Chapter XIV. A Defensive Chapter

Our programme for the third scholastic year (1903-4) was as follows:

To promote the progressive evolution of childhood by avoiding all anachronistic practices, which are merely obstacles placed by the past to any real advance towards the future, is, in sum, the predominant aim of the Modern School. Neither dogmas nor systems, moulds which confine vitality to the narrow exigencies of a transitory form of society, will be taught. Only solutions approved by the facts, theories accepted by reason, and truths confirmed by evidence, shall be included in our lessons, so that each mind shall be trained to control a will, and truths shall irradiate the intelligence, and, when applied in practice, benefit the whole of humanity without any unworthy and disgraceful exclusiveness.

Two years of success are a sufficient guarantee to us. They prove, in the first place, the excellence of mixed education, the brilliant result — the triumph, we would almost say — of an elementary common sense over prejudice and tradition. As we think it advisable, especially that the child may know what is happening about it, that physical and natural science and hygiene should be taught, the Modern School will continue to have the services of Dr. de Buen and Dr. Vargas. They will lecture on alternate Sundays, from eleven to twelve, on their respective subjects in the school-room. These lectures will complete and further explain the classes in science held during the week.

It remains only to say that, always solicitous for the success of our work of reform, we have enriched our scholastic material by the acquisition of new collections which will at once assist the understanding and give an attractiveness to scientific knowledge; and that, as our rooms are now not large enough for the pupils, we have acquired other premises in order to have more room and give a favourable reply to the petitions for admission which we have received.

The publication of this programme attracted the attention of the reactionary press, as I said. In order to give them a proof of the logical strength of the position of the Modern School, I inserted the following article in the Bulletin:

Modern pedagogy, relieved of traditions and conventions, must raise itself to the height of the rational conception of man, the actual state of knowledge, and the consequent ideal of mankind. If from any cause whatever a different tendency is given to education, and the master does not do his duty, it would be just to describe him as an impostor; education must not be a means of dominating men for the advantage of their rulers. Unhappily, this is exactly what happens. Society is organised, not in response to a general need and for the realisation of an ideal, but as an institution with a strong determination to maintain its primitive forms, defending them vigorously against every reform, however reasonable it may be.

This element of immobility gives the ancient errors the character of sacred beliefs, invests them with great prestige and a dogmatic authority, and arouses conflicts and disturbances which deprive scientific truths of their due efficacy or keep them in suspense. Instead of being enabled to illumine the minds of all and realise themselves in institutions and customs of general utility, they are unhappily restricted to the sphere of a privileged few. The effect is that, as in the days of the Egyptian theocracy, there is an estoeric doctrine for the cultivated and an exoteric doctrine for the lower classes — the classes destined to labour, defence, and misery.

On this account we set aside the mystic and mythical doctrine, the domination and spread of which only befits the earlier ages of human history, and embrace scientific teaching, according to its evidence. This is at present restricted to the narrow sphere of the intellectuals, or is at the most accepted in secret by certain hypocrites who, so that their position may not be endangered, make a public profession of the contrary. Nothing could make this absurd atagonism clearer than the following parallel, in which we see the contrast between the imaginative dreams of the ignorant believer and the rational simplicity of the scientist: