Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79

Smaller Classes

Smaller Classes.

Although the experiments at Blackfriars and elsewhere show that the Montessori principle of liberty and the Montessori method of education can be carried out with a considerable measure of success in large classes, I would strongly urge the reduction of numbers in infant classes to at least thirty-five, and this for the following reasons:—
(a)If children are to grow physically and mentally they must have room to move about the school-room, and this cannot be done with large classes. In large classes there must be drill and mass teaching, and the deadly uniformity that crushes individuality and life.
(b)In the best schools in Europe and the United Kingdom the tendency is towards more liberty, more individual teaching as opposed to class teaching—the development of the powers within rather than the imparting of information from without—and the consequent reduced numbers in class that make these things possible.
(c)There should be more physical freedom in our schools. No one surely will say that it is right or natural for little children, or indeed for any children, to sit still cooped up in desks for several hours a day. If children are to move freely and naturally and do their own mental and physical growing, the class must not be congested and unwieldy.
(d)There can be very little doubt that the Montessori method has come to stay in the infant schools of the world. If this be so it must have larger rooms and more floor space for its working out.

I am aware that all this problem of smaller classes and larger classrooms rests on a matter of money, and it may be said that we cannot afford it. Can we, however, afford to go on with large classes, paralysing activity of body and mind, arresting mental, moral, and spiritual growth, and turning our schools into huge, soulless machines, instead of making them what they should be—centres of life and energy? Can we afford to asphyxiate our children physically and mentally by packing them into rooms in such numbers that it is impossible for them to breathe any but vitiated air, or to move except at stated and infrequent intervals? We arrange breathing exercises and physical culture exercises in order to page 39 counteract the immobility and the imperfect breathing of the schoolroom, but would not an ounce of prevention in the shape of more floorspace, more air and liberty to move about, be worth rather more than the pound of cure now provided? I am fully alive to the importance of breathing exercises and physical culture exercises; but if instead of packing children into classrooms with the cubic space so accurately measured that each child gets just so much air, neither more nor less than will save him from being poisoned, we had smaller classes and larger classrooms, the benefit in buoyancy of spirits, instead of depression and weariness, in increased action of the heart and lungs, and in strengthened respiratory movements would be considerable, and would result in a keener mental attitude and aptitude to learn on the part of the child as well as in strengthened physique.