Page images
PDF
EPUB

be so.

a Science, a recognition of tasks and impositions as legitimate punishments, because “the pain of intellectual ennui is severe to those that have no liking for books in any shape.” One might have hoped that this doctrine at least would ere this have been swept away into the limbo large and broad' of obsolete heresies. For what possible effect can be produced by all our homilies as to the profit and pleasantness of learning if by our own act we admit that a lesson may serve as a punishinent ? “Because you have disobeyed me you shall have a harder or a longer lesson to night.” What is this but to reveal that you think learning a lesson is a kind of penal servitude ? And this is a thing we should never even tacitly admit. First because it ought not to be true, and secondly, because it will soon become true if you shew that you believe it to

Of course this remark does not apply to the making up for some neglect by finishing a lesson in play hours. It is a legitimate thing, if a duty of any kind is .not performed at the proper time, to insist on its finished performance before the scholar begins to enjoy his leisure. And in this sense, detention in doors to go over again some neglected lesson, though it looks like a punishment, is right and lawful. For it is not the lesson in this case which constitutes the punishment, but the expenditure of time needed to make up for former waste. And this, as you will see, is a very different thing from setting the lesson itself as a penalty for wrong doing of some other kind.

And in punishing never let your indignation betray you into making your blame too comprehensive, or out of proportion to the particular act which called it forth. Treat every separate case of negligence by itself, but do not call a boy a dunce. Censure, and if needful, punish, a deliberate untruth, but do not say to a child, “ You are a liar.” Regard each separate wrong act, as far as you can

Blame should be specific,

not gene

ral.

[merged small][ocr errors]

honestly do so, as exceptional, not typical, as one which may be atoned for, and the memory of which may be obliterated by a right act. To call a child by an evil name is to assume that his character is formed, and this happily is not true even of your worst scholars. If it were true, what could be more discouraging, more fatal to the success of any poor struggles he may make to set himself right, and to regain your approbation?

May I add also that punishments should never be inflicted on too many at a time, on a whole class for instance. They lose all their force if they are thus indiscriminate; it is very improbable that all the children in a group should be equally guilty; and unless each one feels that the loss or disgrace inflicted on him is duly and properly proportioned to his own personal fault, he is conscious of injustice, and your punishment fails to produce any moral effect..

Rousseau and Mr Herbert Spencer have said much, The disand have said it well, about the evil of arbitrary punish

cipline of ments, which have no intelligible fitness or relation to the quences. nature of the fault committed. And I strongly recommend every teacher to read what is said in Emile, and in the chapter on Moral Education in Mr Spencer's well-known book. Those authors point out that nature punishes faults in a very

way. If one goes too near a fire he is burnt; if he plays with a knife he hurts himself; and in like manner, if a child carelessly loses something belonging to him, he should feel the inconvenience of going without it, and not have it at once replaced by a kind but injudicious parent. If he is unpunctual he should not be waited for when any walk or pleasure is to be had, but should be left behind ; if he is untidy and makes a litter he should be made to gather it up. When in this way, the inconvenience suffered is seen to be the

effective

conse

direct consequence of the fault, a child cannot rebel as he could, for example, if for doing any one of these things he was sent to bed. You eliminate altogether the feeling of personal resentment and the sense of injustice if you make the punishment thus, whenever possible, obviously appropriate to the fault and logically its sequel. The principle, once seen, covers a good many school offences. The obvious punishment for late coming is late going; for doing an exercise ill is to do it again well; for wasting the time in school is to forfeit some of the hours of leisure; for all invasion of the rights and comforts of others is to find one's own privileges or comforts restricted; for injury to the property of others, restitution at one's own cost. And from this point of view it will be seen how unsatisfactory is the discipline when for telling a lie one has to learn a hundred lines of Virgil; or for confounding the perfect with the pluperfect tense to receive a flogging. In the former cases the discipline commends itself to the conscience of the child. In the latter his moral sense

rebels, and rightly rebels, against it. Why in- But unfortunately for the theory of Rousseau and adequate. Mr Spencer, nature does not provide a sure and visible

penalty for every offence. Truly I know no more impressive lesson for a child than to shew him how wrong doing produces evil consequences; how pitiless and inexorable are the laws in virtue of which all sin brings harm and misery with it in the long run; how intemperance enfeebles the body; how idleness begets poverty; how the liar is not trusted; how ignorance brings dishonour ; how improvidence breeds crime, and leads to loss of character, and loss of happiness. And I think that the utilitarian philosophers are right in urging us to teach in our schools some of the simpler truths of economic science, the laws of industrial and social life, which will The discipline of consequences.

119

not severe

any con

enable the scholars thus to trace out the connexion between conduct and well being, between all faults and their natural penalties. But valuable as such teaching is, experience proves to us that it is wholly inadequate as a theory of moral government either for a school or for a State.

The reasons why it is inadequate are not the same in Because the two cases. A civil ruler cannot rely on the discipline

enough for of natural consequences, because they are too remote and the purpose too dimly seen to serve as effective deterrents. It needs of a State. an effort of imagination, of which a criminal is generally incapable, to realize such consequences at all. And in fact, you cannot demonstrate to his satisfaction that sequences which he dreads will certainly occur. You take a thief and explain to him that honesty is conducive to the public welfare. But in most cases he knows that as well as you. You prove to him that nine thieves out of ten are detected and come to ultimate ruin. Your demonstration fails to affect him. Why? Because he means to be the tenth. He knows that consequences are sometimes avoided, and he thinks he will be skilful enough to avoid them.

And as to your proof that dishonest acts will bring about slow deterioration of character.and certain loss of friends, of position, and of general esteem; the man with criminal tendencies who is subject to strong temptation is generally inaccessible to such considerations; and society for its own protection is justified in interposing with its artificial penalties, which are sharper and more effective.

And while the State cannot rely wholly on natural Because too punishments, because for her purpose they are too light,

severe for

the purpose the parent or the teacher has exactly the opposite reason of a school. for not depending upon them. They are for his purpose far too severe. You want by timely interposition with a

small arbitrary punishment to save the child from the cruel Nemesis which nature has provided for wrong doing. He is, it may be, inclined to gluttony, and you know that if

you leave him alone Nature will avenge the violation of her laws by enfeebling his constitution and depriving him prematurely of health and vigour. But because you are chiefly concerned with the formation of his character, this is precisely the penalty you wish to avoid ; and you subject him to some painful restraint, in order that you may substitute a light penalty for a heavy one. You see a man rushing towards a precipice, and you knock him down. What justifies this act of violence ? Nothing, except that by the infliction of a small and wholly arbitrary injury, you have helped him to escape from the greater injury which would have been the natural penalty of his own

imprudence. The

It is a familiar conclusion from experience that in a certainty not the

school, as in a State, it is the certainty rather than the severity of severity of a punishment which has a deterring effect. a punish

If an offender could feel that detection was absolutely certain, the dread of consequences, whether natural or arbitrary, would be much more potent. “Because," said Solomon, “sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the hearts of the sons of men are fully set in them to do evil.” That was his experience as an administrator. As a matter of fact, every child knows that though lying is wrong, there are lies which

purpose and are never found out; that there are cases in which dishonesty seems for a time at least to be good policy; and it is the knowledge of these and the like facts which will always leave something more to be desired, when you are seeking to deter children from evil, by the utilitarian method of tracing out that evil to its consequences. And what is that something? I believe

ment deters.

serve their

« PreviousContinue »