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A GOOD LONDON SCHOOL IN THE WHITE CHAPEL
BY MRS. H. E. MONROE.
AMONG the cards of introduction from Commissioner Dawson
was one to Sir Philip Magnus, of the "City and Guilds of London Institute for the advancement of Technical Education." Sir Philip has recently published a most interesting book on Industrial Education, of which I hope to be able to give your readers a summary in another chapter.
I was indebted to him for a card to Mr. Pearson, the teacher of the carpenter-work in the Summerford Street, Bethnal Green Board Elementary School. It is wonderful how little you can do without proper introduction here.
One would suppose the schools were overrun with visitors that it requires such an effort to obtain entrance, but once inside with that magic card, nothing can exceed the kindly courtesy with which one is treated.
The Summerford Street School is in the very worst part of the city; you can from its roof balcony overlook the terrible White Chapel neighborhood, and the very yard was pointed out where next to the last woman murdered was found. The school building is literally placed in the midst of saloons. The dens which are called homes have eight and twelve people living in one or two rooms apparently not more than eight feet square. A year since, when the Health Commissioner ordered the inhabitants to raise the roofs, which were not over five and a half feet high, they complied by digging out the earth one foot deeper.
The fee for attendance is one penny per week to each student, but so few are able to pay even that, that it is practically free, only it should be made legally free, for much time of the teacher is wasted in dunning, coaxing, and persuading these indigent people to pay the fees, in keeping accounts, and hearing excuses.
The school building is old and dingy looking, and even our penal schools have more attractive halls and staircases and I
thought as I passed through the building that in all our broad land we have no such dingy looking place for our young people.
The system of paying weekly fees according to the wealth of the parent has a decided tendency to emphasize and perpetuate the distinct social grades which exist in England.
The following statistics were gleaned from a book whose title I neglected to copy, handed me by a lady school manager :"Schools have three sources of income, a government grant, local tax on property, and the fees from each parent.
"Last year 46,000 children were turned away from the school, because they could not pay the fee; of these, 5,400 never returned. "Teachers sent to the parents 17,700 notifications that the fees should be paid; 12,000 parents were summoned before magistrates; 10,000 convicted of not sending their children to school, and the cost of these prosecutions reach $185,000, not counting money paid to teachers for their time in issuing notices.
"In spite of this the attendance of the London schools fell 1,700,000 short of enrollment.
"Manchester has free schools, and secured an attendance of ninety-eight per cent. of enrollment."
The teachers at Summerford told me the horrors of the neighborhood could only be appreciated by being there from eleven to three o'clock at night. Then the roar that goes up is the sound of revels which are without mirth. The screams of women, the blows and oaths of brutal drunken men, and the cry of wronged and outraged childhood, make a wail over which the angels must
As the boys passed up the well-ventilated hall from recess the stench was appalling, and the worst picture of a ragged child you have ever seen would scarcely exaggerate some forlorn specimens here.
The girls seemed somewhat cleaner; the head mistress told me she made as much point to teach them cleanliness as she did the specified curriculum, but she added, "cleanliness means not alone washing the body, but it means clean clothes, which they do not have."
Before entering the girls' department, the young teacher led me to her blackboard showing attendance. She said: "Ah! Madam, what can we do. In one room with an enrollment of seventythree, the attendance is thirty-nine; in one of fifty, the attendance
is twenty-three; of the four hundred twenty-six which should this day be present, we have only two hundred eighty. I sometimes weep over this. The Inspectors lay out too much to be done for the year. We are obliged to get over the ground, but to do so we are not doing what is best for these poor children. We have no time to sympathize with them which they so deeply need, we have little or no time to teach morals, except the few words we get in the reading lesson, and we even begrudge that because it does not show in the examination."
The rooms were well ventilated, and the children seemed to me well advanced for their size, but on inquiry I found them all nearly two years older than they looked. Poor food and bad sanitary conditions in the homes showed in the size. One room gave a very good exercise in calisthenics, which I value as a mental as well as physical training, as it teaches concentration, attention, obedience, and accuracy.
Another room was writing an exercise from dictation, another copying paragraphs from the reader, others were spelling in concert, others engaged in doing "sums," which they call all kinds of examples in arithmetic. The penmanship and figures were particularly good in every department. I saw children who looked only two, although the parents claimed them to be three years old, poor little bleared-eyed, half-clad infants, but the kind teacher said, "I wish we could take them younger, they are safe with us, and are so much better cared for than at their homes."
