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A LECTURE DELIVERED AT THE CHURCH SCHOOL
My friends, I had announced my intention of speaking to you to-day respecting the Norman period of English history; I hope I may hereafter be able to do what I promised, for the subject is a very interesting one. But, as we are so near the end of the year, I felt as if I would rather address you upon some topic more directly connected with yourselves and the work in which you are engaged. At Christmas time one wishes to exchange friendly greetings and good wishes; to strengthen one another with recollections of the past and hopes for the future. Our friend, Mr. Moody, no doubt, with this feeling, asked me to write something for the January month of the Journal, on the Progress and Prospects of Education. The title sounded to me rather alarming; I was afraid one might be tempted to put down a great many fine words about schools which have been opened, money which has been collected, principles which have been recognized; and that those who know any thing about the matter practically, and have been working hard, would complain that I was very ignorant of what they were thinking and doing, and that mere talk did not help them at all. I thought, therefore, that the safer and truer plan would be, to say whatever occurred to me in reference to your labours, first of all to yourselves ; I should then be reminded that the business is a real one, and one which requires real hearts and hands; I should feel less as if I were merely putting down thoughts and speculations in my study; I should not be able to think of education as an abstract thing, and must perforce connect it with the masters who teach, and the children who learn.
And there is an additional reason for this course in the circumstances of the past year. If the progress of education be marked by the debates which take place in parliament about it, by the number of meetings which are called together for the purpose of promoting it, by the speeches and controversies to which it gives rise, we should have little to report for the year 1844; compared with most of its recent prede
* Exeter Street, Strand, Dec. 21, 1844, by Rev. F. D. MAURICE. VOL. III.-NO. 1.
cessors it would seem like a blank. People have been busy about a great many other matters, foreign and domestic, some of them, no doubt, touching closely upon your work, all remotely affected, as every thing must be affected, by it, but the work itself has not been a topic for much debating or declamation; the newspapers have seldom noticed it, or only in connexion with other topics.
Now, considering how much it was in every one's mouth, a year or two ago, this fact might seem to indicate that at present we are stationary. I hope we may draw just the opposite inference from it. I do not say, that amidst the clatter of tongues this work may not be going on, but certainly that is not the work, that is in itself no sign that the work is making progress. There have been a great many agricultural meetings in the country during the last twelvemonth. Gentlemen have talked very learnedly, and with great enthusiasm, about fattening sheep, and manuring the ground. But the sheep were not fed, the ground was not manured by their speeches; they might encourage the farmer to better processes of tillage, but the tillage itself must go on, and there must be sun and showers to co-operate with human labour, otherwise the soil would continue in a very hard and hopeless condition, in spite of all these recommendations and encouragements. Even so is it in the other case; whatever suggestions you may have gathered from addresses or from books, whatever stimulus they may have given to your exertions, in those exertions themselves must be our hope of any change in the moral condition of our land. Yet, those exertions themselves, the more earnestly you make them, will every day lead you to a deeper conviction of their own helplessness, unless there were some living powers in the plants which you cultivate, and something answering to sun and rain to call those
forth. It is strange how naturally one falls into agricultural comparisons when one is speaking of schools and school teaching. In fact, it happens inevitably, for our language, and, I suppose, nearly every language spoken by a cultivated nation, has bound the two thoughts together so closely that they can be hardly put asunder. That word cultivated' which I have just used, and which I have used once before, is, itself, as you all know, a proof of this. You can hardly speak it without connecting thoughts of the soil with thoughts of human hearts and human understandings; you feel that it is not a chance connexion ; you did not make it, but you found it. And I would wish you reverently to consider those parables of our Lord in which it is brought out. He himself said to his disciples, of His parable of the
understand not this, how can ye understand all parables ?' as if the spirit and meaning of a parable lay in it; as if in that especially He were pointing out a resemblance which actually existed, and which He wished them, under his guidance, to be continually tracing out.
