1902 Encyclopedia > Education > The Jesuits and Education

(Part 10)

The Jesuits and Education

The Protestant schools were now the best in Europe, and the monkish institutions were left to decay. Catholics would have remained behind in the race if it had not been for the Jesuits. Ignatius Loyola gave this direction to the order which he founded, and the programme of studies, which dates from the end of the 16th century, is in use, with certain modifications, in English Jesuit schools at the present day. In 1550 the first Jesuit school was opened in Germany; in 1700 the order possessed 612 colleges, 157 normal schools, 59 noviciates, 340 residences, 200 missions, 29 professed homes, and 24 universities. The college of Clermont had 3000 students in 1695.

Every Jesuit college was divided into two parts, the one for higher the other for lower education,—the studia superiora, and the studia inferiora. The studia inferiora, answering to the modern gymnasium, was divided into five classes. The first three were classes of grammar (rudiments), grammar (accidence), and syntax, the last two humanity and rhetoric. The motto of the schools was lege, scribe, loquere,—you must learn not only to read and write a dead language, but to talk. Purism was even more exaggerated than by Sturm. No word might be used which did not rest upon a special authority. The composition of Latin verses was strongly encouraged, and the performance of Latin plays. Greek was studied to some extent; mathematics, geography, music, and the mother tongues were neglected.

The studia superiora began with a philosophical course of two or three years. In the first year logic was taught, in the second the books of Aristotle De coelo, the first book De generatione, and the Meteorologica. In the third year the second book de generatione, the books de anima, and the Metaphysics. After the completion of the philosophical course the pupil studied theology for four years.

The Jesuits used to the full the great engine of emulation. Their classes were divided into two parts, Romans and Carthaginians; swords, shields, and lances hung on the walls, and were carried off in triumph as either party claimed the victory by a fortunate answer.

It would be unfair to deny the merits of the education of the Jesuits. Bacon speaks of them in more than one passage as the revivers of this most important art. Quum talis sis utinam noster esses. Descartes approved of their system; Chateaubriand regarded their suppression as a calamity to civilization and enlightenment. They were probably the first to bring the teacher into close connection with the taught. According to their ideal the teacher was neither inclosed in a cloister, secluded from his pupils, nor did he keep order by stamping, raving, and flogging. He was encouraged to apply his mind and soul to the mind and soul of his pupil; to study the nature, the disposition, the parents of his scholars; to follow nature as far as possible, or rather to lie in wait for it and discover its weak points, and where it could be most easily attacked.

Doubtless the Jesuits have shown a love, devotion, and self-sacrifice in education, which is worthy of the highest praise; no teacher who would compete with them can dare do less.

On the other hand, they are open to grave accusation. Their watchful care degenerated into surveillance, which lay-schools have borrowed from them; their study of nature has led them to confession and direction. They have tracked out the soul to its recesses, that they might slay it there, and generate another in its place; they educated each mind according to its powers, that it might be a more subservient tool to their own purposes. They taught the accomplishments which the world loves, but their chief object was to amuse the mind and stifle inquiry; they encouraged Latin verses, because they were a convenient plaything on which powers might be exercised which could have been better employed in understanding and discussing higher subjects; they were the patrons of school plays, of public prizes, declamations, examinations, and other exhibitions, in which the parents were more considered than the boys; they regarded the claims of education, not as a desire to be encouraged, but as a demand to be played with and propitiated; they gave the best education of their time in order to acquire confidence, but they became the chief obstacle to the improvement of education; they did not care for enlightenment, but only for the influence which they could derive from a supposed regard for enlightenment.

Whatever may have been the service of Jesuits in past times, we have little to hope for them in the improvement of education at present. Governments have, on the whole, acted wisely by checking and suppressing their colleges. The ratio studiorum is antiquated and difficult to reform. In 1831 it was brought more into accordance with modern ideas by Roothaan, the general of the order. Beckx his successor has, if anything, pursued a policy of retrogression. The Italian Government, in taking possession of Rome, found that the pupils of the Collegio Romano were far below the level of modern requirements. (O. B.)

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The above article was written by Oscar Browning, M.A.; Fellow and Tutor of King's College, Cambridge; University Lecturer in History; Examiner for University of London, 1899; author of Modern England, History of England, Life of George Eliot, and many historical monographs.

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