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“ Thomas Bennett.-Went for a year and a half to the Free School in Perry-street. But they never larnt me nothing. Never got beyond a, b, ab, and words in two syllables.
“ James Stamp.-Went to a Sunday School and National School in. Brick Lane. Can read, but cannot write. Used to do a little summing. Thinks there may be forty pence in 5s.
“ Thomas Bath.-Cannot read or write. Went for a year to a Charity School.
“ W. Burton.-Went to a National School. There were 500 children there. Cannot read or write.” *
The little benefit which results to these children from attendance upon the National Schools, is in part to be accounted for by the fact that they seldom remain there for more than a few months. This appears from the examination of the schools in many large towns, as well as from the following evidence given before the Committee.
“ The fluctuation of scholars is very great indeed, so great, that in many schools there are as many admissions in the year as there are scholars on the books.”—J. C. Wigram, p. 77.
There can, however, be no doubt that the children would remain longer if the education they received were better. There is much evidence extant to prove that the parents often take them away because they make no progress; and we find in several cases that even the bribe of gratuitous clothing to all who have attended for a year or eighteen months, is insufficient to retain the scholars for that length of time. I In the evidence of Mr. Wigram we have the following singular admission :
“ 749.-Do you not think that the poor are very willing to go to a considerable expense in the education of their children, when that is not simply or wholly of a moral and religious character, but is also of a secular character, so that it brings an immediate return in the opportunities that it gives to the advancement of the children in future life; for instance, where writing is taught, do you not find that the parents are willing to make larger contributions ?-Very much so;-and in many of our schools we carry the writing out to a greater extent than we might otherwise think necessary, for the sake of retaining the scholars under our discipline for a greater length of time.”
British and Foreign, or Lancasterian Schools.—Most of the previous remarks will apply to these schools, as, though generally
* Schools for Industrial Classes, p. 24. Also p. 46, 47.
+ Reports of the Manchester Statistical Society Schools for the Industrial Classes, p. 18, 20. See the Bury Report.
conducted with superior activity and on a less exclusive system, they have many of the pervading faults of their great rivals. In the great majority of them no secular instruction is given, beyond the mechanical arts of reading, writing, and arithmetic, and the children rarely remain a year even in the best schools.* According to the statement of the Secretary, confirmed by other evidence, the Bible is the general and only school book.t This plan, which is pursued both in the National and Lancasterian schools, of making a text book and primer of the Bible, of connecting the sacred volume in the scholar's mind with the recollection of intolerable drudgery, and constant punishment is one which cannot be too strongly reprobated, or too soon abandoned. The Bible is not only the worst book out of which spelling and reading can be taught, but making it a spelling book, is the worst use to which the Bible can be put. It appears also in evidence, though this degree of folly seems almost incredible, that the Scriptures are used as a task book, and that it is a common punishment “ to compel a child to learn a certain portion of the Scriptures by heart, by which means his dislike to them is confirmed.” I
“ 1350.- They learn their lessons out of the Bible, do they ?-Yes ; and I have met with many instances in which I found that had a bad effect. I asked one man the other day, 'can you read ?' Yes,' he replied, “I learned to read the Bible at school, but I dinna like to read it now. Another, who said he could read, I asked if he could read the Bible ? He said “No, I dinna want to read that any more. I asked • what is your objection to the Bible ?' he replied, “I read it backwards and forwards when I was at school.'”
“1214.—The York report says, and your attention is particularly directed to this,) · The Bible (or parts of it) is the general book from which the Alphabet is learned, amid much flagellation and many tears.' Is that correct?—It is correct.”
“ 1215.—Do not you feel convinced, from your own observation, that such a use of Scripture must tend to give a child a dislike to it?-I am fully satisfied that it has that effect, both from my own observation, and from the constitution of the human mind.”
The other fundamental error, common to both Societies, and incidental to the nature of their schools, is the too extensive employment of the Monitorial System. This is now allowed on all hands to be carried further than is at all desirable. It is, in fact,
* Evidence of Henry Dunn, p. 49.
† Ditto, p. 58. Evidence, p. 125. Š Evidence, questions 661, 783, 919, 920. Reports by the Manchester Statistical Society.
simply a device for enabling a master to have under his care more children than he can possibly do justice to. Its cheapness is its only recommendation. It gives to the scholars a very imperfect and merely mechanical instruction, and checks the progress of the Monitors themselves.* Many of the schools conducted on this system contain from 200 to 500 children, under the care of a single master. In such cases as this the sole instruction these children receive must be from the Monitors, who are generally children little older and little more advanced than themselves, as it is not possible that the Master should give to each child, individually, the smallest portion of his attention. Although five minutes of explanation, in the shape of familiar conversation with a child, would help it over many difficulties, the time cannot be given; for five minutes to each child, would, where there are 300 children, require the Master to spend 25 hours a-day in school instead of six. In numbers of these schools the case, however, is much worse; the Master leaves the whole of the scholars, with the exception of one or two of the more advanced classes, to the exclusive instruction of the Monitors, and often neglects them altogether.
