From the foregoing it will be seen that within the last 130 years a striking change has come over the views held respecting education. Prior to that time an artificial and pedantic method prevailed, which received its first check from the pen of Rousseau. The system which he attacked, however, built up as it was upon centuries of mediaeval learning, was not to be disposed of by this one encounter. Such a result was not to be expected in the natural order of things; but as the ideas of Rousseau contained the living truth, they were bound to find advocacy in due course, and though the seed might lie quiescent for a time, yet it was sure to germinate sooner or later. After him the path of educational reform was illumined by the genius of Pestalozzi, and a few years later Froebel appeared to influence for ever the methods of education.
Indeed, it was the latter who by his Kindergarten system has founded the practical education of our own day.
The vast change, then, along the whole line of education has been from scholastic learning towards that of education in manual training. This is the truest recognition of the fact that the purpose of education is to prepare a child for his journey through life, and not merely to get him ready for an examination; but although the meaning of education has thus become more apparent, there is still too much a tendency in the present day to burden the developing mind with a multiplicity of subjects. We do not wish to produce a living encyclopaedia, but we desire to create a being, well trained in all his senses, and thoroughly competent to take his part in the battle of life. Far be it from imagining that I decry the advantages of learning in the slightest degree, but surely there is the broadest distinction between a scholastic prodigy and a practical well-informed mortal.
This exaggeration of the function of education expressed by the word multiplicity deserves a little consideration, for it would appear that our educationists overlook the fact that the organism with which they have to deal is going through the most critical period of its existence. At the very time that children are rapidly undergoing the process of physical development, there is superadded the acquirement of elaborate mental knowledge, and when bone and muscle and sinew are in the active processes of transformation and growth, then it is that the intellectual faculties are spurred on at a killing pace. The child leaves school in the afternoon with a load of home lessons to be prepared for the following day. The very meaning of the word school has become distorted; instead of being a medium for imparting instruction, it threatens to become merely a building in which the lessons learned at home overnight are heard, and besides this, if the school is thus to become simply a place for hearing lessons, the office of schoolmaster must correspondingly suffer. This. I hope will never be, for it would at once take away all personality from the teacher, and transmute him into a mere auditory machine. His individuality would become lost in the official, and teaching as teaching resolve itself into a stereotyped function; and this latter consideration leads me to remark that one man has the gift of imparting knowledge, in which another fails entirely. One instructor has a way of putting things so that they are retained in the memory of his pupils for ever, while another so fails to express himself that not one clear idea is carried away by his hearers.
The chief purpose of education should be the preparation of the young for their adult life. As Agesilaus the Great observed when one asked him what boys should learn : "That," said he, "which they shall use when men." But the future of the two sexes differs entirely after school life is over. It will follow, therefore, that there should be an essential difference between the education required for the boy and that for the girl. In our present day system of education, however, there is too much a disposition to make no such distinction. The boy in the greater number of cases is the bread-winner, and has to rely on his own exertions, whether they be manual or mental. The girl, on the other hand, looks forward to the destiny of housewife. This aspect of the educational problem certainly deserves to have more attention paid to it than it has yet received. Still a step in the right direction has been made by James Platt, the author of many valuable works on currency, finance, etc, who advocates that business habits and kindred matters should be taught to all youths. Of course it is not intended that the sole object of education should be the principles of money making, but at the same time there is a considerable amount of truth in his contention. But the chief purpose I have in view is to advocate a thorough and systematic teaching of Cookery to girls. In the remaining part of this chapter, therefore, I shall endeavour to bring forward reasons in support of my proposition.