Billeder på siden

Danger of excess either way.

In my

"The young require some one to look up to. better moments I am not altogether unworthy of their respect; but if they knew all my weaknesses, they would naturally, and perhaps justly, despise me. For their sakes, therefore, I must keep my weaknesses out of sight, and the effort to do this demands a certain reserve in all our intercourse."

§ 3. I suppose an excess in either direction might lead to mischievous results. The "open man might be wanting in self-restraint, and might say and do things which, though not wrong in themselves, might have a bad effect on the young. Then, again, the lower and more worldly side of his character might show itself in too strong relief; and his pupils seeing this mainly, and supposing that they understood him entirely, might disbelieve in his higher motives and religious feeling. On the other hand, those who set up for being better than they really are, are, as it were, walking on stilts. They gain no real influence by their separation from their pupils, and they are always liable to an accident which may expose them to their ridicule.*

§ 4. I am, therefore, though with some limitation, in favour of the open school. I am well aware, however, what an immense demand this system makes on the master who desires to exercise a good influence on the moral and religious character of his pupils. If he would have his pupils know him as he is, if he would have them think as he thinks, feel as he feels, and believe as he believes, he must be, at least in heart and aim, worthy of their imitation. He must

Dr. Jas. Donaldson has well said of the educator:-"The most unguarded of his acts, those which come from the depth of his nature, uncalled for and unbidden, are the actions which have the most powerful influence." Chambers' Information sub v. Education, p. 565.

High ideal. Danger of low practice.

(with reverence be it spoken) enter, in his humble way, into the spirit of the perfect Teacher, who said, “For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth." Are we prepared to look upon our calling in this light? I believe that the school-teachers of this country need not fear comparison with any other body of men, in point of morality, and religious earnestness; but I dare say many have found, as I have, that the occupation is a very narrowing one, that the teacher soon gets to work in a groove, and from having his thoughts so much occupied with routine work, especially with small fault-findings and small corrections, he is apt to settle down insensibly into a kind of moral and intellectual stagnation-Philistinism, as Matthew Arnold has taught us to call it—in which he cares as little for high aims and general principles as his most commonplace pupil. Thus it happens sometimes that a man who set out with the notion of developing all the powers of his pupils' minds, thinks in the end of nothing but getting them to work out equations and do Latin exercises without false concords; and the clergyman even, who began with a strong sense of his responsibility and a confident hope of influencing the boys' belief and character, at length is quite content if they conform to discipline and give him no trouble out of school-hours. We may say of a really good teacher what Wordsworth says of the poet; in his work he must neither

lack that first great gift, the vital soul,

Nor general truths, which are themselves a sort
Of elements and agents, under-powers,

Subordinate helpers of the living mind.— Prelude, i. 9

But the "vital soul" is too often crushed by excessive routine labour, and then when general truths, both moral

Harm from overworking teachers.

and intellectual, have ceased to interest us, our own education stops, and we become incapable of fulfilling the highest and most important part of our duty in educating others.

5. It is, then, the duty of the teacher to resist gravita. ting into this state, no less for his pupils' sake than for his own. The ways and means of doing this I am by no means competent to point out; so I will merely insist on the importance of teachers not being overworked—a matter which has not, I think, hitherto received due attention.

We cannot expect intellectual activity of men whose minds are compelled "with pack-horse constancy to keep the road" hour after hour, till they are too jaded for exertion of any kind. The man himself suffers, and his work, even his easiest work, suffers also. It may be laid down as a general rule, that no one can teach long and teach well. All satisfactory teaching and management of boys absolutely requires that the master should be in good spirits. When the "genial spirits fail," as they must from an overdose of monotonous work, everything goes wrong directly. The master has no longer the power of keeping the boys' attention, and has to resort to punishments even to preserve order. His gloom quenches their interest and mental activity, just as fire goes out before carbonic acid; and in the end teacher and taught acquire, not without cause, a feeling of mutual aversion.

§ 6. And another reason why the master should not spend the greater part of his time in formal teaching is this -his doing so compels him to neglect the informal but very important teaching he may both give and receive by making his pupils his companions.

§ 7. I fear I shall be met here by an objection which has only too much force in it. Most Englishmen are at a losg

Refuge in routine work. Small schools.

how to make any use of leisure.

If a man has no turn for thinking, no fondness for reading, and is without a hobby, what good shall his leisure do him? he will only pass it in insipid gossip, from which any easy work would be a relief. That this is so in many cases, is a proof to my mind of the utter failure of our ordinary education: and perhaps an improved education may some day alter what now seems a national peculiarity. Meantime the mind, even of Englishmen, is more than a "succedaneum for salt;"* and its tendency to bury its sight, ostrich-fashion, under a heap of routine work must be strenuously resisted, if it is to escape its deadly enemies, stupidity and ignorance.

§ 8. I have elsewhere expressed what I believe is the common conviction of those who have seen something both of large schools and of small, viz., that the moral atmosphere of the former is, as a rule, by far the more wholesome ;+

"That you are wife

To so much bloated flesh as scarce hath soul

Instead of salt to keep it sweet, I think

Will ask no witnesses to prove."

BEN JONSON: The Devil is an Ass, Act i. sc. 3.

I fortify myself with the following quotation from the Book about Dominies by " Ascott Hope" (Hope Moncrieff). He says that a school of from twenty to a hundred boys is too large to be altogether under the influence of one man, and too small for the development of a healthy condition of public opinion among the boys themselves. "In a com. munity of fifty boys, there will always be found so many bad ones who will be likely to carry things their own way. Vice is more unblushing in small societies than in large ones. Fifty boys will be more easily leavened by the wickedness of five, than five hundred by that of fifty. It would be too dangerous an ordeal to send a boy to a school where sin appears fashionable, and where, if he would remain virtuous, he must shun his companions. There may be middle-sized schools which derive A good and healthy tone from the moral strength of their masters or the

Influence through the Sixth. Day schools wanted. and also that each boy is more influenced by his companions than by his master. More than this, I believe that in many, perhaps in most, schools, one or two boys affect the tone of the whole body more than any master.* What are called Preparatory Schools labour under this immense disadvantage, that their ruling spirits are mere children without reflection or sense of responsibility.† But where the leading boys are virtually young men, these may be made a medium through which the mind of the master may act upon the whole school. They can enter into the thoughts, feelings, and aims of the master on the one hand, and they know what is said and done among the boys on the other. The master must, therefore, know the elder boys intimately, and they must

good example of a certain set of boys, but I doubt if there are many. Boys are so easily led to do right or wrong, that we should be very careful at least to set the balance fairly" (p. 167); and again he says (p. 170). "The moral tone of a middle-sized school will be peculiarly liable to be at the mercy of a set of bold and bad boys.”

* As I have been thought to express myself too strongly on this point, I will give a quotation from a master whose opinion will go far with all who know him. "The moral tone of the school is made what it is, not nearly so much by its rules and regulations, or its masters, as by the leading characters among the boys. They mainly determine the public opinion amongst their schoolfellows-their personal influence is incalculable." Rev. D. Edwardes, of Denstone.

+ About Preparatory Schools I find I am at issue with my friend the Head Master of Harrow (See Public Schools, by Rev. J. E. C. Welldon, in Contemporary R., May, 1890). I do indeed incline to his opinion that very young boys should not be at a public school, but I cannot agree that they should be at a middle-sized boarding school. I hold that they thould live in a family (their own if possible) and go to a day school. Day Schools have now been provided for girls, but for young boys they do not seem in demand. English parents who can afford it send their sons to boarding schools from eight years old onwards. This seems to me a great mistake of theirs.

« ForrigeFortsæt »