“ Another evil,” says the intelligent individual we have so often quoted, “ arises out of the abuse of the power given to monitors. It leads to favouritism, bribery, and corruption, to an extraordinary extent. Nearly all the children we have examined from the Bell and Lancasterian Schools, concur in the statement, that it is necessary to win the favour of the Monitors by presents of apples, cakes, and halfpence.”+
Very strong testimony as to the defects of the Monitorial System is also given by Mr. Wood (Evidence, questions 1324, et seq.). Indeed, no evidence is required to prove that children can give to children no instruction whatever, beyond what is merely alphabetical; and that under this baneful system the quickening of the intellect, the awakening of the powers of thought and observation, all moral training, and all the more valuable objects of education, are totally neglected, or even counteracted.
Now what after all are, in the majority of cases,f the results of education at these two classes of schools, which we are in the habit of hearing so generally eulogised, and of which the Parliamentary Committee thinks so highly, that it would con
* Schools for Industrial Classes, p. 23.
+ Schools for Industrial Classes, p. 23. Also Evidence, question 1221. York Report, p. 14.
i Ofcourse there are some admirably conducted Schools connected with these Societies, to which these remarks do not apply, and to which we would desire to do every justice. First among these is the Borough Road School.
fine to them the whole of the grant apportioned by Government in aid of the education of the Country?
Let us, by way of an instructive, though a painful contrast, cast a glance at the comparative attainments of a scholar issuing from one of the Elementary Schools of Germany, and from one of the National Schools of England. In the former case the youth goes forth into the world at the age of fourteen, with all his faculties brightened and sharpened by a judicious system of intellectual and moral training; reading with ease, and therefore with pleasure, the most useful works in his own beautiful and complicated language; writing a good hand, master of the common branches of arithmetic and book-keeping ;—not puzzled with the disputed tenets, but thoroughly imbued with the pure principles of the Christian faith ;-possessed of the elements of history, mechanics, and other branches of secular knowledge ; and above all with the arousing and ennobling consciousness, that by means of this discipline and these acquirements, a variety of useful and honourable occupations lie open to him, by which he may at all times secure an honourable competence.
But with the English Scholar the case is widely and lamentably different. He goes forth from a school, associated in his time, far more with the bitter seed-time than the joyous harvest,
- little more fitted than when he entered it for rising in the moral or intellectual scale. He can spell the Bible with difficulty, assisted by the index of a dirty finger, or if he has been a diligent attender at a Sunday School, he may read with some degree of ease and comfort; he can, perhaps, write his name, and add up an account with toil and pain; but he can do nothing readily, and therefore he can do nothing with pleasure to himself. He is totally ignorant of History, of Science, of domestic economy, of the arts of life, and nearly so of the relations and duties of the Social State ;—and his teachers have not always been competent to instil into his mind any adequate principles of morals, or any thing of religion besides its dogmas. In a word, his education is finished; and he goes forth to the toils and temptations of life, with few intellectual acquirements, and with no intellectual tastes. There are, no doubt, many exceptions to the truth of this picture; but as a general picture we maintain it to be strictly correct. And this is the state of things of which the Parliamentary Committee, on the motion of Lord Sandon, enact the maintenance and extension !
But there are other considerations which should have withheld this Committee from passing so extraordinary a resolution as their fourth. Even were the system of education pursued by the two great societies as perfect as we have shown it to be defective and noxious, they can give no security that the schools, which they recommend for participation in the grant, shall be conducted upon their system, or be connected with their body. They exercise no superintendence or control over their nominally affiliated establishments. They cannot even undertake to promise that the schools which obtain Government aid shall not soon be given up, or shall even begin to exist, beyond the mere completion of the Building. Whether any such cases have as yet actually occurred we have no means of knowing. But certain it is that the £100,000 of the public money which have already been granted have been entirely devoted to the erection of buildings where no education deserving of the name will ever be imparted ; and will only serve to absorb funds and repress exertions which might have borne better fruit.
“ Henry Dunn, Esq., examined, Secretary to the B. and F. Society.
“After the grant, you have not the means of maintaining, by perio. dical communication, your connexion with the schools ? _We have not ; nor have we any control whatever over them ; there is nothing to prevent the parties having a very inefficient school ; nor can there be, as long as they are in their present position."*
“ Rev. J. C. Wigram, Secretary to the National Society, examined.
" Do the applicants give any guarantee for the continued support of the school ?—The Treasury have never asked any."
“ Are they subject to Treasury inspection of any kind, to insure that the money has been properly applied ?—The proper application of the money upon the building and site, &c., is certified. The promoters of the school certify that the building is completed in a proper manner, and is of proper dimensions."
“ Have you any guarantee for the continuance of the school after it has received the money from Government ? -The only legal guarantee consists in the deed of trust;-if there are no funds, it will be conducted in a very inefficient manner, or perhaps its operations may be suspended for a time.”
“ And have you no security for the continuance of the subscriptions ? - They are voluntary subscriptions ; very few of the schools have endowments connected with them. When the want of funds causes the daily instruction to be suspended, the institution continues as a Sunday School only.”'t
* There is, therefore, no security, under the present system, for the continuance of the school when once established ?-No; there could be no security, except by requiring an endowment. Voluntary contributions could never furnish it, of course.”
* Evidence, question 392. + Evidence, questions 622, 623, 650, 651, 709–716, 721, 729.