The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78
Chapter V. — The Early Stages of Education
The Early Stages of Education.
Childhood is a, shorthand abstract of the prahistoric development of man; it is man in the making, We have not yet realised this truth in our educational systems. The best talent is needed for the training of the youngest.
The child is ancestor of the man He is not only a'" brief abstract" of all the possibilities as well as the actualities of his manhood, but he biographs in miniature the early history of mankind, as before birth he hieroglyphs pre-human evolution. It is the environment that brings out and chemically fixes in the child this or that stage of prehistoric history, of makes it pass unnoticed. It is the environment that in successive periods elevates into dominance this or that ancestral element or ancestor. For it is the environment taken as a whole, home and playground, as well as school, that is the education in the true sense of the word. It touches into life and draws forth latencies out of the near or far past. And it is on the stage of childhood that the ancestral characters more most freely tod may be most easily controlled by deliberate guidance or influence.
The early years, it has always been acknowledged, are the most plastic. For, when the full tide of life with its independent passions and will has started flowing at puberty, the ancestral elements already know their place and grade, and the character has, [unclear: as] rule, begun to set in its final mould. Yet we leave this all-important stage to the guidance of hazard or of the rod. Towards its close we begin to realise that somehow the nature is setting either for good or evil; we urge on the good to the detriment of the other capabilities, and we deal with the evil by repression and punishment till often it hides and festers in the inner core of the being. It is the first stage of life that in most cases fixes the moral character, the spiritual destiny. We have read the lesson again and again in the biographies of the exceptional in talent or goodness; it was the maternal influence that made them what they were, for this is dominant in the early or plastic stage of life. And yet we have failed to apply the so-often repeated lessom to our system of education or to the organisation of the home.
The instinctive and emotional nature of woman is best fitted for this stage; and the State should see that not only the women teachers, but the mothers, are well equipped and developed for the task.
For this stage, undoubtedly woman, with her rich equipment of emotions and instincts, is marked out by Nature as the proper guide. The mother knows at a flash the inner workings of the child's thoughts and feelings, and by sympathy she can draw out the best in him. It is sympathy that is the chief leverage and driving force in this period of his development. With it he may become all the good that his ancestral element are capable of; without it all the evil may be realised, But sympathy is not all; there must be wisdom and knowledge too, besides tireless attention and patience and self-control. Even on infants you will see foolish mothers wreak their ill-temper or irritation, where the cry is a sure symptom of feebleness or discomfort or sickness. Whilst their ignorance reduces the population more than, any other cause.
The State should lavish all its possible wealth on the training of its girls, as holding its fate in their hands. No duty is of such import to it as the education of the future mothers of its citizens. If their health is impaired and their physique undeveloped, their sons and daughters will be hardy only by accident. If their morale is low and their character feeble, then all the dogmatic teaching of the school, the church and the journals will avail but little. If they know nothing of the physiology and psychology of childhood, fewer of the children born will reach manhood or womanhood, and still fewer will leach it without seeds of disease or enfeeblement in their mental, moral or physical constitution. If they are stupid, or foolish, or ignorant, or undeveloped, their children will have every chance of being so, too, and those of them that turn out differently will early learn to despise maternal advice or comradeship. If the State has its eye on the future of the nation there is nothing it should spare in making the education of girls all that it should be. Every girl should be trained as if she were to be the nurse, "guide, philosopher and friend" of childhood end youth. In page 24 short, every girls' school should be a normal college that teaches all its pupils how to develop the whole humanity of children.
The difficulties of colonial households make the kindergarten a necessity; and this should base its methods on the restlese activity of early man end early childhood. Its teaching should be more through the ear, and should never include anything that needs long or close attention.
But in colonial households, especially those in which the cradle is ever full, the great want is time. With all her duties, and the little help she can get, the mother of a growing family is at her wito' end to know what to do with the children that are on foot. She has generally to leave them to train each other, a training not without value, though often merciless; and her interference in their disputes has to be as prompt, if not as rough-and-ready, in its justice as lynch law.
This feature of colonial life makes the infant school or kindergarten an Absolute essential. The play of the children should be not only rid of its harmful elements, but used as an instrument of education by being superintended with intelligence and sympathy; and this duty of superintending the earliest period of life needs and is worthy of the finest talents and characters that womanly nature can produce. The emotional demands and instinctive methods that ere supreme here practically exclude men from it. And not the failures or the feeblest from the teaching ranks, but the noblest and most successful should be reserved for it; and they should have a training that is specialised and differs by a whole world from that of other teachers. They should have learned to reverence and develop the originalities that so distinguish this early period of life, to keep unharmed its delightful naivete and lack of self-consciousness. They should have realised practically that this is the most active stage of existence, corresponding as it does to the nomaedism of early man; till after seven a child is ever on the move during waking hours; not for a moment does he rest in the same attitude. How to use these activities for the development of the whole nature, mental, moral and physical, and yet never fatigue or show the guiding hand, is the problem of the infant teacher, a problem so difficult that she can never face it without keen insight into child-nature, long training, simplicity with strength of character, deep sympathy, and infinite patience and self-control. She should be a clever and dramatic teller of stories, especially fairy stories.
For till this restless stage is over-passed, an art like reading that demands close deliberation and continous attention should never be taught or encouraged. The imagination should be fired, the emotions touched, the memory trained through the ear. Since printing made books so cheap, the eye has become the chief porch of knowledge and mental development; it is difficult for men to follow and remember a long train of reasoning or series of facts if only the hearing is appealed to. Memory through the ear has been lost in the excessive attention to the written and printed word.
It is at this stage, too, that a living acquaintance with spoken foreign tongues and the simpler arts is most easily acquired. For it corresponds to the prehistoric time when languages were differentiating and were short in vocabulary and simple in structure, as being only spoken; and to the time when the simpler arts were springing into existence and belonged to the life of every man and woman. It is then that the boy's love of cutting and taking to pieces, putting together, and moulding and manufacturing, and the girl's passion for tending dolls and dressing them and making meals for them could be most easily drawn out into preparation for the practical arts of maturer life. Carving and sculpture were wonderfully developed by palaeolithic man; and the corresponding stage of boyhood should most easily acquire those arts, Whilst the little girl of the restless period is more naturally a nurse and dressmaker and cook than any girl after seven. And an atmosphere of rhythm should enter into all their kindergarten life—the rhythm of music and dancing, or calisthenic movements, that is interwoven into all primitive life, and rids it of its dulness and monotony. Nor should they ever be allowed to feel the strain or discover the guidance through an exercise being continued more than a few minutes at a time. Ever-changing variety, with never-failing cheerfulness, is the key to success in the education of this earliest period. The kindergarten should secure first the maximum of sunshine, both physical and spiritual. For this is the essential condition of the growth of a strong life and character. One profound blessing for our country is that no child need be long out of the sun, our towns are still so limited in size, and our atmosphere is still so clear. And another is, thanks to legislation, that no child can have his development page 25 cut short or be plunged into the gloom of unrelieved toil till childhood is over it would be no bad thing for our future if the upper limit of school age were extended even farther.
After seven, the close of the restless stage, should begin the more strenuous elementry teaching. Women may still with advantage continue to do most of it; tor the co-education of the sexes would still benefit both.
The strenuous work of education should not begin till the close of the restless period of childhood. For then only can the continuous attention needed be enforced without injury to the young mind and constitution. But till puberty there need yet be no rigid separation of the sexes or differentiation of their culture. It is in the succeeding stage, that of the secondary school, that the will becomes dominant in the boy and the emotions in the girl. In the elementary-school period, the intellectual faculties in the two are not unlike and the method of development need not differ with the two sexes. Moreover, it has been found both in Scotland and America, where co-education has gone on for generations, that the presence of one sex has a beneficial influence upon the other; the boys are more amenable to discipline, and catch some of the instinctive quickness of the gris; whilst the girls acquire something of the courage, activity and in dependence of the boys. And the dally competition of the two in the same classes veils the difference by placing it among the commoner and more neglecting features of life and postpones that emphasised consciousness of sex which, it has been often observed, is so marked a feature of monastic systems.
Nor is there the same difficulty of classification in schools, especially it the mixed classes can be managed by women teachers, as they can be more easily. And on the character of boys in this stage, the instinctive and sympathetic methods of women have an influence that is by no means deleterious. The feminisation, which recent American observers profess to have found in the characters of American boys, comes, they say, only from co-education of the sexes by women in the following stage, that of the high school. To this is laid to be due the complete subordination of the American man to the women of his household, and the enthronement of the American woman as the spender and the seeker of lazury and pleasure. The quicker instincts of girls get the better of the slow wits and methods of the boys when placed under the tame conditions in school. Whilst the roftening influence of the teacher brings out the gentler side of the boy s character, gives him a sentimental tinge, a highly strung nervosity, and not infrequently an effeminate appearance.
Our primary system, starting as it did in the middle of the high tide of the golden age of British commerce, embodied [unclear: purely] commercial ideas, and turned out clerke and merchants. Its arithmetical methods and apirit must be revised.
Unfortunately for New Zealand, coeducation has not been the rule in the earlier or elementary stage. For it was moulded on the primary-school system of England, and has adopted all the faults and merits of its origin. The English system was instituted in that period of the nineteenth century when commerce seemed to hold the destinies of the nation in its hands and promise the millennium of peace within a few generations. The result was that it was intended to raise clerks and merchanta. Arithmetic and writing filled the whole scheme of the teacher, after he had taught his pupils the elements of reading. This ideal was adopted bodily in the New Zealand elementary schools, along with the duodecimal system which hampers British commerce, because the colonists left as British children the mother country in the very golden age of English commerce, the time of the Hyde Park Exhibition. And yet, for more than a generation, we have been wondering why all the boys have made for clerkships and eschewed the pursuits of the farm and the factory. It was right enough for England with her vast and expanding commerce, her small agricultural area, and her extraordinary growth of urban life. But for a new country like New Zealand, far from markets, with but small towns, end all her existence dependent on primary industries, no educational ideal could hare been more disastrous. It turned the ambitions of the youth from the country to the town, from the factory to the counting-house. The recent rise in the wages of manual labour, even if only nominal, and in the profits of farming and flaxmilling and the subsidiary employments, has practically lowered the salaries of clerks, and begun to rectify this mistaken ambition. But supreme importance is attached to clerkly attainments in the primary schools though there has been a movement towards teaching agriculture and the manual arts.
The sooner we realise that we are not yet a manufacturing and commercial nation like England, except in a subordinate way, the better for the future of our youth and our nation as a page 26 whole. Out of the predominance of the commercial course in our school syllabus can come nothing to influence character or morality or the spiritual progress of our country. And these are by far the most important for the future. Even as it is, arithmetic is taught too much as an abstract science, too little as an art of practical life; its examples and problems are fanciful or irrelevant to our environment. It would be better if the kindergarten principle of learning by doing were continued in the school and college, and arithmetic were taught by means of play at shopping, by carpentry and the arts. In a world that makes money its means of storing and transmission of power, and that is likely to do so for as many ages as we can see in front of us, perhaps it would be no bad thing to encourage thrift as well as skill in calculation by school savings-banks and school money-rewards for work, manual, scholastic and artistic. But this feature should be kept in due subordination to the development of spiritual qualities, character and morale. The commercial and money-making ideals that dominated the English middle classes in the nineteenth century, and inspired the methods of the primary-school system, had better take a minor place in education. They are working too great havoc with the higher aims of civilisation in America and Germany not to warn us Against their monopoly of oar ambitions. We are on the high road to forgetting that material progress and growth of wealth are a sure descent into a national shades, if not duly subordinated to spiritual progress. In the new lands we have, through the clash of creeds and the growth of cultured inquiry, abandoned the old ecclesiastical method of ensuring the latter. None the less will the State, the new nurse of education, nave to look after it, if our nation is not to be doomed. It will have to secure ethical progress and general spiritual advance by reorganising the teaching profession, journalism, and, most of all, the home, on a moral basis.
The school can be most easily reformed. It ought to be made primarily an institution for developing character and raising the ideals of our nation. If this is to be so, the supremacy of the commercial subjects and methods must cease. But that is sooner said than achieved; for arithmatic and writing are the easiest to inspect and examine, if not also the easiest to teach. The results are easily appraisable. And the chief progress made in elementary school methods in the nineteenth century was to invent and introduce similar cut-and-dried methods in the other subjects. A grammar was manufactured for English on the Latin model, and parsing and analysis were adopted as capable of fairly exact tabulation. Geography and history were reduced to a series of Facts that could be isolated and made definite. The enumeration of geographical features and historical dates came nearest to the ideal that arithmetic had set for inspection and examination. The result was as close an approach to a Sahara of education as the human mind could make. The subjects so treated left the emotions, the character, the spirit, and even the intellect, unaffected and undeveloped; they appealed to the memory alone and that one of the lowest forms of memory. The addition of new subject to the syllabus only makes matters worse, instead of better; in order to fit them for exact valuation and examination, they will have to lose their flesh and blood, their living and vitalising elements, and be reduced to a skeleton or framework; and, that they may be crushed into the narrow limits of school-time, they will have to be Liebigised into minute textbooks.
There is no salvation for the primary system but the exorcism of this arithmetical spirit from methods of teaching, examination and inspection. It can never be applied to the valuation of advance in emotions, morale, character, reasoning, imagination, physique, health or fitness; though progress in any one of these is worth all the training in all the old elemental subjects and methods. Nor will progress in them ever be the aim of teachers unless it comes in some measurable way into the periodical valuations of their work.
But the ledger form might be retained to check school vioce and stimulate school virtues.
Something would be gained toward the achievement of this if every teacher had to keep a daily ledger of each pupil's advance in those, and this ledger were carefully examined and taken account of in the annual appraisement of the work of his school. It could be publicly kept, and thus used as a means of discipline and training On a large blackboard beside the teacher, and in view of the whole clam would be inscribed the names of the pupils, with a column opposite for each school virtue and merit, such as regular attendance, obedience, attention kindness, consideration, good manners, leadership, tact, courage, cleanliness, tidiness., success in games, healthy physique; and on it would be inscribed by a positive mark any clear instance of the merit, and by a negative mark any clear breach of it. Even home conduct, by means of conferences with the parents or reports from them, and conduct in the playground, might be recorded, and those regulated and discip- page 27 lined by means of such a record. And not a few of the marks might be given by the consent or applause or vote of the class, as, e.g., in leadership, courtage or kindness.
Some might object that this constant public valuation would lead to the development of too great self-consciousness. But consciousness of virtues is better than not having the virtues at ill; and consciousness of faults is halfway to their amendment. Whilst it is no bad thing, even, at this early stage, to turn the eyes of childhood in on the microcosm of their own natures—as important a study as the macrocosm of the world without. Daily self-criticism and valuation might lead to more modesty in youth, and more success in maturity. It would, at least, check mere fanciful self-estimations and the foolish vanity that is too often based on them. And in the hands of a wise teacher these small public rewards and punishments should form the most valuable instruct of discipline. Great rewards and severe punishments have to be too rare and too distant to affect the daily and hourly conduct. And mere chiding and scolding discount themselves the more they are used. The small change of public rewards and punishments is the greatest desideratum of the teacher. Nor would the most incorrigible or least meritable be discouraged if the ledger were broad enough in its scope to take in all the points of boy and girl humanity, emotional, moral, mental physical.
The arbiter of the hourly fates of all the pupils, the teacher's discipline would be secure, and he might unbend without danger to it and become their friend and confidante, instead of being, as he often is considered, their tyrant and the common enemy that has to be outwitted. He could spend all his intellectual energies and all his sympathies in entangling their fancies and developing their natures, instead of [unclear: coercing] them and dragging out of them the tasks that have been so reluctantly committed to memory at home. The hourly watchman and guardian of their every merit and virtue, he might become their father confessor, if not priest; whilst his conferences with them and their parents might interweave school and home and deepen his influence over their spiritual destiny. The picture seems unreal because it is so unlike the existing state of affairs. It is none the less capable of being realised.
We should draw into the ranka of the primary teachers the best talente and the finestt characters by competent salaries and good prizes.
It is the primary teacher that has the making of the nation's destiny. By the time he has disposed of the new generations they have taken their bent. The majority pass from his discipline direct into the great school of life. The rank and file, the mass, the working body of the nation, remain much what they are when they leave his hands. The common virtues and vices, the general character, the dominant thoughts and emotions, have received their final impress and mould. Leaders and reformers may draw them this way or that by the force of personality or enthusiasm; but it is only for a moment; back they return to their old groove when the influence has passed. It is on the next generation that new thoughts and faiths must rely for their final adoption, and they must pass through the soul of the primary teacher if they are to affect it.
