The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
The "P.R." Letter Bag
Volume 10, 1899, pg. 332
[The Editor is not responsible for the opinions of Correspondents.]
Dear Editor.--In 1893 I was asked to address the Committee and Members of the Gentlewoman's Employment Association, in Manchester, on the House of Education and the Norland Institute. I then urged the formation of a Loan Training Fund, which could be used by girls who had not the necessary money to enable them to be thoroughly trained for the profession chosen. It is the experience of all that women with no particularly training are placed at a great disadvantage when compelled to earn their living. A special appeal was made, and £600 was collected in three months. Since then twenty ladies have been already trained, and eleven are now pursuing a course of training. A few instances will serve to show the value of the help afforded. One girl, the daughter of a late naval officer, whose mother's sole income is now £80 a year, is at the Physical Training College, Dartford Heath, and will soon be in a position to earn from £100 to £200 a year.
In two cases, girls who were working for University degrees would not have been able to complete their course of study had it not been for the assistance of this fund. One of these has now obtained a post as Teacher of Science, at a salary of £115 to begin with.
Those already trained at the House of Education, Ambleside, are receiving salaries from £60 and upwards, and have repaid the whose of their fees within the two years allowed. Without the help of this fund, these ladies would probably be earning £20 a year as governesses, with no prospects for their future years. The loans, without interest, are repaid in a few years, and the money put out to use again to train others. All applications are very carefully investigated by the committee, and only those cases are accepted where success seems probable, and where the help is urgently required. The following is a list of those who have been and are still training:--Dressmakers, 3; Cooks, 2; Laundry Superintendents, 2; Book keeper, 1; Kindergarten, 4; Swedish Gymnastics, 2; Teachers of Science, 3; Business Training, 3; Monthly Nursing, 1; Gardening, 1; Music, 1; House of Education, 8. Girls are helped from any part of England, and help is not confined to only local cases. Your readers will notice the large percentage sent to Ambleside. It is to show our appreciation of the benefits conferred on our Union through this fund, that I venture to ask for help in a Bazaar which will be held in Manchester next November. The Gentlewoman's Employment Association intend to raise £15,000 for their Society, and out of this £1,000 will be given to the Loan Training Fund.
The Secretary of the Ambleside Students' Association, being deeply impressed with the value of the help given to her and others, suggested that one stall should be called the House of Education stall, and that the members of P.N.E.U. should raise £120, which would enable one student at least, to be always in training.
I have been asked to be the President of this stall, and have accepted, although fully realizing the responsibilities of the position. I therefore venture to ask your readers to kindly support me by sending either articles for sale or money. Small sums would also be gratefully received, and all gifts will be acknowledged in each month's Parents' Review. It is an opportunity of showing our appreciation of the committee, which has so fully realized the enormous advantages each student receives at the House of Education.
Emiline Petrie Steinthal.
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Dear Editor,--I should be so grateful to a P.N.E.U. mother, who is so circumstanced as to be able to secure the services of a governess, high principled and really competent (or, better still, a House of Education student), if she could see her way to help another P.N.E.U. mother, who is not so favourably circumstanced, by allowing her little nine-year-old daughter to live in her house, and share the educational advantages of a competent teacher. It would be a very great boon and kindness to a clergyman's wife, who can give excellent references.
Address to Yours truly,
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Dear Editor,--I wonder if you feel as I do about the neglect of needlework in the big modern girls' schools. A woman never enjoys doing a thing she cannot do well. If our girls do not learn enough to work with ease they will never use needles when they are grown up, unless they are compelled to do so.
Don't you feel--apart from all the beautiful help and service, to unlimited people, that one can give by needlework--that we are missing one of the most soothing occupations in a "restless age"? I think, considered in that way only, that it takes a place nothing else can touch. Other handicrafts are good, but there is nothing of such far reaching usefulness, and there is nothing so easily taken up in odd moments. In the schools I am thinking of it is taught a little in the lower forms, and not at all in the higher. The head of a big school said to me, "Mothers must see to it at home." I wish the head mistresses could change places with the mothers for one week, and see if they could set their daughters down, late in the evening, when "lessons" were at last done, to a distasteful toil. They would never say it again. I am writing this because it seems to me the P.N.E.U. might influence the future examinations of secondary schools. Englishmen used to think that work and good housekeeping were a woman's only necessary equipments! Have they any idea how the former is being omitted in the training of our daughters? Do they realize the result? The colonies receive the bulk of our sons nowadays; they will feel the lack of trained fingers in their wives most distressingly. How different the homes of those who have such and those who have not! There may not, of course, be any need for a girl to work much when grown up, but every woman should have the power to do it with a certain ease. I think it is most serious and that the country is blind about it. If government requires proficiency, proficiency there will be. Why should a certain standard of work not be required in each "form," as in elementary schools? If some intellectual subject suffered somewhat as a consequence, would it be the same loss to the country? A lady journalist was talking to me of needlework, with all the regret I have expressed, lately. Her whole work is literary, but she thinks of this as I do. Yours truly,
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Dear Editor,--It was with great interest that I read the articles in the Parents' Review on the "Reform Schools of Germany," a subject lately noticed also in the Journal of Education, and I cannot help thinking that here is one of the most important educational reforms that has ever been brought forward. As one who has been engaged in practical teaching for about a dozen years--time enough to find how much effort may be wasted--and has formed opinions not very favourable to the teaching which the average boy gets at our public schools, I feel that the reformers in Germany have arrived at a very reasonable solution of the difficulties presented by the modern multiplication of subjects.
