« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
PAPERS FOR THE SCHOOLMASTER.
MARCH 1, 1851.
Our Periodical, which introduces itself under the title of "Papers for the Schoolmaster," was originally undertaken with the view of expounding the system of moral and intellectual training adopted at the practising schools connected with one of the Normal Institutions. A less pretending title was then assumed, descriptive of its more limited object of assisting those Masters, who were exhibiting such a system, in advancing their professional skill. If a wider sphere of usefulness is now attempted, the alteration of plan is to be attributed to the advice of one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Schools, and not to any presumption on the part of those who have undertaken the conduct of this work. Unquestionably the work of a Master of an Elementary School is one of such peculiar difficulty, arising from a multitude of circumstances, that skill in arresting the attention, gaining the affections, and controlling the moral qualities, is of the utmost moment. In schools of a higher grade the influence of parents, the expectation of future reward, the shame of ignorance, serve as powerful auxiliaries to the preceptor which are mainly wanting to the Master of the Parochial School. He has to deal with unreflecting parents, indifferent children, the evil of home influence, and of a fitful and miserably abridged term of attendance at school. Those who entertain fears of over-educating the children of the poor should estimate the results of all the advantages which they would be able to bestow upon their own children, if their term of school attendance were to end at 11 or 12. How much of Latin verse or Roman History would they be found to retain at 25? Let them contrast the disadvantages of the poor child whose attendance at school is for ever interrupted, because his services are needed to nurse a sick brother, or to carry a message or his father's meal to some distant acres. He is not one of a small class, but of a school which the poverty of their friends requires to be overcrowded by children of every age and every variety of temper and attainment, all to be taught, controlled and educated by the same over-taxed mind. It is such facts as these that must convince the reflecting mind that the Master of the popular school needs a tact and a degree of skill which is of higher importance than mere scholarship, which indeed is to him only so far valuable as a truly educated mind is more familiar with the principles of the matter he teaches, and more capable of reducing it to the capacity of his charge.
With these convictions upon our mind, and with the sincere desire of doing service to the cause of popular and Christian education, and of strengthening the hands of the earnest and hard-working master, we now launch our boat upon a broader sea than we at first contemplated. We may still have fears lest storms may arise to cut us off from our desired haven, but at least it shall be our care that our vessel shall be sea worthy ond our freight profitable. Our hopes of her sea-worthiness depends upon the old but well-seasoned timber of England's Church, and the cargo shall be the riches gathered from the storehouse of Truth. We shall not sympathise with those who are jealous of the present efforts to spread information among, and to cultivate the minds of, the working classes, but it will be our especial care to do our part towards throwing through the woof of popular education, the golden thread of religious principle. In a word, we shall vindicate to the term Education all the comprehensiveness which its etymology justly claims. We shall protest against all imperfect views as tending to produce a partial and dangerous development of that compound being-Man. To constitute a healthy whole, each of the threefold elements-body, mind, and spirit-must have their powers unfolded, if their possessor is to fulfil the mission to which his Maker has called him. To strengthen the muscles oi the physical system, and to consign the mental to the condition of its original infancy, can never accord with the Divine purpose, while to neglect the culture of the soul is to be guilty of an error infinitely more fatal. The education which limits its prospects to the present life is empirical, while that alone deserves this holy name which recognises in its purposes the interests of eternity. Christianity itself is but another name for real education-despising no suitable means, but sanctifying them all.
But while our pages will be open to the discussion of any abstract principle involved in the theory of education, our principal business. will be with its practice. Little has yet been done in this country; the very idea of allowing to the labouring classes any claim to its benefits being modern. Until the last half-century no funds were available for their education, nor did either the Legislature or the public cherish any sympathy with their condition. Necessity being a fruitful parent of resources, two philanthropists, Dr. Bell and Dr. Lancaster, adopted the inexpensive method of teaching reading and writing to a crowded school by one master through the monitorial system. Their plan was tested with considerable éclat, though little, as might be expected, was done to train the children in moral discipline. That little success did accrue, we fear, must in some measure be attributed to the jealousy and consequent rivalry of contending denominations, rather than to any conviction derived as to the
value of education or the adequacy of the monitorial system to the end in view. With such elements of the School Executive, headed by an ignorant Dominie, assisted by some little urchins, whose moral courage was never known to be proof to either bribe or threat, we need not be surprised that disappointment was the result. The Legislature had done little to further the work, except by small grants in aid of erecting school-houses, as if a workshop could of itself elaborate an article of manufacture, or a hive produce its own honey. It is true that successive Cabinets have propounded schemes of a national character, but the religious provisions were such as to excite the jealousies of the Church and of Dissent. At length the Minutes of 1846 were published, which contained a scheme admirably adapted to draw out the zeal of separate denominations without trespassing upon their distinctive creeds. Scarcely five years have passed, and though the advocates of a purely secular system evince impatience, and threaten the Government with a counter scheme more rapid and extensive in its application, the result of the working of the present system has proved it to be the production of a mind thoroughly conversant with the present attitude of parties and all the difficulties of the case.
The National Society has also been another instrument employed for the raising of funds, which have been devoted to the erection of school-buildings, and the support of Normal Institutions.
The British and Foreign School Society has much improved the Lancasterian method, and has done good service by the publication of a series of original books eminently adapted both in manner and style to elementary objects.
The Home and Colonial Society is distinguished by the prominent importance which it has attached to the Normal or professional department. The students, who are exclusively female, or married men, are made conversant with a definite series of progressive lessons upon the plan of Pestalozzi, presented to the eye by the aid of pictures. Very able instruction is imparted upon the science of dealing with the human mind in its earliest development. This Society was originally instituted with the view of supplying teachers to Infant Schools.
But the most important contributions, we conceive, towards a system calculated to train the intellectual and moral faculties of the child have been made by an eminent philanthropist, Mr. Stow, a merchant of Glasgow, who having continued to expend a large property during the years while his system was under experiment, has the satisfaction of witnessing its adoption by the Free Church of Scotland, the Wesleyan body, and more or less by the Church of England. In short, there is scarcely any community, which adopts