I make these remarks, because they will help you to see what I mean by progress of education. I cannot say that I like this phrase ; the word progress suggests to us the movement of a carriage on a railway; it was at Euston Square at 10 in the morning, it is at Liverpool by 8 or 9 at night. I cannot see that education advances in this man
I do not think the man is intended to leave behind him all the
things he saw and delighted in when he was a boy or a child. If he be really educated, I do not think he ever will—but will cleave to them much more,—will feel that what belonged to him once belongs to him always. Neither do I think that a good schoolmaster will change his plans from week to week, or month to month; that in this sense he will make rapid progress, and pass quickly from one point to another. Neither do I think that we in our day can reckon our superiority to our forefathers in education by stages, so that we may say they only got as far as Watford or Tring; we are very nearly at Birmingham. These comparisons rather confuse than help us, and often make us conceited; when we try practically to apply them, they break under
Yet we all feel that the boy ought to be in some way or other above the child, and the man beyond the boy; that we ourselves ought to make advances, not only year by year, but day by day, in knowledge, in gentleness, in practical skill; that in 1844 we ought to know much more about education than they did in 1614. Suppose then we change the word progress for one which is shorter by a syllable; suppose we talk of Growth, thus drawing our similitude, not from coaches, but from seeds and flowers, from roots and trees. I think we shall then come to a better understanding of ourselves, shall find out more of what we have been doing in the past, and what we are to aim at in the future. For you will see at once that the objections which we took to the other form of language, do not apply at all to this. The growing boy does not leave the child behind him; he is the child expanded, the child come to be that which you saw he was meant to be. The growing schoolmaster does not give up the plans of yesterday, because he knows more to day. He is more able to practise the plans of yesterday; he sees more into the use of them ; he can adapt them better to the exigences of any new cases ; he can improve them, because he has a clearer perception of that which they are to accomplish; if he is compelled to give them up, he does so in humility, not in pride, acknowledging that he could not effect what he wished by them, but still keeping his first end in sight; altering his methods, only becoming more deeply grounded in his principles. So again the growing age can never forget or cast aside the lessons or discoveries of that which has gone before; it can never mock at its own boyhood or childhood; it can never fancy itself separated from the past; it must believe that the roots, out of which it has sprung, were laid in the soil long ago; that these roots are in one sense more important than the stem and branches, and leaves and fruits, since without them these could never have been, and cannot be now apart from them; though, as they are living and not dead roots, it was certain they would send forth stem and branches, and blossoms and fruit ; and though it would be a miserable thing to cut all these away, and to say,
“The root is the only thing we care for."
Well then, if we are to report progress (I do not care about using the word, provided we have cleared it of any sense which could lead us astray)—if we are to report progress at the end of this year, I should hope it might be of this kind, I hope we may be able to say, there has not been so much noise as in some former times, so much hissing of en.
gines, and whistlings of conductors, with now and then a collision and a crash; but there has been growth-growth in our own hearts and minds— growth, therefore, in the hearts and minds of those committed to usgrowth, therefore, since the whole lives and flourishes, if each portion lives and flourishes, in the mind and heart of this country, which we truly call great, but which must cease to be so, unless she hath a great and growing heart receiving fresh life-blood continually through every vein, sending it back continually through every artery of her vast body. This would be the right kind of progress to speak of when we shake hands, and give each other joy at Christmas ; this will be a right cheerful prospect with which to begin a new year.
But then it must be very difficult for a person, placed as I am with quite a different class of occupations, and only at rare intervals seeing the workings of any schools to ascertain whether this Growth is going on; to note the signs of it,-to say what is retarding it. You membe of the Church Schoolmasters' Association, your President, who has watched it from its beginning with such affectionate interest, the inspectors of government, or of the National Society, might be able to give evidence on the subject, which would be of great value; mine can only be made up from the chance, often, perhaps, the hasty observations of a mere bystander. Still I have not been an uninterested bystander; and as you sometimes are glad to endure the serious interruption which the presence of visitors occasions in your teaching, for the sake of hearing their remarks, you will perhaps listen to me (as I do but exact the same sacrifice from you) while I enumerate a few of what have seemed to me reasons for gratitude and for hope. They will refer chiefly to your circumstances as national schoolmasters and schoolmistresses ; if they help to convince you that education thrives best in quietness,-above all, if they afford you any tests, by which you can judge whether you are really gaining ground in your respective departments of labour, my purpose will be answered.
1. To begin, then, with that which you rightly regard as the basis of your whole teaching. You have always professed to make your education scriptural, to look upon the Bible as the book from which you are to derive the most important of the facts you communicate to your scholars, the tone and spirit of which are to determine your own.
This is a very high profession indeed ; you may well be thankful, if you are able to make it, and to act upon it. But in times of controversy about our work, this phrase scriptural education is apt to become chiefly valued as a watchword, as something which we may inscribe upon a flag, and carry about with us to distinguish us from other people. “We teach this book wholly, they curtail it or modify it; we put it in the primary place, they in the secondary.” I do not say that there are no occasions upon which it is necessary to make boasts of this kind; but they must be unhappy occasions, they must be submitted to with reluctance, not embraced with pleasure. For the spirit of boasting can never be a spirit in which we should think of this book or use it; what is meant as a blessing for all, ought not to be a badge of exclusion. And then there is such a danger that we should become satisfied with having assumed this character, that we should take it for granted our
teaching must be scriptural, because we use the scriptures constantly in our teaching. Now I feel great confidence, that a quiet year like this, in which we have not been called upon to put forth this claim for our schools, may be one in which you in the heart of these schools) have been especially trying to make it good. To have a book in which
you feel that you must read like children, which is always above you, and yet always coming near to you by the great simplicity, the childlike
way in which it sets forth the deepest and most awful truths, is of all things the best preparation of mind for teaching children, and meeting their minds. You must be continually surprised by the clearness and brightness of its language; when we try to change it into our own, we are apt to use words which are so much longer and more muddy, and which tell so much less. But more than this, you will wonder at finding how much it is a book of doings. It is not like reading, so much as hearing and seeing. And this again is a mighty help both to teacher and learner; for what both want, is to feel themselves amidst realities. We are so apt to get into a region of mere words and notions; and that as well when we are busy with earthly things as with divine. The Bible will do what it can to keep us from this tendency in both regions ; for it has to do with earth as well as with heaven; it brings before us men walking with actual feet, fighting with actual hands on common ground, as well as laying hold with their hearts and spirit upon that which is unseen.
And the two are not at all separated; one continually leads on to the other; through the conflicts and sorrows of one region arise the cryings for rest and peace in the other. The more then in our characters and apprehensions we grow in humbleness of mind, and the quick instinct which humble people acquire, the more shall we enter into this book, and the more shall we find our children growing too, and receiving this food to strengthen them in their growth. Then gradually we shall apprehend more of the order of the facts which the Bible makes known; how wonderfully they succeed each other as steps in a great plan of divine teaching; we see how one age has grown out of another, and has had deeper knowledge and a higher revelation given to it, and yet how the same principles have belonged to all,-how all have been held together by the same bonds of fellowship to a common Lord. In this way, as the depth and mystery of the Bible increase upon us day by
lay, shall yet find it continually more helpful in our work, teaching us more of the wonderful nature of each one of the creatures we have to deal with, and at the same time, more to view them as parts of one family and flock. I think I see many indications, since we have become less noisy, that we are getting into this track, and out of that which was certainly not a good track at all, that in which we looked at the Bible chiefly as a lesson, almost as a spelling, book, or else as something to be merely set up as a sign of our being better than others. And if it be so, I would for the reasons I gave you before, call it growth rather than progress ; for it is not that we have left behind any of the principles with which we started, or which we received from those who went before us; it is only that we have come a little better to see what these principles meant, and to act upon them.