Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

cure for the child premature admission to those places of toil where it can, as a child, get no good, and must be fortunate, indeed, if it does not get much harm alike to its body, mind, and soul. There is no remedy for this afflicting evil, but in education. Laws will prove, as laws have proved, but sorry preventives, and, it may be, even stumbling blocks to parental virtue. We must enlighten our working population-above all, we must educate the future mothers of the industrious classes. I am fully aware that nothing can make up for the want of a domestic training. The mother is the best teacher of the daughter in all that concerns the future duties of that daughter in her own home. And I must declare it a most unnatural condition of society, when an influence is wanting which was designed of Providence to prepare females for the offices of domestic life; when a mother, instead of discharging the most sacred obligations in forming her girl's mind, heart, and character, in training her gently by her own example to skill in the several operations which family comfort requires—is either ignorant or scarcely half taught herself, or away from her home, engaged in making money, which rarely under the circumstances, very rarely conduces to happiness. Still, though we cannot replace, we may do something to supply a mother's care. It is the duty of the girl's school. And here too the principles should be studiously kept in view which I laid down respecting general popular education, and the questions must be—what does it most concern a girl to know ?what will she have to do? what will open out and expand with the increase of her duties, interests, and wants? In addition to the requirements I have already made-I say in addition, for certainly the education of the female ought in no wise to be inferior to that of the male—in addition, then, our girls' school must teach, and that not by rote but by practice and experience, the practical arts of domestic life—sewing, knitting, making and mending, baking, brewing, together with cooking; nor only this, it must train its inmates to personal neatness and propriety, to command their temper, to regulate their passions, to know and feel the importance of their actual and their coming duties; besides training them to habits of thrift, industry, and gentleness. And since it is obvious that the mind of a child does not and cannot open to many of the duties of the woman, there should be institutions to receive the children when they leave the school.-Institutions so ordered that their hours and discipline may be suited to young women engaged in manual labour, and presided over by matrons whose character would be a guarantee that all should be done which could be done, to bring up the pupils for a wise and efficient discharge of their most important future obligations. This matter is one of vital interest to the working man. It is of small consequence what his earnings are, what his own habits at the first, what his own intelligence, if he has not a well-disposed, thrifty, and clever partner; without this, other advantages fail of much of their effect; his resources are squandered, his own habits vitiated; that intelligence which ought to have been the light of his home, as well as of his own mind, shows him only too strikingly the deficiencies of his wife and the extent of neglect which his children suffer; and beyond question, in the ordinary course of things, the last state of that man, and of that family, is worse, incomparably worse, than the first. No one, then, has so deep an interest in the proper education and training of the female portion of our industrious population, as the working man himself; and could the privations and afflictions which domestic ignorance inflicts upon him but too often, make him feel the impulses of a true benevolence towards the coming generation, he would think nothing of any small sacrifice he might have to make, in order to save his own sons and daughters from a heritage so mournful as his own. Most fervently do I wish we could see these generous impulses in active operation. It is not a small misfortune for the working classes that they have had their characters undermined by charity, and having thus lost no small portion of genuine independence, have been led to look to a stranger's hand for a supply of some of their highest wants, nor least of the means of education for their children. Would that there was no need of charity amongst them! Charity has, I know, its advantages, but the advantages of a manly independence are far superior. I want to see the working man stand erect in the full consciousness of his own earthly self-sufficiency, stand erect modestly, but firmly in his own bright hearth, with his partner and his little ones around him; and beholding their comfort and happiness, be able to say—“ they eat not the bread of idleness or charity, they are not children of the charity-school, they wear the degrading badge of no party; their bodies I have fed and clothed; their minds I have had instructed out of the sweat of my brow; their hearts I will strive to form to the love of God and man, and then I trust in their turn, they will be able to provide for themselves and theirs in their own homes and owe no one any thing but good will !” And I must be allowed to think, that an education provided by the parents themselves would, in time, under wise and benevolent advice and aid, prove the best education our youthful poor could receive. It is a good general principle that each class can best make provision for its own wants. They best know what these wants are, can in

