The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Discussion: Girls Education, Letters, Games, Over Pressure
Invited by the Editor, on two papers in the February number: "How far is the Present Method of Educating Girls a Success"; and "The Educational Value of Games"; also on the paper on "Over-pressure," which appeared in October, 1901.
DEAR EDITOR,--As in this month's Parents' Review discussion is invited on the subject of "Girls' Education," may I venture to ask a few questions, not in the spirit of controversy, but with an earnest desire for information and correction if in error?
There can be no doubt but (as Mrs. de Gruchy Gaudin asserts) that great strides have been made in the mental and physical education of girls during the last forty years; but, has the resultant formation of character progressed in the same proportion? I think not.
Young women and girls of today continually complain that their lot in life is so much harder than that of their mankind. This may or may not be the case; may not, however, a great deal of woman's hardship be the outcome of her way of taking life? And, again, is not this way of taking life the result of faulty education rather than a natural feeble tendency inherent in the sex? I am inclined to think it is the education at fault, because boys brought up at home under too much feminine influence ("the crammers' pups") exhibit exactly the same characteristics.
In what way do girls differ from boys in their way of taking life?
In the first place, I think, they expect too much of it and of human nature; as women, they look for a sort of dramatic triumph of virtue and punishment of vice; they expect (if they are doing their part) perfection of conduct in husband, children and servants. This naturally fills their experience with a rankling sense of injustice, and causes a series of bitter disappointments, in nine cases out of ten. At school the masters are exalted autocrats to the boy, only to be approached through monitors and higher form boys. At a girls' school a mistress is always at hand to right the wrong, settle petty disputes, and redress grievances. Is the latter the better preparation for "the iron laws of destiny," which, to "our star-stricken eyes," often appear so cruelly unjust?
Again: do governesses aspire to too high an ideal of conduct? If so, this would account for the finnicking, niggling, sentimental view of right and wrong and self-sacrifice help by so many of us. It is food for contemplation whether "the goodliest fellowship of famous knights whereof the world holds record" would have been "unsoldered" so soon by treachery, rebellion and unchastity, had not the head thereof been (self-confessedly) "too wholly true to dream untruth" in others; and had not the members of the Table Round spent, perhaps, too much time about the grounds of Camelot, engaged in "high talk of knightly deeds," instead of allowing the "old Adam" occasionally to, say, wrangle over politics or even "back" a charger!
To return to the girls. Is not their generally-admitted habit of morbid introspection the result of an overweening opinion of the distinctness of their own personality? Is not this overweening opinion the result of the very "individual over-sight" and "study of the characteristics of each child" advocated by Mrs. de Gruchy Gaudin and practised in girls' schools during the last half century? The two most efficient and expeditious character-making machines of our times are generally admitted to be the British Public School and the British Services. The latter turn a Hooligan into a law-abiding, cleanly, obedient subject in an incredibly short space of time; the tyrannical home boy, into the self-controlled, order-loving, long-suffering, silent Englishmen, whose almost bovine endurance and obedience under the yoke (for duty's sake) have earned him his title of John Bull. These are machine-made characters, and why not machine-made? After all, civilized humanity is much of a muchness in one nation; there are not many type-characters, though many variants of each type. An observant commanding officer or schoolmaster soon knows his man and classifies accordingly. The genius and exceptional child suffer--one may object; but do they suffer by being taught that freedom lies in obedience, the duty of self-control and the necessity for brotherhood and co-operation--even though they be not of the common clay?
My question is, would the character of our girls be improved if they were subjected to the quiet ignoring, the treatment as of a very unimportant unit in a very important whole, which the new boy and the "recruity" have to undergo? Then again the petty officer and monitor system seem to produce a respect for constituted authority--however humble its bearer--which surely would have a very beneficial effect upon feminine self-consciousness and the chafing under restraint so apparent in women.
