« Prev Chapter V. The Pursuit of Education Next »

CHAPTER V

THE PURSUIT OF EDUCATION

THE Evangelical Social Congress has imposed upon itself the task of critically investigating all those great movements of the present day which affect moral and social life, whether by acting as a stimulus or as a check, whether by constructiveness or reconstructiveness. Its purpose is to examine their nature, their worth, and to discover the spirit which ought to animate them. There is no doubt that the modern pursuit of education is one of the most prominent social features of our time. But at no period is it possible for one who wishes to study the general conditions of a nation to overlook its educational position; he must determine the standard this has reached, the strength of the interests bound up with education, and the measure of sacrifice made for it. Now in our day these questions are twice as important as they were; for the most cursory glance is enough to show how immensely the 96pursuit of education has increased. The contrast is so great between the present and the past—even between now and thirty years ago—that the pursuit of a wider and deeper education may positively be said to be an essential characteristic of the present epoch. My task would be well-nigh endless were I to attempt to describe to you all the institutions which this pursuit of education has produced, and in which it manifests itself everywhere. I shall therefore only remind you of a few facts with which you are all familiar.

Let us take, for example, one of the larger German towns. We shall find there many much-frequented public libraries; we shall find, besides technical schools, voluntary and compulsory continuation-schools of every kind. Lectures in every department of knowledge are delivered to every class of audience, and are enlivened and illustrated by experiments and pictures of such excellence as to throw light on the most obscure points and bring the most distant objects near to people. Where there is a university or other adequate means of instruction, we hear of special courses being held in connection with it, in which particular subjects or the elements of the various sciences—their methods as well as their results—are 97brought within the reach of those who have riot had the advantage of an advanced education at school. By the universities again holiday- and continuation-courses are organised, and by their means those who left the university years ago become acquainted with the latest discoveries of science. Then there are courses of applied science; classes to promote first aid to the injured and care of the sick; instruction in the new code of civil law; series of lectures on social and political subjects and on the theory of education; discussions, or continuous courses of instruction, on fundamental questions of ethics or religion. Not only that, but posters call attention to cheap dramatic performances of the masterpieces of our poets, or to concerts for the people: Bach and Handel may be heard in church, or Beethoven and Wagner in public halls. Not only is there free admittance to museums, but provision is made for expert explanation of the collections and works of art contained in them. Even late in the evening, and right on into the night, there is no pause in the work of supplementing and extending the education of those who could not obtain thorough schooling in their youth; or of instructing aspiring artisans in the underlying principles, the interconnection, 98and the development of their particular trades. Not only elementary manuals and school-books, but also the best literary works of every civilised nation, are sold at the lowest possible prices; so that any one who knows how to go to work can for ten shillings procure a valuable library for which, only a generation ago, he would have had to pay ten times as much. In the country, too, a new scheme has recently been initiated, and professional agriculturists are being sent to give instruction in farming, fruit-growing, and other rural occupations. In every direction it is clear that that education which in former days only fell by chance to the lot of the few, or was the hard-won prize of the zealous and self-denying student, is now being systematised and made easily accessible to all. Finally, mention must be made of the great quantity of educational matter which finds its way into practically every house through the Press, either in the form of political newspapers or of special journals. Every industry, each handicraft, every branch of manufacture, has its own publication. These contain detailed information about all improvements in the special line of business with which they deal, and they are edited by men who, apart from their very 99exact knowledge of that particular trade, are well acquainted with the economic dependence of their industry upon other industries, and with the statistics of the produce market and of commerce—in short, by men who possess knowledge of a very extensive and varied character. The Waiters’ Journal, for example, recently came in my way, and showed me with what serious purpose and care such a paper is conducted, and how much advice and information its readers may gain from it.

But in order to complete our review of the contrast between the existing state of affairs and that of a generation ago, we must take particular note of certain classes which are now taking a special part in the upward movement, though at that time they were scarcely stirred by it. I refer to artisans and women. The pursuit of education by these two classes is the really distinguishing feature of the present epoch.

As far as the working classes are concerned, there are many of them who put to shame all other social grades. Quite recently it was once more authoritatively stated at Hamburg that the splendid courses of lectures which have been organised there are mainly attended by the so-called “lower classes.”

