18 AUGUST 1877, Page 10

THE REPORT ON CHRIST'S HOSPITAL, T HE extraordinary ideas still current

in English society about the proper punishments for boys at school, and about their claims to ordinary justice, receive a typical illustration in the Re- port of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the condition of Christ's Hospital. Kinder men or men less likely to approve of tyranny than Mr. Walpole, Mr. Russell Gurney, Mr. W. E. Forster, Mr. Liddell, and Mr. Walter, could not be named, yet they all sign a Report which permits the continuance of treat- ment that if applied to negroes on a plantation—who are quite as childlike as English boys—would rouse them to a fury of in- dignation. They report virtually that order is maintained and attention to lessons enforced, in school and out of school, solely by corporal punishment. These punishments are by no means cruel, never exceeding twelve stripes, but they are the motive-force of the school. No other method of punishment appears to bo known in Christ's Hospital, expulsion is never resorted to—from the ex- cessive loss involved by it to the parents, the right of remaining in the school being regarded as a sort of property—and no softer kind of correction appears ever to have been heard of. The Head Master birches ; and the Warden birches and canes ; and the Masters cane on the hand when the offence is serious, and on the back whenever they choose ; and the beadles cane ; and the monitors slap the boys' faces as often as they think that required,—that is, se often as they please. The school, in fact, is ultimately governed through the fear of physi- eal pain, and through that punitive means alone ; and this the Commissioners, so long as the school remains in London, declare themselves unable to condemn. So far

as the Head Master is concerned, neither do we condemn it. The infliction of physical pain is occasionally necessary in all societies, and there is exceedingly little chance that a Head Master will use the power of inflicting it injudiciously or tyrannically. Ho is obliged by his position to think of himself as a sort of Magistrate, as one sitting in appeal in order to do justice ; he belongs to the most thoughtful and self-restrained class of the community; and he is rarely or never provoked by the personal demeanour, orinsolence, or inattention of the boy punished. When he decrees a birthing, the offence is committed against one master, and the sentence is delivered by another,—that is, there is a trial, however informal, by an unprejudiced and com- petent mind. The consequence is, that under the regime of Dr. Bell, puuishmenj by him was exceedingly rare—only five cases being recorded in one year, and all, doubtless, for sufficient cause. In no other case, however, does this security exist. The under-Master punishes at the moment when he is irritated by the boy's perverseness, or insolence, or stupidity,—thatis, just at the moment when he is the least com- petent to form an unprejudiced opinion as to the offender's guilt, and is most tempted to beat down resistance by the most arbitrary and least troublesome of devices. Even in her Majesty's Navy, where discipline is of necessity sterner than on shore, the captain cannot punish till an interval of twenty -four hours has given him time for reflection ; but in Christ's Hospital, where, be it remembered, the lads liable to punishment are mostly under fourteen, and singu- larly unable to obtain protection at home, the parents regarding a nomination as a prize, and where, therefore, the masters are not under the check produced by fear of a decline in profits, the Master—who never sees a boy out of school-hours, and knows absolutely nothing about him except his intellectual capacity, and not that unless his intellect is quick as well as capable—is allowed to flog as often as he pleases. The Commissioners say :—" 30. Besides flogging with the birch, each master in school is autho- rised to use the •cane, and the warden can order the beadle to cane boys on the hand for offences not serious enough to require a flogging. 31. To prevent abuse of this power, Dr. Bell, in 1870, ordered that every master should keep a black book, in which he was required to enter every caning which he inflicted,

and Dr. Bell used to inspect this book periodically. In the present Head Master's 'charge' this regulation was made law : 'Each master and each assistant or under-master shall enter all corporal punishments inflicted by him in a book, to be kept by himself, but open to your inspection at any time when you may call for it.' It appears, however, that some of the Masters, at least, understood this order to refer only to canings on the hand, and considered themselves at liberty to give boys one, two, or even four cuts with the cane on the back or arm without making any entry of such punishment ; and sometimes a boy would be ' turned over' the desk, and his breeches pulled tight by two other boys, that the strokes might sting more sharply. It appears in evidence that in one lower form it was the practice of the Master to endeavour to keep idle or stupid boys up to the mark by administering such canings nearly every day, without making a record of the same." There is not the slightest guarantee that the boy shall have the commonest justice, that he shall not be the object of ono of those spites which schoolmasters, wearied with a pupil's inattention, or want of memory, or stupidity, are so apt to entertain ; and no evidence that a boy may not be thus tor- tured half-a-dozen times a day by the same master, or a succes- sion of masters—for each master is independent—and yet the Commissioners do not recommend the prohibition of the practice, but only that canings shall always be recorded. How will the record secure justice ? The Commissioners seem to think that as caning does not kill, and is less inconvenient than any slower punishment, there is little objection to it, and forget that caning is a practice which, like every other infliction of cruelty which produces instant obedience, tempts the master in propor- tion to his deficiency in the power to govern, and is, therefore, always most inflicted by the man least fit to be entrusted with the power. As to the other idea, that boys are entitled to justice just as much as men, and that arbitrary caning is not justice, it never seems to have entered their minds. There is no security for justice in this case whatever, and indeed, no possibility of it, for boys are flogged for not knowing lessons, —th at is, for an offence which cannot by possibility be the same in different boys. In one it is mutiny, and requires the cane ; in another it is negligence, and does not require it ; and in a third it is incapacity, and in that case the offence is only rendered more inevitable by the chastisement, which, we may add, falls most frequently on the third class,

