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PAMPHLETS ON GENERAL EDUCATION.
1. An Analytical Digest of the Educational Clauses of the Factories Bill, now before Parliament, with observations and objections: to which are added, Practical Suggestions to the opponents of the Bill. 8vo. pp. 44. London: J. Dinnis. 1843.
2. The Bill, or the Alternative. A Letter to the Right Hon. Sir James Graham, Bart. M.P. &c. By Henry Dunn, Secretary to the British and Foreign School Society. 8vo. pp. 31. London : Ward & Co.
3. Equity without Compromise: or Hints for the construction of a Just System of National Education. By Edward Swaine. 8vo. pp. 36. London: J. Snow.
4. The Question "Is it the Duty of the Government to Provide Means for the Education of the People?" examined. By George Payne, LL.D. 12mo. pp. 32. London: J. Gladding.
5. Reasons against Government Interference in Education: shewing the Dangerous Consequences of entrusting a Central Government with the Education of its Subjects, and explaining the Advantages of leaving it to be regulated by individual, family, and local influence. By an Observer of the Results of a Centralized System of Education during thirteen years' residence in France. 8vo. pp. 56. London: T. Ward & Co.
6. The Social, Educational, and Religious State of the Manufacturing Districts with Statistical Returns of the Means of Education and Religious Instruction in the Manufacturing Districts of Yorkshire, Lancashire, and Cheshire. In two Letters to Sir Robert Peel, Bart. With an Appendix, &c. By Edward Baines, Jun. 8vo. pp. 76. London Simpkin, Marshall, & Co.
7. A Plea for Liberty of Conscience. A Letter to Sir James Graham, Bart. on the Educational Clauses of the Factories Bill. By John Howard Hinton, M.A. 8vo. pp. 16. London: Houlston & Stoneman. 8. A Plea for Liberty of Education. A second Letter to Sir James Graham, Bart. on the Educational Clauses of the Factories Bill. By J. H. Hinton. 8vo. pp. 52. London: Houlston & Stoneman.
OUR readers must not imagine that we are now about to discuss the merits of that bill which was so ably exposed by several of these pamphlets, or to do more in reference to them than to say that their gifted authors rendered good and effective service to the cause of religious freedom, by their prompt publication; and that an acquaintance with
these productions is essential to a correct estimate of the state of opinion amongst Nonconformists upon the momentous subject of general education.
Great as are the obligations we owe to those writers who helped to arouse the public mind to a sense of the importance of resisting the educational clauses of the Factories Bill, yet we are sure they will admit that now that struggle has passed away, we had better make their publications a text, and address ourselves to the question of general education, and how we may best improve the events that have occurred, for the public good.
Not half a century has yet elapsed, since the idea was almost universally entertained among the aristocracy of this country, that anything like an intellectual education for the humbler classes was a matter of very doubtful propriety. About that period the country was ruled by an oligarchy, and a system of physical domination, unacknowledged perhaps in words, but too plainly manifested in those expensive and sanguinary wars, waged to uphold mere kingly authority among foreign nations; and at home by a spirit of blind subserviency to civil and ecclesiastical rulers. To perpetuate this power and prolong this thraldom, it was obviously the interest of those in authority to keep the human mind in ignorance. Knowledge and freedom generally go hand in hand; and as it was by no means their policy to bestow too large a measure of the latter upon the people, it was found the more convenient way to withhold it by abridging the former. Allied to this power and to these rulers, or rather as the needy expectants of their patronage, the clergy also had their motive for assuming a similar attitude towards the humbler classes. But the mind of man has within itself a principle of elasticity, that in proportion to the pressure laid upon it, increasingly tends to a re-action, which in the rebound not unfrequently overthrows the authors of its degradation. By degrees the light of truth and the love of freedom pervaded the minds of a prostrate people, and led them to regard themselves as something higher in the scale of creation than the mere beasts of burden to a government. A spirit of moral and religious inquiry was also excited, and more enlarged views of the relative duties between man and man were elicited. In consequence of this a desire for knowledge increased, and led the people to suggest modes not only of improving themselves, but of moralising and enlightening the neglected poor around them. And in the van of this heaven-directed movement, as in all others of any real value, the banner of religion is found unfurled. It was a sense of the religious destitution of the children of the poorer classes, that induced Mr. Raikes of Gloucester, and Mr. Fox of London, and other benevolent founders of Sunday Schools, to give the first impetus to that mighty moral machine. And this was beginning at the right end, because moral and religious
improvements are the foundation of all others. But their early attempts only served to show the vastness of the work they had undertaken. A mass of ignorance was found to pervade the lower orders, that even the rapid spread of Sunday Schools was utterly unable to remove, or even to reach. Enough was done, however, to draw down upon the originators of these schools the ire of the clergy. But the more they were persecuted the more the good work flourished; and a foundation being thus laid, by-and-by day-schools arose, here and there, as an invaluable auxiliary. To the formation of Sunday-Schools, therefore, may be traced a second revival of letters in this country, even as to the Reformation we are indebted for the first. And not unlike the Reformation in another point, was the persecution these schools sustained at the hands of a dominant priesthood.
The two most prominent names in connexion with early popular education, are those of Joseph Lancaster and Dr. Andrew Bell. The former, a member of the society of Friends, and the son of a private soldier, moved by a benevolent feeling towards the neglected children around his father's dwelling in the Borough Road, Southwark, opened a school, and fitted it up at his own cost, and mostly with his own hands, in which he assembled about ninety children. This was in 1798, a period of public distress as well as of general ignorance; and as necessity is said to be the mother of invention, in this instance a remarkable invention was certainly the result. He found it impossible to give all his attention to the crowds of children who came in upon him, and he was too poor to hire the assistance of others; and perhaps some ideas of the "marshalled host" received from his father, suggested the famous monitorial plan, afterwards identified with his name and system of teaching. Soon after this, he attracted the attention of the Duke of Bedford; and in 1805 he had an audience with George the Third, who on that occasion uttered the memorable words, "I wish that every poor child in my dominions may be able to read the Bible."
From 1807 to 1811, Lancaster travelled over the kingdom well nigh 7000 miles, and lectured to nearly 50,000 persons; and the result of his labours are the very many Lancasterian or British Schools, now established throughout the country, and the central institution of the British and Foreign School Society, that unites and aids them all.
But the matter had now grown too serious in the eyes of churchmen to be simply despised and persecuted. In self-defence, or rather by way of retaliation, a parallel movement was set on foot, and a convenient organ was found in Dr. Bell and the Madras system. Hence arose the National School Society. But such an institution cannot with accuracy be called national. It is simply, as every one knows, an organised device to teach the doctrines of the Church of England, and keep within her pale as many of her errant sons as she can. The clergy finding themselves unable to browbeat dissenters and crush their efforts,
N. S. VOL. VIII,
endeavoured by these means to countermine them. This is too notorious to be denied. Candour, however, compels us to add, that there are at this time, many of the clergy who sincerely labour to educate their neglected poor, from higher and better motives.
The British and Foreign School Society, and the National Society, are therefore the only regularly organised schemes for conducting the popular education of the country; and it needs not be added that they are inherently of so dissimilar a character as to preclude all hopes of their ever acting in concert for one object.
Another and a novel feature of modern education, is the more recent formation of Infant Schools. These seem to derive their origin from the Pastor Oberlin, who appointed conductrices in each commune of the Ban de la Roche, and paid them at his own expense. He also procured rooms where children from two to six years of age might be instructed and amused. It is to the honour of Mr. Robert Owen, that, with all his errors, he was the first Englishman to establish an Infant School in this country. Lord Brougham also devoted much of his influence and talents in forwarding the cause; and Mr. Wilderspin has laboured more than any other, in advocating and founding such establishments. Mr. Wilderspin, however, claims too much credit for his improvements in these schools; for like many other plagiarists, he has simply introduced old ideas under new names. As an instance of this, he lays claim to the invention of the arithmeticon, an instrument consisting of a number of balls in a frame of wire, for teaching children to count. This instrument was described in a work on arithmetic by Mr. Friend, some fifty years ago, and is in fact, the same in principle as the abacus of the Romans, and in form resembles the swan pan of the Chinese.
To no one, however, is the cause of early education more indebted for an impulsive movement, than to the amiable but melancholy Swiss, Henry Pestalozzi. In his case, too, as in that of Joseph Lancaster, necessity, that stern instructress, prompted many of his best plans. He was born at Zurich, in 1745, of poor but respectable parents. A deep dissatisfaction with existing modes of education gave a stimulus to his inquiries; and being himself much a disciple of nature, he reduced his own experience to practice, in the work of instructing others. Having selected about fifty pupils from the very dregs of society, he formed his own house into what might rather be called an asylum than a school, in which these children were provided with food, clothing, and instruction. His object was national, and he desired to show the State how the poor might educate themselves. His plans, however, were defeated; but the beneficial results of his experience are still before the world; and his method of oral instead of book instruction, of realities instead of signs, will form part of every enlightened system of instruction while the world stands.
Since the days of these pioneers in the cause of popular instruction, and by the improvements of others upon their suggestions, light has been streaming in from many sources; and philosophic minds have bent to the task of methodizing those principles, and reducing them into the tangible shape of a science. But while enlightened modes have been thus elicited, and an apparatus formed so adequate for raising the tone of morals and intelligence through the country, a vast hiatus yet remains to be filled up, in the practical application of these means to the wants of the community. The best instruction is to be had; but the people have it not. The sun shines high in the heavens, but darkness broods over the earth; and the fountains of knowledge are pouring abroad their waters, but the land mourneth and is desolate.
If the conviction were universal, that the poorer classes ought to be educated, this anomaly, of course, would gradually disappear. But this is far from being the case. Three classes of opinions, or rather of feelings, seem to pervade the public mind on this point. There is a large, and it is to be hoped, an increasing body, who wish to educate the people for the people's own advantage; aware that there is no evil that may not be dreaded from a state of ignorance, and no real good that may not be expected from an enlightened community. Another party proceed to the work of educating the poor by compulsion rather than choice, and who would do nothing of the sort, if without some such effort they could equally retain their station and social influence. And a third body, more honest indeed, but less prescient, openly decry every attempt to educate the humbler classes. The existence of this party is no chimera. "It is impossible," says the assistant poorlaw commissioner, Edward Twisleton, Esq., in a late report, "to shut one's eyes to the fact, that a certain portion of the upper and middling classes harbour a rooted distrust of any plan for the education of the poor..... Amongst many small farmers, and some of the gentry, unwillingness to educate the poor is openly defended by argument; and a merchant of a sea-port town gravely assured me, not long ago, that an agricultural labourer was very little above a brute, and that to educate him would merely have the effect of rendering him dissatisfied with his situation in life." While such a diversity of feeling and opinion exists, therefore, it is plain no united universal effort can be expected, either of a national or social nature, sufficient to meet the exigencies of the whole case. Perhaps it might tend, in some small degree, to harmonise these conflicting opinions, if clear views were more widely disseminated of what education really is,-its separate elements, and their respective spheres of action. It is as necessary to have an acquaintance with the remedy as the disease; and before a uniformity of opinion can be obtained regarding certain modes of educating the people, the thing itself must be analysed and understood.