100

Our interest and admiration cannot but be aroused by the zeal now shown by these “lower classes” or artisans, who are ready to make sacrifices, for the sake not only of improving their material condition, but also of raising themselves intellectually and taking a part in the progressive world of thought. This does not mean that they are free from the desire to satisfy as soon as possible some passing need; nevertheless it is undoubtedly knowledge itself for which they are striving. They have a burning longing, a hunger and thirst for real knowledge—for a scientific view of the world. Even if their ideas as to what knowledge can achieve are often extravagant and visionary, even if they under-estimate to an extraordinary degree the difficulties to be surmounted, there is something impressive in their firm belief in the efficacy of knowledge, and in its power to bring liberty, there is something touching in the light-heartedness with which they set out on their pilgrimage to an unknown paradise.

But a yet greater movement—indeed I might almost say a more fundamental and universal movement—is the pursuit of educacation by women. We read in history of great nations being suddenly seized with the impulse to wander abroad, leaving their homes 101to migrate to distant lands of bluer skies, more fruitful soil, and keener sense of life; and this is the sort of phenomenon we are reminded of when we come to consider the “Woman’s Movement” of the present time. But just as those tribal migrations prove, on closer examination, to have been caused, not by some vague inexplicable feeling, but by need, as well as by an instinctive love of action, so in this case, too, the impulse is due to necessity as well as to an urgent longing to get out of the narrow rut, and to a consciousness of strength. There is not at the present day a single class of women which has not been stirred by this impulse. Those who are in narrow pecuniary circumstances, and are obliged to fight for their very existence, are by no means the only ones who join the ranks of strenuous women; nay, those whose material position is perfectly secure enter the lists also, and, from year to year, with every fresh influx of girls leaving school, the movement increases, and grows in geometrical progression. They want to have a share in all that the intellectual development of the present day has to offer; they want to train and emancipate their minds, and to be the equals of men as regards knowledge, education, independence. 102It is essentially a question of knowledge and of learning, and they demand admittance wherever knowledge is imparted, and privileges are conferred upon the basis of its acquisition. Jests about an army of “bluestockings” or of “Amazons” long ago became out of place, and indeed, are more and more rarely heard; for the movement has grown far too powerful for derision, and become so closely bound up with the inmost being of womankind that it is now rightly spoken of as the “Woman’s Movement.”

Before I conclude this brief survey, you must allow me to glance cursorily at the attitude of the State towards the whole movement. Since in Germany the State has almost, if not altogether, the monopoly of instruction and education, it follows that its line of action in this matter is of the utmost importance.

It may be generally affirmed that in most directions the State meets the new educational movement with sympathy, wisdom and active help. It is due to it that many of the above-mentioned institutions for the promotion of learning have been established; it contributes to the support of others, having approved of their foundation. It is fitting that it should not be too ready to take the initiative, but 103should prefer to leave it to associations, municipal bodies, or private individuals to originate and execute new ideas, and so long as it does not repress healthy movements, no harm is done when it resists ill-considered haste, and, generally speaking, checks rather than urges on the pace. In its own special province, that of elementary education, it has just introduced an important and most satisfactory improvement. The new regulations for the course of instruction at Teachers’ Training Colleges are excellent and altogether praiseworthy. The two following rules in particular now determine the arrangement of the whole curriculum: first, that a gradually progressive course should be pursued from the lowest to the highest class, so that, in place of wearisome and spiritless repetition, and monotonous drill in the same task, genuine educational advance may be made; secondly, that in the upper grades interest should be aroused in the principal achievements of those branches of knowledge with which the teachers are most nearly concerned, as well as in the methods and objects of science and learning generally. Both these ideas are in accordance with wishes long felt by teachers themselves, and it may confidently be expected that the banishment 104of the old routine will lead to the gradual disappearance of the abuses which were so closely associated with it, and that the new arrangements will produce as great an improvement in the elementary schools as in the Training Colleges. The State is also determined, in common with those who wish to promote healthy progress, that no false or obsolete knowledge shall be imparted, but that the idea of duty and right shall be instilled into all citizens; where this principle is concerned, elementary schools can and shall make no exceptions.

105
« Prev Chapter V. The Pursuit of Education Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |