The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Parents' National Educational Union.
Note: Our article on "Our Daughters" gives place this month to a report of the P.N. E. U. Annual Meeting.
The First Annual Meeting of the Parents' National Educational Union was held at London House on Tuesday, June 3rd, I890, the Bishop of London kindly presiding.
After a few words of prayer, the Bishop of LONDON said: I suppose every one in the room knows the purpose of the Association which is holding its meeting here today quite as well as I do who am taking the chair. I do not profess to have studied the various means which may be used for promoting that purpose. The purpose appears to me one of very great importance indeed for the whole community, for the purpose of this Association is to improve generally the way of bringing up children. We are quite satisfied there is a great deal still to be learned on this subject. A great deal more might be done to prepare children for the life which they have to live afterwards, and that preparation ought to be begun from their very earliest years. We are satisfied that parents generally would be very much better able to discharge their important duties if they considered the subject a great deal more, or if they would make use of the experience of those who have already considered it. The fact is, children are very often brought up in a hap-hazard kind of way, and that elementary rule which St. Paul lays down when he bids "Fathers to provoke not their children," needs a great deal more inculcation than it has yet received. Parents are not fully aware how much mischief may be done in indulging in temper in the treatment of their children, nor of the need for a fuller knowledge of the characters of children. I have had a great deal to do with the education of boys going to college, and now that I am grown older, I have the education of my own little boys in the very earliest years. I cannot help feeling very often that it would be better for us if we knew a great deal more than we do about the way of forming in them the habit of obedience, and of teaching them to control their tempers and their impulses. The fact is that parents as a rule know nothing about it at all until they have it put upon them. Of course, it quite true that by God's merciful providence the affection between children and parents is by nature so exceedingly strong that parents do succeed, if without very much instruction, in making their children feel that they are loved and love them in return. The object of this Society is to spread as widely as we possibly can a general knowledge of what is involved in the education of children ; to incite parents generally to understand the matter for themselves, and to supply what those who have made a special study of education have decided upon as being best. And we believe that we can in this way encourage parents generally to give their minds to the matter, so that in the course of two or three generations, a very great difference may be made in what may be called be called the public opinion of the parents. The parents, besides having their children actually in their hands for a certain time, have to choose the schools where they are to be sent. They do not always understand on what principles it is wise to choose. If we can create a more general appreciation of what is a good school and what is not, I think all education would gain very much by it. I put before you these brief outlines of the Society, and will ask those who have had the matter more in their hands to set before you in detail what is proposed the is to be done.
Canon DANIEL, having referred to letters of regret for their absence and sympathy with the Association from the Archbishop of York, the Earl of Meath, Dr. Welldon, and Rev. T. W. Sharpe, Dr. Fitch, Mr. Arthur Acland, Miss Buss, and some others, proceeded to move the first resolution. It may be desirable, he said, that I should say a few words with regard to the objects of this Union. The main object cannot be stated in better words than those already employed by your lordship, namely, to help parents in bringing up their children. That is a very wide expression, and is intended to cover a great deal more than is ordinarily understood by education. Those interested in the formation of this Union felt that the so-called school is only one of a large number of schools, of which the most important is home, and that the so-called teacher is only one of a large army of teachers, the most important of whom is the parent. Home education must precede school education, go on concurrently with it, and follow it. It is obviously of the greatest importance that a child's education should be characterised throughout by unity of aim, so that there may be no waste of effort. One great endeavour of the Union will be to secure both unity and continuity of education by getting parents and teachers to act on common principles. The great work of education is not to be carried on entirely by deputy. The most judicious and faithful of servants cannot do all that a parent would do. The most careful teacher will not see to many little points of conduct to which a parent would very properly attach great importance. The question arises, Is this Union needed? Will not the British public regard with a jealous eye another new Association? If the work has already been well done why call into existence a special society for its promotion? There are enough demands upon our time and our money, it may be said, why burden us needlessly with more? In reply, I would say that parents at present are are often ill-prepared for the serious duties that devolve upon them. Herbert Spencer, in his famous Essay upon Education, said that of the various activities of life for which education prepares us, those connected with the responsibilities of parents were the most neglected, and I do not think we have advanced very far in improving matters since the opinion was expressed. We do instruct young people at school to any very great extent in the laws of either mind or body, and yet, immediately instruct to educate or bring up children (I will use that in preference), it becomes necessary to know something of the laws of child-nature. If you do not know those laws you are liable to violate them; instead of having Nature with you you may have Nature against you. I do not think we can trust to traditional practice in this matter. People say, "Surely all parents when they come to have children of their own find sufficient guidance in the practice of their early homes." I admit that it is an enormous advantage to be able to fall back upon the precepts and example of good parents, An American writer says, "If you wish to be a good man or good woman, select good parents," but I do not think that the example of good and wise parents is quite enough. Education has quietly advanced both as a science and an art during the last quarter of a century. Psychologists have paid particular attention to the laws of the child's mind; medical men have paid particular attention to the laws of the child's body. Educational doctrines have been gathered together from all quarters, and it is thought, not unreasonably, that parents ought to some extent to be put in possession of these. I have heard it objected that this society would foster "amateurishness" in education. I do not know exactly what that means; I presume that the objection contains a latent reference to that little knowledge which is a dangerous thing (laughter). I admit it might be possible for parents to do a great deal of harm, if, with very imperfect knowledge, they set up to devise schemes of education for themselves. My best answer to this objection is Mr. Thring's parody on the lines of Pope, which embody it-
"A little money is a dangerous snare;
Thousands begin with sixpence, much knowledge begins with small knowledge, and much useful knowledge may be put into very small compass. Of course the knowledge which some people possess on this subject of education is very profound, and both our objects and the modes we propose to employ may incur their contempt, but I think we can outlive their satire and criticisms. I have also heard it said that we should trust more largely to what a great physician called "healthy neglect." Is it necessary, it is asked, to take such extreme care of children? Is it not enough for parents to provide them with proper food and clothing and send them to proper schools? Why should we take all these pains to regulate their health, form their habits, and cultivate their tastes? I believe, to some extent, in ''healthy neglect," but it must be healthy. Certainly, simple neglect has been tried on a very wide scale, and I think we shall agree the results have not been wholly satisfactory. Wordsworth speaks of a "wise passiveness" in education, and undoubtedly there is room for such a thing, but there is a good deal of passiveness that is not wise but otherwise (laughter). I think we shall do parents a vast amount of good if we can arouse in their minds a sense of the wide reach of education, deepen in them a sense of their responsibility. Now what is the method which this Union proposes to pursue for the attainment of its objects? It is the diffusion of information. That we shall seek to accomplish in various ways, by lectures, by gatherings of parents in which educational subjects are discussed, and very largely by the Press. It is proposed that Local Branches of the Union shall be established in places sufficiently populous, and that parents should be brought together, of different classes and both sexes, for the consideration of the questions in which they are so deeply interested. It is hoped that persons familiar with children will show how home can best co-operate with school, and that medical men will occasionally give addresses to parents bearing upon physical education. With regard to the history of this movement, it largely owes its conception and inception to Miss Charlotte Mason (applause), who began the movement at Bradford by establishing a small local Union which, I believe, has done a great deal of good there. Accounts of her work spread, and she has been invited to help in the establishment of similar Unions in other places. It seemed desirable that London should he made the headquarters of the movement, and that a committee should be formed in London for the purpose of organising the movement. Money will be required for the purpose, and I trust that a sympathetic public will now come to our support.
The resolution was then read.
The Bishop of LONDON, in acknowledging a vote of thanks, spoke of the encouragement afforded by so large and sympathetic an audience, and made pleasant reference to Miss Edgeworth's "Parents' Assistant," "Sandford and Nierton," and other books of an earlier generation which dealt not unsuccessfully with the problems of home education.
HADDO HOUSE, ABERDEEN,
Dear Miss Mason,--Lady Aberdeen and I are very sorry that we, cannot be in our places on the occasion of the meeting of the Parents Educational Union, for which the Bishop of London and Mrs. Temple have so kindly granted the use of London House.
We are glad to think that at this meeting, which is sure to be a particularly interesting one, the Report of the past year's work will be encouraging. Let me add that we think the Parents' Review has thus far been extremely well conducted, and is full of promise of usefulness.
* [The above letter from the Presidents of the P.N.E.U. should have been read at the meeting, but that the Secretary did not receive it in time owing to her absence from home.]
Typed by happi, January 2016
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