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THE MODERN PERIOD, FROM 1600 A.D.
The characteristics of what may be called the Modern Period in education are I think the following:
Ist. Belief in the power of mere knowledge to educate the human mind.
2nd. A tendency to exalt the sense-realistic, and consequently to advocate the study of physical science as opposed to the Humanities.
3rd. The application of the inductive method to instruction.
These doctrines of the Modern School of Naturalists derive themselves from the Baconian philosophic movement, although Bacon himself would be the first to repudiate its advocates as his legitimate descendants. It is only in recent years that they have had any success. Conservative narrowness has held the citadel of the Schools against the equally narrow aggressiveness of the Liberals. In the impending reorganization of educational systems, the victory will go to neither party.
FRANCIS BACON, 1561—1626.
In 1605 there appeared a book which was destined to place educational method on a scientific foundation, although its mission is not yet, it is true, accomplished. This was Francis Bacon's Advancement of Learning, which was followed,
some years later, by the Organon. For some time the thoughts of men had been turning to the study of Nature. Bacon represented this movement, and gave it the necessary impulse by his masterly survey of the domain of human knowledge, his pregnant suggestions, and his formulation, imperfect as it was, of scientific method. Bacon was not aware of his relations to the science and art of Education; he praises the Jesuit schools, not knowing that he was by his philosophy subverting their very foundations. We know inductively: that was the sum of Bacon's teaching. In the sphere of outer Nature, the scholastic saying, Nihil est in intellectu quod non prius fuerit in sensu, was accepted, but with this addition, that the impressions on our senses were not themselves to be trusted. The mode of verifying senseimpressions, and the grounds of valid and necessary inference, had to be investigated and applied. The educational bearing
. of this is manifest; for it is clear that if we can tell how it is we know, it follows that the method of intellectual instruction is scientifically settled.
Bacon himself says, writing to Lord Burleigh in 1592,-“I have as vast contemplative ends as I have moderate civil ends, for I have taken all knowledge to be my province; and if I could purge it of two sorts of rovers, whereof the one with frivolous disputations, confutations and verbosities (the schoolmen), the other with blind experiments and auricular traditions and impostures (unmethodical investigators, e.g. alchemists, astrologers, etc.) hath committed so many spoils, I hope I should bring in industrious observations and profitable inventions and discoveries—the best state of that province. This... is so fixed in my mind that it cannot be removed.” And in his letter to Toby Matthews in 1609 he says,- the question between me and the ancients is not of the virtue of the race, but of the rightness of the way.” As the philosopher of Realism and of the Inductive method, Bacon, it may be, only summed up the thoughts and practice of several predecessors; but he was the man of genius who (as frequently happens) gathered up those hints, anticipations and aspirations which constitute a “tendency,” and gave them shape.
In the department of education one of the chief services Bacon rendered was his including it among the sciences to be studied. It was by him called “tradition”— the handing down of the acquired intellectual possessions of mankind to those who are to be our successors. But this was not all; for, in speaking of this subject, he was naturally influenced by the new gospel of the real-of the founding of knowledge on seeing for ourselves what was there before us, and basing our conclusions on accurate observation, and a sound method of rational procedure. Nature was no longer to be studied by means of divisions and definitions of hastily formed concepts, and compelled to fit itself into premature axioms in which the very processes of nature were forestalled. Generalization was to follow only in the wake of carefully observed facts. “Man,” he says, in the Novum Organum, “who is the servant and interpreter of Nature, can act and understand no further than he has, either in operation or contemplation, observed of the method or order of Nature." And again, "Men have sought to make a world from their own conceptions and to draw from their own minds all the materials which they employed; but if instead of doing so, they had consulted experience and observation, they would have had facts and not opinions to reason about, and might have ultimately arrived at the knowledge of the laws which govern the material world...... Thus they may hope to arrive at principles......luminous and well defined, such as Nature herself will not refuse to acknowledge.” But Bacon did not invent Induction any more than he invented the human mind; he, however, unquestionably gave to the world the Logic of Induction and formulated the practice of Galilei and the premonitions of Da Vinci. as Isaac Walton called him, “ the great secretary of Nature and Science.”
Nor will any
To speak of the Baconian induction as Goethe did, is to misapprehend it. It is true that to the man of genius one fact is worth a thousand to the uninspired laboratory hodman, and that the laborious collection and comparison of "instances” is not always necessary.
On the other hand, it is equally true that the flashes of insight, which enable a great man to put his finger on the true cause and ultimate generalization in any department of knowledge, are simply swift anticipatory inductive processes.
“flash of insight” ever be accepted by the world as objective truth, until it has been indirectly verified and established by the reverse process of Deduction--that is to say, by applying the supreme generalization to the elucidation of lower generalizations, and ultimately of individual facts, thereby showing that it truly explains them by containing them.
Bacon was not in his reform of Method thinking of psychology and the manner in which the mind attains to knowledge : he had his eye fixed chiefly on the matter itself of knowledge, and he saw that it was inductively, and by various steps of inductive activity, that what was presented to the senses received its verification. This, and this only, was the way in which we knew a thing for certain. It no doubt followed from this that we should teach inductively; but it was to Bacon's successors that we owe the full exposition of what was implicit in Bacon's thought. Bacon and his school were thus, I hold, the founders of modern method in education—not as based on reflective psychology, but rather as revealed by the actual process whereby the truth of things was ascertained. He looked at the matter of thought, not at the thinking process. A more advanced psychology claims in these days to ground the realistic or inductive method of inquiry and instruction on a study of abstract mind itself, on a criticism of knowing, and so to extend its sphere and supplement its defects.
Bacon and the Baconians, in short, occupied themselves with the Content, not the pure Form, of Thought, and found their method in the way in which things were truly known. They fixed their attention on things as growing into the thought or truth of themselves in our minds, not on thought or thinking as such.
We thus find in Bacon the pregnant seeds of reforms both as regards the substance and method of education. He attacks the universities as still the home of scholastic traditions and futile sophistries; he sketches a pansophic ideal ; he points to the importance of method; he recognizes teachers as students of an Art; he points the way to realistic studies :-above all, he has faith in the future. It is these ideas which we find taking practical shape in his successors.
Allowing all possible credit to his precursors, Ludovicus Vives, Da Vinci, Galilei and others (and to certain contemporaries whom he strangely ignores), we yet recognize in Bacon the true Father of Modern Method. He represents the transition from the old world to the new, and more than any other man is to be revered as the “first of the Moderns”; and this not only in the large sphere of investigation generally, but in the narrower sphere of the School, with which we have here to do. That we now enter on the distinctively - modern period of European intellectual activity is sufficiently attested by the great names in every department of investigation. It was not by accident, but rather in accordance with the natural evolution of mind, that we find almost as contemporaries Galilei, Bacon, Descartes, Boyle, Kepler, and Hugo Grotius.
It seems to me that, while we certainly fail to find in Bacon a developed system of education correlated with the method of the sciences, we yet encounter in the Advancement of Learning, in the conclusion of the sixth book of the De Augmentis (the Latin translation of the Advancement extended), in the Essay on Studies, and in the letter to Savile (Provost of Eton), many pregnant hints which suggest a method, as well as