Chapter XII. Sunday Lectures

The Modern School did not confine itself to the instruction of children. Without for a moment sacrificing its predominant character and its chief object, it also undertook the instruction of the people. We arranged a series of public lectures on Sundays, and they were attended by the pupils and other members of their families, and a large number of workers who were anxious to learn.

The earlier lectures were wanting in method and continuity, as we had to employ lecturers who were quite competent in regard to their own subjects, but gave each lecture without regard to what preceded or followed. On other occasions, when we had no lecturer, we substituted useful readings. The general public attended assiduously, and our advertisements in the Liberal press of the district were eagerly scanned.

In view of these results, and in order to encourage the disposition of the general public, I held a consultation with Dr. Andres Martinez Vargas and Dr. Odon de Buen, Professors at the Barcelona University on the subject of creating a popular university in the Modern School. In this the science which is given — or, rather, sold — by the State to a privileged few in the universities should be given gratuitously to the general public, by way of restitution, as every human being has a right to know, and science, which is produced by observers and workers of all ages and countries, ought not to be restricted to a class.

From that time the lectures became continuous and regular, having regard to the different branches of knowledge of the two lecturers. Dr. Martinez Vargas expounded physiology and hygiene, and Dr. Odon de Buen geography and natural science, on alternate Sundays, until we began to be persecuted. Their teaching was eagerly welcomed by the pupils of the Modern School, and the large audiences of mixed children and adults. One of the Liberal journals of Barcelona, in giving an account of the work, spoke of the function as “the scientific Mass.”

“The eternal light-haters, who maintain their privileges on the of the people, were greatly exasperated to see this centre of enlightenment shining so vigorously, and did not delay long to urge the authorities, who were at their disposal, to extinguish it brutally. For my part, I resolved to put the work oil the firmest foundation I could conceive.

I recall with the greatest pleasure that hour we devoted once a week to the confraternity of culture. I inaugurated the lectures on December 15, 1901, when Don. Ernesto Vendrell spoke of Hypatia as a martyr to the ideals of science and beauty, the victim of the fanatical Bishop Cyril of Alexandria. Other lectures were given on subsequent Sundays, as I said, until, on October 5, 1902, the lectures were organised in regular courses of science. On that day Dr. Andres Martinez Vargas, Professor of the Faculty of Medicine (child diseases) at Barcelona University, gave his first lecture. he dealt with the hygiene of the school, and expounded its principles in plain terms adapted to the minds of his hearers. Dr. Odon de Buen, Professor of the Faculty of Science, dealt with the usefulness of the study of natural history.

The press was generally in sympathy with the Modern School, but when the programme of the third scholastic year appeared some of the local journals, the Noticiero Universal and the Diario de Barcelona, broke out. Here is a passage that deserves recording as an illustration of the way in which conservative journals dealt with progressive subjects:

We have seen the prospectus of all educational centre established in this city, which professes to have nothing to do with “dogmas and systems.” It proposes to liberate everybody from “authoritarian dogmas, venerable sophisms, and ridiculous conventions.” It seems, to us that this means that the first thing, to do is to tell the boys and girls — it is a mixed school — that there is no God, an admirable way of forming good children, especially young women who are destined to be wives and mothers.

The writer continues in this ironical manner for some time, and ends as follows:

This school has the support of a professor of Natural Science (Dr. Odon de Buen) and another of the Faculty of Medicine. We do not name the latter, as there may be some mistake in including him among the men who lend their Support to such a work.

These insidious clerical attacks were answered by the anti-clerical journals of Barcelona at the time.