The choice of teachers was another point of great difficulty. The tracing of a programme of rational instruction once accomplished, it remained to choose teachers who were competent to carry it out, and I found that in fact no such persons existed. We were to illustrate once more that a need creates its own organs.
Certainly there were plenty of teachers. reaching, though not very lucrative, is a profession by which a man can support himself. There is not a universal truth in the popular proverb which says of an unfortunate man: “He is hungrier than a schoolmaster.” The truth is that in many parts of Spain the Schoolmaster forms part of the local governing clique, with the priest, the doctor, the shopkeeper and the moneylender (who is often one of the richest men in the place, though he contributes least to its welfare). The master receives a municipal salary, and has a certain influence which may at times secure material advantages. In larger towns the master, if he is not content with his salary, may give lessons in private schools, where, in accord with the provincial institute, he prepares young men for the University. Even if he does not obtain a position of distinction, he lives as well as the generality of his fellow townsmen.
There are, moreover, teachers in what are called “secular schools” — a name imported from France, where it arose because the schooling was formerly exclusively clerical and conducted by religious bodies. This is not the case in Spain; however Christian the teaching is, it is always given by lay masters. However, the Spanish lay teachers, inspired by sentiments of free thought and political radicalism, were rather anti-Catholic and anti-clerical than Rationalist, in the best sense of the word.
Professional teachers have to undergo a special preparation for the task of imparting scientific and rational instruction. This is difficult in all cases, and is sometimes rendered impossible by the difficulties caused by habits of routine. On the other hand, those who had no paedagogical experience, and offered themselves for the work out of pure enthusiasm for the idea, stood in even greater need of preparatory study. The solution of the problem was very difficult, because there was no other place but the rational school itself for making this preparation.
The excellence of the system saved us. Once the Modern School had been established by private initiative, with a firm determination to be guided by the ideal, the difficulties began to disappear. Every dogmatic imposition was detected and rejected, every excursion or deviation in the direction of metaphysics was at once abandoned, and experience gradually formed a new and salutary pædagogical science This was due, not merely to my zeal and vigilance, but to my earnest teachers, and to some extent to the naive expressions of the pupils themselves. We may certainly say that if a need creates an organ, the organ speedily meets the need.
Nevertheless, In order to complete my work, I established a Rationalist Normal School for the education of teachers, under the direction of an experienced master and with the co-operation of the teachers in the Modern School. In this a number of young people of both sexes were trained, and they worked excellently until the despotic authorities, yielding to our obscure and powerful enemies, put a stop to our work, and flattered themselves that they had destroyed it for ever.