In our proverbs and wayside wisdom we have acknowledged all this; and yet in our practice we ignore it. Anyone is good enough for the elementary school, and any wages are good enough for the profession. It is true we have stirred in our sleep during the last half-century. It used to be those who were maimed or were unfit for other work that set up as schoolmasters. The establishment of normal colleges for the training of teachers is a confession that something ought to be done for these watchmen or guardians of the future; and the State has had to organise the profession. But we have still a long way to travel. It will pay to draw into it the finest talent and character of the nation, if the nation is to progress as it ought to do. And this can be done in only one way in these modern times. It must be honoured as the best career a young man or woman can enter on. In other words, there must he adequate salaries even in the lower levels, and there must be some of the most attractive prizes the country can offer in the higher. Even in the ages of faith these baits for talent and character were essential to draw the beet youth into the church. The cash nexus is still more the vital bond of society, now that the glamour of faith has vanished. What made the old Scotch system so efficient was the number of prises that lay before the profession. The ablest of the graduates entered it, for it was the stopping-stone to the well-endowed parish church and the honoured professorial chair. Our whole education system will have to be coordinated, so that the master ships of our secondary page 28 schools will be the natural prizes of the most successful primary teachers and the professoriate in our colleges the goal of scholastic ambition. If this cannot be done, the salaries attached to the management of our large urban and rural schools must be put on a level with those of heads of high schools and professors. Thus and thus alone can the best talent of our country be drawn into the profession that holds the key of its future. And that only the finest character should be admitted to it, there should be more than a mere intellectual test guarding its portals.
Thus may the main defect of our educational system be amended, the repression of originality, of individual talent end character, and thus may all useful variants be conserved.
When the best talent and finest character is flowing thither, we may look for wiser methods in the schools and more apparent development of the spirit of the nation. And one of the first reforma will be an effort to conserve variants for the competition and struggle of life. This has been the inner principle of the evolution of nature and human nature. Its opposite, the suppression of individuality, the smoothing out of differences and distinctions of talent and character, has been too much the effect, if not also the aim, of education hitherto. It is the natural tendency of training in batches to conventionalise the minds and characters and destroy the differentiating elements. We see the little children enter school all as different as Nature loves to make them; we see them come out at the other end with opinions, emotions, habits, manners all alike, every unsophisticated and unconventional corner rubbed off. Only an odd variation manages to struggle through into life, because of exceptional talent, or character, or will. That is why the mass of men are so much like sheep; they all follow the bell-wether that is fashionable for the hour. That is why the real progress of our modern world is so slow as to be imperceptible.
To prevent this stagnation, every variant, every originality that is not mere useless caprice or rebellion, must be sheltered and encouraged in our schools instead of being suppressed. Every sign of spontaneity and self-reliance must be protected from the sneering criticism, cruel laughter, or coarse tyranny of the playground. All shy talent and character must be watched and developed. And for this purpose two things are necessary besides wisdom and true character in the teacher. One is recognition of these elements in all periodical revaluations of his work. There will be little permanence in his conservation and encouragement of spontaneity, individuality and new variants of idea or talent, unless the inspectors and examiners too are keenly on the look-out for these, and able to discover them and valuate them.
More concentration and better classifica tion, smaller classes, the abolition of the pupil-teacherate and, where these are impracticable, the use of the American half-time teaching, would tend in the same direction.
An even greater essential is reduction in the size of classes. The principle that seems to be followed in our system is the younger the children the larger the numbers that may be rolled together under one teacher. It is the very reverse of what Nature demands; the younger the child the more individual care and attention does he need; the nearer he gets to the adult stage the better can he look after himself and the less possibility is there of outside influences moulding or changing his nature.
And in consonance with this reversal of the order of Nature, the pupil-teacher system has been established and the younger the children the more immature the teacher that is set to educate them—a sure way of spoiling all the good stuff that Nature gives us; for the youth's chief idea of teaching is as a rule, repression; his chief idea of tact and the management of human nature is suppression; even the girls' sympathy and instinct are lost in the responsibility of governing. We see in families, where no great space separates sisters and brothers, how common the elder's conception of duty to the younger is to snub. And this early idea that the main role in teaching is repression does injury not only to the children repressed, but to the teacher who represses. It too often sets the false idea and habit hard Into the nature, and spoils a promising career. To draw out and train the unformed mind and character is one of the most difficult tasks a teacher has to face. It needs the maturest judgment and self-control, the finest instincts and sympathy, the fullest knowledge of the human soul, and the most patient inventions and industry in meeting the dilemmas that offer at every turning.
