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being made up of substances having nothing in commonthat earth, iron, stone, air, water, animal and vegetable, as things having no single element of the same kind in their several compositions --- not having the slightest idea that all the infinite varieties of the material world around us are only different compounds of a few simple elements, that the mind should be able to correct this impression by seeing a few of these substances taken to pieces by experiment, their simple elements tested, and shown to be the same in each, is of itself good, and opens out a train of thinking which in some may lead to most important results, by calling into use those faculties of the mind which God has given them.
The workman who is acquainted with the facts in science connected with his occupation, becomes less of a machine than the one who is ignorant of them, is every way more useful to his employer, and is himself a happier and a better man; and it is acknowledged that the better educated workmen of all countries are distinguished by superior moral habits in every respect--they are more sober and discreet, and their enjoyments are of a more rational kind.
Of the necessity of an improvement in their social habits among the labouring classes of this country, whether mining, agricultural, or manufacturing, no one can doubt. The Report of the Rev. H. Mosely on the State of Education in the Midland Districts for the year 1846, addressed to the Council on Education, discloses many features in the character of the mining population in and about Bilston, and which belong to other mining districts, that one cannot read it without great interest; but it is an interest of a very painful kind.
The habits of life which prevail among this population, and their social condition, as seen in the description of the Bilston market, in an appendix to the Report, are most instructive, as to the effect of ignorance upon a labouring community earning high wages — ignorance, as Mr. Mosely says, carried out into action; and adds, “whenever ignorance is associated with 'high wages,' they will, I believe, become, as they are here, a curse ;” and the Report goes on to say, “rude as these men are in their manners, and wholly uneducated, yet when the opportunity has been afforded them, they have shewn themselves capable of deriving pleasure from other than sensual gratifications and low pursuits."*
From the Report which has lately been published on the * The opportunity alluded to was a course of winter lectures, established for their benefit by the Rev. J. B. Owen, the incumbent, an account of which, in a letter of Mr. Owen's in the Appendix to Mr. Moseley's Reports, is well deserving the attention of those more particularly who are engaged in education in populous districts.
State of Education in Wales, there is one thing which appears very remarkable, independent of the lamentable state of ignorance which seems generally to prevail, which is this; that in those districts where the people seem to have a very considerable knowledge of Scripture, the state of their morals is of the lowest and most degrading kind :— in this the evidence of the clergy of all denominations seems to agree, Something of the same kind I have myself observed in the south of England, and it is by no means an uncommon thing to find in some, nay, I should say in many of that class, an aversion to their children being taught anything of a secular kind — as if secular instruction partook in some measure of the nature of sin : this is no doubt a state of gross ignorance greatly to be pitied, and which will in the end be corrected by the influence of a better educated class, which is rising up among them ; but the singular and almost unaccountable part of it is, that this apparent knowledge of Scripture should have so little influence on their moral conduct; that it should never enter into their minds, or, if it does, they do no not regard it, that Scripture truths are intended as rules of life; whether the sort of familiarity which they have with Scripture phrases, and the constant habit of interweaving them into their conversation, can have led to this I do not know, but such is the fact.
Nor is this even in England confined to the labouring class ; there are many in the class above them to whom the same remarks would extend. A man who gravely tells you, “I does the best I can to get an honest living," and perhaps quotes some texts in Scripture to support his views, at the same time knowing that the very principle upon which he acts towards those whom he employs makes it almost impossible for them to do so, cannot be said to make the proper application of his religious knowledge.
I observed another thing in the same Report, of a more cheering kind, that it had occurred to some of the Educational Committees, to combine the education of the middle and the lower classes ; and that in this way funds might be raised for proper education. One would suppose that the social state of most of the districts in Wales, the number of small farmers, tradesmen, etc., would be particularly favourable to such views, and that, if worked out as they ought to be, they could scarcely fail of success,
The present Bishop of Sodor and Man* thinking this well calculated for the state of society there, is endeavouring to introduce it throughout the island; and it appears from a Report lately made by Mr. Moseley to the Council on Educa
* Now Bishop of Bath and Wells,
tion, that some plan of the kind had been thought of by the good Bishop Wilson, for whose memory the inhabitants retain so lively an affection, that its renewal now will be received with the greater interest. The general feeling in favour of education, as shown by “the framework," as Mr. Moseley terms it, in their laws regarding schools, and in the feelings of all classes in favour of it, dispose one to think that these matters have been much more cared for there than with us; perhaps their vicinity to Scotland, and a knowledge of its schoolsystem, may have led to it. In their present position, and with the Minutes of Council to assist them in their poverty, they have all the elements of success.
An important feature in the Somborne School, and one §2 /2/2/2/2řēģtiffiỘ2ņătitămâ§âtimtiò►ÂÂ2Ò22m2/tiffiū2 22\/\/22Òti22 and of schoolmasters, is the amount of payments both for schooling and for books; this arises from the union of the children of different classes, also from many children coming from the smaller neighbouring parishes.
This amount of payment, both in a moral and in a pecuniary point of view, is important, and one in the success of which the schoolmaster is deeply interested — his improved social position almost entirely depends upon it; and if the better class of schoolmasters will reflect upon this in all its bearings, they will see how much their success in life depends upon their acquirements, and their capabilities of teaching being equal to the want of the middle, as well as of the labouring classes.
What is wanted in our rural districts, is an improvement in the quality as well as in the quantity of instruction, and the mere extension of the Sunday-school to week-day teaching is not sufficient; but to attempt anything beyond an improved dame's school, or one fit for the younger children, is, in very small parishes, on account of the expense, a thing manifestly impracticable; nor, in fact, would it be necessary with the class of schools I am advocating, numerously spread about the country, and to which the bigger children in the small parishes would resort. In this way I am thoroughly persuaded an improved system of education may be worked out, of a very high character, almost self-paying, and which would in a few years have a firm hold on the public mind.
Nor should it be said, that in order to effect this, individuals can do little ; on the contrary, they may do a great deal, — every school of an effective kind, conducted in such a way as to gain a footing for education in a neighbourhood, is of immense importance, whether it is the result of an individual effort, or not. It is good, not only as regards the locality in which the school is, but good as an example practically worked out, and which has much more influence than a thing merely carried out on paper. Example is better than precept. Every one who reflects will see, that perfect and general plans of education must, like most things of human contrivance, rise gradually, and cannot, in a country where opinion is so much divided as in this, be at once established.
Let the farmer and the tradesman weigh well in their minds what they will save upon each child educated at the parish school, and the kind of education he will get- let the landlord consider the interest he has in bringing a cheap education within the reach of his tenants, and how much they would rise in respectability as a class, by being better educatedand let both classes consider the mutual duties, and the moral obligations they are under to improve the condition of the labourer, both physical and moral ; and if all would reflect in this way, the progress of education and of sanitary measures would meet with less difficulty than they have hitherto done, and would very soon be felt both a benefit and a source of increased happiness to all classes of the community.
The rising generation of schoolmasters must not judge of the future from the past : hitherto they have been ill paid and little thought of; but very often this has arisen from their being ill qualified for the duties they had to perform : as an honest old dame said to one of the inspectors, “It is but little they pays me, but then it is but little I teaches 'em.” In many cases, in such parishes as have a schoolmaster, he has been appointed, not from any fitness for the office, but because he had failed in everything else, or some labourer able to read and write, was made schoolmaster to keep him from the parish. The schoolmaster may rest assured of this, that the better he is qualified for his situation, the more he will make society feel his worth; and instead of appointing the worst men who can be found, as the rate-payers of a parish, when they have had a voice in the matter, have been apt to do, both labourer and employer will unite and struggle to get the best schoolmaster they can—the best qualified in every respect, and one who will make the importance of his office felt, by the better education he is diffusing among them.
Although much depends on the schoolmaster in the success of a school, yet much depends also on the books which are introduced : owing to a deficiency of these, and to a want of a fitting apparatus, etc., many of the schoolmasters have no chance of success; and I would observe here, that it is almost impossible to overrate the importance of introducing the system of the children buying their school-books, the result of which is, that every fireside becomes a school.
In the selection of these, there should be no prejudices as to their being published by this or that Society: there are
many which are good, published by them all; and I have introduced here some of the Christian Knowledge Society, of the Irish National Board, and of the British and Foreign Schools. It has been found that the children in some of the lower Reading Books have them almost by heart, so that it is really necessary to introduce a more extensive range of reading, and add to their stock of knowledge.
I am aware that prejudices have hitherto existed, more - particularly in my own profession, with regard to the books published by the British and Foreign Schools; and this has greatly hindered a more extensive use of them. Now, as a set of educational books in secular instruction for our elementary schools, they are very good --- not only good in substance as to the reading lessons, but they contain also excellent hints, which will be found most useful to the teachers. The only fault I find with them is the price, and the Committee would do great service to the cause of education if they could reduce them about 25 per cent., which I have no doubt would be made up by the increased sale. Those I introduced here were Nos. 2 and 4; the price of the former is 9d., and it is the only book which has been sold in the school below the cost price, and which has only been done to the children of the labourer.*
Arnott, in the Introduction to his Physics, speaking of a set of books of education in science, says — “ To have all the perfections of which they are susceptible, they can be looked for only from academies of science, or from an association of learned men; and even then, they cannot be compiled by each individual taking a distinct part or parts, but by the parts being undertaken conjointly by several persons, so that he who conceives most happily for students may sketch, he who is learned may amplify, he who is correct may purge, he who is tasteful may beautify,” etc. The composition of this Book of Nature (as he calls it), he adds, “ might be a worthy object of rivalry between nations." What might not be done for education by a set of books adapted to our elementary schools, and got up on this principle, and how worthy such an object is of the attention of our most talented men !
Now that extreme opinions on all sides are tempered down, it is to be hoped that prejudices and jealousies will die away, and that all will unite in supporting the present plan for the advancement of education. Although it may not be the best according to their own ideas, yet it certainly unites in its favour a great part of the common sense of the nation ; and will, if carried out in singleness of purpose, work better in practice than those who, from mere theory, have been opposed to it, are led to expect.
* They have, since this was written, been reduced in price.