My next indictment of our sex is her morbid craving for sympathy. Should her efforts be crowned with success, then her back must be patted; if the reverse, commiseration and condolence become a necessity. A grown-up baby is she! A harmless weakness at worst, one may say, but is it harmless when it is the root of half the philandering that goes on amongst the leisured classes? Edwin, good soul, intent on bread-winning, and educated in a robust school, forgets to express the sympathy so dear to the heart of his Angelina; she "cannot live" without it, so looks around for another sympathetic ear. Happy Angelina if it happen to be a feminine one her eye first lights upon, or there might be ultimate trouble.
What about the boys? Just offer sympathy to a public-school boy and see his gorge rise! Like Mark Twain emerging from the river, he desires not sympathy nor condolence, but merely a "back yard and solitude" wherein he may "hide his ignominy and dry his things." How to educate girls out of this craving? Would not a discouragement of exclusive and extravagant friendship between two girls help? Or an imitation of the golden silence to which wise schoolmasters treat misfortunes--considering them too commonplace to need comment. "Stop that Eric-ing," says monitor Stalkey, at the sight of two boys exchanging confidences with arms linked sentimentally. Would it not be well to discontinue feminine "Eric-ing" in schools? I would not for worlds advocate the steeling of the hearts of our women, but surely we are erring on the side of two much expression of sympathy nowadays.
Were one to judge our womenkind of today by the books she writes and, by reading and recommending them, causes the demand, what a revelation! Her emotions are her god! According to St. Authoress everything goes down before la grande passion. All the sins of the decalogue may be indulged in the pursuit of the heart's desire. Grief for disappointment are to "change all the purpose of our lives," unless we wish to sink into commonplace nobodies!
But a school cannot affect this! Why not? Boys are taught duty first. At its call, whether it be to take up the white man's burden far away from home and loved ones, or to be the mainstay of the home of a widowed mother at home--always duty first and emotions after. I know one may argue, "Man's love is of man's life a thing apart," &c. But, surely, in the present numerical state of the sexes in England, it would be well to inculcate at least temperance in this matter as well as others.
To sum up, I would be happy to see my daughters take the ups and downs of life less tragically, more soberly and temperately; to make for the goal without caring much for praise, blame or condolence, and, lastly, to treat their emotions as good servants but bad masters.
These reflections have been forced upon me by recent comparison of the respective effects on character of two years at a Public School and the same time at a Girls' High School, experienced by two of my own children.
Apologising for the inordinate length of my letter,
I am, Madam,
P.S.--Perhaps some would suggest co-education as a remedy for the ills of which I complain. This to me seems utterly impossible. The bare idea of a mixed Eton or Harrow is outrageous.
DEAR EDITOR,--The following passage in Sir James Paget's Memoirs may not have been noticed by all your readers. It appears to me useful, as drawing attention to the different treatment we give to boys and girls, and the consequences which in his opinion follow thereupon.
"Among the fears of disease for which one is consulted, none is more frequent than that of lateral curvature of the spine. These fears are felt, especially, by others among the richer classes; and usually the fear is only for their daughter's spines. It is thought essential to the welfare of a young lady that her spine should be straight, and her form not notably unsymmetrical, and that she should habitually sit upright with her back unsupported.
"There is no such thought for young gentlemen, and it appears to be, chiefly, a consequence of this difference, that in the well-to-do classes lateral curvature of the spine is at least twenty times more frequent in girls than in boys. For mothers seldom look at their sons' spines; and they let them sit with their elbows on the table, loll back in their chairs, and lie flat on their stomachs, and do many more such prudent things as in the daughters would be deemed shameful. Thus boys' spines grow straight; the muscles helping to support them are not over-tired, or, when they are, they can be rested in any comfortable posture. . . . The folly and the mischief of this contrast are happily becoming known; the good rule of letting girls grow up like boys is becoming more and more widely observed, and a larger proportion of them are well formed, graceful and strong. Still, the unfounded fears of deformity of the spine are too frequent."
In a note is added, "If some delicate little girl were brought to him for advice who wanted more exercise, he used to say, 'Bring her up like a boy,' or 'Teach her to play cricket with her brothers.' He liked children to have open air games and free play, not drilling and formal gymnastics. He believed that they made better use of their muscles if they were left to themselves." (Page 390; date, 1889-1893).
DEAR EDITOR,--Mr. Kipling has lately reminded us that it is the tendency in England to pay too much attention to games, to the neglect of other and more serious exercises. It is certainly an accepted axiom among us, very well justified by results, that games have a definite educational value, and though physical drill, gymnastics and military training have also a distinct moral effect, I think it will be conceded that none of these would replace the loss that would ensue to national character, if ever the youth of this country should lose their love of games. It may, therefore, be regarded as a healthy sign that it is becoming the practice to include games as a necessary part of the training of girls as well as of boys.
Outdoor games have obviously certain qualities and advantages which are lacking to those played indoors; but we need not, therefore, overlook the good that may be gained from indoor games, for the principles that underlie the art of playing games apply as much to the one as to the other. There is the same give and take, the same scope for emulation without petty rivalry, the same need for the exercise of judgment, of self-control in excitement, of resource in difficulty, of command of temper; the same call for generosity, justice and fair play. These are valuable lessons, and are learnt consciously or unconsciously by all who master the art of playing games; they are as necessary to girls as to boys, and will stand them in good stead when they have passed out of childhood. There are, indeed, many grown-up children who have never acquired this art, much to their own detriment. If anyone doubts it, let him as a dispassionate onlooker go and watch a croquet tournament. There is, fortunately, plenty of choice in selection of games to fit any age and any capacity, and children will naturally most readily adopt such as suit their individual powers and tastes. Some games develop nimbleness of wit, others quickness of hand and eye, others again cultivate memory and imagination. All, of course, have not the same educational value. Those that are least useful in this respect are the mere games of chance. As long as children find them sufficiently amusing to play for the sake of the game alone, there is no harm in them, in fact race games and others of the kind teach little children to count and add easily. But there comes a moment when the interest palls, unless the stimulus of a stake is added, and this confronts us with a question of no small importance. If a parent were asked whether he approved of gambling or of "pot-hunting," he would, in most cases, return an emphatic denial. Why, then, accustom children to play, not for the sake of the game, but for some gain or advantage apart from it? It matters nothing whether they play for chocolates or money, whether the stakes are large or small, the principle is the same; they are playing for what they can get. Yet people who condemn gambling wholesale do not seem to recognize it in this, so to speak, retail form. It is the more necessary that we should make up our minds on this point, because public opinion in England is certainly undergoing a change on the subject of gambling. The evil is as yet hardly widespread enough to attract universal attention; but it is, nevertheless, a fact that gambling bids fair to become as common a practice among the upper classes as was hard drinking a century ago. Whether national morality will gain by the exchange of one form of intemperance for another is a very doubtful matter. The question of gambling, however, is too extensive to discuss here; it will suffice for our purpose if we reflect that people who habitually play for money, and allow their children to do the same, cannot with justice or reason profess righteous indignation if called upon later in life to pay up gaming debts for their sons and daughters.
