« PreviousContinue »
TRAINING AND VILLAGE SCHOOLS, AT BATTERSEA.
On entering the school-room, the attention of the visitor is at once attracted by its cheerful aspect. Accustomed to see poor children taught, standing, with a scrupulous regard to their symmetrical distribution upon the school-room floor, and to associate these circumstances with a high state of discipline and mute attention, he is surprised to find the children of this school seated, in easy attitudes, at desks,-arranged with little regard to regularity-in groups three or four deep; each such little group of desks giving space to a class of about 20, intrusted to the charge of a single teacher. He observes a variety of posture about these children, an independance of attitude, and a contented expression of countenance, which perhaps is associated in the estimate he forms of the school with indifference; he is, therefore astonished to learn, on the authority of all those persons who have carefully examined it, and whose judgement is on record, that the school is surpassed by no other of the same class in the progress wbich each child, from the lowest, makes in the technical branches of instruction (reading, writing, and arithmetic,) or in the success with which those higher objects of education are pursued whose direction is to the formation of the religious character, and development of the faculties of intelligence and observation. The fact is, that a certain amount of independent action-elbow-room and breathing-space for the individual character-is necessary to the healthful and vigorous activity of a school. And however unpleasant it may be to a person whose eye delights to contemplate it as a machine of imposing magnitude, having its parts disposed with a due regard to regularity, and awful in the sympathy of its numbers, or as a huge animal having a single volition-one great heart and one mighty pulse—the inspector who views it under a simpler aspect, as a means for the education of each individual child, and who analyzes it with reference to that object, and judges of it by the degree in which that single object is accomplished, look upon such matters with comparative indifference.
To children a state of nervous sensibility and restless muscular action is natural. The senses are with them in process of education, and all the physical as well as the intellectual elements of the future man in the progress of development. They are perpetually stimulated in that exercise which is necessary to this process of development. Whoever holds for a few minutes an infant in his arms will be conscious how soon the stimulus is applied; and
whoever has watched its progress from infancy to childhood and maturity, will be aware how constant and how powerful is the influence which it exerts. To keep children always under drill, to compel them to a motionless position and a stimulated attention, is to oppose and to do violence to it. To be real, their attention must be pleasurable.
It is one thing for the teacher to win to himself the child's fixed attention-to bring about that state in which all the elements of its physical being are absorbed in its intellectual activity—and it is another to compel the semblance of this attention. The one is the resource of an unskilful, and the other of a skilful, teacher. The former puts down that vivacity of spirit which is proper to a certain stage in the growth of the mind; and when he has done violence to an instinct, and trampled out a light which Nature had kindled, he calls it discipline. To the other it is a resource ; he turns the very joyousness of the children to his accountgiving in that direction in which he most desires that their knowledge should fructify-ministering with it new life to their flagging attention, and winning their steps along the painful road by which it is his function to lead them. And that restlessness, which is natural to the expanding mind not less than the growing body, he knows how to satisfy; permuting continually the elements of instruction, and shifting, through an endless succession of scenes, its sphere of observation, and its point of view.
A man like this lives in the moral elements of his school, not less entirely than in the discharge of its technical duties, and soon learns to sway the minds of his children almost as readily as he directs their school movements.-Inspector Moseley's Report.
Reviews, &c. Practical Remarks on Infant Education, for the use of Schools
and Private Families. By Dr. and Miss Mayo. Seeley
and Burnside. 1841. Lessons on the Miracles of our Blessed Lord. By the Author of
Lessons on Objects. Seeley and Burnside. 1845. Model Lessons for Infant School Teachers and Nursery Governesses,
prepared for the Home and Colonial Infant School Society. By the Author of " Lessons on Objects,” &c. Third Edition.
Seeley, Burnside, and Seeley. 1846. The Child's Manual, or Forty-days Meditation on the Chief Truths
of Religion, as contained in the Catechism. By Rev. E. Caswall. Burns. 1846.
Easy Lessons for Sunday Schools. Burns. 1846.
The last few years have been characterized by a considerably increased attention to the claims of Education. The consequence has been, an increased number of Schools of all classes, large issues of new books—and new systems of training and discipline. What the end of all this will be, can only at present be matter of conjecture, for never was a movement n:ixed up with so many unsatisfactory elements as that which late years have witnessed. Shool houses have been built without any reference to propriety of structure, style or dimensions-cold rooms, ill ventilated, without regard to light or sound, ill furnished, cheerless and depressing. This done, after an active canvass made in the neighbourhood; children are gathered in, and here comes the dissonance. Teachers, systems, books, and children have been thrown together, without reference to any first principles of nature or grace, and left to combine as best they might, to produce a result. And although this result may have been an escape from ignorance, who will contend that it is an accession of virtue and godliness of living? It is not denied that much good has been done. Some general impression for the better must flow out of so much zeal and charity, in spite of its hollowness and misdirection, but is the effect at all comparable to what it might have been, had greater unity and consistency of operation and design been observed at the outset ?
