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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

Keeping Reform at Bay

Keeping Reform at Bay.

Mr Wilson's 1893 report and his communications to the 'Star' show certain stereo-typed features—viz., a recognition of the over-pressure involved in our system of education; a denunciation of its evil effects: and, finally, an appreciation of this own school, where, in spite of the taking of many scholarships and other high distinctions, pupils are said to retain their health and strength virtually unimpaired. This satisfactory practical result effectively does away with any anxiety that may have been created. Mr Wilson satisfies not only him self, but the public, and reform is kept at bay. The following passages exemplify what I mean :—

This school has taken a fair share of scholarships of different kinds, bat 1 am not aware of a single case in which there has been any serious sacrifice of heath on this account. . . . Parents may rest assured that there is no desire on the part of anyone connected with this school to exact too much from girls; but if parents enter their daughters for a race they must expect to see them hard driven.

This passage occurs in Mr Wilson's report on the Girls' High School for 1893, yet this same report clearly demonstrates that there is great over-pressure, and contains a scathing denunciation of the ways of eraminers and the cramming of useless material exacted.

To come now to my own experience. When I was rector of the Girls' High School, I certainly used to be alarmed about some of the girls in particular forms remember two girls who now ocean important positions, and, so far as I know, are perfectly sound in health-(Evening Star,' May 24. 1906.)

These sixty-four (University junior scholars), take them for all in all, are as vigorous, useful, and sane a set of member as you will be likely to find the British Empire over . . . cream of the community . . . creuie de la creme one forty-five duxes. ... If you want to be long-lived, sonny, strong-limbed sound-winded . . . come and be dur of the Boys' High School.—(Vide 'Eveing Star," May 26.)

I have spoken of Mr Wilson's recognition of the evils of over-pressure involved in one secondary education, but after thoroughly convincing us that twenty-years' experience of teaching has only tended to confirm adverse opinions-entertained at' the start, be says:—"Finally ... I hold an open-mind on this question of over-pressnire" (see Mr Wilson's second communication to the 'Star'). One would have supposed that the rectors report for 1893, taken in conjunction with what he first said in the Star' about the sacrifice of physique is girls, would have rendered it impossible for him to persuade himself a few days later that he had merely "an open mind" on the subject. I cannot help feeling that had he been intensely interested in the welfare of our women of the future he would have looked beyond the accidental reflection on himself and his schools (involved in my denunciation of pupils being allowed to work far into the night in the attainment of honors), and would have done his best to page 47 help on the reform which he shows that, in his heart of hearts, he has long felt to be urgently needed. Having recognised the evil, why does he not even now boldly declare his allegiance to the cause of reform and enter the lists against the further oppression and sacrifice of growing girls? No one can read the recent annual reports of the Girls' High School without realising that reform would be welcomed from within.

Reform cannot reasonably be expected from an uninformed public, and such phrases as "So far as this school is concerned the matter is entirely in the hands of the parents" (vide Mr Wilson's report for 1835) seem to me most unfair. In the very next sentence the rector says : "It is necessary that parents should insist on their children devoting a reasonable time to evening preparation." No indication whatever is given as to what time may be consiedered reasonable, and the natural inference is that a pupil ought to work until the allotted tasks are mastered, because Mr Wilson says:

Over-pressure is often wrongly inferred from the length of time a pupil spends over her home work, no account being taken of the degree of application or concentration she brings to it, and the distractions amidst which she works.—(Vide report Girls' High School, 1893.)

The same conclusion is repeated in the first 'Star' article, and instead of seeing in lack of power of concentration an evidence of exhaustion from cram, which it frequently is, the parents naturally come to look without anxiety upon long hours spent it home preparation. The only thing needed to remove any trace of misgiving is the rector's assurance that "necessarily certain boys get a good! deal fagged ... but there are holidays in the year that relieve my pressure."