The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."

Volume 10, 1899, pg. 612

Special Reports on Educational Subjects. Vol. II., 6/2; Vol. III., 3/2 (Education Department, 1898.) It is curious how, when a need arises, it is well and fitly met. As a nation we are at last learning to take a widespread and intelligent interest in educational matters. Mr. Sadler's Reports throw a side-light upon the fact that, without them, our sources of knowledge and data for opinions are extremely meagre and desultory upon educational matters, even in our country, while these Reports are probably the first attempt that has been made to give us definite and authoritative information about Continental education. We have hitherto only heard by haphazard, and in a garbled and incomplete way, of the important educational experiments and successful method adopted by our Continental neighbours.

Vol. II. opens with an article on the Welsh Intermediate Education Act, 1889. This is followed by Mr. Sidney Webb's paper on the London Polytechnic Institution. The third paper is on the London School of Economics and Political Science. All three are papers of much weight and interest, but we pass on the fourth--The Curriculum of a Girl's School, by Mrs. Bryant, the head mistress of the North London Collegiate School for Girls. That Mrs. Bryant's paper is characterized by sound sense goes without saying. It is interesting to note the place given to domestic training, and also the effort to differentiate the curriculum according to the intellectual capacity of the pupils. This marks a distinct advance in educational thought. "A girl who can--or can be taught to--cook a dinner, make a dress, order a household, entertain a company, and her whole working time to a prolonged and well-nigh hopeless struggle with a mass of intellectual mysteries. Nor should her clever sister, to whom these mysteries are as plain daylight truths, be restrained from their study because they are too high for some. Thus there should be room in the most ambitious girls' school for a simple unambitious course, rather old-fashioned in the end proposed, but using to the full all reforms of method and carried out with thoroughness of scholarship as far as it goes. Such a course would make much of the attainment of a sound foundation knowledge--not too detailed, but clear in outline and vivid in portraiture--of the English humanities; i.e., English literature, history and general geography." It is noticeable that Mrs. Bryant's point is rather that some women find intellectual scope in domestic activities than that these do not require much intellectual force. But variety is the keynote of the article. Some girls crave the toughest intellectual labour, and should have it; others, as we have seen, expend their mental power in more technical ways. Mrs. Bryant considers humanities, science, art, religion and morality in separate sections, but we have space for only one more quotation from this capital paper. "But for literature we are mainly concerned with English literature. Here we set clearly before us two ends with happily the same means to both. (1) There should be read at each age, for the sake of knowing them, all the best books suited to that age. (2) We should aim at the development of genuine literary taste, appreciative and fastidious--not a taste that will proclaim itself in a premature habit of analytic criticism, but one that will show itself, as a taste should, in choice and enjoyment. In later life the critical ability may exist, in a sense, without the appreciative taste, and it is much less valuable in itself. To fulfill this dual end, the first step is one that depends on the parent more than upon the school. It is to make a holocaust of all stupid books, and I use the word 'stupid' in the sense of a child with sound literary taste who thus condemns all that he does not think worth reading. No book should be read by a child that has not positive merit, lest time should fail to read and re-read all the real gems. Among the gems are included many fairy tales, nursery rhymes, stories of adventure, heroic romances, novels, as well as the masterpieces of English literature, short and long. Indeed, I am assured that the fairly common adult defect of literary taste arises in introduction to Milton and perhaps even to Shakespeare."

There are several illuminating articles on physical training. Mrs. Woodhouse writes on Physical Education at the Sheffield High School for Girls; Miss Lawrence on Games and Athletics in Secondary Schools for Girls (the illustrations are very inspiriting). There are several capital papers on Physical Training in Board Schools. Mr. T. G. Rooper's paper on School Gardens, with pictures of the boys at work in his Boscombe School Gardens, makes one feel that a school garden is a liberal education in itself. These are among the objects of school gardening: "A school garden must not be treated as though it were an allotment. The difference is important because, if it is ignored, the school garden may prove a pecuniary success but an educational failure. The owner of an allotment naturally seeks to make the greatest commercial profit out of his parcel of land. In the school garden, on the other hand, the boys have partly to receive instruction in the rudiments of the gardener's craft, according to the best methods, and partly to find illustrations for their lessons in natural science and to make practical application of them. In an allotment, the owner often finds it pay better to grow one or two kinds of crops, either for the sake of the demand for them in his market or because the soil is best suited for them. The schoolboy should learn how to raise a variety of crops, and will benefit educationally as much by failure as success."

We are glad to see a paper by Mr. John Ogle on the Connections between the Public Library and the Public Elementary School. The Educational Museum of the Teachers' Guild affords very interesting reading. The historical and geographical illustrations possessed by the museum are extremely valuable. Dr. Jonathan Hutchinson's museum at Haslemere is a revelation. Everyone who has an available barn or unused coach-house will learn here what to do with it and how to make every inch of wall space available for diagram's of the centuries which should do more to teach contemporary chronology by a coup d'oeil than hours of labour on a text-book of chronology would yield. It is good to know that Alfred dominates the 9th centure, Otto the 10th, Hildebrand the 11th, St. Bernard the 12th, St. Louis the 13th, Dante the 14th, Columbus the 15th, Luther the 16th. The design of the Haslemere museum is to omit nothing which a schoolmaster, taking his pupils there, might hope to find. Visitors are encouraged to sit down, read, and take notes. The idea is that museums can only take their proper place in the educational scheme if they are regarded as places of study and not as resorts of chance visitors. We strongly recommend our readers to read Dr. Hutchinson's paper, and if possible, to see the Haslemere museum. We believe its founder will have many imitators, and eventually we may hope that there will be few villages without their unpretending but most interesting and instructive museums. Mr. Findlay's pleading for the training of teachers will not, we hope, be without result, supported as it is by a comparison of English common practice with that at the Jena and other seminars under Herbartian influence. It is a little cheering to hear that at Leipzig Mr. Findlay attended a seminar, conducted by a Professor of Education, "which would have been a disgrace to the poorest Diocesan College in England," so that all the education "made in Germany" is not to be held up for our imitation. Dr. Henry Armstrong writes on the Heuristic Method of Teaching, which he explains for the unlearned as the art of making children discover for themselves. This is kind for, as he tells us, the word is not in the dictionary. It is interesting that Professor Armstrong, who speaks as an authority on scientific method, says, "I can clearly trace the development of my heuristic tendencies--which are certainly in a large measure innate, for my father was critical and inquiring--to one of my school-books--absolutely the only interesting one that came into my hands--to a literary work, R. C. Trench's On the Study of Words; and can well recollect how this book at once fascinated me--and not me alone, but my father also, a commercial man, whose early training and career had been such as to leave him entirely unacquainted with subjects of a kind. I still vividly recall to mind how from this book, as a mere lad, I for the first time gained ideas as to the value of method--of what I should now call scientific method." Professor Armstrong's contention is that heuristic experimental studies conduce to the formation of moral and intellectual character and purpose because, by this sort of teaching, interest is excited in common objects and common phenomena; children learn to use a balance, and to weigh and measure, and not only things, but words and deeds also. Habits of observing correctly are acquired, the power of reasoning from observation is cultivated, also the power of reasoning from observation is cultivated, as is also the power of devising and fitting up of apparatus--surely, as the author remarks, a sufficient list of possibilities.

We have not space to notice two or three important papers dealing with French Universities, the French Leaving Certificates, etc., but Miss J. D. Montgomery's paper on the Teaching of Modern Languages in Belgium and Holland is especially interesting, and it deals with a question which we at home find an educational crux; i.e., how to make the teaching of modern languages conversational. We have not space for a detailed account of a paper which does not lend itself to extracts, but what we understand by the Gouin method appears to cover the interesting new departures which Miss Montgomery notices. A curious fact is that, in both countries, Dutch and Belgian teachers are preferred to natives of the country whose language is being taught, as German, French, etc.

[The review of Volume III will appear shortly.]

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