International Exposition of Paris 1867

Agriculture, Industry and Fine Arts

April 1, 1867 - November 3, 1867


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Public education - Royal Saxony

Public education - Royal Saxony at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1867

Switzerland is the cradle of pedagogy; but Germany is the classical land, the true breeding ground.

It can be said, without any compliment or epigram, that every German contains within him the germ of a pedagogue.

Beyond the Rhine, the school is in greater honour than in any other country in the world. In the cities, in the towns and in the smallest districts, it is regarded as a branch of the family.

The smallest teacher is a figure of honour, and better still, an authority. In the esteem of all, he is the indispensable auxiliary of the pastor of each canton.

It is understandable that schoolmasters are somewhat proud of the respect universally attached to their title and their functions, but if they exaggerate their importance as a result of the importance attributed to them and accorded to them, it must be recognised that all of them are constantly working to make themselves more and more worthy of the esteem in which they are held.

The prosperity of their school and the progress of their pupils are their only concern and their only ambition. Always in search of a more expeditious method, of procedures which make the children's work easier and the results more assured, they are constantly modifying and improving their teaching, and adopting with as much intelligence as zeal any procedure capable of leading their pupils still more rapidly to the goal which they want them to attain.
Here we can only do the German teachers a well-deserved justice: although many of them live only with great difficulty from their school, all of them live solely and exclusively for it; they shut themselves up in it, they concentrate on it, they devote all their ardour to it, and spend all their time and all their strength for its benefit: the consideration with which they are surrounded is therefore only the just reward for a laborious life, all of devotion and self-denial.
But it is understandable that a teacher should have a very high idea of the importance of his mission, and that he should sacrifice himself to it, in a country where the school is the object of everyone's attention and solicitude, where, as M. Baudouin says in his magnificent book, "The school is the object of everyone's attention and solicitude. Baudouin, in his magnificent report on education in Germany, says that the most eminent persons and the greatest ladies devote their time, their wealth and their experience to it, that the first writers write books for the smallest children, and that poets compose verses for gymnastics and singing lessons which the most illustrious composers do not disdain to set to music.

In Germany, everyone is convinced that to take care of the education of youth is to fulfil a personal duty and to work for the future of the country, and in this no one is mistaken: the whole country has therefore acclaimed the law which requires that every child be sent to school from the age of six, and obliged to attend it for eight consecutive years.

Every year, each pastor in his parish takes a count from the pulpit of the children who have entered their sixth year, and then hands the list over to the chairman of the supervisory committee, which compels all the families in his district to submit to compulsory schooling.

No German has ever thought of seeing in this measure and in the law making education compulsory, a violation of his rights and an attack on the freedom of the father of the family; and if there are any who refuse to understand that they are as strictly bound to give their children the nourishment of the spirit as that of the body, they are exposed to the penalties of fines and even imprisonment decreed by the law.

What cries would not be raised by an inhabitant of Saint-Flour or Landerneau, if the Legislative Body, exaggerating the noble instructions of M. Duruy, obliged him, by a law, to send his children to school for eight years, and declared him, in the event of refusal, liable to a fine of 10, 20 or 30 francs, and for the fact of obstinacy or recidivism, to a fortnight or a month in prison!

The good German people find this very just and wise, and yet freedom is no less dear to them than to us, but they understand that it is prudent to regulate the exercise of it when it may be detrimental to the interests of all.

Of all the German states, Saxony is one of those most distinguished by the zeal it brings to extending its education and to administering its schools well.

Although this small kingdom has only 2 million inhabitants, it has established 2,000 elementary schools where 165,000 boys and 167,000 girls are taught by 3,600 teachers; it has also founded 75 advanced or Sunday schools, which are attended by 8,000 pupils.

This is what Saxony has done for the people, and it is difficult for a small state to do better and more.

The kingdom is divided into a number of school districts, and every town, every village, every isolated farm and every single dwelling is part of a particular district.

No one can evade or escape the law: willingly or unwillingly, children must learn to read, write and count; not a single boy or girl would be found there unable to sign his or her marriage certificate; while a dismal statistic, drawn up by order of the Minister of Public Instruction, shows us, in France, a host of cantons where 60 men and 80 women out of every 100 cannot read or write.

M. Duruy, who, with patriotic intent, thought it necessary to point out such an evil, is working with all his efforts to reduce it; but how long will it take him to make it disappear and accomplish his work? Why has he not been allowed to bring about the heroic remedy he proposed? But our legislators, out of some inexplicable scruple, refused him their assistance; they did not understand that by not wishing to interfere with paternal authority and by fearing to infringe upon the freedom of heads of families, they were implicitly decreeing the indefinite ignorance of a million children.

Let us return to Saxony.

In one of the most modest buildings erected in the Park, near the entrance gate of the Military School, all the objects in use in the various categories of schools in the kingdom have been brought together and classified; books of religious instruction, methods of reading, models of calligraphy, treatises on history and geography, physics and natural history, theoretical and practical guides to gymnastics, calculating machines, tables, maps, geometrical figures, collections of minerals, everything is here. The didactic treatises exposed, which are all the works of the most distinguished professors and scholars of Germany, form a true classical encyclopedia, as curious as it is complete. Nothing is missing that can be used to enlighten the mind, to correct the judgment, to extend and strengthen the intelligence.

But in this pedagogical exhibition, what attracts the eyes and fixes the attention particularly, it is the model in relief of the gymnasium of Dresden, its apparatuses, its various instruments, finally of its complete tooling.

As exercises should not be interrupted any more than other studies, and as in Germany the education of the mind and the body are carried on at the same time, there are two gymnasiums in one, an open-air gymnasium and a closed gymnasium, where the teachers give their lessons alternately.

Enlarge by thought the very accurate and faithful reduction which you have before you, and you will form a just idea of the importance of this great and magnificent establishment.

It was only after 1812 that gymnastics was introduced into Germany. Some teachers, attracted to Switzerland by Pestalozzi's reputation, studied it under his direction in the gardens of the castle he lived in at Yverdun. The practical side of the illustrious master's science charmed them; initiated into his spirit and his doctrine, they brought back to Germany all the instruments he had devised. It is from their return that the first gymnasiums were created in Prussia and Saxony. Gymnastics, successively adopted by the various establishments of public instruction, is today an essential part of school education, and is everywhere methodically and regularly taught.

This science has, like all others, made rapid progress: its marvellous results have demonstrated its hygienic importance; doctors have made a happy application of it to the laws of therapeutics, and instruments have been successively devised to impart a particular action to each part of the body.

It is now generally accepted in Germany that gymnastics is no less effective in developing and strengthening the various faculties of the mind than in strengthening the organs of the body and increasing the energy of the vital properties.

This is a truth which, let us hope, will no longer have a contradiction in France.

©L'Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée