Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

a

the students, it should be sedulously impressed upon them that, how efficient soever such' lessons may be in imparting general information, and in enabling us, by calling out the sympathies and simultaneously exercising the faculties of large bodies of children, to make upon their minds strong and lasting general impressions, we must have recourse to arrangements of a totally different nature for the accomplishment of all that is really difficult in the management and technical instruction of a promiscuous school, consisting of children of various ages, and at different stages of progress, and in which it is the business of one man to impart instruction in various branches.

The unison of these two kinds of training, the object of the former being to enable the students to conduct with ability the business of the gallery,—and this is very efficiently done by the methods at present practised,--and of the latter to train them to skill in the organization, general management, and technical instruction of a school, would, in my opinion, constitute the perfection of professional training.

By a too exclusive attention to the former, the conductors of this establishment run the hazard of justly subjecting themselves to the charge of having trained their students to the efficient performance of only one part of their duty.

Although I cannot speak from personal observation, and cannot adduce the testimony of any one to corroborate this statement, I have considerable confidence in affirming that these young men, after having completed their course of training in this seminary, and after having been intrusted with the organization and management of a promiscuous school, will feel very considerable difficulty in performing satisfactorily most of their duties. In the management of ihe children in the gallery, and in the giving of the gallery lesson, they will be perfectly at home; but in the classification of their scholars, in the general management and discipline of the school, in the wielding and directing of its machinery of assistants and monitors, in apportioning the time that should be allotted to each branch, and in their knowledge of the best methods of teaching particular branches, they will, I think, be found deficient.

In short, my opinion upon the whole is, that the training, so far as it goes, is admirable; but it has not reference enough to the peculiar circumstances in which the young men are destined to labour, and does not seem fitted to prepare them for encountering boldly and successfully contending against the difficulties which every one must meet when entering upon a new and untried sphere of labour.

With regard to the effect that their instructions and training may be expected to have in imbuing their minds with a love of their art, and in preserving them from the contaminating influences of a large city, it is not necessary to say much. Although they are not boarded in the establishment, and are not under direct control, excepting during the hours of their attendance

[ocr errors]

at the seminary, yet in consequence of the Rector and Secretary being careful to recommend to them only such boarding houses as are kept by persons of whose moral and religious character they are cognizant, and upon whose faithfulness and integrity in reporting to them any flagrant improprieties of conduct They can with confidence depend, it is not probable that any course of conduct unbecoming their views and profession can, for any lengthened period, escape detection. And the tendency of everything they see and hear in the establishment is to impress their minds with the conviction of the moral dignity of the profession to which they have attached themselves, as having for one of its objects the elevation and improvement of the present condition of their fellow-men, by directing all their faculties to lofty and ennobling objects, and as having for its highest and chief aim the training up of children in the way they should go, and as an employment which is well fitted to cherish in their own souls those feelings of humble and sincere piety, which so well become those who are permitted to be fellow-workers with God.

It may be proper, before drawing this report to a close, to mention that there are certain features in the methods of instruction adopted in this seminary, the propriety of which appears to me somewhat doubtful, and also that there are certain principles recognised and acted on which seem to be objectionable, both in principle and practice. It may be necessary to say that in stating my opinion on these subjects, it is not my wish to do more than suggest to the conductors of the establishment a reconsideration of the various points, and a re-examination of their nature and tendency.

The first point to which I shall allude is the manner in which Ellipsis is used, and especially the frequency with which it is employed. I fear that it would be impossible, within reasonable space, to give to those who may not have been in this seminary, or who have not heard a lesson given in the peculiar method spoken of, any

clear notion of the manner in which it is done. Admirable illustrations of this may be found in “Stow's Training System.”

My objections are two:

First, I consider that the frequency with which it is employed in the higher classes involves an unnecessary and unprofitable expenditure of time, does not demand from them any strenuous exertion of mental power, and originates in a miscalculation of the amount of their intellectual development.

And, second, I think, that by habituating them only to such simple exercises of thought, it has the tendency to give a distaste for studies demanding more vigorous mental application.

The second point to which I think it necessary to refer, is the toleration, and even encouragement, given to simultaneous answering, and the almost total exclusion of individual examination. There are two grounds on which I think this practice liable to serious objections: 1 submit them to the consideration of my Lords.

In the first place I think that its tendency, and indeed its necessary result, is to engender in the minds of the mass of the pupils habits of indolence and inartention; that a very close examination of the mode of its operation, and a very stringent test of its results, will demonstrate that while it may give full scope for the exercise of the faculties of the more energetic and activeminded, it permits the powers of those whose minds are at all characterised by volatility or torpor to remain uncultivated, and even unexercised; and that it renders it impossible for the teacher to ascertain the precise amount and character of intellectual power in individual pupils.

It is extremely difficult to present in a definite form, without specifying examples of the results of this method and the mode of its operation, the basis on which these convictions are formed. The following instances occurred in my presence :

A class, consisting of seventeen, were doing sums in Compound Division. On presenting their slates the exercises of seven were right, and of ten wrong. The sum was written down upon the black board by the teacher, and the boys were requested to direct him how to work it. They were permitted to do this simultaneously. The consequence was that those boys whose exercises had been at first correctly performed, and who, it was evident, knew the rule well, again went through the process, and those for whom alone this second performance of the exercise was necessary, sat apparently almost uninterested auditors. It is obvious that they alone should

. have been permitted to answer. The others had shown themselves acquainted with the rule, and with the manner of applying it, by having previously presented on their slates the exercise correctly wrought. I mention this as one among several instances of the same kind that came under my notice, and if such things happen frequently, as I believe they do, I think my Lords will agree with me in thinking that such a method is justly chargeable with the above-mentioned evils and defects.

