The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 24
Appendix B. — Opinions of the Press
Opinions of the Press.
(From the "Weekly Chronicle," Wanganui.)
At the outset, we may express our warm approval of this practical method of inculcating lessons of frugality and thrift in the minds of the children of a community. In these days, when the supremo importance of education is so generally admitted, when the instructors of our youth are becoming more and more enthusiastic in the cause, striving to attain a method by which the real and vital principle of education may be fostered and encouraged in the tender minds of the rising generation, there is but little doubt that an agency so well calculated to train up the children in habits of forethought and self-control as that of which this short pamphlet contains an interesting account, will meet with due appreciation at the hands of all who take a lively interest in the real progress of the race. Great as has been the interest we have ever taken in the cause of education, and warm as has been our sympathy with such earnest workers as have contrived to arouse the enthusiasm of the young in their charge, we have yet to confess to having entertained a lingering feeling of doubt and disappointment. Undoubtedly gain could scarcely fail to result from a movement by which the routine of education has been invested with all the charms of life in the eyes of the youthful disciples. With the prospect of an annual competition, such as that recently held under the auspices of the Rangitikei Educational Association, the ordinary, dull, and prosaic life of the school undergoes a wonderful metamorphosis; school-books become living, companionable realities, and the schoolroom itself is no longer looked upon as a place of confinement, but rather as the training ground on which to prepare for the annual tournament. Unfortunately, however, all this enthusiasm, with the progress in book-learning resulting there from, not only may, but very frequently does consist with the most perfect ignorance of those prudential maxims, a true and accurate knowledge of which is so essential to the proper ordering of the private affairs of each, and so necessary to the progressive advancement of the race. It is notorious that the youth almost everywhere are left absolutely uninstructed with re- page 23 gard to the great principles which govern human life. No systematic and well-considered attempt is made either by parents or teachers to train the young to habits of self-control and self-sacrifice, and the consequence is, that long ere the school-books have been finally closed, the pupils have of themselves acquired habits of self-indulgence and self-pleasing which no amount of after teaching or experience can entirely eradicate; society being thus rendered a seething volcano of selfishness, recklessness, and untruthfulness.
(From the "Press," Canterbury.")
. . . . . . . The schemo thus introduced to our notice is perhaps misrepresented in some degree when it is called an experiment. It has really passed the stage of experiment, and must be considered an established fact and a great success. It has been in operation eight or nine years, the number of investors growing steadily from year to year, and the amounts invested increasing in rapid proportion. The sums deposited at the first, third, fifth, and seventh years respectively, are in the proportion of the numbers 1, 3, 9, 15. Further, the example of Ghent is already largely followed in other Belgian towns, and even in the rural districts. . . . . . . .We pause to remark that it is very much to the credit of our people to be able to show, taking our wide-spread population as a whole, town and country together, as many children at school at are found in the schools of Ghent, which has nearly twice as largo a population, and that collected in a single town. The comparison is such jus to suggest a degree of prosperity and a prudent regard for the future among us, which ought to make it easy for us to excel the Belgians in the matter of school savings banks also.
Is there any one in our community—clergyman, politician, teacher, or other—who can find time to work this thing out to some practical issue? Or, will one of our School Committees make a beginning on its own account? There is the Post Office Savings Bank ready to give not three but four and a-half per cent. If some one will make a start, we believe the thing would soon grow. There is no reason why it should not be as popular here as in Belgium, and a great deal more successful as to the sums invested. We shall watch with some interest for evidence that this pamphlet has taken hold at Dunedin, and we hope it will bear some fruit here too.
(The "Evening Star" Dunklin.")
The little book entitled the "Savings Bank in the School," which we have received from Mr. Dalrymple, the Secretary of the "Society for Encouraging Habits of Thrift among the Young People of this Colony," is one of the most valuable contributions to our educational literature that we have seen for a very long time. It differs from most works of a similar kind in one very important respect—its contents are not the mere enunciation of an educational theory which it may never be possible to test, and which, if tested, may be found to answer well, or, to be a total failure. On the contrary, it gives us an account of an educational experiment which has been thoroughly tried, and proved to lead to most beneficial results. . . . . . . The thing can be done then. The success of the Belgium experiment is unquestionable. The only questions then to be decided by the people of Otago before they determine to initiate a similar system, are—first, is it desirable that children should receive such training? And, secondly, would it be possible to work the system here? Probably one of the most valuable faculties which men can possess is that which enables them to postpone present enjoyment with a view to future advantage, or the avoidance of future evils. Those who have this faculty tolerably well developed, generally manage to get through life comfortably and respectably; to those who have it not, life, almost from page 24 the cradle to the grave, is as a rule, a succession of disasters. Unfortunately in most cases the power of self-restraint is naturally very imperfect, and has to be cultivated if it is to do its work thoroughly. Not unfrequently surrounding circumstances give this cultivation to a child at an early age, and he may start in the race of life certain to win such prizes as life affords. In very many cases the cultivation of the faculty of self-restraint is effectively brought about by stern experience, which teaches, often in no very pleasant way, that it is impossble to "eat the cake and have it." Sometimes the needful moral culture is never attained, and then the unfortunate who is without it lives from hand to mouth—a veritable dog's life—if he can manage to live at all. Now it seems to us quite undeniable that if you can got a child at an early age to adopt the habit of perpetually making such small sacrifices as are involved in the deposit of a penny in the Savings Bank instead of in the lollipop shop, in order that a sufficient sum of money may be at last obtained to accomplish some really useful object, much, very much will have been done in the way of giving him that moral culture, that self-restraint which he is so sure to need in after life. But it is unnecessary to enlarge on this; the advantage of such training is perfectly obvious. "With regard to the second point—the possibility of working the system in New Zealand—we need only say that we have the same machinery here as they have in Belgium. If the Government would make some trifling alterations in the Post-office Savings Bank regulations, operations could be commenced by our local Society forthwith.
