first book; but Ascham works the whole question out much more fully than Quintilian.

V. VIRTUE. We now see Roger Ascham's aim in education : it was a humanistic aim in the broadest sense. I have shown you briefly his method of teaching language and forming style, and given you his views of scholastic discipline. In all you see a man of simple and direct outlook, of strong and manly sense, of moral purpose and vigour. Had he no higher purpose than culture in the humanistic sense ? Of course he had. All men who have written about education, and who are worth reading, have placed before themselves the ethical outcome of school and its studies as the highest. In the latter part of his treatise (and, indeed, all through) Ascham shows how sensible he was of the prime importance of this aspect of education, and in the whole of the first book of The Scholemaster, the moral result of the discipline which he advocates is constantly present to his mind. “Virtue and learning,” these go together as inseparable. He desires that children be brought up in “God's fear” to “honesty of life and perfectness of learning.” This training to virtue is, after all, his main interest. In his Toxophilus he says, “If a young tree grow crooked, when it is old a man shall rather break it than straight it.” He was too much of a Greek not to have constantly before him αρετή, σωφροσύνη, το καλόν as the final aims of all school work. “To come down,” he says, “from higher matters to my little children, and poor schoolhouse again, I will, God willing, go forward orderly to instruct children and young men both for learning and manners.” “I wish,” he says, “to have love of learning bred up in children. I wish as much to have young men brought up in good order of living, and in some more severe discipline than commonly they be.” The schoolmaster has to see to this, but “always using such discreet moderation as that the schoolhouse should be counted a sanctuary against fear.”

But he felt that the most pressing matter was the method and quality of the instruction, as alone insuring milder discipline, and



[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

he accordingly devotes himself formally to the consideration of these; but the higher aim runs like a thread through the whole treatise. To the attainment of this higher aim a better method and a milder discipline were preconditions, and accordingly he throws his force on them. But learning, he well knew, will not suffice alone; and yet we may be assured that if a youth's mind be brought into contact with the highest literary forms, and through literature with the substance of morality, learning will do much.

“Learning,” says Ascham, “teacheth more in one year than experience in twenty; and learning teacheth safely when experience maketh more miserable than wise. He hazardeth sore that waxeth wise by experience. An unhappy master he is that is made cunning 'by many shipwrecks'.” And again, "Learning, ye wise fathers, and good bringing up, and not blind and dangerous experience, is the next and readiest way, that must lead your children, first to wisdom, and then to worthiness, if ever ye purpose they shall come there. And to say all in short, though I lack authority to give counsel, yet I lack not good will to wish, that the youth in England, specially gentlemen, and namely nobility, should be by good bringing up so grounded in judgement of learning, so founded in love honesty, as, when they should be called forth to the execution of great affairs in service of their prince and country, they might be able to use and to order all experiences, were they good, were they bad, and that according to the square, rule, and line of wisdom, learning, and virtue” (p. 238). “Italy and Rome,” he elsewhere says, “have been, to the great good of us that now live, the best breeders and bringers-up of the worthiest men, not only for wise speaking but also for welldoing in all civil affairs, that ever was in the world.” “Virtue once made that country mistress over all the world ; vice now

1 The saying of Erasmus may be applied to those schoolmasters who do not study philosophy and method as well as to young men : “Experience is the common schoolhouse of fools and ill men."

[ocr errors]

maketh that country slave to them that before were glad to serve it.” If we would avoid such a fate, we must train and discipline the young, so that they may “find pain in doing ill”; and if “to the goodness of nature be joined the wisdom of the teacher, in leading young wits into a right and plain way of learning, surely children kept up in God's fear, and governed by His grace, may most easily be brought well to serve God and their country both by virtue and wisdom” (p. 221). "The foundation of youth well set (as Plato doth say), the whole body of the commonwealth shall flourish thereafter."