general devise the best means for supplying them, and certainly will be most faithful in the operations which result. And my first wish is, that the education of their children should be taken in hand by the working classes themselves—or at least that this should be steadily aimed at in whatever plans may be adopted; at all events may it be the final result of the efforts of the friends of education. That it is the duty of the parent to provide for the education of his child cannot be questioned. It is a duty which ranks second only to that of providing them with sustenance and clothing. It is a most sacred obligation. His own happiness, the happiness of his own flesh and blood, and the welfare of his country, are involved in it. It is a duty from which nothing but absolute want can exonerate him; and well may those who neglect it, who prefer selfish pleasures, public amusements, the agitations of politics, schemes of general usefulness—any phantom, or even any second-rate reality-who prefer these to the education of their children, well may they, at least they ought to, feel bitter compunction. And that they possess some ability for the purpose cannot be denied—perhaps a greater amount of ability than they themselves can imagine. At any rate, is it impossible for a parent to devote some hours on the Sunday, as well to the improvement of his children, as his own improvement ? Could not one half hour be given each evening to the work ? Even in cases where the parent can neither read nor write, he or she-both indeed-can inform the minds and train the hearts of their young ones as to their duties, interests, and hopes; what they should seek, what they should shun, and what frame of mind will best promote their welfare. Moreover, few, comparatively, are the families where a sufficient portion of the income might not be spared and set aside as school-money; and thus by individual exertion much might be done for the education of the youthful poor. But I am now brought to ANOTHER REQUISITE, and to the suggestion of the introduction into education of a principle which has been found efficacious in many other things—I mean the principle of association. I want the people in the main to rely on their own resources. If effectual aid come from other quarters, they will not be the worse off for making the effort; but should foreign assistance be withheld, they will have placed their hopes on a good foundation. Now it is not by any means the least valuable part of the information which the educational committee have supplied, that for the very sums of money which the people now expend in procuring a bad education-an education which is really no education--they might under judicious arrangements, secure a truly useful and permanently valuable system of training for their children. The total cost of educating 11,6:24 children of both sexes in the dame and common schools of Manchester has been calculated by Dr. Kay to amount to £17,398. 28., whereas the total outlay which he contemplates for all the 25,000 children in Manchester, who require a good education, would be £18,600; that is to say, a good system would educate 25,000 children for £1,202. 183. more than is now expended in a most defective and unworthy education for 11,624; the number of children is more than doubled, the expense increased by only one-seventeenth. I must, however, in fairness say, that I think Dr. Kay has underrated the expense which would attend on a good and efficient system of education. In a matter of this sort frugality may prove waste. It is enough to know that a large sum of money is expended by the working classes for which they have at present no adequate return, and that the same sum, if well laid out, would effect very much, if not all that they require. Let those whose children do not frequent school, and who therefore contribute nothing to the sums which Dr. Kay has taken into his calculations, let those parents pay their portion, and thus take steps for securing an education for their children, and little will remain for government to do, at least in our towns and cities. From these remarks it will be gathered that I am of opinion that parents have the ability to provide the pecuniary means for the proper education of their children. Such, undoubtedly, is my opinion. There may be exceptions. The hand-loom weavers are, I am afraid, too poor to be able to part with any of their most scanty resources. And bad times will affect others—but speaking in general terms, the people possess the means, I hope they also have the will, and require but to be aided in the way.

Self-supporting dispensaries are beginning to prevail ; and with my views of the evils which a system of charity engenders, I cannot do otherwise than wish them God's speed. The plan is for a number of families to unite together, and contribute the means by which they and theirs may be furnished with medical aid in time of need. Why cannot the same plan be adopted in education? The working classes have already in existence many associated bodies, which might easily and most beneficially undertake the needful arrangements. Nor is it a disparagement of any of their existing objects to say, that to concern themselves in their societies, unions, and clubs, about the education of their children, would be more useful, and more conducive to the extension of their liberties, and the furtherance of their welfare, as a class, than many a plan which may now engage their affections. Or if it is useless to look to these quarters for the introduction of the efficiency of Association into popular education, then where can be the difficulty of forming local unions for the purpose ? Few localities are without some person of superior enlightenment, from whom the germ might go forth-who by a little exertion might associate together a sufficient number of families for the purpose of providing out of their own resources means for the education of their children. Indeed the very principle exists already, though in no very satisfactory state, in “sick and burial clubs.” Now, how painful is the thought, that a provision is made on the plan of mutual help, for replacing a child's earnings, and consigning its body to the earth, in case of sickness or death—but none for its life, its mind, its characterfor that, in short, which, should the child live, that and that only which will make life worth having. The reader will already have become aware that I am not a friend to large schools. One hundred boys are too many for a master and an assistant. Let us, however, say one hundred. Now, on an average, perhaps, every family would supply at least two children requiring education. Fifty families, then, would form a school union. Let sixpence a week be paid for each child; that is, one shilling a week by each head of a family. Let it be compulsory that this should be paid during the year; and a certain income of fifty shillings a week, or one laundred and thirty pounds a year, would be secured. Let this not be thought too much. It is bad thrift indeed to pay your educators ill. But for the guaranteed salary of one hundred and thirty pounds a year, a competent master would in time be secured, who should make his own arrangements for procuring an assistant, which in all cases should be considered indispensable. But whence, I may be asked, are school-rooms, play-grounds, and school apparatus to come ? I should like to have the experiment made, for I am of opinion that the salary I have named would do much to bring every needful auxiliary. Few localities, at least in our towns, are without some large rooms which might be turned to account; and then, are there not the rooms in which Sunday schools are taught—the greater part left unoccupied during at least one hundred and sixty hours of the one hundred and sixty-eight of which every week consists. Nor can I think it impossible for the working classes themselves, by proper organization, to have school-rooms erected where none already exist. Sure I am, if funds could be advanced under suitable regulations, the people would soon be able to repay them out of the savings which might ensue, from transacting in these rooms the business of their clubs and unions, instead of resorting, as they now generally do, to the public-house, where all have to pay a rent, not the less extravagant because it is indirect, and

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »