their surroundings were indeed places for special culture of one or other kind, mostly having some relation to religious observances. But this form of priestly teaching did not grow into any general system taking in the lay members of the community. Referring, by contrast, to education in the gymnasia, Mahaffy writes:—

"The older fashion had been to bring up boys very much as we bring up girls, keeping them constantly under the eye of a special attendant or teacher. . . teaching them the received religion and a little of the standard literature, inculcating obedience to the gods and to parents."

As happened in Persia during its phase of militant activity, physical culture and culture of the mental powers useful in war took precedence of other culture.

"The old system of advanced education, which ordained that from the age of eighteen to twenty Athenian youths. . . should remain under State supervision, and do the duty of patrols round the outlying parts and frontier forts of Attica, receiving at the same time drill in military exercises, as well as some gymnastic and literary training," became in time modified to one in which "most of the gymnastics and military training was left out."

But intellectual culture as it increased fell into the hands not of the priests but of secular teachers. "Those philosophers who did not, like the Stoics, despise teaching youths. . . . set up their schools close beside these gymnasia."

Still more in Rome, where the course of evolution was so much modified by the intrusion of foreign elements and influences, was the normal genesis of the teacher interfered with. Always when militancy is extremely predominant, mental acquisition, regarded with no respect, is not provided for: instance the fact that in Japan, "during many centuries previous to Iyéyasŭ's time, the very numerous warrior-class like the Knights of Mediæval Europe, despised a knowledge of letters as beneath the dignity of a soldier, and worthy only of the bard and priest." And it was thus in Rome.

"The economic arrangements of the Romans placed the work of elementary instruction in the mother-tongue—like every other work held in little estimation, and performed for hire—chiefly in the hands of slaves, freed-men, or foreigners, or in other words chiefly in the hands of Greeks or half-Greeks." This condition of things will be comprehended when we remember firstly that the normal genesis of teachers from priests is due to the fact that in early stages priests are distinguished by their superior knowledge; secondly that the priests in Rome were not thus distinguished, since the subjugated Greeks were more learned than they; and thirdly that all attributes of conquered men are liable to fall into contempt.

On passing northward to the peoples of pre-Christian days and to those of early Christian days, we are again shown the primitive identity of priest and teacher and the eventual separation of the two. Elsewhere saying of the Celts that their training, wholly military, aimed to produce endurance, agility, and other bodily capacities, Pelloutier writes:—

"Pour entretenir les peuples dans la dépendance, et pour être toujours consultez comme des Oracles, les Ecclésiastiques vouloient être les seuls Savans; et de l'autre, les Celtes, qui regardoient tout travail, tant du corps que de l'esprit (Procop. Gotth. L. I., cap. 2, p. 311) comme une chose servile, abandonnoient de bon coeur toutes les Sciences à leurs Druides, qu'ils consideroient non seulement comme des Savans, mais encore comme de véritables Magiciens. Les études des Nations Celtiques se réduisoient donc uniquement à apprendre par cœur certains Hymnes qui renfermoient leurs Loix, leur Religion, leur Histoire, et en général tout ce qu'on vouloit bien que le peuple sût." (To keep the people dependent upon them, and in order that they might always be consulted as oracles, the Ecclesiastics wished to be the only men of knowledge; and, on the other hand, the Celts, who regarded all labor, whether of body or mind (Procop. Gotth. L. I., chap. 2, p. 311), as servile, readily left all the sciences to their Druids, whom they held to be real magicians as well as men of knowledge. The studies of the Celtic nations were therefore reduced simply to learning by heart certain hymns in which were embodied their law, their religion, their history and, in general, all that it was desirable the people should know.)

And congruous with this is the statement of Pliny concerning the British:—The druids "taught their pupils, and harangued to them concerning their doctrines; they made public speeches to the people, and instructed them in morality."

Almost extinguished during early centuries of our era, such culture as survived was to be found only in ecclesiastical institutions, and out of them grew up afresh. As Hallam says:—

"The praise of having-originally established schools belongs to some bishops and abbots of the sixth century. They came in place of the Imperial schools overthrown by the barbarians. . . . The cathedral and conventual schools, created or restored by Charlemagne, became the means of preserving that small portion of learning which continued to exist."

Mosheim, describing the Church of the sixth century, further tells us that in the cathedral schools the clerical teacher "instructed the youth in the seven liberal arts, as a preparation for the study of the sacred books;" and that in the monasteries "the abbot or some one of the monks instructed the children and youth that were devoted to a monastic life." These last facts verify the statement, made at the outset, that primarily instruction, whether given to lay or clerical youth, concerned itself directly or indirectly with religious propitiation: the avowed purpose, as expressed by the Council of Vaison, being to make the young "attach themselves to holy books and to know the law of God."

Subsequent centuries of wars and social derangements witnessed a decay of these ecclesiastical teaching institutions, notwithstanding efforts from time to time made by popes and bishops to reinvigorate them. But, as was to be expected, when there began to arise lay teachers, there arose clerical resistance. Then, as always, the priestly class disliked to see the instruction of the young falling into other hands. In France, for example, the Chancellor of Ste. Geneviève, who granted licenses to teach at the Paris University, used his power sometimes to exclude able men, sometimes to extort money, and had repeatedly to be restrained by papal injunctions. So, too, was it in Germany.

"All the professorial posts in the Universities were in the hands of the clergy, until the end of the fifteenth, and even into the sixteenth, century."

In Heidelberg, 1482, "a layman was for the first time, after a severe struggle, allowed to become a professor of medicine."

"The general admission of lay professors to clerical offices did not take place until 1553."

Our own country presents like evidences. In old English days "parish churches were often used as schools," says Pearson. And, according to Sharon Turner,—

"The clergy were the preceptors of those who sought to learn. . . to them the moral and intellectual education of the age was intrusted. . . . Thus the Irish monk Maildurf, who settled at Malmesbury. . . took scholars to earn subsistence."

So it was, too, in subsequent days. We read in the same two authors that after the Conquest—

"The numerous clergy scattered up and down through England had a direct interest in promoting education. They eked out their scanty stipends as tutors and schoolmasters." "One of the first fruits of the revival of literature in England, was the universal establishment of schools. To every cathedral, and almost to every monastery, a school was appended. . . . Few persons of any note appear to us among the clergy, during the century after the conquest, who did not during some part of their lives occupy themselves in instructing others."

In exemplification may be named, as distinguished teachers belonging to the priesthood during the Anglo-Saxon period, Bede, Alcuin, Scotus Erigena, and Dunstan. And after the Conquest, as teachers sufficiently conspicuous to be specified, come Athelard of Bath, John of Salisbury, Alexander Neckam, Roger of Hoveden, Duns Scotus.

But here as elsewhere the secularization of teaching slowly went on in sundry ways. Early in the fifteenth century laymen here and there left money for the founding of schools. Warton, writing of the early part of the sixteenth century, says:—"The practice of educating our youth in the monasteries growing into disuse, near twenty new grammar schools were established within this period." At the same time there was initiated a slow change in the character of our universities. Beginning as clusters of theological students gathered round clerical teachers of wide reputation, they, while growing, long continued to be places for clerical education only, and afterward simulated it. Almost down to the present day acceptance of the legally-established creed has been in them a condition to the reception of students and the conferring of distinctions; and they have all along preserved a teaching and discipline conspicuously priestly. We have residence in colleges under a régime suggestive of the monastic; we have daily attendance at prayers, also monastic in its associations; and we have the wearing of a semi-priestly dress. But gradually the clerical character of the education has been modified by the introduction of more and more non-religious subjects of instruction, and by the relaxation of tests which a dominant ecclesiasticism once imposed. So that now the greater part of those who "go to college," do so without any intention of entering the Church: university teaching has been in a large measure secularized.

Meanwhile the multiplied minor teaching institutions of all grades, though they have in the majority of cases passed into the hands of laymen, still, in considerable measure, and especially throughout their higher grades, retain a clerical character. The public schools in general are governed by ecclesiastics; and most of the masters are, if not in orders, preparing to take orders. Moreover, a large proportion of the private schools throughout the kingdom to which the wealthier classes send their sons are carried on by clergymen; and clergymen in multitudinous cases take private pupils. Thus the differentiation of the teaching class from the priestly class is even now incomplete.

As significantly bearing on the evolution of the teacher, let us further note that at the present moment there is going on a struggle to reacquire that clerical control which a secularized system of public education had in chief measure thrown off. Even when established a quarter of a century ago, this public education was not completely secularized, since certain biblical lessons were given; and now a strenuous endeavor is being made to add to these biblical lessons certain dogmas of the Christian creed established by law, and so to make the teachers of Board Schools to a certain extent clerical teachers. Nor is this all. Clerics have striven and are still striving, to make the public help them to teach Church dogmas in Church Schools. At the present time (June, 1895), the Primate and clergy at large are fathering an Act which shall give them State-funds without State-control. With an arrogance common to Priesthoods in all times and places, no matter what the creed they say to the State—"We will say what shall be taught and you shall pay for it."


No more here than elsewhere do we meet with an exception to the segregation and consolidation which accompany differentiation; though, partly because of the more recent separation of the teaching class from the clerical class, this change has not been so conspicuous.

The tendency towards integration of the teaching class, and marking off of them from other classes, was first shown among theological teachers. At the University of Paris—

"half-learned persons, who had scarcely any knowledge of the elements of theology, took upon themselves the office of public teachers. The consequence was, that the theological teachers of better reputation united themselves, and formed a regular society; and they had sufficient influence to establish the rule, that no one should be allowed to teach without their approbation and permission. This of course led to an examination of the candidates, and to a public trial of their ability, and to a formal ceremony for their admission to the dignity of teachers or doctors."

In our own universities the like has happened. Knowledge, first of established Christian doctrine, and then of other things held proper for teachers of Christian doctrine to know, and then examinations testing acquisition of such kinds of knowledge, have served to create a mass of those qualified, and to exclude those not qualified: so forming a coherent and limited aggregate. Though dissenting sects have insisted less on qualifications, yet among them, too, have arisen institutions facilitating the needful culture and giving the needful clerical authorizations.

Only of late have secular teachers tended to unite. Beyond the various training colleges which, instruct and examine and authorize, there are now sundry professional associations. Of a general kind come the Teachers' Guild and the Scottish Educational Institute. Then of more special kinds come the Head Masters [of Public Schools] Conference; the Association of Head Masters of Intermediate Secondary Schools; the Association of Head Mistresses; the College of Preceptors; the Association of Assistant Masters; the National Union of Teachers.

So, too, with the appliances for maintaining a general organization of all concerned in education—schoolmasters, assistants, colleges, and the various unions above named. This professorial class, like other professorial classes, has journals weekly and monthly, some general and some special, representing its interests, serving for communication among its members, and helping to consolidate it.

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