The Child Part 2

But the good bishop, ever since he was ordained a simple priest, would seem to have devoted no little time and his best thoughts to the education of childhood and youth; and the schools which he has succeeded in establishing in his own diocese have, we believe, been eminently successful, and are doing great good.  He evidently, like all noble and generous souls, like all truly good men, loves children.  He loves and respects the child, and has diligently studied his nature, knows perfectly his good and his bad, his qualities and defects, and understands the art of developing the one and correcting the other, and training him up to wisdom and virtue, for the great end for which he has been created.  His estimate of the child is very high, his confidence in the child is very great, and his belief in the power of education would seem to be unlimited.  Perhaps he believes too much in the power of education, and exacts from it more than it can give, which is one of the tendencies of our times.  Education, with all submission to the eminent author, has its limits, and cannot accomplish everything.  It has no creative power, and can only exercise, guide, and direct what is born in the child.  It has no sacramental power, and cannot, without the sacraments, the operations of the Holy Ghost, raise the child to the practice of those supernatural virtues without which the natural virtues avail nothing towards gaining the true end of man.

The bishop's views of what education is and should be are very high and very just, but the education he proposes requires either a Dupanloup or a Fenelon to superintend it.  For the immense majority of parents and pedagogues it seems to us wholly impracticable.  To carry it out would require the whole attention and labor of society, and nothing could be attended to by anybody but the education of children and youth.  Yet the volume is full of valuable hints and suggestions to parents and teachers, which, if heeded, cannot fail to render education much more effective than it usually is.  The author is right in presenting authority and respect as the fundamental principles to be observed in educating.  The educator must respect the child, and exercise authority over him; but the great difficulty with most parents and teachers is, that they lack authority and fail to respect the child.  If they govern at all, it is by force, or the rod generally used without discretion, by caprice, or in ill-temper, and without the respect due to the nature and dignity of the child.  The honor of the child should always be consulted and preserved.  Few things shock us more than to see a boy arraigned before his schoolmates and shamed, and his schoolmates encouraged to laugh at or ridicule him.  It either breaks his spirit and renders him mean and servile, or sours his temper, hardens his heart, and extinguishes every noble and manly sentiment, and renders him indifferent to his conduct and insensible to honor.  The difficulty with parents in governing their children is that they do not or cannot govern themselves.  Especially is this the case with our American mothers.  The mass of those employed in teaching whether public or private schools, have no natural aptitude for their calling, and little or no heart in it.  The best-conducted schools we are personally acquainted with, after those conducted by the religious, whose vocation is the training of the young, are the public schools of New England and New York, to which is ascribed, we are sorry to see in our so-called Catholic press, the growing immorality of the country.  This is unjust and untrue.  The public schools do not themselves cause the deplorable immorality becoming so general in our countrymen.  It is not they that breed the swarms of street Arabs that infest our cities.  The most we can say of these schools is that they are powerless to prevent it, since, destitute of all religion, or, having only a sectarian religion, they are impotent to check the evil which springs from the depravity of human nature.  Yet, so far as our experience goes, the boys who attend the public schools are rather more moral, exteriorly at least, than those that frequent our parochial schools.  The reason of this is, that we have not competent and trained teachers, and cannot procure them.  Our bishops, fort the most part, disapprove the public schools, because our religion is excluded from them: and we are bound by their authority, and, of course, hold with them that an education that is not based on religion is not sufficient for the morality of any people; yet we do not believe that Catholic children, if they have nay Catholic home-training, are in much danger of losing their faith by attending the public schools.