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JOURNAL OF EDUCATION:
SPECIALLY DESIGNED AS A
Medium of Correspondence
HEADS OF TRAINING COLLEGES, PAROCHIAL CLERGYMEN, AND ALL
JOURNAL OF EDUCATION.
BELGIUM AND ITS SCHOOLS.
TO THE EDITOR OF "THE ENGLISH JOURNAL OF EDUCATION."
SIR,-There is scarcely an English tourist to whom the name of Belgium is not familiar. He has been accustomed to make it the highway to Germany and Italy. The great national railroad, which is to Belgium what the river St. Lawrence is to Canada, has brought before his eyes every one of its cities in succession. He knows the outline of Antwerp cathedral tower. He is as familiar with the façades of Brussels as with those of London; and could probably draw from memory a more spirited sketch of LES HALLES at Bruges, or the HOTEL DE VILLE at Louvain, than of Guildhall or the Mansion-house. He may, perhaps, have paused to wonder, where more perfunctory travellers have hurried on. He may have studied the magnificent house architecture of the middle ages, with which Flanders is enriched; or the various styles of wood-carving in the cathedrals; or the many battle-fields, from Courtray to Waterloo; the prodigality of splendour which dazzles one in the gorgeous groups of Rubens, or the purer grace of Vandyke. He has probably thought of the days when Bruges was the centre of European commerce, a sort of Manchester and Liverpool in one; or later, when the Bourse at Antwerp was crowded with the most opulent merchants of Christendom. Accustomed to historical parallel, he may have mused over the possible decay of the great marts of England. He may have pondered, whether Bristol and Manchester, Glasgow and London, will leave more splendid relics for the admiration of posterity than these cities of the past; whether a traveller, in the twenty-fifth century of the Christian era, will find them still prosperous, or vainly struggling against decline, or already counted among the things that are gone, as we count of Saragossa, Novgorod, and Venice.
But has he gone further in his inquiries and reflections? Has he entered at all into what we may call the PEOPLE of BELGIUM questions? Has he thought, how does this population get a living? Where and how were they educated? Is
VOL. VIII.-NO. I.
there any similarity between their condition, as to language, and that of the Welsh in the counties where the English and Old British tongues struggle for pre-eminence? He sees multitudes of Romish ecclesiastics in grave costume, reminding him of Valladolid and Seville, as though Belgium and Spain were still united; but does he ask, how far these ecclesiastics practically control the education of the people? Is their legitimate influence disowned, or are their claims exaggerated?
I confess that I have been as culpably ignorant as my neighbours concerning these important topics of investigation-a few specimens out of many. But I am determined not to continue so any longer. I will at least inquire. We see things in a broader horizon when we stand on the shoulders of our contemporaries. There are many People of England questions, which will be not the less easily solved by those who have made, like Uncle Toby, the march of the Low Countries.
I write from Brussels. That your readers may not be bewildered by too many subjects of discussion, permit me to confine my observations to the state of elementary education.
The schools of Belgium may be divided into three large classes: those in which the languages of Greece and Rome are taught as the principal means of mental discipline and enrichment; those in which prominence is given to science and commerce; and those which are purely elementary. I am not quite sure that you will allow the exact logic of this principle of division, but it will explain what I mean. The elementary schools may be subdivided again into three kinds :-The superior primary schools, occupying much the same relative position as middle or commercial schools in England, or the higher classes of a national school, in which there is a welltrained master ;-the primary schools, and the infant schools. There is another point of view in which these schools must be considered. I allude to their relations to the church and the state. Here they divide themselves into three kinds : those that are communal, and, so to speak, almost purely state schools; those that are mixed, as when a school of Christian Brothers receives help from the public purse; and those that are simply church schools,-as, for instance, the schools of the BRETHREN OF THE CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE.
In 1815, the kingdom of the Low Countries was erected as a rampart against France on the north. That was evidently the thought that guided the congress of Vienna; but whether any such feeling of hostility was entertained by the Belgian population is very problematical. The Dutch monarch appeared to these new subjects a strange compound. They said of him, that he loved liberty so much, that he would keep it all to
himself; and liberal philosophy so much, that he would give it, and nothing else, to his people. So that he fostered by his policy two implacable enemies in Belgium-the episcopate, to whom his philosophy was a detestable heresy; and the liberals, to whom his despotism was equally intolerable. For some years, the reaction caused by the horrors of the long wars of Napoleon kept these two parties quiet; lassitude, to them, was better than convulsion; but when a new generation arose, that had not personally suffered by revolutionary movements, they began to combine against the king. It was in vain that the political economists urged the national prosperity, caused by the union of seafaring Holland with handicraft Belgium. The original vice of that union was not effaced. The peace of Europe had lasted long enough to admit of the agitation of great social questions; and, as is always the case in times of peace, the moral questions put out of sight those that were merely material.
It was in 1828 that the two parties first formally developed themselves. The liberals professed themselves offended with the inequitable distribution of public honours and appointments. They inveighed against the manifest supremacy of Holland. Belgium, they said, so long the scene of heroic struggles for liberty, so rich in memories of patriotism from the earliest feudal times, must not, and shall not, be any longer the prey of a stranger. The Belgians are a religious people. The men are more constant attendants at church than in any other country of Europe, except Scotland and Holland. Consequently they revere their clergy, and from all one can hear the clergy deserve that reverence. It took a deeper tone, when they appeared as the persecuted champions of the national faith, against Dutch aggression. True or false, an impression was abroad that the king of Holland was bent upon large measures of proselytism. If the liberal party regarded their country as absorbed, the Roman Catholic party deemed their creed endangered. Such were the elements of the coalition against the royal sway of the House of Orange. It was formed of men who hated each other, but they forgot their differences on the neutral ground, where they met to strive for national independence. So that the Belgian Revolution which followed was at once Roman Catholic, Hierarchical, and Liberal. It is necessary to recognise this fact in order to understand the position of public instruction relative to the Church and the State. For some years the fires destined to consume the coalition of which we have spoken smouldered unseen. The Roman Catholic party helped forward every plan of popular reform. few liberals suspected that this spirit was subordinate to secret efforts after despotical power; but nothing transpired to