1902 Encyclopedia > Education > Michel de Montaigne (1533-92). John Locke (1632-1704).

(Part 11)

Michel de Montaigne (1533-92). John Locke (1632-1704).

It may be imagined that, by this organization both Catholics and Protestants were apt to degenerate into pedantry, both in name and purpose. The schoolmaster had a great deal too much the best of it. The Latin school was tabulated and organized until every half hour of a boy’s time was occupied; the Jesuit school took posses-sion of the pupil body and soul. It was, therefore, to be expected that a stand should be made for common sense in the direction of practice rather than theory, of wisdom instead of learning. Montaigne has left us the most delightful utterances about education.

Michel de Montaigne image

Michel de Montaigne
French essayist

He says that the faults of the education of his day consist in over-estimating the intellect and rejecting morality, in exaggerating memory and depreciating useful knowledge. He recommends a tutor who should draw out the pupil’s own power and originality, to teach how to live well and to die well, to enforce a lesson by practice, to put the mother tongue before foreign tongues, to teach all manly exercises, to educate the perfect man. Away with force and compulsion, with severity and the rod.

John Locke, more than a hundred years afterwards, made a more powerful and systematic attack upon useless knowledge. His theory of the origin of ideas led him to assign great importance to education, while his knowledge of the operations of the human mind lends a special value to his advice.

His treatise has received in England more attention than it deserves, partly because we have so few books written upon the subject on which he treats. Part of his advice is useless at the present day; part it would be well to follow, or at any rate to consider seriously, especially his condemnation of repetition by heart as a means of strengthening the memory, and of Latin verses and themes.

He sets before himself the production of the man, a sound mind in a sound body. His knowledge of medicine gives great value to his advice on the earliest education, although he probably exaggerates the benefits of enforced hardships. He recommends home education without harshness or severity of discipline. Emulation is to be the chief spring of action; knowledge is far less valuable than a well-trained mind. He prizes that knowledge most which fits a man for the duties of the world, speaking languages, accounts, history, law, logic, rhetoric, natural philosophy. He inculcates the importance of drawing, dancing, riding, fencing, and trades.

The part of his advice which made most impression upon his contemporaries was the teaching of reading and arithmetic by well-considered games, the discouragement of an undue compulsion and punishment, and the teaching of language without the drudgery of grammar. In these respects he has undoubtedly anticipated modern discoveries. He is a strong advocate for home education under a private tutor, and his bitterness against public schools is as vehement as that of Cowper.

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