16 AUGUST 1828, Page 10


THE subject of Parochial Schools has of late years, in Scotland, frequently engaged the attention of persons fond of speculating on the improvement of their countrymen, and has at last been urged on the consideration of the public by one of the most en- lightened teachers of the age. In two Letters on Elementary Teaching,* Professor Pillans has laid down some of the leading principles of the art, and shown how far the parochial teachers are from being guided by them in the practice of it. The heading of the second of the two letters announces an exposition not only of the causes but also of the cure of these imperfections in scholastic discipline ; but the reader rises from the perusal of it with a clearer view of the disorders prevalent in the system than of their remedy. Perhaps the writer was of opinion, that to describe the first and to indicate their causes, was a step towards the extirpation of them quite sufficient for one experiment on the public attention. Having ourselves something to submit to the notice of our readers, at a future time, on this latter head, we propose previously to try, by means of the present work, to interest them in the question, and to prepare them for considering whatever suggestions may be offered in reference to it.

In the letter Nvhich inculcates the principles of Elementary Edu- cation, we admire, not so much the novelty of the truths ex- pounded, as the felicity of the exposition. The principles them- selves have long been admitted by all who have thought philo- sophically on the subject of education. The merit of Professor Pillans consists in having promulgated them in a way to carry conviction of their truth into the minds of persons not addicted to philosophize ; who, in Scotland as well as elsewhere, are the bulk of the opulent and influential.

.A just. distinction is drawn, in the outset, between two things vulgarly confounded—the ability to read, and the intellectual cul- ture, to which the first is only valuable as an accessary. This mistake of the means for the end is invariably made by the ordi- nary schoolmaster ; who teaches the art of reading as a music- master teaches the gamut, without the slightest idea of the pro- priety of any appeal to the understanding.

" English reading, according to the prevailing notion, consists of no- thing more than the power of giving utterance to certain sounds, or the perception of certain figures; and the measure of proficiency is the facility and fluency with which those sounds succeed each other from the mouth of the leaf aer."

That reading is taught as an exercise of the organs of sight and speech independently of the intellect, is intimated plainly enough by the practice of country schools, " which," says the author, " is to read the Bible straight forward from the beginning of Genesis ; " from which course they never deviate, but " to pick out some chapter rf proper names ;" and he informs us that the test of pro- ficiency commonly assumed is, of all the chapters in the Bible, the tenth of Nehemiah!

An objection to which a more intellectual mode of teaching is liable, as demanding more time than the necessities of most pa- rents will allow their children to remain at school, is well answered by showing that the intellectual is also the shortest way to the art of reading.

" The child who is taught the habit of carrying the sense along with the sound, is armed with two forces instead of one, to grapple with the difficulties he encounters—the one his knowledge of the letters and syl- lables, and the other his knowledge of the story. And these so direct and accelerate one another, that by their joint operation, he arrives at the point desired sooner, by one-half the time at least, than by the super- ficial system."

Thus two objects are accomplished—the boy is taught to read and he acquires at the same time a relish fur reading, withou which the mere power is a talent hid in a napkin. The writer justly reckons much upon the avidity with which children will vo- luntarily betake themselves to reading, provided intelligible books are put within their reach. " The appetite for information," he observes, " is as surely felt in a healthy mind, as the desire of food in a sound body ; " and to support this remark, he quotes Quintilian, with a melancholy reflection that the consideration of scholastic discipline should at this clay require him to point out a principle utterly overlooked, which was nevertheless inculcated on the world not far short of two thousand years ago.

" Sicut ayes ad volatum, cqui ad cursum, ad smvitiam fern gignuntur ;

ita nobis propria est mentis agitatio atque solertia Lrebetes vero ci indociles non mag,is secundum naturam homines eduntur, quam prodi- giosa corpora et monstris insignia."

The idea that a taste for acquiring knowledge and a love for the business of school may be given by exercising the intellect of boys and not their memory exclusively, is further upheld by an appeal to the author's own experience when Rector of the High School of Edinburgh ; and to that of Mr. John Wood, who, with a taste for benevolent pleasures peculiar to himself, has, in addition to the labours of a profession and the duties of a public function, volun- tarily assumed those of a teacher, and discharges them wills a suc- cess and an originality of which the mere mention of the Ses- sional School of Edinburgh will remind all who have ever enjoyed an opportunity of witnessing the conduct of that establishment. The next and error in the practice of parochial schools which the Professor addresses himself to explode, is the use of corporal punishment. If applied as a cure for antipathy to instruction, the letter shows that the flagellatorial practitioner mistakes the synip-

* Edinburgh, Adam Blacif ; Longman and co., Lsadon,

tom of disease for the disease itself, whose virulence of course is only aggravated by his rough and misapplied prescription.

" Knowledge, when properly administered, will be rejected only by minds which either by nature or bad nursing are of monstrous conforma- tion. If a child in a fit of sulkiness refuses its ordinary meals, a prudent mother does not force the food down its throat, but exerts herself to re- move the pettish humour, not doubting, if' she succeed, that appetite will do the rest."

" Amputation and cautery," adds the author, with a felicity of illustration of which his letter affords many examples, " may be necessary where a member is incurably diseased ;"—and accord- ingly he does not seem averse to corporal infliction in the case of egregious immoralities ;—" but nobody dreams of using them with the view of increasing the power of locomotion, or giving ease and grace to the carriage." The late Dr. Parr, however, thought that applications it posteriori quickened locomotion and improved the carriage. On being privately informed by his sub that —, a no- toriously idle dog, had betrayed indications of talent, " Then begin flogging tomorrow !" roared out the Doctor in ferocious glee. Perhaps — might be the better for an application at some end, even though the wrong one, rather than at no end at all; but had Parr been as familiar with the human mind as with the infinity of authors quoted in his Spital discourse, — would have been no less a scholar than he is, and would doubtless retain at this day a much happier recollection of school, as well as a much greater love for the Memory of his master.

" A careful study of the puerile (.+ie) mind, will discover to any man of ordinary sagacity, a variety of principles to which he may appeal with far greater chance of success than it is possible to expect from com- pulsion and fear."

Against the admission of this last as a principle of action into the scholastic system, the author argues with benevolent eloquence.

"It not only lowers the general tone of his mind, (the schoolboy's,) by destroying the pride Of independence and conscious rectitude, but it intro- duces a crowd of other vices, which may be well said, like the diseases that pave the way for death, to be more hideous than their queen.' hatred venting itself in curses not loud but deep, low cunning, dissimulation, craft, fraud, and lying, arc not the least hideous of the group. The whole brood will disperse before the light of gentleness and good humour, pro- vided these qualities appear, not fitfully alternating with gloom and storm, but settling in uninterrupted sunshine on the brow."

Professor Mans justly regards the moral training of youth,--a matter entirely overlooked in most of the schools, public and pri- vate, in this part of the island,—as of much greater importance to the pupil (and to the pultlic, we would add, in particular)than any amount of literary proficiency. And in order properly to conduct this training, he proposes to the master the first and most essential step, the training of himself.

"He must learn to subdue those bursts of' fretfulness, impatience, over- anxiety, and offended pride, which find too ready a vent in the use of the rod. lie must be exact his own defects to scan,' both of temper and management, exercising in particular a stern control over the first ebullitions of passion, in order that being master of the movements of kie u3/7/ mind, he may better understand Iwo' to teat frith hi.s pupils'. Ile will then discover that the lash acts only at intervals, and then rather to para- lyse than excite ; and that what the public teacher requires is a moving power, which shall urge to propriety of demeanour uniforml2: and in alt places. Such motives he will not seek in vain in the desire of distinction among his fellows and of approbation from his master ; in leave to play when the business prescribed is done, and as soon as it is done; and in the privilege to read what he is able to comprehend.'

If it be objected that this is proposing to confine the turbulence of schoolboys with cobwebs, it must be recollected that turbulence, as ordinarily exhibited in grammar-schools, is the fruit of the birch- ing system itself, and to the birch must be left for correction ;- the evil would never have gained head under a rational method, which presented proper inducements to exertion, and kept the mind in constant activity. But the discipline of our schools is happily adumbrated from our system of law and police, being more efficacious in punishment than in prevention or refor- mation, and more on the alert to detect crimes than to anticipate their commission. " Nunc fore"—the perverse practise is as old as pucri 71011 jite:yo (me recta sunt coguntur, sed, cant frcerint, poni Hilton"

To all the other exceptions which may be taken to the use of

the lash, rod, birch, tawse, ferula, Tel quricanve 040 'twit nollzine did, as the accredited instruments of discipline," the author adds one which alone is decisive of the question : viz. justice to the boy ; who has a right, as well as another, to personal security from an infliction, which, says Quintilian, " si intatem mutes" is " injuria," a gross assault ; and who ought not to be subjected to any annoyance or mortification, in the course of his training, which science or diligence on the part of the master may enable bins to dispense with. Surely a discipline of stripes is a rime preperation for a course of conduct which is to lie regulated here- afi er by motives of honour and morality ! On this subject the reader

will find, at pp. 29, of the present work, a beautiful passage, in which the author's sympathy with the unhappy subjects of scholas- tic tyranny seems to have attuned his ever-a,raceffil diction to a strain more than usually flowing and harmonious.

The third great principle inculcated is that on which Joseph Lancaster framed his institutions, and which is best stated in his own simple languege, as quoted by the present writer,—" that every pupil in school shall at all times have something useful to do, and a motive for doing it." The only system founded on this obvious principle is that known by the name of the monitorial method; the merits of which, however reluctantly admittmi here, appear nevertheless to be more fully appreciated in England than in the North, If there are any persons, anywhere, sceptical on this head, who are yet capable of imbibing conviction on adequate grounds, we would recommend to them the exposition contained in the latter part of the letter we have been considering; which exhibits a union of philosophical reflection and large experience, before which the strongest prejudices, to use a Shakspearian metaphor, must needs "stand bare and naked, trembling at themselves."

What then is the conclusion upon the whole matter ? That to conduct the business of schools, in a way to render them as bene- ficial to society as they are capable of becoming, requires that the master should be conversant with the nature of the mind and of the passions of boyhood, have an absolute command over his own, and be dexterous in removing " each dust, each straw, each little rub," out of the path which leads to knowledge ; an assemblage of qualities not often found in any man, and seldomest perhaps visi- ble in the quarter where their absence is most to be deplored. To provide a sufficient number of men equal to the most delicate and one of the most important functions in the state—to elevate "the schoolmaster" into that formidable but benevolent being which Mr. Brougham's imagination lately drew him—is the great problem which it mainly imports the wellbeing of the community should be solved ; and towards which, we purpose, with the aid of the second letter of this excellent work, next week to offer an

attempt at a solution. -