The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72
generally, I notice that the Conference recognises the desirableness of increasing the amount of matter read by the children in the twelvemonth. But for the bugbear of the inspector's annual examination I should myself be of the same opinion, and agree with the Inspector-General that the present allowance is not only inadequate, but ridiculously inadequate. Indeed, an incident in striking confirmation of this view came under my notice not so long ago in the course of a professional tour I was making. A boy passing his Fifth Standard one day was presented by his father in the evening with the reading book for the Sixth, supposed, as we all know, to supply reading matter for a year. Before the boy in question retired to rest that night he had read through the whole book. If this could be done with the most advanced book of the series, the utility of the earlier ones may easily be guessed at; and, indeed, the same failing is demonstrated in the experience alike of teachers and inspectors, children being often to be seen in school reciting their reading lessons quite correctly whilst staring about the room. The book is soon found to be superfluous, the child knows the whole of it by heart, and that occasionally before his proper time, he having heard his elder brother repeating the lesson at home. A child who leaves school unable to read the daily newspaper at sight has not received the training to which he is page 3 entitled; all the same I fear this is the case with a good many of our scholars at present. Whilst professional school critics, or at least some of them, are writing learnedly of "the value of the paragraph," "phrasing," and other jargon of the Normal School, the children are stumbling and boggling over the bare recognition of the words. The only remedy is Mr Habens's plan of plenty of practice in unseen passages; but here again we are met with the spectre of the inspector making his annual round. Were the annual examination also made in easy unseen passages, the suggested increase in the amount of reading matter would become more practicable; nor am I at all sure that the teacher's labors would be increased thereby, whilst the test would certainly be more thorough. I suppose newspapers must be as much tabood in school as religious literature, otherwise it would he neither impossible nor undesirable that yesterday's leading articles, at least in Standard VI., should be made to-day's reading lesson. The educational martinet will, of course, sneer at the suggestion; but, as a reformed school system will quickly abolish that gentleman out of existence, the hint may go for what it is worth.