THE EASTBOURNE CASE AND INSPECTION OF SCHOOLS. OF SCHOOLS.
THERE is yet another moral from the Eastbourne case, which ought not to be lost. It is a grand lesson on the principles in vogue on education. One tit these false principles is that there are no limits, except those imposedby time, to the recep- tion of book instruction ; another is that the supposed indefinite capacity of attention may be profitably stimulated by the inflic- tion of sufficient pain ; another, that the business of impart- ing knowledge is not an art, and requires no special aptitudes and no training, but may be undertaken even for the higher classes by any one of good social position. The man who under- took the work of education at the boarding-school at Eastbourne had the belief that if he flogged enough he could impart the amount of instruction required. The poor lad's mind was slow,— the rod was the instrument to quicken it ; his mind was con- tracted against such instruction as was presented to it,—the rod powerfully applied would enlarge it. This is a common school doctrine, and the master, by the excessive development of his brutal ignorance, incurred the penalty affixed to manslaughter. But the same false principle of tuition is common to high and middle class schools, whilst in well-organized schools under-trained masters for the poorer classes it may be said that it is exploded. It is, no doubt true, that in some schools the cane is retained, but it is hung up to make known its existence, as an ultimate resort against sudden breach of discipline or overt rebellion, rather than as a means of enforcing instruction. It is admitted that the best masters never use it at all. Frequent use of flogging, and such a use as that displayed in the Eastbourne case, would be considered by those conversant with the subject to be a decisive proof of incapacity. In the examination of the management of schools it is a common question, "Is the use of the cane free- queut or not?" Frequency of use, or common use, is deemed de- cisive as to the disqualification of the teacher. Indeed, in the most advanced popular schools, the use of the rod is entirely prohibited. We cite the following passage from the report of Mr. Inspector Veenan, on the progress of the Belfast Model School, included in the report of the Commissioners of Na- tional Education in Ireland- " Corporal punishment even in its mildest form was altogether discarded. The school was inaugurated upon this principle. It was not of course con- templated to permit faults to rest unchecked, or grave misconduct to lapse unpunished ; but it was designed in the first instance to diminish opportunities or occasions of transgression, and in the next place to punish offenders by some more successful instrument of reform than the rod. By at once putting into operation the principle in organization which I have over and over again urged in reports to the Board—that for every moment of the school day there should be active employment for every child and every teacher, order as established, business was the thought which was uppermost, idle conversation was entirely suppressed, authority was respected, and the faults which constitute 99 percent. of the indiscretions of juvenile teachers were unattempted or forgotten. Constant employment for adult or child is the most prophylactic to waywardness or folly. The expe- rience of the Belfast Model School has proved it to be so. The only faults for which it was necessary to lay down measures of punishment were faults of omission such as neglecting to prepare home lessons or forgetting to com- ply with some school rule, and in such case deprivation from play or deten- tion for some time after school hours, has successfully operated as a punish- ment and a check."
This is for a school where the majority pay from Is. ld. to 2s. 6d. per quarter, for teaching to the older boys,—besides reading, writing, and arithmetic,—" grammar, composition, geography, geometry, mensuration, algebra, book-keeping, natural history, the physical sciences, drawing, vocal music, and all the subjects embraced in the Board's lesson books ; " and for teaching them in a manner superior to that in which the narrower course of in- struction given to the boys at Eton has been imparted under the lash,—a stimulant is still applied at that and other ancient seats of learning. In the popular schools under trained and certificated teachers required by the Privy Council Inspectors, where the use of the cane on the principle of the Eastbourne case is practically dis- continued, the elementary instruction, in reading, writing, and arithmetic, has greatly advanced in rapidity and completeness of attainment, beyond the expensive middle class, and highest class schools. The instruction given in these expensive high and middle class schools, which still retain the long hour system, and the use of corporal punishment as a means of enforcing attention, is now proved by examinations in the very lowest standards and the first elements of primary schools, to be scandalously deficient. From the report of .Dr. Lyon Playfair, we quote the following short and decisive statistics—" In the years 1851 to 1854 both in- clusive, 437 gentlemen were examined for direct commissions in the Army ; of this number 132 failed in English, and 234 in
arithmetic." Yet these were the sons of gentlemen or of peons in high social position, who had paid expensively for firstrate edu- cations. We had recently an opportunity of seeing letters from lads at Eton : there was not one letter, that was not written and spelt in a style that would have been abominable for pauper children taught under the new system. We know indeed that the boys of Eton school, would be beaten in the elements of in- struction by lads of the same ages, at the nearest pauper schooL which is under trained teachers. The fault, however, is not with Eton, or with the like high class schools, but with ihe primary boarding schools, which are held forth as preparatory to the higher schools.
