AmblesideOnline AO Parents' Review Articles AmblesideOnline.org

The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
______________________________________
Books.

Volume 10, 1899, pg. 743


Special Reports on Educational Subjects, Vol. III., 3/3. (Published by Education Department.) In view of the Secondary Education Bill lately under debate, there are three or four papers in this volume of enormous value. Mr. M. E. Sadler's Problems in Prussian Secondary Education for Boys, with special reference to similar questions in England ranks first in importance, as in length. Mr. Sadler's paper is a masterly and exhaustive monograph, not only upon Prussian Secondary Schools, but upon the question which we begin to find a little irritating to our educational consciences, the comparative excellencies of Prussian and English secondary education. The paper goes minutely and carefully into the history of Prussian secondary education as it now exists: the motif, so to speak, is contrasted from the Prussian and English standpoints. It would appear that the tendency of secondary education in Prussia is rather to follow utilitarian lines, while this tendency is balanced and corrected by literary culture; the English tendency, on the other hand, is said to be to lay stress on the ethical rather than on the purely intellectual influences of secondary education. An historical sketch of the curricula in Prussian Secondary Schools is given, going as far back as 1808, and ending with a discussion of the Reformed Schools curricula, which have been recently considered in the Parents' Review. The questions of endowments and of State interference are fully considered; the respective educational values of day and boarding schools are examined, and the new tendency in Prussian secondary education towards combination of the classical and non-classical curricula in single schools (a question taken up at length in Mr. Parez's paper in the Parents' Review). In fact, the careful study of Mr. Sadler's paper places the reader in a position to form a sound judgment on questions more or less before the country, questions of very vital interest to parents. We cannot do better than cite one or two passages from the concluding section of the paper. "The emphasis in all German Secondary Schools is laid on linguistic discipline, but every boy is also required to come up to the required standard in religious knowledge, mathematics, history, geography, German literature, and certain branches of natural science. There are no schools exactly corresponding to our secondary 'Schools of Science.' Science is taught as an obligatory subject in all secondary schools, but never plays such an important part in the curriculum of those schools as it does in the 'Schools of Science,' under the Science and Art Department. This difference between English and German schools is partly due to historical reasons, but partly to divergence of educational principles. The Germans have concentrated the intenser forms of scientific study in their Higher Technical Schools, to which the boys may pass if (but only if) they have completed the prescribed course at a secondary school. Educational opinion in Germany prefers to lay stress on a wide general education during the period of secondary school-life, and the regulations sternly forbid anything which approaches premature specialization in any one branch of study. Commercial aptitude is a by-product in their system of 'modern' secondary education. The German Secondary Schools seem eminently successful in cultivating the powers of apt expression. . . The methods of teaching modern languages have received very careful attention in Germany. Remarkable results are being obtained in this branch of school work. Great stress is laid on the pronunciation and conversational use of a modern language, but this is accompanied by very careful teaching of its grammar and idiom."

But heartily appreciative as he is of the excellencies of the Prussian system, Mr. Sadler does not wish us to run away with the idea that all things English might, with advantage, be replaced by things German. On the contrary, he perceives that there is that in English schools which time-table and curriculum fail to account for. He says, "The best tradition of English secondary education has been one of the most valuable elements in our national life. The characteristic excellence of the best English secondary education in the past has been its training and strengthening of the will. Its characteristic weakness has been its comparative neglect of actual knowledge. Now, the best result of true education is the strengthening and right direction of the moral will. The play of the will should, indeed, be informed by knowledge. But the mere imparting of knowledge, however skilful the methods employed, has in itself no necessary influence upon the will at all. It may, indeed merely confuse its aim, or even paralyse its former power. What does communicate power to the will is an intense belief in something, springing up in the heart by a sort of secret growth, or communicated to the pupil by the infectious personality of a teacher, himself dominated by such intense belief . . . But, behind any such influence, there must be (instinctively known or consciously thought out) a definite theory of conduct . . . But merely intellectual efficiency will not touch the springs of conduct, nor revive the inherent power of the will. For that, another influence is needed, which does not come with observation; and, therefore, as the wind bloweth where it listeth, ought not schools to be given freedom, in order that they may be open to every breath of noble influence and reviving power?

"There is much to be said for the view that if the best sides of the English system of secondary education could be combined with the best sides of the German, the result would be the best system in the world. But such a combination would, of all combinations, be perhaps the most difficult to make. Yet there seems to be nothing in the nature of things to make such a combination possible."

We cannot help feeling that this important paper will do much to allay the sometimes unreasoning unrest of public opinion re the comparative merits of Prussian and English Schools.

Nursery Ethics, by Florence Hull Winterburn (Thos. Baker & Taylor & Co., New York; Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co.) This little American book is a second edition, the first dating from 1896, and it is the very natural outcome of the Editor of the magazine Childhood. Its fluent chapters treat of the duties of parents and the rights of children. The parents are generally indicted on the counts of egoism, of misunderstanding of child nature, of repression, and of generally hindering the development of character in their offspring. "The function of parental government is to protect the child and to prepare it for independent life." The doctrine is here advocated of permitting children all possible freedom of action, and letting them suffer the natural consequences of their actions.

