The league of teaching
Second article – see previous issue
Regarding the article that we published about the league of teaching, we received the following letter from Mr. Macé, its founder, that we believe to be our duty to publish. If we have set out the grounds on which we base the restrictive opinion that we expressed, it is entirely fair to publish the author's explanations.
“Beblenheim, March 5th, 1867.
Mr. Ed. Vauchez communicates to me what you have said about the league of teaching in the Spiritist Review, and I take the liberty of sending you, not an answer to be published in your Revue, but some personal explanations about the goalthat I am pursuing, and the plan that I have outlined. I would be happy if they could dispel the scruples that hold you back and rally you to a project that does not have, at least in my mind, the vagueness that you saw in it. It is a matter of bringing together, in each locality, all those who feel ready to act as citizens, by personally contributing to the development of public education around them. Each group will necessarily have to make its own program, for the extent of their action is necessarily determined by their means of action.
There, it was quite impossible for me to specify anything; but the nature of that action, the fundamental point, I specified it in the clearest and most distinct way: To carry out pure and simple education, apart from any concern of sect and of party; this is a first uniform article, written in advance as the heading of all flyers; there is where the moral unity is going to be. Any circle that would infringe it would automatically exit the league. You are, I have no doubt, too loyal not to agree that there will not be room for any disappointment, after this, when it comes to the execution. There could be no disappointment except from those who entered the league with the secret hope of making it serve the success of a particular opinion: they are warned.
As for the intentions that the author of the project himself might have, and the trust that should be put on him, allow me to stick to an answer I already gave once to a suspicion expressed in the Annals of Labor, that I ask you to be aware of. It addresses a doubt about my liberal tendencies; it might as well address the doubts that might arise in other minds, as to the trustworthiness of my declaration of neutrality.
I dare to hope, Sir, that these explanations will appear sufficiently clear to you to modify your first impression, and that you will think it right, if so, to tell your readers. Every good citizen owes the support of their personal influence to what they recognize as useful, and I feel so convinced of the usefulness of our League project, that it seems impossible to me that it could escape such an experimented Spirit, like yours.
Receive, Sir, my very cordial and fraternal greetings.
To this letter, Mr. Macé was kind enough to attach the issue of the Annals of Labor, where the answer mentioned above can be found, and that we reproduce in full:
“Beblenheim, January 4th, 1867
The objection that has been made to you relative to a possible modification of my liberal ideas, and consequently, to the danger, also possible, of a bad direction given to the teaching of the League, such objection seems distressing to me, and I ask your permission to reply to those who brought it up to you, not for what concerns me - I consider it useless - but for the honor of my idea that they did not understand. The League does not teach anything, and it will have no direction to give; it is, therefore, superfluous to worry now about the liberal opinions of whoever seeks to found it.
I appeal to all those who take to heart the development of education in their country and who wish to work with that, either by teaching others, or by learning themselves. I invite them to join forces at all points of the territory; to act as citizens, fighting ignorance, with their purse, and in person, what is even better; to chase down, man to man, the bad fathers who do not send their children to school; to shame comrades that cannot read or write, and to remind them that there is always time; to put the book and the pen in their hand, if necessary, improvising teachers, each one on what they know; to create courses and libraries, for the benefit of the ignorant that wishes to stop being ignorant; to form, finally, throughout France, a single bundle to lend each other mutual support against enemy influences - there is, unfortunately, in a supposedly dangerous elevation in the intellectual level of the people.
If all this happen, please tell me, in which disturbing sense could this universal movement be led by anyone? If, for example, the workers in Paris organize themselves in societies of intellectual culture, like those that exist by the hundreds in the German towns, and of which Mr. Edouard Pfeiffer, the President of the Association of Education of the People of Württemberg, explained the operation in such an interesting way, in the issue of Cooperation of last September 30th; that if, in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, in the Temple district, in Montmartre, in Batignolles, groups of workers, that joined the League, gottogether to give each other, on certain days, educational evenings with teachers of good will, or even paid, why not?
English and German workers do not deny themselves such luxury – I would like to know what the doctrines of a professor of young ladies, who teaches in Beblenheim, and that has no desire to change students, won't these people be at home? Will they have permissions to ask me for?
It is not that I am defending myself from having a doctrine, in matters of popular education. I have one, definitely; without that, I wouldn't have allowed to place myself as the head of a movement like this. Here it is, as I have just formulated it, in the Directory of the Association of 1867. It is the very denial of any direction "in such and such a direction, rather than in another" to use the expression of those that are not entirely sure of myself, and I declare ready to put at its service all that I can have of personal authority - I am not afraid to speak about it, because I am aware that I have earned it legally:
Preaching to the ignorant, one way or another, does nothing and does not advance him. He then remains at the mercy of contrary preaching and does not know much more than before. If he learns what those who preach to him know, that is quite something else, for he will be able to preach to himself, and those who would fear that he would become a bad preacher, can do so in advance. Education does not have two ways of affecting those who have it. If they find it good for themselves, why not render the same service to others?
If your “foreign” correspondents know a more liberal way of understanding the question of popular education, please let me know. I do not know any.
P.S.: You ask me to answer a question, that was addressed to you, on the future destination of the sums subscribed to the League.
The subscription, currently open, is intended to cover the costs of propaganda of the project. I will publish in each bulletin, as I have just done in the first one, the balance statement of payments and expenditures, and I will render the expense report, with supporting documents, to the commission that will be appointed for this purpose, in the first general assembly.
When the League is formed, the use of the annual dues will have to be determined - at least that is my opinion - within the membership groups that are formed. Each group would determine, by itself, the share it should pay to the general fund of propaganda of the undertaking, that would also include contributions from members who did not consider it proper to join a special group.