In order that the younger children should have the maturer teachers to guide them, the Americans adopt the half-time system for them; the children get instruction one part of the day and prepare lessons the other half. In country districts, where concentration by means of conveyances is impracticable, this might he one way of mitigating the evils of want of classification. The backblocks teachers of the page 29 colonies have some compensation for their many disadvantage; they are dealing with the same environment as moulded in England half a century ago the educational methods they are using slow transport, long distance from towns, and frequent isolation; whilst they have more unsophisticated and earnest scholars, and need spend less energy on the mere drill-sergeant task of discipline.
Every means should be used to prevent the drift of the rural population to the cities.
They should endeavour to give some scientific interest to the pursuits in which the parents of the children are engaged. The administration should not only have an instructor in agriculture who should teach the teachers how to deal with it in school, but they should arrange that they get the newest scientific light on the art both by sending them periodically to study on experimental farms and in agricultural colleges, and by supplying them with the freshest literature and the results of experimentation in their own and other countries. The teachers should experiment themselves, and get the children and their parents to experiment. For it is of the utmost importance for the future of our country that the urban life should not grow out of all proportion to the rural, as it has done in older and even new lands. A community must keep in touch with the soil like Antaeus, if it is to be strong in the struggle of life. It is the farming, the rural population, that keeps the cradle full, and full too of the wholesomest minds in the wholesomest bodies. If they are prosperous, the whole nation is prosperous. When the cities fall into two camps, the wealthy and luxurious few and the proletariate, the country folk remain fairly even in their careers and opportunities. When vice and enfeeblement attack both urban extremes, they are conservative of the old ways and the old righteousness. It is the duty of the State that has the doom of others before it, to encourage not only settlement on the land, but such attractions as shall make the settlers and their children cling to the land; to supply liberally, not roads and bridges alone and means of quicker transport and intercourse, but the best of teaching end teachers, and full and ever-renewing libraries. It cannot place all the attractions of urban life within easy reach of all; but it can often the, asperities and break the isolation of the existence by making the schools centres of illumination, and sending out their scientific agricultural agents to improve the agriculture and catch the imaginations of the farmers and their children in the net of experimentation. If that fatal drift from the country to the town, which has marked the last century in Europe, sets in here in our new land, we may bid farewell to our highest hopes and ideals. And it is education alone that can prevent it; education in its broadest sense, an education that develops the whole man, and interests his whole humanity.
And one of the best means would be the fixation of the passion for reading in the rural mind and a vital use of libraries.
And one of the first conditions of a contented rural population, willing to remain on the land, is a passion for well-directed wholesome reading, with sufficient opportunities for gratifying it. The great aim of the country teacher, even more than the urban teacher, should be to awaken and develop this. The old Mnemonic type of teaching, with its commercial basis, its enthronement of arithmetic, its isolated series of unreasoned facts, and its Liebigised text-books, will never help him to attain such an aim. It is reading, and reading alone, reading of the right kind, and plenty of it, that will do it; not the dreary and fatal repetition or the same reading-book till every word and passage, with full textual comments on it, have become a familiar friend and bore; but an ever-varied, ever-fascinating course of romance, the romance of adventure, of discovery, of history, of biography, of science.
The state school library, with its few shelves of ancient fiction, written down to the level of the childish mind, should vanish, and in its place should come tales or real life and real, discovery and invention, ranging from the simple language of the lower standards up to the classical histories that would entangle the imagination on the portal of manhood and womanhood. If our school-boards were alive to the great possibilities of the school library as an evangelist, they would each have a great central library, from which should go forth every year, every month, sets of new and interesting books to every school district: and, as libraries are inefficient without the living guide, they should each have an expert official, whose duty would be to become acquainted with all the best books for boys and girls, both old favourites and those that are issuing from the press, gauge their ethical influence and their suitability to the various standards, and give advice to the teachers as to which kinds they should draw on from the central treasury of books; he should be the spiritual adviser and guide of the whole district, he should know the kind of book that is suited to every type and stage of mind, that would cure any page 30 faulty mood or encourage any special faculty or virtue. He might also make himself familiar with the scholastic journals and new text books of the British Empire and America, and be able to suggest experiments in the use of the latter. Every school should have a magic lantern, and he should be able to send out new supplies of slides to it all the year round, slides that would illustrate the books or subjects that were being studied.