(From the "Evening Argus," Wellington.)
The importance of inculcating habits of thrift in the minds of children need not be expatiated on, and most people who have had to do with juveniles need not be told how difficult the task of doing this is. Usually a penny burns a hole in a child's pocket until it is spent. Forthwith to exchange money for lollies seems to most juvenile minds the correct and proper thing. It has been said that all men are rakes at heart, and it might be added that all children are naturally spendthrifts. We should not like to see children rush into the other extreme and become little misers, but there is a medium in all things, and it would be well for children in their after life, if the advantages of saving money were in their youthful days made apparent to them, as well as the pleasure of spending it. A subsequent article says:—Whether in the Education Bill to be brought before Parliament during the present session, any recommedation is to be made to the various Boards and Committees throughout the country to initiate the training of the future men and women into practical habits of providence through the agency of the Savings Bank in the school, is a query which has occurred to us, not so much from the fact that we have, on more than one occasion, spoken favorably of the present agitation on this subject, as from convincing proof that it is popular amongst those who, of all others, are likely to be the most closely concerned in it. Of course, we allude to the school teachers. . . . At the present moment, when we can hardly take up a newspaper, either English or Colonial, without reading deplorable lamentations on the increasing tendency to drunkeness, and hear restrictive and other remedies proposed and descanted on day after day, here is practical action—something to be done by every man and woman for herself and himself; and, as example is to precept, so is practice to perpetual theorizing. The one remedy for drunkenness, as we have reiterated times without number, is to strengthen and elevate the moral character, and, in this proposed training of the child, he is being braed to withstand, not only the temptation to indulge in drink, but all other temptations, by the cultivation of those habits which make the exercise of self-restraint and self-control the easy going path of every day life.
(The "Western Star," Riverton.)
. . . . . . . If the Education Board will only give this matter their serious consideration, and get the teachers in the different schools to cooperate with it in carrying out a similar experiment to that so successfully initiated in the schools in Ghent, we see no obstacles in the way of the Savings Bank in the schools of New Zealand becoming not only an established fact, but one of our noblest institutions. The scheme has our hearty approval.
(From the "Church Gazette," Auckland.)
. . . . . . .Entirely agreeing with the writer, we offer no apology to our readers for introducing this subject in a Church paper, for we believe that the Church was ordained by Christ not only for the preparation of "citizens of heaven," but also for the manufacture of "good citizens of earth." If the old proverb be true that "cleanliness is next to godliness," we venture to suggest that it is equally true that "improvidence is next to ungodliness." . . . And, with reference to other social points, it continues—We think this subject is specially important in New Zealand. Where wages are highest there is generally the greatest improvidence. How else can we account for the large number of destitute widows and orphans in our midst, and for the sad state of many homes during sickness. 'Drink,' no doubt is one great mischief maker, but 'improvidence' is assuredly another. If our Colony is to prosper, as we all wish it to do, we must train up the rising generation to principles of economy; and we believe that while we aim at one enemy we shall at the same time be striking a heavy blow against the other enemy—'intoxication.' 'Economy' and 'Improvidence' are habits, and childhood is the period when habits are most easily formed. Chldren are, as a rule, we fancy, more prone to save their pence than to spend them, but the great obstacles in the way of childhood economy are (i) the belief that only shillings can be 'put in the bank,' that the pennies are useless, and (ii) when the shilling has been accumulated, the awe of the great Post Office official. Some such plan as that in vogue at Ghent overcomes these obstacles. In the first place, the teacher takes charge of the pence until they have reached the wonderful shilling, and in the second place the teacher has the interview with the awful official. We would commend this subject to the earnest thought and attention of members of School Boards, and to teachers of day schools. We do not, but others may, see some means by which this scheme might be connected even with Sunday Schools."
