CHINA’S ONLY HOPE

CHAPTER III THE ESTABLISHMENT OF SCHOOLS

This year, at the special examinations in Peking, it was found that only a very few could pass, This was because the themes for the essays were different from the old regime; and although the [candidates had prepared themselves sufficiently, as they thought, on these subjects, still their papers did not meet the approval of the Emperor, last year an Imperial decree ordered the establishment of schools in each province of China, but the time allotted for the accomplishment of [this was too limited to collect the requisite funds and students, and the plan only partially succeeded. It was something like a workman seeking [for wood when he had not even planted trees, or man seeking for fish when he had not dug the pool.

The expense of going abroad for study is necessarily heavy, hence the students are few; and we have pointed out the necessity of grounding all Chinese in native literature before allowing them to leave the country. How much more feasible it would be to establish schools on a large scale in China! Let us plant them in every province, circuit, prefecture, department, and magistracy. Universities in the provincial capitals and Peking, colleges in the prefectural cities, and high schools in the districts, projected on the graded system with the understanding that the lower institutions can be advanced to a higher order by private subscription. Let the curriculum of the high schools be the Four Books, native geography and history (abridged), arithmetic, geometry, and the elements of science; that of the colleges, the higher branches with the Five Classics, the Tung Kien[20] government, foreign languages, and literature; and that of the universities of a still higher grade.

To the question, “Where will the money and means to launch such a scheme come from ? ” we reply: Convert the present shu yuen[21] into these educational institutions. We do not need both. If in some places these are poorly equipped, or meanly endowed, the benevolent institutions will serve the purpose, and the money that is now used for idol processions, theatrical exhibitions, and clan ancestral halls, can be put into the school fund. Other objectors may say that these funds would still be insufficient. We reply: Then convert the temples and monasteries of the Buddhists and Taoists into schools. To-day these exist in myriads. Every important city has more than a hundred. Temple lands and incomes are in most cases attached to them. If all these are appropriated to educational purposes, we guarantee plenty of money and means to carry out the plan. This could be done very well at the present time. The temples, etc., really belong to the people who contributed to their establishment. Buddhism and Taoism are decaying, and cannot long exist, whilst the Western religion is flourishing and making progress every day. Buddhism is on its last legs, and Taoism is discouraged, because its devils have become irresponsive and inefficacious. If there be a renaissance of Confucianism, China will be brought to order and Buddhism and Taoism will receive secure protection from the Sect of the Learned. We suggest that seven temples with their land, etc., out of every ten be appropriated to educational purposes. The Emperor can satisfy the ousted priests by the bestowal of distinctions and rewards upon themselves, or official rank upon their relatives. By these means our schools will spring up by the tens of thousands, and after their utility has been demonstrated, the affluent gentry will doubtless come forward with subscriptions for a more extended educational enterprise.

The dismantling of Buddhist temples has occurred three times in the history of China (in A.D. 440, 627 and 846) . This was done because the priests refused to pay taxes, and because it was desirable to advance Taoism. It was effected for private ends. Our plan is for the public good; it will call out the latent ability of our scholars, and the priests will be consoled with the titles. If the gentry of each province will take the matter up seriously and make a well-considered report to the Emperor, we are certain that His Majesty will approve.

In establishing these schools there are five important factors:

First. — The old and new must both be taught; by the old is meant the Four Books, the Five Classics, history, government, and geography of China; by the new. Western government, science, and history. Both are imperative, but we repeat that the old is to form the basis and the new is for practical purposes.

Second. — The comparative study of governments and science, colleges, geography, political economy, customs, taxes, military regulations, laws, and expositions come under the head of Western government. Mathematics, mining, therapeutics, sound, light, chemistry, and electricity are classed under Western science.[22] The farther advanced classes should take up government, and the lower classes, science. In the high schools science should first be taught, then government. In the colleges and universities, government first and then science. A special course in science cannot be completed under ten years. The elements of government, etc., can be acquired in three years. On the whole, a knowledge of government is more necessary than a knowledge of science if we are to save the country; but the student of government should acquire some knowledge of science in order to carry on the government.

Third. — We must teach the young. Let the course of study be adapted to the qualifications of the student. Pupils with bright minds should learn mathematics; those with a good perspective sense, drawing; those with inventive powers, mechanics, chemistry, and manufactures; those with a clear pronunciation, languages; and those of robust frame, athletics. It will be difficult for men of middle age and above to take a thorough course.

Fourth, — Abolish the eight-legged essay. Let the new learning be the test of scholarship, but include the Classics, history, geography, and government of China in the examinations. The true essay will then come out. If so desired, the eight-legged essays can be studied at home; but why trouble the school with them and at the same time waste time and strength that can be expended in something more profitable?

Fifth. — Abolish the scramble for money. Students in foreign institutions are required to pay! their own board and tuition. Salaries are never paid to them. The custom of paying the students, which obtains in our Chinese schools, was originally good in the intention to aid the indigent. It was, however, mistaken policy, for many students now come merely for the loaves and fishes and create a deal of trouble if their demands are not satisfied. This class of men are devoid of understanding, and their malpractices tend to overturn the school system. The abuse of this benevolent scheme of eleemosynary education has entailed literary piracy, plagiarism, and the production of pseudonymous essays. Thus an originally good principle has been abused by sordid motives.

We cannot adopt the foreign plan at once, but can change our old methods of giving stipends to students, provide only board and tuition, and grade them according to the Northern Sung system, with prizes for the best. We are sure this method will grow in popular favor as soon as its advantages are perceived, and that profitable knowledge and useful acquirements will abound more and more. We need not feel discouraged if there is a dearth of efficient teachers for these institutions at the outset. This difficulty will soon be obviated. This year there are numberless books which treat of foreign subjects being published in Shanghai. Any man of understanding can, by the use of these, equip himself in three months to teach in the high schools. In a couple of years the colleges will graduate men who are also qualified to teach. The faculties of the universities will perhaps be incomplete at first, but a few good men in each province can be found who will serve for three years, when there will be an abundance of useful literature and consequently better equipped instructors. There need be no fear on this score.

If it is found impossible to establish schools on such an extensive scale at once, let those who feel so inclined form educational associations for mutual help. Chinese literary men hold to the old custom of establishing societies for various ends. There are the ” Essay Clubs,” the benevolent institutions for freeing living creatures and respecting written paper, the ” Poetic Associations,” the “Convivial Clubs,” “Chess Clubs,” and “Domino Clubs.” Who could object to forming Educational associations that would benefit the people and shape the destiny of the country? The ancients tended swine in the fields and traded on the streets; still they thoroughly learned the Classics. Cannot our wealthy people who have capacious houses and a wealth of literary matter imitate their illustrious example and learn too? Begin with two or three schools and gradually increase the number to ten, then to a hundred. If a few of them become interested in the matter, their influence for good will be felt far and wide. Formerly Yuen Poh of the Lu Kingdom perished because he was unwilling to learn, and Keu Chien of Yueh flourished by reason of ten years of instruction. The fate of China depends upon the literati alone.

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