From the Child's Standpoint, by Florence Hull Winterburn (Thos. Baker & Taylor & Co., New York; Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co.) A collection of magazine articles and editorials that have appeared in Childhood, following out the lines of thought begun in Nursery Ethics. The gist of the author's idea seems to be that the child spirit enters the world perfect, and is most frequently injured by want of thought, understanding, or self-control in parents, teachers, and grown-ups generally.

Our Growing Children, by Gerard Smith, M.R.C.S. (John Bale & Sozo, London, 2/6). This book concerning physical education, is written to help especially in training those children who are weakly. It necessarily contains much that is medical and technical; it advocates a simpler series of bodily exercises than the usual heavy gymnastics which are so objectionable in wrenching and straining the muscles and joints. The exercises are given in great detail, in several graded series applicable to different cases, and with some pains they could be mastered by any parent or teacher to be practised at home by the less robust of the denizens of the nursery. An easier attitude in writing is enjoined with the elbow freely extended and the paper placed slantwise to suit the movement of the forearm. An appendix on posture in cycling contains some very good points.

Foreign Classics for English Readers: Goethe, by A. Hayward, edited by Mrs. Oliphant (Wm. Blackwood & Sons, 1/-). A discursive, and not uninteresting summary of the life and works of the great German poet, intermingled with copious and well translated extracts from the autobiography. This is scarcely, like some others of the series, adapted for use in the schoolroom, since the moral delinquencies of the man of genius are not omitted or smoothed over, but laid bare somewhat mercilessly. The short chapter on the poet as "man of science" is hardly up to modern ideas, but is rather an estimate of twenty years ago. "The essence of his botanical lucubrations that the entire plant, including fruit and flowers, is evolved from the leaf," has been the means, according to one of the great German scientists, not of advancing, but of retarding botanical research and knowledge for half a century. The principal books of the poet are so given here in plot and plan as to be easily grasped by those for whom they are intended--the English readers who have not already gone through them in the original.

The Social Reformer's Bible, compiled and arranged by M. L. Hart-Davis (Simpkin & Marshall, 1/-). Mrs. Hart-Davis has done a real service in the preparation of this manual. Even if we know more or less what the Bible has to say on the subjects of Labour, Justice and Injustice, Discord and Peace, Humanity, Leadership, and other subjects of social significance, it is very inspiring to read these wisely-selected passages in somewhat of a logical sequence; and for the social reformer, who is necessarily a busy person, it should be a great help to have brought under his eye at a glance words calculated to stimulate his ardour and direct his course.

Unseal the Book, by Mrs. Ashley Carus-Wilson (Religious Tract Society, 2/-). Those who are familiar with Mrs. Carus-Wilson's Clews to Holy Writ will regard with interest this smaller and more popular book on the Bible. The chapters are concerned with: Right rendering--in which the author points out, by the way, our great indebtedness to the Revised Version; Right setting--in which we are rejoiced to see a forcible protest against the use of isolated texts of Scripture, too often in a sense opposed to that which they bear in their proper setting; and Right rendering--in which Mrs. Carus-Wilson lays stress upon the importance of preserving the historic sequence of the Scriptures by reading the several books in their chronological order. We wish, by the way, that she would prepare a chronological Scripture chart of the sacred books to be carried in the Bible. The other subjects treated of are: "Studying," "Storing," "Praying," "Practising." The thousands of Bible students who have already had cause to acknowledge gratefully Mrs. Carus-Wilson's (Miss Petrie's) help in the study of the Scriptures will appreciate this little book, and we hope will introduce it to others.

Christ's Daily Orders, by Rev. A. C. Humphreys (Church Newspaper Co. 6d.). In this little book an attempt is made to concentrate the attention of those who read the daily evening lesson from the New Testament on one special thought in the passage.

The Modern Reader's Bible: Bible Stories, Old Testament, Children's Series, edited by R. G. Moulton, M.A., Cambridge (Macmillan). At last we may congratulate parents upon the production of what we have long wished to see. Professor Moulton tells us "the stories which make the text are in the language of Scripture, altered only by omissions." We have long questioned the wisdom of placing the Old Testament as it stands in the hands of children. At the same time, to use the author's words in the preface, "the Bible has this, among other marks of a classic, that its language has the power of attracting young minds," and it is deeply to be regretted, we think, that children should lose the delight of Bible stories as they are told in the Bible--should be given instead the reading-made-easy twaddle of some little book of Bible stories. Not even a Bible story told by "mother" herself will have for a child the rhythmic charm and pictorial power of the stories in Bible words. Here we have in a little book, pleasant to hold and easy to read, and arranged in paragraphs like any other book, the principal stories from Genesis, Exodus, the Judges, Kings and Prophets, of the exile and return. We do not think that parents need fear their children will lose reverence for the words of the Scriptures through meeting with them in such a presentation as this, and certainly the charm of the stories is increased. The omissions are only of passages unsuitable for the reading of children.


Proofread by Leslie Noelani Laurio, 2011-2015