Carlyle uses Lancastrian machines, Hamiltonian machines, and monitors, maps and emblems as examples of mechanical education. He asserts that the Victorians pursued education uni-dimensionally, discounting the human mind as a source of knowledge in itself.
Carlyle coined the term "Lancastrian machines" to refer to the monitorial educational system that Joseph Lancaster and Andrew Bell independently invented around the same time. Designed to make education more affordable, the monitorial system, also called the mutual instruction system, was based on the principle that placing students with different academic capabilities in the same classes would make schools more efficient (Shaw, 1-20.) The Lancastrian systemÕs characteristically large class sizes were supposed streamline education by minimizing the number of teachers, but the system actually detracted from the studentsÕ learning experience by depriving them of close instruction. The more advanced students did not, as Lancaster had supposed, bring up the entire level of the class, nullifying the need for more teachers.
The failure of this circular educational system supports CarlyleÕs thesis that his contemporaries overlooked much of the worldÕs wisdom in their preoccupation with machinery. Lancaster assumed that he could substitute system for teachers. However, the smethodÕs failure proves the supremacy of a hands-on human approach to education.
James Hamilton, born in Dublin in 1769, developed a language education system based on the idea that languages should be presented in their entirety rather than in isolated grammatical structures. From the first lesson, HamiltonÕs students had to read texts in English and compare them with the same texts in translation (Berclouw, 96.) He studied German in this manner with his teacher, the French immigrant General DÕAngeli while living in Germany as a young man. In 1816, Hamilton traveled to Philadelphia, where he gave lectures on this educational philosophy, which he adopted as his own. He lived and taught at various Universities in the United States and Canada, and eventually returned to Britain where he continued to teach. Over the course of his travels, he published many books that contained the same story written twice, once in English and once in another language. The lines of text alternated by language so that the readers could view the translation as they made their way through the book. Although the Hamiltonian system was a very efficient method of teaching language, it came under the criticism of some entrenched educationalists who complained of its unorthodoxy. However, some respected critics, such as Sydney Smith, who published an article about Hamilton in the Edinburgh Review, defended him. Ultimately, HamiltonÕs contributions had a major impact on language education (Wroth and Haigh.)
By listing Hamiltonian machines as another example of mechanization in education, Carlyle apparently focuses on the efficiency of HamiltonÕs system. By reading HamiltonÕs books, students could essentially teach themselves, so that, as was the goal of the Lancastrian schools, professors were less in demand. Therefore, HamiltonÕs books, in CarlyleÕs view, replaced human instruction, thus di mechanizing education.
Collectively, monitors, maps and emblems exemplify mechanical infrastructure. Joseph LancasterÕs charter was the map and monitor for the Lancastrian (or monitorial) school system, and James Hamilton. In this way, machinery absorbed the original purposes of these institutions. Monitors, maps and emblems instruct people and funnel them along, often along a path that the machinery itself defines.
Berclouw, Marja E. Perfection, Progress and Evolution: A Study in the History of Ideas. Thesis. La Trobe UNiversity, 2002. [online version] Australian Digital Theses Program. 9 April 2009.
Shaw, Benjamin. Brief Description of the Principles and Details of the Lancastrian System of Education: Interspersed with Remarks on its Progress and Effects. Ser. 2. Philadeliphia: Early American Imprints, 1817.
W. W. Wroth, ÔHamilton, James (1769Ð1829)Õ, rev. John D. Haigh, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. 12 April 2009.
Last modified 2 April 2009