The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
How to Prepare Our Boys for Temptations of Public School Life *

by Ven. Archdeacon Thornton
Volume 12, 1901, pgs. 354-356

*A shortened report of Ven. Archdeacon Thornton's lecture, delivered to the Harrow Branch

The subject is a serious one, for the boys of to-day are the men of to-morrow. Those to whom God has given sons are deeply responsible for them: they are to be the guiding spirits of those which are to follow them. Nine out of ten who have gone wrong might have been saved with more judicious training.

As regards sending boys to a public school, it is preferable (in spite of the sacred influence of home, which must never be forgotten) to a private school, and to exclusively home education, because of the class teaching and healthy competition. A boy brought up at a private school is apt to turn out a little prig: the training of a private school is not that of a public school.

Then, again, home cannot give the experience of life. Home training is an extremely important part of training, but it is not all.

My experience as a college tutor was that those who went astray most were those who had had only home training or had been to private schools only. It is better that the boy should begin with some experience of temptation, because the transgression of a boy is not so fatal as the fall of a young man.

Then there is the valuable aid of competition at a public school, not in study alone. Cricket is a most valuable part of discipline. A long field, for instance, who has had to wait and watch for his opportunity, is undergoing exceedingly good discipline. Competition and rivalry are taught, not only be secular studies, but by the games the boys engage in.

As regards home training before the boys go to school, always be consistent: always object to the same thing, and always allow the same thing. If you want boys to do right, you must not omit to show them the way by your example. If you want your boy to keep straight, you must always keep straight yourself.

In dealing with the young, love is everything; but love is not indulgence, therefore be strict, but not severe. Be strict, but don't put a boy's back up. The back's there: if you treat it properly the back will be very supple, and the boy will then do whatever you wish; but if you are hard on the back he will set it up and do the very thing you don't want him to do. And so, don't be severe, but at the same time don't be tolerant about anything you really disapprove of. Love seeks the solid good, not the gratification of the present moment.

Well, now I have to speak as a head-master and college tutor of the chief temptations of school life.

First, as regards idleness. Don't be hard on boys for this: remember they are working hard most part of the day, both in lessons and games; rest must be taken some time. If they are late in the mornings I have found that a little quiet derision answers best; put it to them in a kind and gentle way. Meet the idleness by showing interest in the boy's progress, and by giving him a pursuit for his leisure time and his holidays, such as botany, natural science, music, etc.

Then as to selfishness. Boys are not naturally selfish. The mother's influence should be to take the boy out of himself, and make him think of others. "Master Robin, you're not everybody!" was my old nurse's injunction to me, and I have remembered it for a large portion of a century.

As regards extravagance, the temptation in school is generally in the opposite direction to selfishness. It should not be checked by a diminution of means. That is a very bad plan indeed. Keep up the lad's allowance, but make him feel his fault in some different way; only be kind and loving to him. If you are not, it exposes him to the temptation of running into debt. There is of course a great danger of lads getting into extravagant habits. The mother must get the boy to be frank and open with her, but don't on any account cut short his allowance; that is a great mistake.

A still worse thing one has to guard against is profane and improper language. If you meet with this in your boys you must be hard upon it; you must be as hard upon it as you possibly can--nothing but stern repression is any good. It is an evil weed which must be torn up by the roots. Check it as much as you possibly can. Take care that at home he learns nothing but purity and obedience. A lad, at first, abominates anything of the kind, but it is astonishing how soon he gets accustomed to it. Teach your boy that he can't keep straight without God's grace, and that with Divine grace he can. People sometimes forget that the Gospel teaching is "My grace is sufficient for thee." To ask the Father to grant that grace is the man's duty and privilege. The boy must not expect to go through his school life without persecution, but he will, if he persistently goes on resisting various temptations, gain the respect of all. That boy of ten whom you began to train in the way he should go, will at eighteen be the pride of the school of which he is the head.

There is the temptation to give way to others. It's very hard indeed for a boy at school to say, "I won't," when a certain course of action is proposed; it requires much "pluck" to say, when others ask him to do something he does not approve of, "No, I will not." But he will be respected for saying it by those who differ from him, if they are worth anything. If before her boy first enters upon school life the mother would give her final help and counsel, let her go into his room the last evening he has at home, before he goes away from her for the first time to school, for a talk with him--she will probably find him sobbing his heart out by himself, and the words she will say to him by his beside he will remember all through his school life.

Proofread by Leslie Noelani Laurio, July, 2010