But because gambling is a danger and an evil, we need not banish all card games. Cards are not in themselves the source of the evil, and there are no better games than Whist, Picquet, Bezique, Patience, and others of the kind, not only because of the variety and interest they afford, but because they require forethought, calculation, memory, observation and finesse. Here the element of chance only enhances the interest, as a force to be reckoned with and skilfully turned to advantage. There is no need to enumerate the many excellent indoor games that include such time-honoured favourites as Draughts, Halma, Dominoes, Lotto Quartetts, Fish-ponds, Bagatelle, and Spellicans, and of which new varieties are constantly appearing. They all encourage some sort of skill or dexterity and are therefore useful. I should like here to draw attention to another class of games, which are hardly as much cultivated as they deserve, but which have the advantages of being suitable to any number of players, grown-ups or children, and for which no outlay or preparation is needed, for, like the spider, you provide your own material. The well-known game of "Clumps" will serve as an instance. They are especially valuable from an educational point of view, for the players are obliged to use their wits, to produce their information readily, and to define their ideas clearly. For children who have a difficulty in concentrating their minds, or in expressing themselves easily, these games are most excellent practice. They include guessing games, like Clumps, acting games, like Dumb Crambo, but of many varieties; spelling games, proverb games, rhyming games, and others which cannot be classified. I do not suggest these as a means of instruction; games with an instructive aim have something of the "jam and powder" air about them, and are viewed with suspicion of youthful minds, but fun and amusement are none the less enjoyable, when they help to quicken imagination, to cultivate the power of invention, and to exercise the memory.
DEAR EDITOR,--I have just returned from Mr. Lyttleton's most interesting and instructive address, held at Lady Esther Smith's in Grosvenor Place. Time, unfortunately, did not allow some of the points of discussion to be touched. One, especially, has struck me very forcibly since my return, viz., the suggestion by the chairman that too much attention was given to games at school.
I do not think that too much importance can be attached to games in these days of keen competition and brain-racking examinations. Outdoor sport trains the powers of endurance; teaches obedience to rules; trains the temper and also the eye in matters of distance; it keeps the mind wholesome and the body healthy. Fair-play is learned better in the field than at the desk. A boy who might lie or prevaricate about his "crubs" cannot about his play, or he would get the drubbing he deserves. The interest in games keeps our men young at heart in their old age. The boy good at games is seldom a sneak. It is the men who have gone out into the world and fought their way, who have built up our empire, and they have been "all-round" boys at school and not bookworms. And it was in the field that they learned, more than at the desk, to give and take, to be generous in applause and accurate in judgment.
The Kipling outburst against sport has caused a deserved protest, his deficient sight having prevented him from taking part in games as a boy. Possibly had he been a sportsman he would have shown a broader charity than we get in his clever writings.
As one of the mothers who is happy enough to welcome a son home from serving at the front in South Africa, where the hardship endured on the veldt is a household word, I can well believe that the stamina shown by those who have been gently reared--not coddled--owes much, if not everything, to the roughing the boys endured in their games at public schools.
I trust you will grant me this privilege of saying my say, the text of which I hope you will publish in your interesting magazine. But there is one thing I would point out to masters before I close, and that is to stop at the outset any tendency to bet over games, as a taste of gambling, unfortunately, often begins at school.
DEAR EDITOR,--The October number of the Parents' Review contains a paper on "Over-pressure," written by a physician, and in it there are two statements which from a teacher's point of view need modifying.
The first is:--"The preparation for the day's work should be the work of the first portion of school work. At the end of the day the work should be finished and not carried over the night."
Now such an arrangement would be bad, economically and educationally. In almost all studies, particularly in those requiring thought, preparation should be done soon after a lesson and as long before the next lesson as possible. The reasons for this are twofold. In the first place, the pupils during the lesson have had their ideas arranged clearly and systematically, at least such has been the aim of the teacher, and they have had new ones suggested to them and partly worked out for them, the following out and completing of the new ideas they do themselves as preparation. While they have the clue in their own hands is the time to go on alone, not after they have dropped and perhaps lost some of the threads during a few days' interval. The connection between certain events, the dependence of one line of thought on another is most clearly seen soon after a lesson, and the pupils make the knowledge their own by doing original work on the lines suggested. The educative value of the learners thus following by themselves a certain train of ideas, or completing one already started, is great, and it is to a large extent lost if the lesson is not soon followed by study.
One of the greatest difficulties with which teachers have to contend is want of coherence and want of sequence in thought, and, as a consequence, want of logical deduction.