There is no limit to what the country teacher could do to make rural life attractive with such an ever-renewing library, such a treasury to draw on, and such an official to guide his judgment. He could entice the parents into the reading circle by means of the books for his senior pupils, Scott and Dickens, Marry at and Hawthorn, Gibbon and Froude and Macaulay, Prescott and Motley, Smiles and Proctor, Flammarion and Ball. And his conferences with them would have ever-living interest with so many themes to draw from these, and his never-stale series of lantern slides. The homes of his pupils would then be real annexes of school; he could rely on them as allies in all his efforts to develop the young minds and characters. Nor need he despair of awakening, even in the most unpromising, the passion for reading and the capacity for self-education. But nothing of this could be achieved unless inspectors and examiners were willing and able to valuate his work and its results. And this is the crux, for it would be difficult to get out of the old exact methods of examination.
This would revolutionise the spiritual atmosphere of the rural districts and schools. It would rear good citizens, able to continue their own education.
Yet the result in expanding intelligence, well-equipped mind and full and free vocabulary would be apparent even to the most superficial and arithemetical of examiners. The fixation of the habit of reading would change the whole atmosphere ox the school, if not of the neighbourhood. And for the teacher himself, it would render his work of developing the full humanity of his pupils easy and delightful. He could reduce home lessons to the reading of some new and interesting book within a certain period of time, a lesson which the parents would not object to hear and superintend. And, when a book had been read by the whole class, he could use it as a means of teaching skill in many arts that every citizen should command. He could develop ease and confidence in speech by making the children tell stories from it; he could develop debating power by turning the class into a society for the discussion of its merits and faults, its characters and incidents, and the virtues and vices it deals with. He could teach exactness in the use of language, and in the manipulation of ideas by making them write on themes drawn from it, and using the class as a school of mutual criticism. He could develop the imagination, and originality by giving them half a story of the same type and treating the same theme, and getting them to finish it, or supplying them with an outline or skeleton and asking them to fill it in or clothe it with flesh and blood, or, suggesting a theme or scene out of their own environment or life, make them expand it or describe it in the manner of some passage in the book. No faculty but he could awaken and train by means of this free reading.
But the most striking effect would be the ethical and spiritual. By the proper choice of books (and, with a large central library and an expert official to advise, he should have no difficulty in this) he could implant in the youthful natures enthusiasm for all the finest virtues and noblest ideals, and loathing for the antithetic vices and evil aims. There would be no need for the flag-worship of the American schools if the imagination of the pupils were fired for their country and the Empire by stories from its history, There would be no need of dogmatic theological teaching if they read books full of the reverence for all that is divine in the universe and in man. Truth, honesty, honour, purity of thought and life, courage, manliness self-control, consideration and sacrifice for others, could all be taught much more efficiently by stories from real life that illustrate these than by any textbook of ethical maxims or pulpiteering on the part of the teacher.
Perhaps the best of all the results of this fixation of the habit of reading would be that the pupil would leave school with the desire and the power to continue his own training. The most melancholy spectacle of modern times is the manifest futility of most education. Nine out of every ten boys and girls leave school and drop schooling as if it had been a mere outer garment worn reluctantly for the nonce. All the years and energies spent in teaching them seem to have come to naught. The pursuit of trivial and momentary pleasure, including the use of that mental opium, present-day fiction, seems to cover all their aims and abilities in life. Down the steep of Gadars they rush, possessed only of appetites and passions, and above all page 31 the passion for pastime. This suicidal descent will have to be stopped, if out race is to persist and progress. And one thing that will stop it is to fill the young men and women, with the longing and the capacity for self-education and self-development before they pass from school, and to be efficient this should include not merely the intellectual side and the physical side of their nature, but the spiritual; they should leave school with an enthusiasm for all that is true and noble. And it is the judicious and well-directed use of a well-chosen school library that will achieve this.
But the physique should be developed too, and the interest in the problems, and issues, and events of the world.