But by degrees things are beginning to fall into their right places, and the whole face of our Educational System seems 10 be undergoing a change. Our School-rooms are better built, our Training Institutions increased in number and improved in kind, our Teachers selected from a better class of persons, and a supply of books more or less suitable to what is required, are appearing in quick succession.
But much is yet to be done to increase both the quantity and quality of National Education Since the publication of Dr. Hook's letter, the subject has occupied a considerable share of public attention. Indeed it is highly probable that the ensuing session will see some measure of General Education brought forward, by the Government. How far it may be acceptable to true churchmen, can hardly now be conjectured. In the meantime our present business is with the books. While those in authority have been in hot dispute about systems and resources, a few plain people have been practically settling the system for them, by the publicaton of books adapted, with more or less success,
to the wants of Schools. Even here a gradual improvement is visible. Twenty years ago there was much groping about in the dark. One only conviction forced itself on the public mindthe people must be taught. But by what means and in what manner was not so unanimously settled. On the one hand some contended that to Educate the children of the poor, beyond the capability of reading the bible, saying the catechisim, and writing their own name, or putting“ paid” to a settled account, was the height of absurdity. On the other, it was contended that all Education was implied in the cultivation of the intellect—that of course it was right for children to read Holy Scripture, but as there was no such thing as heresy, and the intellect was a quite sufficient guide, it was most proper that it be taught “ without note or comment."
Great were the efforts, after proficiency in Latin and Greek derivations, decimals, mental arithmetic and the extraction of the cube root; most profound the lectures on the steam engine, hydrostatics, and plane geometry; and keen indeed were the longings of the young tyro for the time when he should be able to take his place in the Mechanics' Institute, and ask knotty questions about gravitation, chemistry, and the polarization of light. Meanwhile he was astonishing his mother and big sister not a little, by his botany and stenography.
The short cuts to knowledge, and the mere reading of the bible without note or comment, did not prove so successful as was expected, and experience began to bring to light the very simple principle, that purely intellectual culture, does not of necessity induce the right control and regulation of the moral affections. However we may look at it now, it took years to convince the promoters of public Education, that there was a deeper something behind the intellect which cannot be reached, but by religious training alone.
The books published during this period, are themselves so many chronicles of the progress of Education. The volume at the head of this paper is a fair specimen of a very common feeling in the year 1841, on the subject of Infant Education. With much that is good, there is much absolutely false, much that subsequent experience has proved to be altogether theoretical. e.g. “ Catechisms valuable as they are, as summaries of religious truth, and valuable as a means of fixing those truths in the mind in a condensed form, so as readily to be recalled, are completely out of place in an Infant School.” p. 33. It is not necessary here to refute this statement, subsequent experience
has taught otherwise. The poet of the Christian Year saw deeper into the souls of children than the author of the “ Practical Remarks.”
“Dim or unheared the words may fall,
And yet the heaven taught mind
The harmony unwind.
What are all prayers beneath,
Half the deep thoughts they breathe ?
There is much that is good in the Practical Remarks, which we recommend to our readers. We have extracted " a few words to teachers,” which will be found in p. 40.
LESSONS ON THE MIRACLES OF OUR BLESSED LORD, 1845, by the same author, is a far more practical and much sounder work. It must however be published in a cheaper form, if it is ever to find its way into the hands of those for whom it is intended. We can strongly recommend it to those teachers who can afford to give three shillings and sixpence for it.
MODEL LESSONS FOR INFANT SCHOOL TEACHERS AND NURSERY GOVERNESSES, is rather unfortunate as an exposition of the principles and practice of the Home and Colonial Infant School Society. More IMPRESSION and less INFORMATION, a quickening of the moral, rather than the intellectual perceptions, would be a surer and more successful object than that which this book seems to aim at. Still it may be extensively useful in the hands of a judicious teacher. In another edition it would be well to bracket off all that tedious dissertation on comparative anatomy, which is scattered over the first 90 pages.
We turn gladly to some really useful and impressive books “the Child's Manual, by the Rev. E. Caswall,” and “ Easy Lessons for Sunday Schools,” the latter is beyond all praise, and is ad. mirably adapted for the junior classes.
Amongst other cheap books for circulation amongst the young, may be very safely and strongly recommended, “ The Cripple of Rothenstein," a translation from the German, p. 35.
« Poor Henry, or a Story for Little Children," p. 64. Rivingtons, London; and Harrison, Leeds. Both are got up in a cheap and uniform style, and are deserving of all commendation, and even older persons may read them with no small profit.