Page images


up children and never let them go.” We have not to think of a scholar merely as material put into our hands to mould and manipulate, but rather as a responsible human being, whom we are so to help, that as soon as possible he may regulate his own life, and be a law unto himself. Keep clearly in view your own responsibilities, but the less display you make of your disciplinary apparatus, and the more freedom you can leave to the pupil, the better. Reduce as far as possible the number of formal rules; and remember that the perfection of government is to effect the maximum result

with the minimum of visible machinery. Drill and And yet you will gain much in a school by cultivating mechanical discipline.

the habit of order and exact obedience about little things. There are right and beautiful ways and there are clumsy and confused ways-of sitting down at a desk, of moving from one place to another, of handling and opening books, of cleaning slates, of giving out pens and paper, of entering and leaving school. Petty as each of these acts is separately, they are important collectively, and the best teachers habitually reduce all such movements to drill, and require them to be done simultaneously, and with finished and mechanical exactness. Much of this drill is conducted in some good schools by signs only, not merely because it is easy so to economize noise and voice-power, but also because it makes the habit of mechanical obedience easier. And children once accustomed to such a régime always like it-nay even delight in it. I have seen many schools, both small and large, in which all the little movements from class to class were conducted with military precision; in which even so little a thing as the passing of books from hand to hand, the gathering up of pens, or the taking of places at the dinner table, of hats or bonnets from their numbered

[blocks in formation]


places in the hall was done with a rhythmical beauty, sometimes to musical accompaniment, which not only added to the picturesqueness of the school life, and to the enjoyment of the scholars, but also contributed much to their moral training and to their sense of the beauty of obedience. And I have no doubt that it is a wise thing for a teacher to devise a short code of rules for the exact and simultaneous performance of all the minor acts and movements of school life, and to drill his scholars into habitual attention to them.

Does it seem to some of you that there is a little Limits to inconsistency between the last two counsels I have ven- its usefultured to give you—the one, that you should not waste power by a needless multiplication of rules, the other, that you should turn the little ones into machines, even in regard to such matters as sitting and standing at a desk, or opening a book? There is indeed, if you will look at it, no inconsistency between these two views of your duty. There is a sphere of our life in which it is desirable to cultivate independence and freedom; and there is another in which it is essential that we should learn to part with that independence for the sake of attaining some end which is desirable for others as well as for ourselves. In the development of individual character and intelligence, the more room we can leave for spontaneous action the better; but when we are members of a community, the healthy corporate life of that community requires of us an abnegation of self. The soldier in an army must quâ that army forego his personal volition, and become part of a great machine, which is working towards some greater end than could possibly be achieved, if he retained complete autonomy. And every one among us is called, as citizen, as member of a council or municipality, or public company, to work with others F. L.


towards ends which require unity of action, and which are incompatible with the assertion of our individual rights. It is then for this class of duties that school should in some measure prepare every child. He is in an artificial community which has a life and needs of its own, and in so far as he contributes to make up this school life, he may be well content to suppress himself and to become a machine. There are times in life for asserting our individuality, and there are times for effacing it. And a good school should provide means whereby it may be seen

when and how we may do both. The cor

This sense of corporate life and responsibility so porate life of a school. essential to the making of a good citizen may be further

cultivated by providing, as far as possible, that the school shall have something in it for the scholar to be proud of some function or ritual in which he shall be specially interested, and in which he can sustain an honourable part. I do not like a needless multiplication of unmeaning offices in a school, but every little function, such as that of curator of the books, or the copies, or the apparatus of a class is in its way useful, if it makes the elder scholar feel that he can be helpful to the younger, or that he can contribute something to the beauty or to the repute of the school as a whole. It is here, as with the games in which the victory is not for an individual, but for the side, the company or the school to which the player belongs; the very act of putting forth effort on behalf of the community tends powerfully to check selfishness and egoism, and to make the scholar conscious that the community has interests into which for a time, it is both a duty and a privilege for him completely to

merge his own. Difference Some there may be who as they hear me now are saybetween

ing to themselves, This may be true in the case of large School Discipline not that of Home.


schools, but mine is a small sheltered establishment, school where we take great pains with the formation of indi- and that

discipline vidual character, and where we seek to make the dis- of home. cipline more like that of a family. Now let us try to clear our minds of illusions. It is not well to make believe that a school, even a small school, is a family; because it is not one. Your relations to your pupils can never be those of a parent, and any pretence that they are has an unreality about it, which very soon becomes evident both to them and to yourself. The fact is that a child is sent to school to obtain a kind of discipline which is impossible in a family, and to learn many things which he could not learn at home. The moral basis of family life is affection. The moral basis of school life, as of that of all large communities is justice. It is not difficult in a well-ordered home to learn courtesy, kindness, the sanctity and the happiness of self-sacrifice, because those virtues have to be exercised towards those whom we know and love. But in a school we are called on to respect the rights and consult the feelings of people whom we do not love, and whom we scarcely know. And this is a great part of education. It can only be attained when the corporate spirit is rightly called forth, when the equal claims of others are fully recognized, and when opportunities are offered for losing the sense of personal claims in those of comradeship, and for evincing pride in the perfection and prosperity of the school as an institution.

And in governing, it is of the last importance that we Child should well consider the nature of the being whom we

be studied want to control, and not demand of him an impossible before standard of virtue. A little child has not your serious- insisting

on rules. ness, nor your sense of duty, nor your capacity for sitting still. He would be a very curious, almost an unpleasant

nature to

phænomenon if he had. On the contrary, nature makes
him physically restless, very curious, mobile, and in-
quisitive, and exceedingly deficient in reverence. And
these qualities should be taken for granted and allowed
for, not set down as faults. Provision should be made
for giving lawful vent to his personal activity, and if such
provision be not made, and he is called on to maintain
a confined posture for an unreasonable time, his rest-
lessness and disobedience are the teacher's fault, not his.
Let us take for granted that in every fault of a child there
is an element of good, 'would men observingly distil it
out,' that every act of mischief he is guilty of, is only an
example of perfectly healthy and legitimate activity, ac-
cidentally misdirected. And above all let us take care
not to measure his fault by the inconvenience which it
causes us, but rather by considering the motive and the
causes of it. Some of the little wrong acts of a child
which bring the most annoyance to a teacher and try his
temper most are precisely those which from the point of
view of a moralist, are least blameworthy--talking at
unreasonable times, destructiveness, untidiness, noise.
These things have to be checked of course. But do not
let us confuse the conscience of a child by exaggerating
their seriousness, or by treating offences against school
rules, as if they were breaches of the moral order of the
universe. Consider what are the natural instincts of
a child, and how unformed his moral standard is, and
you will see that relatively to him offences of this kind
are not crimes, though relatively to you and to the school
they may be serious annoyances.

After all the great safeguard for good and happy
discipline in a school is to fill the time with work.
child is to have an interval of leisure, let it be in the
play-room or ground, where relaxation is permissible,

Fill the time with work.

If a

« PreviousContinue »