If the reform is needed in Germany, where the boys are (I believe) more industrious and more intellectual than in England, surely it must be more needed here. If Latin present difficulties too great for the average German boy of nine, the English boy must find it harder still. I do not mean to say that boys of nine cannot write Latin exercises without mistakes, but I do say that a better result can be produced in one term at eleven than in two terms at nine, provided the boy comes to his task with an open mind which has been prepared by a study of the principles of language in the native tongue and by a working acquaintance with a foreign language.
For some years until quite recently I had an interesting experience at one of our smaller public schools, in the charge of most of the classical work of two forms, the lowest one (III.) and the highest but two (Lower V.). I was consequently able to study side by side the methods and habits of new boys who had been well taught or were naturally clever, and those who had been badly taught or were naturally dull. But, dull or clever, badly taught or well taught, whatever bad habits existed seemed to me, term after term, as I came across them, due to the attempt to force a strange (dead) language by rule and precept before any appreciation of language had had a chance to grow in the mind. I have known even intelligent boys of fourteen to sixteen hampered throughout their language work by such absurd notions as that past and passive were synonymous terms, or (commonest of all) by the fatal confusion of object and complement, induced by the rule given with such deadening results by incompetent teachers of Latin that "an accusative must come after a verb." This sort of thing ought to be impossible. I should be almost justified in saying that it is impossible--after perhaps one correction--in the case of boys beginning Latin after eleven, if my experience of such were not confined to very few instances.
The great merit of the "Reform" plan is the time gained. Instead of, say, six hours at Latin and three or four at French, we would give five or six hours to French and the other three or four or five to language-study in English, to reading so as really to understand simple English literature and to getting more general acquaintance with the world around. Then, in the Latin begun at eleven or twelve, progress will not be retarded by the difficulties of concords, of active and passive, of subjects and objects, which cause such a waste of time with younger boys, or older ones untrained. Of course, if we carry out this plan, we shall not have precocious scholars turning out polished Latin verses at twelve (I could do it myself, occasionally and accidentally, at about thirteen, though I feel that my time might have been much better employed), but perhaps they will be all the better for it. We must, I am afraid, leave out of account boys who can win Eton scholarships at twelve. They will get on under any system, perhaps too fast. We must think of the average boy whom the old system--I say it with conviction--does not suit. The training in language which results in his doing a few Latin sentences, or an unseen, with about one-third of the words right (which is sufficient to pass most qualifying examinations), is, I believe, worse than useless; it positively stunts his mental growth.
Here we are, then, with a definite choice to make. Are we to adopt the "reform" plan, or are we not? The spirit of it admits of no compromise. The difficulties, however, are very great. I will just indicate a few of them before I close. What are we to do with the boys of nine or ten, who have already learnt a little Latin; are we to keep it up by one lesson or two a week, or drop it? Then what are we to do with boys dropping in one or two at a time, term by term, in our chiefly conversational French lessons? Will they pick it up from the others or not?
Similar difficulties, however, confront us in any system, so things will not be worse in that way than before.
If we do adopt the reformer's ideas, we must do it thoroughly. I believe that, with two years of Latin, beginning at eleven or twelve, we could send out our boys from preparatory schools, even if none of them be accomplished scholars, at any rate, with sound knowledge of the why and wherefore of the words in a Latin sentence, and with ability to construe sensibly an ordinary piece of Caesar, or Ovid, or Virgil, with the aid of a vocabulary, or a few words translated. He will also have a fair working knowledge of French, an appreciation of his own language, shewn partly in intelligent reading aloud, a first-hand acquaintance with some of the nature-lore, of which many school boys are not only ignorant, but (alas, the day!) contemptuous, and a mind that has not been dulled by a constant grind at things which he does not understand. Here is a question which parents must think over and decide. If they insist, the day is won. Will they give their support to those who are willing to give the reform a fair trial? A. H. Davis, M.A.
Proofread by LNL, June 2020
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