A SECULAR SCHOOL.
A rimy tract before us will survive as a monument of the way in which popular education was first exemplified by the energy and genius of few : it is the "First Annual Report of the Williams ,alar School" in Edinburgh.; and for its correctly describing that remarkable institution we can vouch.* The School was
* The tract is published in Edinburgh by Messrs. Mo.claohlan and Stewart; in London, by Messrs. Simpkin and Marshall.
established for children of the working classes, on the model of the Birkbeck School attached to the London Mechanics In- stitution : it owes its origin to Mr. -FMB, of Camberwell, the well-known zealous and enlightened friend of the education of the people "; it owes much else, be it said, to the practical share which leorge Combe, of Edinburgh, disinterestedly takes in the practical business of teaching; much to its teachers, Mr. Williams and Miss Carmichael.
"It aims at training children to vittue and usefulness, by instructing them in the constitution of the things and-beings which exist, their relations, and the consequences of their various modes of actionand, by accustoming the .animal propensities, and moral and -religious sentiments, to act in harmony with the intellectual fsmilliipa, in .obeying throughout life the law of God in- -scribed in the records of creation. The object of the school thus includes the training of all the faculties—animal, moral religious, and intellectual : but in order to avoid the diffiCuitien arising from i differences of opinion among the various sects on paints of religious doctrine the department of dogmatic spiritual instruction is not undertaken, the teaching being confined to-matters that are purely secular, or relating to this world and its duties only. This course by no means excludes the training of the religious sentiments : for reverence to the Supreme Being, and obedience to his will, may be efficiently taught, by presenting to the minds of children the evidences of his existence,
wer and beneficence—the laws which he has instituted, as they are em-
in his works of creation, and the temporal consequences of obeying or infringing them. As these points admit of inductive philosophical demonstra- tion, comparatively few differences of opinion exist in regard to them ; while they form a basis upon which further religious knowledge, imparted by its more appropriate teachers, may advantageously lie founded. The promoters of the school 'desire to leave to the parents themselves, or to such special re- ligious preceptors as they may select, the teoehi.z of doctrines relating to the supernatural world; and it is here that they would draw definitely the line between secular and spiritual instruction."
The Williams Secular School was °trued for boys in December
1848, for girls in September 1849; e numbers are about 160, one-third being girls. The subjects taught inchule "English reading," grammar, composition, writing, arithmetic, geography, history, bookkeeping, drawing, vocal music, mathematics, natural history, chemistry, natural philosophy, social economy, physiology, and phrenology ; with womanly avocations also for the girls.
"Beading is taught partly in the monitorial classes, and partly in large classes simultaneously. In the monitorial classes the books used ere very :simple, and generally of a narrative and descriptive kind, such as the .thildren can easily comprehend and cannot fail to be interested in. Each child in turn reads aloud; the whole class following mentally, and correct- ing, if they can, when an error is made. When the class cannot c erred an error., the monitor does so ; or if a difficulty occurs beyond the powers of the monitor, he appeals to the teacher. After about twenty minutes' reading, the monitor questions his elms on the subject of the lesson, and on the spelling and signification of the words that have occurredin it. Duringthis _exerciee,. the teacher is moving from class to class, supervising the labour of the monitors, explaining any difficulties that may occur in the lessons, and giving any other assistance that he may perceive to be needed. "In the collective lessons for simultaneous instruction of large numbers, the reading is made subservient to the -systematic courses of instruction on the moral and physical sciences, natural history, geography, &c. The teacher fink reads aloud a sentence, and then all the class read it aloud toge- ther; keeping time by a slight exaggeration of the pauses. In these lessons, elocution and Engah pronunciation are carefully attended to, and every effort is made to enable the children to grasp fully the subject of the lesson, by supplying them with additional facts ansi Blustrations of a familiar, and,if possible, local character ; and by leading them to supply illustrations of their own, and praotieal applications of the knowledge they are acquiring. Spelling and etymology are connected Maiden y with these
'Wherever the subject permits and the means of the school will afford, objects and diagrams are exhibited; and the teacher has found that the rapidity, accuracy, and stability of the progress of the pupils in any branch of "mow- ledge, may be almost measured by the number of such illustrations that has been presented to them. "With the exception of the arithmetical -tables, no lessons are set to the children to learn by rote. Wherever inferences or theories are involved, they are submitted to severe examination ; the teacher suggesting difficulties and apparent objections, and requiring the pupils to do the same. In general, 'his object is to lead rather than carry them through a subject, by supply- ing, or, if possible, drawing from themselves, such suggestions and facts as may direct their minds to investigate and find their own conclusions rather than to remain mere passive and submissive recipients of the state- ments of the teacher. By these means, the intellectual faculties are vigorously exercised and developed, and the subjects taught are firmly fixed in the mmd."
It would be difficult for the reader to believe how well this pro- gramme of duties is carried out in practice, and how satisfactory the results are. But the accounts which the Scotsman has given of the two public examinations that have already taken place, in April and July 1849, attest the efficiency. Some items may be questionable as subjects of instruction—such as the still unsettled speculations called e " science " of phrenology ; but at all events they serve to awaken the intellectual faculties ; and if the pupils learn what may be error, it is the error of the educated. The replies of the pupils under examination, even on such subjects as the laws of digestion and the sanatory laws of cleanliness, would be surprising, if we had not in view -the method which Mr. Ccinibe has so successfully exemplified by his own teaching. The manner in which he seats himself among the _pupils expounds to -them some section of knowledge viva vow, and calls forth their-interest and their own activity, at once explains the result Such a pro- cess requires the highest powers in n teacher ; but then, all real tuition demands high qualifications, especially the tuition of the wholly untaught. Here the teachers of -this secular school are actually training up a class of young philosophers among1ie pour of Edinburgh ; a striking prod of the -work that may be done in education by competent teachers. it the same time, the whale tone and drift of the replies made by the children under examina- tion show how unsound is the fear that " secular " education tends to make them "irreligious." The Lancashire Public School As- sociation should improve this example.