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A School Without Books

A School Without Books

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Excerpt from A School Without Books: Or Educational Handiwork for Home and Schoolroom

The value of manual occupation for children has long been recognized. Vet on introducing manual work into communities where it has never before been taught, many pupils are apt to consider it a degradation of school work proper, and maintain an injured air when asked to work a visible, material problem, by making a box; as though their dignity was injured by descending to the handling of "base matter." But give them the same thing in abstract numbers, and they feel that they have something

worthy of their thought. They would doubtless be surprised to be told that such sentiments are the relics of paganism and bigotry: yet to prove it so, we have only to study the education of the past. During the reign of paganism the masses were kept in ignorance; education was reserved for the few - the patrician class. All pagan religions were simply the most popular systems of philosophy, the prominent feature in them all being the exaltation of the spiritual, which they were pleased to conceive as immaterial, and the consequent degradation of the material. In Kingsley's "Hypatia" the central thought of pagan philosophy is expressed when she says of the soul: "It is but a little time, a few days longer in this prison-house of our degradation, and each thing shall return to its own fountain. - the blood drop to the abysmal heart, and the water to the river, and the river to the shining sea, and the dewdrop which fell from heaven shall return to heaven again, shaking off the dust grains which held it down, thawed from the earth-frost which chained it here to herb and sward, upward and upward ever, through stars and suns, through gods and parents of gods, purer and purer through successive lives till it enters 'The Nothing' which is 'The All,' and finds its home at last!" Poor dewdrop! it excites one's sympathy to think of its weary wanderings to find the joys of nothingness!

The prevailing sentiment could but debase and relegate to the attention of servants, everything that pertained to the care and sustenance of these "prison-houses of our degradation." Such religious sentiment naturally stamped the education of the day, leaving all manual occupations to the attention of the unlearned, as pertaining to base material, and giving an education to the upper classes which dealt almost wholly with the abstract, cultivating the imagination; poetry, art, rhetoric, higher mathematics, and philosophy being the sum of the required knowledge of the day.

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