(The "Marlborough Express.")
. . . . . . . We cordially approve of the scheme proposed, feeling assured that nothing but good can result from its adoption, and we feel convinced that a wide circulation of the pamphlet before us would make many converts to the opinion of the writer. We have long felt that a change in the curriculum of our public schools was needed, and that the system which obtains with slight variations in nearly all the schools both in Great Britain and the Colonies would be greatly improved if a little more pains were taken to teach children to think. We most thoroughly endorse the words of Dr. Hodgson, quoted in the prefatory notes.—"A mind trained to reflect on consequences—to guide conduct, and to forego immediate enjoyment for the sake of greater good to self or others, may be produced without reading or writing, and is a far nobler product of education than the mere power to read or write, however clear the penmanship, or correct the pronounciation." page 26 While thoroughly sensible of the value of these latter requirements, we are also aware that there are thousands of learned "prigs" and educated fools. Were our pages as expansive as our will we would reprint the whole of the pamphlet for the benefit of the cause it advocates, as our wannest sympathies have ever been with moral training in connection with secular instruction.
(The "Southland News.")
. . . . . . . The ultimate social effect of this early adoption of provident habits has, of course, to be waited for, but in the meantime it is fairly enough assumed that it cannot be otherwise than beneficial. The compilers of the pamphlet, while admitting that wide differences exist between the condition of the industrial classes in Belgium and New Zealand, point out that, although relatively the workers are here much better paid, there is none the less need to foster provident habits. They give it as their opinion that, as a rule, resources are not economised as they should be, and that but a very small proportion make provision for the future. While not prepared to endorse this statement—which is contradicted by local observation—we are quite willing to admit that the easy circumstances of the bulk of the population may have led them to overlook the importance of instilling into the minds of the young the value of habits of frugality. It is a matter of common remark that children in this colony think less of sixpence or a shilling than those at home would of a halfpenny or a penny. Yet the purchasing power of money is not so much less or the remuneration of labor so much greater as to fully account for the difference. If a continuance of prosperous times could be relied on, the rather lavish expenditure of either parents or children would not so much matter; but there is bound to be a "rainy day," and the present is the time to provide against it. Hence we cordially endorse the views of the gentlemen whose proposal is here outlined. At the same time it must be admitted that there are some practical difficulties in the way of its adoption. For instance, how will the teachers receive a suggestion, the immediate effect of which would be to burthen them with duties for which they did not bargain when taking office? Clearly the first step of the Society should be to place itself in communication with them, in order to ascertain their feeling on the subject. If it were favorable, all other obstacles might be overcome.
(The "Manawatu Times?)
. . . . . . . . The experiment having worked so well there (Ghent) the system may now be safely adopted by our community. Habits of saving, inculcated in the young mind, are the surest safeguard against excess and intemperance in after life. "To encourage such habits," Lord Derby says, "is one of the most practical forms which a really thoughtful benevolence can assume." The Savings Bank in New Zealand has already proved a great success, and the principle can be applied to the school, and with, perhaps, still better results; for by thus impressing the system upon the child, he will not afterwards fail to continue it. If habits of forethought and economy had formed part of the education of our generation, those demoralising exhibitions of drunkenness, home-desertion, and vice, which are now so frequently witnessed, would be reduced. This habit of saving, engrafted upon our children, can only originate from those in authority over them. It may partly emanate from their parents, but its most fitting teacher is the schoolmaster. It should form a branch of every child's education, and how can it be better applied than in the form now proposed? If the Flemish page 27 children have been tanght frugality by the accumulation of their savings from so small a deposit as that of one-tenth of a penny, the system should be still better appreciated in this country where all are so much better off. The amounts saved would be larger, and the spirit of thrift consequently still more indoctrinated. Money—let the old philosophers say what they will of its use and abuse—is in our age the true mainspring of life. It means independence, peace of mind, freedom from care and anxiety. It gives us the power of exercising our generosity; and happiness and content are, or ought to be, the result of our independent position. Poverty and misery go hand in hand, destroying all the finer feelings of man, driving him to deeds of darkness, and reducing him to the level of the brute. It is the Devil's greatest tempter . . . . . . We are glad to hear that a society is now being formed in Dunedin, having for its object the adaptation of the system to the schools of the Colony. That this system will meet with general support, when it is so thoroughly worthy of it, we cannot doubt. It has our most hearty approval, and will, we are sure, be as warmly appreciated by the district we represent.
The "Clutha Leader" "Hokitika Star," "Ross Guardian," "Wairarapa Standard," and "Taranaki Budget," were also entirely in favour of the proposed scheme as illustrated in the pamphlet under their review; whilst the "Otago Daily Times," the "Waikouaiti Herald," and others, in discussing the matter pro and con, were, in a general sense, favorable to its adoption.