Should there then be no preparation a short time before a lesson? This is a debatable point, as what advantages there may be vary according to the ages of the pupils, the advantages growing less as the pupils grow older; to connect one lesson with that preceding it is more the work of the teacher than of the taught. But the point is this, the child goes on with its own work on the best lines and with the greatest economy of time and effort if the preparation, as it is called, immediately follows a lesson given instead of closely preceding one to come.
In the second place, there is no real training for the memory when preparation comes just before a lesson; that that faculty needs training we have abundant proof nowadays in the often heard statement, "I have such a bad memory," and in the multiplication of such aids as books and slips of paper. Teachers strive to give useful information to their classes, but that is not their highest aim. The value of teaching lies not so much on the knowledge per se as in the training given, and a child who prepares its lesson in the early part of the day and says it later in the same day, is not having its memory trained and strengthened as musch as might be; and in later life, when it comes to a position in which memory is essential to well-being or well-working, it will have to fall back upon what are really but feeble adventitious aids.
Short preparation also favours mere visual memory, as distinct from memory by association of idea; at least six out of every ten children can remember visually for a few hours, they can recall how the words looked in the lines and how the lines came on the page; this helps them to say their lesson, but it does not help their education. With older students this visual memory is frequently a great hindrance to developing their power of thought.
Psychologists tell us that the brain has the power of unconsciously working and storing away ideas during sleep; they may reason by analogy from the unfelt assimilation and nutrition of the body during sleep; it seems to be an unconscious cerebration of an opposite kind to that by which one idea suggests another, one event recalls another, without any effort on the part of the thinker. If this be true, why not let the children have the full benefit of this unconscious work by allowing one or more nights to pass between preparation and the next lesson?
The second point in the paper, which is open to discussion, is that "medical men and not schoolmasters and mistresses are the better judges which boys," and, by inference, which girls also, "are fit for the school games," and so on. This appears to cast a reflection on the schoolmasters and mistresses of today which, as a class, they hardly deserve. The training of a teacher now is so much higher and more comprehensive than it used to be, and it increases every year, that the medical as well as the general critic may not know to what extent the children are considered physically, even before intellectually; we want mens sana, but it must be in corpore sano too. If not for this end, why are physiology and hygiene so important parts of the curriculum of a training college? and if not to guard against inherited tendency, why are we interested in the detail of the child's earlier life and in its antecedents? Grant that we are not mere machines, that we have but a spark of father-love or mother-love for our charges, recall that we see them hour by hour, at work, at play, at meals, in sleep, that the study of young nature has been our work for years; weigh these things against the intellect, the skill, the experience of a medical man, and you say the balance is still in his favour? Perhaps so; but where he loses and we gain is when the fact is weighed that he sees the child for ten or fifteen minutes, often when it is nervous or filled with apprehension as to what the doctor's visit may mean; whereas we have an intimate knowledge and the opportunity of closely observing the child day by day when it is its own natural little self.
There are exceptional cases when children come to us from the nursery so highly-strung, so conscious of what even they know as "nerves," that they require medical supervision and treatment as well as hygienic school-life, but the latter is the greater factor in promoting healthy life. and ours is the greater joy when the child develops into a healthy little animal. (I find no other word.) An argument may be advanced that medical men judge by what they see; true, they generally do; but they must remember that it is of our failures they see most, of our successes they know but little. In judging doctors would it be fair to take no account of those patients who once were sick and now are hale men and strong women, but only to take into consideration the patients who fail to recover? In cases where we are at fault we gladly fall back upon the medical profession with its far greater knowledge of pathology and therapeutics. As a doctor's work is curative and preventive so is ours preventive and curative. When teachers and doctors recognise how much they have in common and work with each other there will be a good time for the children, who will not have to reap quite such a deadly harvest of what their predecessors have sown. Good teachers and good doctors have the same end in view, the formation of a society that has a better conception of "what life is, what it means, what it leads to."
Typed by happi, Mar 2020; Proofread by LNL, Apr 2020
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