But there is a danger that such a course of uncurbed abandonment to reading might impair the physical health of the race. And to prevent this the physique of the children should be as carefully examined periodically as their intellectual developments and acquirements. In town schools especially should this examination be rigid and exacting. For there the children live more in a vitiated atmosphere and less in the open air, and are not likely to have regular wholesome physical work. The physical instructor of the school-board should not only instruct the teachers, how to strengthen the different organs and tissues by various exercises, but go round with the medical inspector and give advice as to the athletic treatment of every child who is physically defective. And early military drill for the boys and ambulance drill for the girls would not merely prepare them for one of the main duties of citizenship, but aid in developing the physique. Fully developed men and women are the true wealth of a country, and development cannot be full unless the physique grows equally with the mind.
A still greater danger from a passion for reading might be the production of a bookish community, unable to bring what they read into relation to what they have to be and to do, And this is more real in urban youth, who rarely come in contact with nature than in rural, who daily face a natural environment and feel the daily necessity of doing things To guard against this is doubtless the object of the continuation of kindergarten methods in primary and higher schools. The pupils have their faculties developed by being taught to use their hands—the method brought into most prominence by the Swedish sloyd system. Quite apart from the scholastic value of manual training in developing the intellectual powers, urban children would be "handless" and helpless in presence of the emergencies of colonial domestic life if they were not taught. Every school should have its gardening plot and its workshop, and for girls its Kitchen, Its sewing-room and its nursingroom. As far as possible, every subject should have its laboratory practice in which the pupil might put into working what he has read.
And for the purpose of making geography more real there should be perpetual appeal to wall-maps and globes, and as frequent visits as possible to museums; whilst most of it should be a treatment of cause and effect. History should be treated similarly from the point of view of evolution and in relation to the existing state of the world. That both subjects might become vital and prepare the pupils for citizenship of a world-wide empire, the cable column of the daily newspaper should become the textbook in the higher classes. Every place mentioned should be discovered on the map, and its relationship to the Empire and the world indicated. The historical meaning of the various great events and personages, and the social, economic or political meaning of the great movements referred to should be traced out. At times a discussion of burning questions might be encouraged, and a vote taken on the issue, Thus might geography and history be made living subjects and a true preparation of embryo citizens for the duties they ought to fulfil is after life in so democratic a community as ours. It would be a more intelligent way of awakening patriotism and moulding citizens truly interested in their country than the American flag-waving.
What is most needed is some means of helping the pupils that are leaving schools to fix upon their proper career, so that there should be fewer failures in life.
There still remains to he noticed one of the most patent defects of modern education. It gives a general training to the boye and girls, and then leaves them at sea as to what they are best fitted for. It was not to with the education of the medieval city; with its highly organised industries, its guilds, its apprenticeships, and its knowledge of all the conditions and environment that surrounded every employment, it was able to indicate to every youth the career he would follow with most success. Our modern states, with their lack of organisation, their inchoate or tentative educational systems, their interference with the natural course of industries and talenta their inability page 32 to gauge coming or even existing conditions of production and commerce, and their futility in dealing with the tremendous problems that daily demand solution, have destroyed the old certainty of careers. The parent is at his wits' end to know what to set his boys to. The course of their education has not helped them much in discovering either their own bent or their special aptitude. The teachers cannot help him, and he can find cut little of the comparative demand for workers in the various spheres. In the end he generally parcels them out over the professions or trades without much regard to their adaptability to them, or he leaves it to their own whim to choose, and either way the result is often alike disastrous.
What is wanted is some official expert to take the place of the guild-masters of the medieval city. He should be a practical psychologist, who could analyse the faculties and characters of children and tell from the analysis what they are each best fitted to do. He should also have full knowledge of the prospects of every kind of employ. Sent in the country, so that he might be able to give a fair estimate of a boy's chances in any walk or profession he might choose. With an advisory council" consisting of the boy's teacher his parents the inspector and the medical officer, he should be able to point out with sufficient decisiveness the career every boy and girl about to leaves the primary school should follow, whether to enter at once into some trade or to go on to a secondary school, and what training each should undergo in order to attain success. Such an of ficial might help to obviate the bewildered stumbling that entrance on a career so often is now and reduce the enormous percentage of failures in practical life. And anyone that could do this would introduce something of organisation into life, as well as into education.