because they seem to be and often are the most obstinate and perverse. The mere expectation of the cane for an unspecified degree of ignorance of a lesson must dull the faculties. Just let any one of the Commissioners imagine himself ordered to make a speech—and every one of them can make speeches—under the certainty that if he makes a blunder he will be punished with four sharp stings of toothache—we say toothache, to exclude the notion of insult from a blow, which, however, boys of our day very often feel—and he will be able to form some conception of the aid which the cane thus applied, and applied without reference to the justice of the application, must be to learning.

The case of the Monitors is even worse. The "monitors" at Christ's Hospital are not big fellows, looking forward next term to the University, in close relations with the Masters, and under the influence of a more mature generation, but small boys of four- teen, who never see masters except in school hours ; and they are permitted by custom to slap any boy's face for any infraction of discipline,—that is, whenever they choose. Corporal punishment is, indeed, forbidden to monitors ; but Dr. Bell, the late head- master, and a most competent witness, says this does not extend to slapping ; and as a matter of fact, they do slap, whether from "a high sense of duty," upon which the moni- tor Copeland is said to have acted, or from caprice, or from a delight in an immediate and visible exercise of power. There is no appeal, though the Warden says there is, for school etiquette prohibits it, except in serious cases ; and no retaliation, for if there were, the penalty would very soon be abandoned as a cor- rective. The boys are slapped in helplessness, and the Commissioners evidently do not see their way to cure the slapping till the school is removed from London, and Masters thereby enabled to reside upon the premises. Here, again, they forget altogether that the object in a school, as in the world, is not to prohibit slapping, so much as to insure that the slapping shall be just, for which there is no

security whatever. A boy of fourteen, perhaps quick-tem- pered, perhaps callous, is called on to exercise authority out of school over twenty or thirty other boys, without any means of maintaining it, except stinging those boys' faces, and then he is expected to be just. The mere power of inflicting such pain on lads, to many of whom be must be hostile, from the worry they cause him, is a temptation enough to ruin a boy's character for ever ; but this side of the question is not so much as alluded to. The Commissioners think only of the sufferers, and leave them to be slapped, because any other mode of punishment would be more inconvenient. The small boy at Christ's Hospital therefore passes his life liable to be slapped out of school by the monitor, caned in school—with tightened breeches, to make the smart greater—by the Masters, and birched at all times at the discretion of the Head Master or Warden ; and the Commissioners do not condemn, though there is not one of them who, if the same " discipline " were practised in a factory, would not help to pass an Act to secure its total abolition. And this though they were inquiring into a case where it is evident that although the boy Gibbs was not " persecuted into suicide," as originally alleged, still the fear of corporal punish- ment had such an effect on a proud and obstinate nature, that he hanged himself rather than submit to its continuous infliction, The Commissioners hint in one paragraph that birching conveys a sense of disgrace, being inflicted only for disgrace- ful offences, but that caning does not. Is not that of itself sufficient proof that caning is wrongly inflicted, inflicted so capriciously, and recklessly, and frequently that the boys get hardened, and would be careless o caning, were it not for the physical pain?

We repeat, we have never been and are not now opposed to corporal punishment, as the best secondary punishment in certain

cases—expulsion being, of course, the equivalent of an execution

among grown men—but it should be inflicted only as the heavier sentences aro inflicted in the world,—after inquiry, with deliberation, and by an authority who has not been personally affronted by the offence. It should not be inflicted except for previously specified offences, such as mutiny, continued insolence after reproof, moral offences, and if head masters think it ex- pedient, continued neglect of lessons amounting to contumacy. Every precaution should be taken to ensure justice, by allowing the right of appeal, in fact as well as theory, and by compelling an appeal whenever a boy had been punished twice in one week ; and in the case of monitors, by carrying out the existing law, and forbidding corporal inflictions altogether. Some moderate number of lines or short detention should be substituted, and a certain aggregate of punishment in any one month should Involve a reference to the Head Master either to cane the refractory delinquent or to suspend the tyrannical monitor. ik boy might then not only pass through the school without being struck—which is, we hope, even now the destiny of the majority —but with the certainty that he never will be struck except for a real fault, with the security, in fact, which seems to us the very essence of training, that if he " keeps straight " nothing will happen to him, any more than it would at home.