It would not be fair not to mention the respect I felt for those earnest men and women whom I saw there doing as truly a great Christian work as though they were missionaries in a heathen land. They risk taking a contagious disease every hour they stay there. I was glad to hear that they received a little higher salary than in some other districts.
Unless the children of such districts as this are given an industrial education and moral training, every particle of education they receive is an injury, it will only add to their skill in crime. But the Board realize this, and the girls receive four hours' training in plain sewing during the week.
In every such neighborhood as this the Board had arranged a cooking school for those girls who desire such instruction.
Fathers appreciate even more than mothers the improvement brought to the home by girls who receive this training. Over
twenty thousand girls are this year taught cooking. They are not sufficiently well instructed to become professionals, but enough to improve the homes, or to make them better servants.
The boys receive instruction one half day a week in carpenter work. This is made a reward to the best students, they greatly enjoy it, and will devote even their holidays to this work, if the teacher will permit. The teachers unite in the testimony that while the student does lose that half day, the benefit received is much greater than the loss in class. I examined much finished work and found it showed great accuracy, and careful work. Here also the teacher said the amount laid out by the Board to be done was too great for the time.
Mr. Pearson, the bright young teacher, said, "We propose to show that the theory that a duffer' in his studies will make a good mechanic, and a good mechanic is sure to be a duffer' in his studies is not correct. Brains tell in the use of the hand as well as in the class." This was said so the boys could hear it, and their faces showed high appreciation of the remark.
Object lessons are given on different kinds of wood, and on tools. The boys were working in oak the day I was there. They stood in a class before beginning work, and this outline was put upon the board, elicited by questions much as we do.
NOTES OF LESSONS ON THE OAK.
At my suggestion, Mr. Pearson
Posts and Fences.
Carved work of Churches.
kindly gave me the following,
which seemed so ably to present the reasons and methods of his work, that I submit it without change:
NOTES ON MANUAL TRAINING.
GENERAL PRINCIPLE. — The idea which I endeavor to carry out in the classes which I conduct, is not merely to give the boys a knowledge of carpentry as such, but rather to make the exercises in wood-working a means
(1.) Of teaching the boys to use their hands;
(2.) To inculcate precision of working; and
(3.) To demonstrate, by actual experience on the part of the boys, the dignity and pleasure attaching to manual labor.
DRAWING. Scale drawings of all wood-working exercises should be made. In most cases it is preferable to have the drawing completed before the exercise in wood is worked.
OBJECT LESSONS.- Object Lessons should be given on the structure and uses of the tools, with a view not merely of informing the boys in regard to the particular tools they use, but, what is of vastly greater importance, the boys should from these lessons gain the habit of observation, and a spirit of inquiry, in regard to any tool (or machine) which they may ever have opportunity of using or inspecting.
DETAILS OF GRADUATED EXERCISES IN WOOD-WORKING.
The syllabus of work adopted by the "Joint Committee of the School Board for London and the City and Guilds of London Institute" on Manual Training, embraces the following exercises for a first year's course, viz: — Planing, Measuring and Lining on Wood, Sawing to Line, Hand Chiselling and Chamfering, Mortise Chiselling.
With a view to teaching the above, I have mapped out my year's work in sections somewhat as follows:
(a.) Preliminary Planing. — I give the boys plenty of practice in learning to merely "push the plane"- that they may gain the correct attitude for planing.
The exercise is to "plane a rough piece of wood away to nothing."
(b.) To "true up" the "first face" of a piece of wood, testing it by the following three tests:
(1.) The eye.
(2.) The try-square.
(3.) The straight-edge.
A great deal of practice at this is necessary, because, upon the successful accomplishment of it depends all future success in planing; and, to obtain efficiency, I frequently, after a boy has succeeded in getting the first face true according to the above three tests, plane it untrue myself, and make him get it true again; repeating the process often with the same boy.
(c.) To "true up" a piece of wood on all four sides. If Exercise (b) above has been thoroughly mastered, it is a comparatively easy matter for a boy to "true up" (and gauge) a piece of wood to stated dimensions.