THE REALITIES OF LIFE.
“He fixed thee mid this dance
Of plastic circumstance,
This Present, thou, forsooth, wouldst fain arrest:
Machinery just meant
To give thy soul its bent,
Try thee and turn thee forth, sufficiently impressed.”
BROWNING, “Rabbi Ben Ezra.”
“Eh, Dieu! nous marchons trop en enfants—cela me fache!”
ST. JANE FRANCES DE CHANTAL.
One of the problems which beset school education, and especially education in boarding schools, is the difficulty of combining the good things it can give with the best preparation for after life. This preparation has to be made under circumstances which necessarily keep children away from many of the realities that have to be faced in the future.
To be a small member of a large organization has an excellent effect upon the mind. From the presence of numbers a certain dignity gathers round many things that would in themselves be insignificant. Ideas of corporate life with its obligations and responsibilities are gained. Honoured traditions and ideals are handed down if the school has a history and spirit of its own. There are impressive and solemn moments in the life of a large school which remain in the memory as something beautiful and great. The close of a year, with its retrospect and anticipation, its restrained emotion from the pathos which attends all endings and beginnings in life, fills even the younger children with some transient realization of the meaning of it all, and lifts them up to a dim sense of the significance of existence, while for the elder ones such days leave engraven upon the mind thoughts which can never be effaced. These deep impressions belong especially to old-established schools, and are bound up with their past, with their traditional tone, and the aims that are specially theirs. In this they cannot be rivalled. The school-room at home is always the school-room, it has no higher moods, no sentiment of its own.
There are diversities of gifts for school and for home education; for impressiveness a large school has the advantage. It is also, in general, better off in the quality of its teachers, and it can turn their rifts to better account. A modern governess would require to be a host in herself to supply the varied demands of a girl’s education, in the subjects to be taught, in companionship and personal influence, in the training of character, in watching over physical development, and even if she should possess in herself all that would be needed, there is the risk of “incompatibility of temperament” which makes a tete-a-tete life in the school-room trying on both sides. School has the advantage of bringing the influence of many minds to bear, so that it is rare that a child should pass through a school course without coming in contact with some who awaken and understand and influence her for good.