« iepriekšējāTurpināt »
come with power to redeem from idleness, and thereby from shiftlessness and crime; but there is reason to believe that, if such a curriculum could be determined upon, it would be practically serviceable for the great mass of all classes of children, in better fitting them for the kind of life upon which they will be required to enter. If the public could be assured of that point there would be little hesitancy in accepting a compulsory school law.
Perhaps the most valid objection that can be made against coer cion in education, is that which finds in the school organization as it now is, too exclusive occupation of the head, and none of the hand, too long and too persistent drill in the sedentary habit, and almost none in the active exercise of the limbs. It is often complained that the process of passive acquisition absorbs almost wholly the routine of the school-room, going out in scarcely any channel of immediate and practical application of what has been acquired, and that this tread-mill is enforced upon pupils for so many years of the formative period of life, that when done they are disqualified, the rather, for the occupations in which they must engage. At least, it is claimed, they are made dissatisfied with the rough lines of labor that must in most cases fall to their lot, that, in fact, the schools as now organized educate the children above the mode of life upon which, both by circumstance and capacity, they are destined to enter. How far this criticism is well founded we do not now assume to say, but simply allude to it as furnishing the most plausible ground for the popular lethargy in this country on the whole subject of coercive attendance upon school.
COMPARATIVE ESTIMATE OF SCHOOL PROGRESS UNDER COMPULSORY SCHOOL LAW IN EUROPEAN STATES.
Before leaving the European countries we must attempt a compar ative estimate of the general school progress among the leading nations respectively, with a view to the practical working of a compulsory school law. We subjoin the following table of per cents of (a) school population attending school, and (b) adults who can read. The countries in which there is some form of compulsory education are marked *.
LOW PER CENT OF SCHOOL ATTENDANCE IN THE UNITED STATES.
A mortifying fact brought out by this table is, that the United States, in the matter of school attendance, stands with the lower and more backward nationalities of western Europe. We are below Ireland, and very nearly in the company of Spain and Italy in this respect. There is no one of the great powers except England and Wales to which we can make any sort of approach; and if this is without doubt respectable society it is none the less a forlorn comfort, when we reflect that England, great as she is as a commercial power, and far in the lead of all other nations in science, and letters, and economy, and law, has nevertheless been-to say the least-remiss in her care for the masses.
There is this to be said, by way of offset in our case, that while our percentage of school attendance is so low, the gross number of adults among us who can read, is such as to send us considerably upward in the scale. Here we are in the society of all the great educating powers of Saxony, Scotland, Netherlands, Switzerland and Wurtemburg. Prussia, as an educating nation, outstrips the world.
It furnishes a curious problem, however, how the percentage of school attendance with us should be so low, and the percentage of adults who can read should be so high. The figures for England tell the same tale. This is due, we are inclined to think, to the widespread prevalence of other educating agencies among the Englishspeaking people, aside from the public schools:-the press, for example, pouring its floods of newspapers and books of all kinds almost gratuitously into every home. The pulpit, the sabbath school, the unwonted activity of the English and American mind-the very atmosphere of our civilization breathing around the illiterate, forces them, in a manner, to pick up the rudiments of learning after their school-days are past.
Illiteracy is certainly not a thing congenial to English or American life. We are accustomed to say that it is largely an exotic in this country, being thrown in upon us by foreign immigration, from noneducating countries and from educating countries, where the afterblight of feudalism still keeps certain classes low down in the social scale, and shuts them away from the privileges of the schools. Com ing to this country they find themselves invested with the prerogative of voting citizens, and are compelled to acquire some measure of the reading intelligence that is afloat.
If this is true, it only complicates the problem with reference to the practical operation of a compulsory school law. In deciding this problem, it makes very great difference as to whether our illiteracy is indigenous or not. There were no need of compulsion if the genius of our institutions carries our own children easily and unresistingly into the schools, and if the assimilating powers of our civilization rapidly absorbs the foreign illiteracy that is thrown upon our shores.
But the facts in the case as we may look upon them in any individual instance, as, for example in any of the large cities in our land, will not warrant our entertaining so optimistic a view. We shall find a tendency on the part of a large portion of our own population, when left to themselves, to gravitate away from the schools, and away from the moral and intellectual culture which the schools afford. And so, therefore, despite this relatively large percentage of those who can read among our adult population, we incline to the opinion that the general teaching of this table as a whole, should be accepted as indicating the ultimate value of a rigorously executed compulsory school law.
Thus it is a fact that every one of the great nations of Western
Europe has compulsory education. And it is a further fact that in those nations among whom compulsory education has been most rigidly enforced, there are most extraordinary results to show. Prussia, for example, has 91 per cent of attendance and 94 of reading population. Saxony has 101 per cent of attendance and 88 of reading population. Bavaria, Denmark, Scotland and Switzerland follow suit. Among these people there is scarcely any one found who has not been in attendance upon the schools; and in Prussia it would be rare to meet with any one who could not read and write. These are all countries in which the compulsory regulations are energetically enforced. If we should set up 90 per cent of attendance as our ideal standard to be attained, we have here cases in which that limit has been transcended, and we need have no hesitancy in saying that among no people on earth could that limit be reached without a compulsory law. Even if these footings are not absolutely correct, they are approximately so, and will fairly represent the general educational condition of the old world.
PROBLEMATIC CASES-ITALY, PORTUGAL, SPAIN THE APPALLING CON-
But there are some countries on this list, among whom education is obligatory, that have very meagre results to show; for example, Italy, Portugal and Spain. The reasons for this are not to be found wholly in the ineffectual working of the compulsory school law. In Italy, for example, in 1877, primary instruction was made obligatory, but the law was not executed, and remained almost a dead letter till 1884, when the minister of public instruction resorted to special measures to have it enforced. In the meantime, it was stated by M. Rivera, director of primary instruction, that the insuperable obsta cles in the way of enforcing the law were the poverty of the people and the poor quality of the teachers employed. "As the parents cannot give their children proper food and clothing, they hesitate to send them to school, when by keeping them away there is a chance to pick up a little money in looking out for the flocks, and in other ways." There is here, as in Spain and Portugal also, the debris of decayed civilization, and an inveterate pauper class against which all educational progress must struggle. In Spain, the whole system of public instruction was reorganized in 1882, and some of the most radical educational reforms were set on foot. Portugal, also, is but
recently in the field of primary compulsory education, and her methods of supervision are as yet so imperfect that it is impossible to get from the official department any statistics that are at all reliable.
The most impressive lesson gathered from the table is the educational condition of Russia. Here is no compulsory education, and almost no primary education at all. An absolute monarchy, having sway over eight million and a half square miles, with a population of nearly one hundred and three millions, it had, in 1871, but one pupil in school out of every one hundred inhabitants, and has made very little progress except in higher education since that time. It is therefore no wonder that the Czar's dominions should tremble so · often from center to circumference with the rumblings of nihilistic discontent, and that the menace of dynamite should so often waylay the affairs of state. With 89 per cent of illiteracy, and the little area of light centering in the universities pouring out upon a people half barbarous, a materialistic and communistic philosophy, what hope is there for good government or national stability in such a state of thing?
COMPULSORY EDUCATION IN THE UNITED STATES-TABLE OF STATISTICS.
Having traced, somewhat in detail, the rise and spread of compulsory education in the European States, we may turn now to our own country, and see what has been done in this direction in the several States. And as our researches and reasonings on this subject must involve the whole question of the educational condition of our country, as to school population, and enrollment, and attendance, and illiteracy, we subjoin a table, in which these items are conveniently arranged for reference. Those States marked with have compulsory laws: