The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Nääs--what does it mean? I have allowed the strange-looking word to stand alone at the head of this paper with the deliberate purpose of stimulating curiosity, and so inducing some to read whose attention otherwise might not have been caught.
Nääs (pronounced nayce) is the name of a tiny Swedish village, already famous in its own country, and to be renowned some day the whole world over, as the cradle of Sloyd. Of Sloyd some account was given in the July number of the Review, to which enquirers may be referred. Nääs, I have said, is a village; it would be truer, perhaps, to say that it is a large estate near Gothenburg, on which stand a big house, a smaller one, and a few scattered cottages. In the big house lives Herr August Abrahamson, philanthropist; in the smaller one lives his nephew, Herr Otto Salomon, educationalist. To the combined efforts of these two men we owe Sloyd.
For nearly twenty years, in a school on the estate, provided and supported by Herr Abrahamson, experiments have been conducted by Herr Salomon in educational hand-work, with the result that today there is scarcely a civilized country that has not adopted it in some form or another.
But I am not so much concerned here with the history of these long years of patient experiment as with the unique form that the experiment has finally taken. For some few years past the school has been no longer a school for children, but a school for teachers, a Sloyd training school in short, in which men and women, duly qualified as teachers in other respects, have been invited by Herr Abrahamson to spend a certain number of weeks, at different seasons of the year, to qualify further as teachers of Sloyd. And with far-seeing generosity, this invitation has been extended to the teachers, not of Sweden alone, but of all nations. As a consequence, a considerable number of English teachers, amongst others, now spend their summer holidays at Nääs. Four years ago, I was one of fifty successful applicants, a merely nominal sum for house-room and food, everything else being free. It was thus a cheap six weeks' holiday, but woe to the unlucky--nay, dishonourable--wight attracted solely by the cheapness! Some nine hours steady work a day--of which six with saw and plane--added materially to the real cost, so that he, or she, whose heart was not involved in the contract, had a heavy price to pay. For myself, I can aver that never have I so completely proved the truth of the common saying, that the best recreation is, oftentimes, change of work. Quite unused to the bench, I throve under the combined effects of manual labour, northern air, a beautiful country, pleasant companionship, and an atmosphere of enthusiasm, in a way that was a wonder to all my friends, and I came home again, as they said, another man.
Of the details of the almost family life and fascinating work there is no need to speak. It is enough to say that there are few who have once been to Nääs but have been anxious to go again, such a fillip does it give to the whole nature, moral no less than physical.
Unfortunately, however necessarily, this realized Utopia can be entered only be teachers, but I have sometimes wondered whether so sound an educationalist as Herr Salomon would not immediately recognize, if the idea were once suggested to him, that the truest teacher is, after all, the parent, and straightway issue an invitation to all parents, alive or dead to their responsibilities, to go over to Nääs and see for themselves what he has to teach them. Things being as they are, no more would accept, I suspect, than he could easily accommodate, but even so, how many of the new generation would grow up to bless his name.
This, however, is but a dreamer's dream. In our most wide-awake times there is surely no need of travelling to Sweden to be instructed in one's duty towards one's children. Well, perhaps not, but there would seem to be a need, and a pressing one, for most of us to travel somewhere in search of such instruction, without which out wealth, our constitution, our learning, our schools, and our churches will stand us in poor stead.
All honour, then, to the Swedish enthusiasts who have set the world such a notable example, and all honour to the first Englishman who shall be forthcoming to follow it.
[The Editor allows me to say that, owing to a mislaid address, the proofs of my paper in the July number reached me too late for revision. There were many typical errors that I should have been glad to correct, but the only misprints that seriously affected the meaning were boldly for baldly (p. 321, 1. 21) and word for wood (p. 329, 1. 7).]
Typed by happi, Aug 2018; Proofread by LNL, May 2021
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