And in these preparatory schools, the thing wanted is a trust- worthy test of the character of the masters and teachers. Parents themselves are utterly incompetent to this duty of testing. The father who has died broken-hearted for the loss of his son, was a magistrate, a man of education himself, yet was totally deceived with other parents as to the character and the competency of the person to whom he entrusted the care of his child, and to whom he paid not less than a hundred and eighty pounds a year for doing the work. It is the same with the barristers,, clergymen, and others, whose sons, after having had large sums expended on their education, have been plucked, for de- ficiency in the lowest elements of instruction. Recent investi- gations display another fact as to the condition of the elementary schools for the middle and higher classes. Teachers have been frequently dismissed from the pauper schools at the instance of Government Inspectors on account of gross ignorance or gross im- morality. On Inquiry as to what has become of them, it has generally been found that they got places as ushers in schools of the middle and upper classes. In respect to competency, it is no better with the schools for girls of the wealthier classes. Female teachers who have been appointed because they had, to the know- ledge of guardians, acted as governesses in wealthy families, are expelled by the Government Inspectors on. account of incom- petency, such as gross blunders in spelling.
One person who had patronage and support for a political ap- pointment in the Civil Service, but was rejected at the lowest pass test on the ground of gross incompetency, has it is stated, in partnership with a butcher, and perhaps with the aid of cheap ushers, set up a boarding-school of high pretensions in a suburban district. Sometime ago, Messrs. Blackwood published a book, called "Revelations of College and Boarding-school Esta- blishments," and in the character of Doctor Theophilus Blinkum, the writer exposed some common features of these middle and upper class schools ; a class, it appears comprising such places as that at Eastbourne. However competent the Paterfamilias might be for such a task, it would be an impracticable course for him to examine the head of the establishment in the teohnicalities of tuition, not to speak of his ushers.
"Nor would it suffice that the possession of the requisite knowledge should be ascertained, for that is often possessed, without any skill in im- parting it to children, which is only to be determined by trial before a per- son as competent as a superior school inspector."
Expectations have been raised, that the Education Commission,. would examine the condition of the provisions for middle-class education and the middle-class schools. But apprehensions are now entertained of shortcomings of the Commission, even in the complete and satisfactory investigation of the lower-class educa- tion and in the development of adequate measures for its improve- ment. Indirectly the Oxford and Cambridge Middle-class ex- aminations and the public competitive examinations, are sub- servient to the purpose. These indicate the necessity of having recourse to some continental measures,—avoiding however, theo- logical tests, or points of sectarian controversy,—seouring that no person shall be permitted to exercise the calling of a school teacher, without a certificate of competency, obtained on open competitive examination, such as is required for teachers of dis- trict pauper schools under the supervision of the Privy Council. At the meeting of the British Association in Oxford, Mr. Chad- wick, who has been investigating the subject of elementary school teaching, developed with strong academical support the thesis, that there are psychological as well as physiological limits ts; mental labour; both of which, he maintained, are largely and inju- riously exceeded in the common school instruction, even in what are called good schools. He showed, on the testimony of experi- enced school teachers, that. at the usual age of attending popu- lar schools, the capacity of attention can be and is exhausted in two hours in the morning and one hour in the afternoon, and that all attempts to the occupation of the mind with any lessons called "hard," beyond three hours a day, are worse than useless. He adduced extensive evidence to prove that book at- tainments of children taught in good half-time schools three hours daily are as good as those who are kept in the same schools, undea the same teachers, six hours daily; and further that the apti- tudes of the half time scholars for the application of their knowledge in after life is greater than those of the full- time scholars. But what is most apposite is, that the rod is not called for in any proportion by the short time scholars. It is the ineffectual resource of teachers, taken up late in the day, and at the end of long hours, in a conflict with a failing nature. It is a mischievous stimulus to inju- riously overworked mental power. He maintained that when: there are uproars and disturbanoes in schools, in the great majority of instances, it would.ho. found that it was the system, or the teachers, or both, that were in fault rather than the pupils. Professors and examiners at the meeting stated in his support that the best mental labour of prizemen did not exceed six hours I daily.. What then are we to think of a system which requires I six hours mental labour from very young children, and in board- ing schools as much as eight hours sedentary application for girls ! One professor stated, as the result of thirteen years' experience as an examiner, that whenever he heard of a young man coming up for examination who was said to have been reading double time or twelve or thirteen hours a day, he always predicted that he would be plucked, and he never knew an instance where such a reader succeeded. Boys have athletic exercises which in part retrieve the injurious effects of excessive sedentary application and constrained inaction. Not so the girls. To occupy the hours taken from book instruction Mr. Chadwick proposes an improved bodily training by gymnastics for both sexes ; and for boys particularly he re- commends the naval and the military. drill, to the utility of which, for civil service, there is now increasing and very con- clusive testimony from the experience gained among the pauper children. But the middle and higher classes must bestir them- selves to save their children from deterioration by inferior pre- paratory education.