But, in the second place, the advantages supposed to belong to this method, and the objects which it is thought to serve, may be gained by other, and simpler, by less hurtful and therefore more legitimate means. It has for many years been a rule in the best of our Scottish schools, that when a question is put to the body of the class, those who are capable, or who think they are capable, of answering it, should indicate this to the master and their fellow pupils by holding up the hand. This practice seems to have got its way

into most of our well-conducted seminaries : it is in operation at Battersea and Norwood, and it seems quite adequate to serve all the purposes for which some teachers, and these, so far as my observation goes, of little energy and skill, or limited experience, have had recourse to simultaneous answering.

The third and last point to which I beg to direct the attention

of my Lords is,—the endeavoar utterly to repress, by the abolition of the taking of places and other means, the exercise of the principle of emulation. I do not intend to state the grounds on which I entertain the opinion,—that this is theoretically unsound and practically injurious. I only wish to suggest that if the practice is based upon the conviction that this principle is very apt to engender feelings of “envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness,” and does not spring from the belief that it is contrary to the true dignity of man and the genuine spirit of Christianity, there is room for the consideration, by the conductors of this seminary, of the following question :

First, Is it your opinion that you have obtained from each individual of your pupils as great an amount of strenuous application to his studies as you could have secured provided you had permitted the principle of emulation exercised in the taking of places to operate upon his mind?

If the experience of these gentlemen justifies them in answering in the affirmative, then they have succeeded in doing what I had thought it impossible to accomplish. I do not think they have. If I am correct in my opinion, then the following questions occur :

Is the amount of evil to be feared from the possibility, even from the probability, of the origination of malignant feelings from the exercise of emulation, so great as completely to counterbalance and interrupt the amount of good that results from its exercise ? And is it not the duty of the educator rather to regulate any feeling which cannot and ought not to be utterly extirpated, than to endeavour altogether to repress its exercise? And in conducting the business of the school-room, are you not frequently, and in many ways, compelled to recognise and have recourse to this principle as a stimulus to exertion both moral and intellectual, although you do not choose to give palpable demonstration of this by placing your pupils in the class according to the degree of merit which they may be found severally to possess ?

The object of these questions is not so much to indicate my own opinion on the subject, as to direct attention to the consideration of one of the most important and interesting questions that can occupy the regards of the educationist.

I have now presented to my Lords a brief view of the course of study and training pursued in this establishment, with a candid and honest statement of my opinion regarding its efficiency.

It is unnecessary to say that the teachers of the various departments are men belonging to the very first class in their profession, and that their duties are performed with unwearied diligence and admirable skill. The founders of the seminary have been fortunate in securing the services of Messrs. Heslop, Caughie, and Forbes.

I cannot close my Report without recording my obligations to Mr. Cunningham, the rector, for the full information which he

furnished on every point, and without expressing my admiration of the untiring zeal and enthusiasm and the remarkable tact and skill with which he discharges the duties of his office. To his great practical experience, his sound and enlightened views, and especially to the ardour with which he has devoted himself to the study of the best methods of conducting Normal schools, much of the excellence that characterises this seminary is owing. Of Mr. Stow's benevolent exertions it is unnecessary to speak.

I have the honour, &c.

Dr. Kay, Secretary.

(Signed) JOHN GIBSON.

REPORT on the State of ELEMENTARY EDUCATION in the County of NORFOLK; by SEYMOUR TREMENHEERE, ESQ.

London, August 21, 1841.

SIR,

THE duties pointed out to me in reference to a tour I was instructed by their Lordships to make through the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk consisted of, first, an inspection of certain British schools which had received aid from the public grant; secondly, an inquiry as to certain proposed British schools which were in progress; and thirdly, a general inquiry into the state of the elementary education now provided for the labouring classes in those counties.

In the prosecution of these duties the amount of occupation afforded by the county of Norfolk alone rendered it expedient that, with the approbation of their Lordships, I should, with a view to this Report, confine my attention to that county. Accordingly, in addition to the results more immediately contemplated by my mission, I have to submit to their Lordships twelve special Reports on schools not subject to my inspection, but which I was requested by some of the chief promoters of each to examine and report upon for their guidance and information. Of these, four are in connexion with the National Society, three with the British and Foreign Society, and five not in connexion with either. Five other National schools formerly aided by the Treasury, the promoters of which had invited inspection, were also visited by me with the concurrence of the respective clergymen; and in numerous other instances I was invited to consult with the parochial clergy, the members of the committees of British schools, the trustees of endowed schools, and the leading supporters of those unconnected with any society, as to the improvement of existing schools, or as to the plans, arrangements, and methods most desirable for their several neighbourhoods. In affording this information wherever it was in my power consistently with other engagements, I was acting in conformity with Section 6 of the general instructional letter to Inspectors; and on the materials obtained on those occasions, and on what I collected by voluntary inquiries in the chief

« ElőzőTovább »