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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 49

School Hours and Schoolmasters

School Hours and Schoolmasters.

The week-day school, we are told, is not the place for teaching religion; there are hours enough for these lessons at home and on Sunday. This advice comes with a bad grace from Boston, since the Medical College of Middlesex has laid down these two rules among others: "The duration of daily attendance, including the time given to recess and physical exercises, should not exceed four and a half hours for the primary schools." "There should be required no study out of school for children of the primary schools."

A more serious consideration is that of compelling parents to be schoolmasters to their children. It is cruel to put this task on backs already overburdened. Father and mother toil like slaves from morning to night. Do their mentors think of the early rising, the hasty breakfast, the long hours of wearying and exhausting labor, of the fatigued frame that at the coming on of night seeks page 52 needed rest? We are not speaking in favor of clerks, merchants, and professional men. They can speak for themselves and their requirements; their friends are numerous, intelligent, and active. Legislation always takes their circumstances and wants into account.

It is among the laboring and mechanic classes that a numerous progeny is found. The mother sees to her household and the wants of her many children. Her education in book-learning may be defective; and, if she undertook to compete with the trained schoolmistress, her deficiencies might become known to her young ones. Time, strength, capacity,—all are wanting. Yet she is reminded, if she reads the newspapers, that one minister and another devote their time to the set and formal religious instruction of their children, out of school, in the evenings, on the Saturdays, and with special care on the Sundays; and she is piously advised to do the same. These learned, eloquent, leisured clergymen put themselves on a par with the hard-working mason and the humble washerwoman. It is, I say, an unworthy mockery of these respectable bread-winners, day-workers, or betrays profound ignorance of their conditions and daily occupations. These poor people pay their taxes to have others in whom they have confidence, whose religious convictions harmonize with their own, relieve them of a duty they feel incompetent to perform. The Sunday-school and the church remain. Good children go to Sunday-school; those whose homes are least Christian in spirit and teachings keep clear of it. Besides, who would be satisfied to have his child put off with one lesson a week in any of the rudimentary branches belonging to the common school? Yet the lesson of lessons, the law and will of God as manifested to his creatures, by which character is formed and moral principles are established, may be satisfactorily learned in the short hour of a Sunday- school.

page 53

Parents need the church and the best services of the clergyman on Sunday more than their children, that they may not forget the lessons of their youth.