WOMEN AS INSPECTORS OF SCHOOLS.
[TO THE EDITOR OF THE " SPECTATOR:1 SIE,—Having many friends amongst teachers, may I be allowed, in reference to your article on " Girl Graduates," to say how gladly a female inspector would be received, especially in girls' and infants' schools. Inspectors have two distinct duties to perform. The first and most obvious is to procure information as to the condition of the school ; the second, and no less im- portant, to give helpful advice and sympathy to its managers and teachers. First, as to procuring information. Those who have not been present at school examinations probably cannot realise how often little children are, what the teachers call, " upset " by a strange man. I have seen many school examinations, the majority conducted by the kindest of men, but have rarely known an exception to the rule that some children do badly from sheer timidity. (This is perhaps a comforting reflection in the nine- teenth century, when a shy child is becoming rare. Bat the species can still be met with on a school-examination day.) A good deal of this nervousness would, I believe, disappear, if a woman were the examiner. Again, how invaluable the nursery language natural to most women would be in an infant school t Imagine how unused an Oxford or a Cambridge man is to talking to little children ! Indeed, those of us who are in the habit of hearing sermons preached to country congregations, must be struck by the fact that most of the words used are perfectly un- intelligible to the majority of the audience. Educated men- appear hardly able to realise the very limited vocabulary of the rustic. Then as to special subjects,—needlework, for instance. Our men inspectors may be divided into two classes,—the avowedly ignorant and those who profess knowledge. The avowedly ignorant are by far the least mischievous, for there is some honour among teachers. But alas ! for the men who go in for understanding the subject. Some, I think, would be wiser, if sadder men, could they hear the remarks on their supposed knowledge made when their backs are turned. Truly a little- knowledge is sometimes not only dangerous, but really harmfuL I have known the needlework teaching in schools much injured by the visits of the inspector. Instead of the instruction given. enabling the girls to be really useful at home, to mend Tommy's- knickerbockers, or to make baby's frock, some needlework gymnastics were devised, bearing much the same relation to use- ful work as ornamental flourishes do to a good handwriting. However, the standard needlework in the Code now puts an end to the freaks of individual inspectors.
Domestic economy again, which, it is to be hoped, is now coming to the front, is another subject on which a man can hardly examine satisfactorily. The management of a sick-room, cooking, &c.,—these are matters quite beyond the province of a man, unless he is a doctor or cook, while they have been familiar to all fairly educated women from childhood.
Lastly, an inspector's duty should be to help managers and teachers, especially the latter, by advice. This is much needed in Board schools, where teachers stand very much alone. Indeed, one great and well-nigh inevitable defect in the Board-School system is the want of individual interest. There are many points on which a good schoolmistress would thankfully take counsel with a woman who was qualified to judge on them, such as- sanitary matters, the management of pupil-teachers, intercourse with the parents of scholars, &c., but she would never dream of " troubling " the male inspector with such matters, and yet they are by no means unimportant.—I am, Sir, &c., S. L.