VI. GYMNASTIC AND MUSIC. A man of Ascham's antique habit of thought was not likely to omit the Greek gymnastic out of his consideration. He urged that young gentlemen should “use and delight in all courtly exercises and gentlemanlike pastimes.” The Athenians, by making Apollo and Pallas “patrons of learning to their youth," meant that learning should always be mingled with honest mirth and comely exercises. “All pastimes joined with labour, used in open place and in daylight, containing either some fit exercise for war or some pleasant pastime for peace, be not only comely and decent, but also very necessary for a courtly gentleman to use." But it is in the Toxophilus that we find gymnastic as an element in education most strongly urged. He says there, “I heard a good husband at his book once say, that to omit study some time of the day and some time of the year, made as much for the increase of learning as to let the land lie sometime fallow maketh for the better increase of corn.” And he quotes Aristotle as saying, “that as rest is for labour and medicines for health, so is pastime at times for sad and weighty study.” For keen and able minds physical exercise was more necessary than for dull and plodding intelligences: “The best wits to learning" (he says in his Toxophilus) “must needs have much recreation and ceasing from their books, or else they mar themselves, when base and dumpish wits can never be hurt by continual study."

It was as pastime only that he advocated gymnastic. The Hellenic idea that gymnastic had itself a moral aim did not occur to Ascham. At the same time, he points out that some pastimes not only contribute more to the health of the body than others do, but are more conducive to morality, by being public and demanding labour of body. For Ascham, and indeed the Humanists generally, were practical believers in the old saying of Epicharmus, that God has sold virtue and many other good things to man in return for labour, and that amusement where there was no labour was hurtful to youth.

In his Toxophilus Ascham regrets that not more than one youth in six entering Cambridge can sing. He also deplores the decline of the practice of teaching the children of England "plain-song and prick-songs.” He evidently attaches a moral value to music-teaching, and on this point quotes Plato and Aristotle with approval. In the Cathedral grammar-schools prior to the Reformation the course of instruction almost always included singing. In fact the schools were often called "Song schools.” Ascham complains that only one in six could sing; how many Cambridge freshmen can sing to-day?

Ascham's aim, as we have seen, was the same as that of all the Humanists and we may say of all educational writers worth reading-the promotion of virtue and wisdom. In his Preface he says, “In the bringing up of youth there are three special points—truth of religion, honesty of living, and right order in learning. In which three ways


my poor children may walk.” The means whereby the end was to be obtained was literature, and the “criticism of life” which is embodied in literature. Literature furnished the materials with which the human mind was to be fed, as well as the vehicle of discipline. In the acquisition of literature, and in coming into personal contact with great and heroic examples,

i Music in parts.

the true moral discipline for youth consisted. The study of language, which specially belongs to boyhood, is the study of literature in its elements, and trains at every step the powers of perception, discrimination, and judgment, while laying the foundation for higher things.

Do not suppose that I have exhausted Ascham: this is a mere introduction to the study of him. Of his method, generally, we may say that it was a sound and sensible one. If followed, it would certainly give the intellectual and moral discipline at which he aimed, and remove those obstacles to learning which make it hateful to boys. He did not deal with the art of education on psychological principles. In his time there was no psychology. But a keen, vigorous, and sane mind like Ascham's could hit very near the mark without the formal machinery of philosophy

“He knew what's what, and that's as high
As metaphysic wit can fly.”

(Butler's Hudibras, pt i, canto 1, l. 149.) And what came of it all, so far as the practice of schools is concerned ? Nothing. And yet that staunch old Tory, Samuel Johnson (and not alone weak-headed "theorists” who have always been suspected of revolutionary proclivities), says that "it contains, perhaps, the best advice that was ever given for the study of languages." And Mr Quick tells us that Professor J. E. B. Mayor declares that “this book sets forth the only sound method of acquiring a dead language.” Had Ascham's own college (St John's, Cambridge) founded a lectureship on education, three hundred years ago, restricted to Quintilian and Ascham, the whole course of English education would have been powerfully influenced.

To return to Ascham himself: his characteristics, as revealed in his writings, appeared in his life. He was a pleasantmannered and a brave man, and called forth the affection as

« ForrigeFortsett »