The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

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

The "P.R." Letter Bag.

Volume 15, 1904, pg. 74-76

(The Editor is not responsible for the opinions of Correspondents.)

Dear Editor, -- In strongly recommending this first-rate little book it seems best to quote from Canon Benham's words in the preface:-- "Indeed, I do not know another work which is so likely to win the attention of the young, or to give them a true notion of what the Catholic Church is, or what a bright future lies before the English branch of it, by the blessing of Almighty God."--A Goodly Heritage: A Simple Church History, by Georgiana M. Forde (Skeffington, 2/6). With a preface by Rev. Canon Benham, D.D.
Truly yours, E. Venables.

Dear Editor, -- I beg to call attention to an excellent spelling book, which I find very useful with my children, viz.: A Complete Manual of Spelling, by J.D. Mosell, LL.D., H.M. Inspector of Schools (Cassell & Co., 1899). Perhaps it would be found useful for the Parents' Review School. Instead of ordinary dictation where it is only a few difficult words that are met with, a dictation lesson from this book draws attention to many words which present difficulty to most children.
Yours truly,
G. A. K. Wisely.
Orpington, Kent,
December 14th, 1903.

Dear Editor, -- Such a remarkably clever example of making the most of an opportunity for the study of Nature within the limits of a conventional London square, came to my notice the other day, that I think some of your readers, and especially members of the Natural History Club of the P.N.E.U., might be glad to see it for themselves. The sum of twopence for postage, and a request addressed to Miss Heppel, Headmistress of the Kensington Park High School, Colville Square, Bayswater, would procure the loan of the booklet for a day. This school is the London centre of the Church Schools Company, and the book is the work of a pupil, Miss Eleanor Day, who deservedly gained a prize for it at the recent Nature Study Exhibition at Burlington House. I am sure that any children who try to paint flowers or describe rambles, would be greatly encouraged by such a charming specimen of thorough and beautiful work.
Faithfully yours,
I. Blanche S. Thompson.
24, Argyll Road,
Kensington, London, W.,
December 15th, 1903.

Dear Editor, -- In a paper on "Military Education" read at the United States Institution within the last few weeks, Colonel Maude declared that a large proportion of Woolwich and Sandhurst candidates were in intellectual cultivation not above the level of the average Board School boy, and in knowledge not superior to the better class of common recruit. In this opinion Colonel Maude was supported by other distinguished officers. They characterised the fact as "appalling," and when it is considered that the candidates referred to belong in great part to the flower of present-day English youth, educated at our most famous public schools, it cannot be justly said that the term appalling is too strong for the occasion. The clever boy--the boy who needs little guidance, who only needs putting within reach of books--may get on well in intellectual development at a public school; but the mediocrities and the stupid are too often turned out egregious dunces, albeit physically, athletes, and morally, brave and honourable gentlemen. Our schools are not likely to be rapidly improved until there has been created and brought to bear a mass of enlightened parental opinion. In this direction the P.N.E.U. is doing something; it might do much more if its membership were increased to the extent to which its objects and the zeal of its officers give it claim. The defects and disadvantages of our public schools as intellectual training-places have been frequently and recently discussed in the Parents' Review; and the ignorance or apathy in educational questions of the majority of parents from low to high is frequently referred to in your pages. To deal with these subjects is not my present purpose; nor need I explain the reasons which compel a vast number of thoughtful and intelligent parents to send their boys to public schools in spite of the defects which the intellectual training of these institutions so glaringly displays. My object is to add my voice to that of your correspondent who in the Review for November writes of the educational importance of cultivating in our children a taste for literature. If such a taste be created, and if the parental influence be afterwards constantly exercised in directing out-of-school reading, the defects of the present-day school training may be to a large extent if not entirely remedied. Inculcation of a taste for good books ought to be begun early, and whilst it can hardly be effected by mere preaching alone, it can in most cases be rapidly advanced by example. What books do parents read, what do they love, what talk about? It is useless constantly urging upon children that true pleasure and profit are to be had alone from the best authors, whilst the trashy novel, the trashy magazine and the more trashy weekly periodical form the sole mental pabulum of father and mother. If parents do not really appreciate and love literature, the case of their children who are not intellectually gifted can rarely be hopeful. As soon as infants are old enough they can be read to; and it is not in the least difficult to find good books adapted even to infantile capacity. To hear books read aloud is always the best introduction to literature; and those who have not tried the experiment will be astonished at the avidity with which intelligent children will listen to, and the ease with which they will understand, books the grasping of which unaided would be beyond their powers. Later on it becomes merely a question of advising or selecting books in accordance with the age and capacity of the readers. When one considers the vastness of the first-rate literature available and the cheapness of books, there seems no excuse for leaving children unsupplied with the best. It would be easy to name edition after edition of standard old authors to be had nowadays at a cost of pence rather than shillings a volume; and new books of high class are hardly more costly. For example, the [English] Men of Action Series (published by Macmillan) cost 1/11 a volume. [Wellington, Monk, Lawrence, Peterborough, Gordon, etc.] These are most fascinating works for boys of average intelligence. The lives of soldiers, sailors, explorers, statesmen, they are crammed full of incident and adventure, all the more thrilling because true. In reading books of this class the boy, consciously or unconsciously, is learning history in its best and most fruitful form; and in a similar way he can (without any disagreeable flavour of powder in the jam) be pleasantly educated to a large extent in natural science of any kind to which his taste or curiosity directs him. The suggestion that the attempt to develop a taste for the best in literature and art in our children will, if successful, produce prigs or priggishness need not alarm any sensible parent. It is not necessary to forbid or exclude a knowledge of inferior books. To do this would often be merely to excite a curiosity certain to be gratified sooner or later. A taste for the best will not prevent the getting of what is possible in amusement or knowledge out of the inferior or bad; but there will be little danger of the latter superseding the former. Some of us may perhaps think we would prefer our children to be well educated in the proper sense of the word, albeit a bit priggish, rather than conceited ignoramuses with a lofty scorn of knowledge and contempt for all culture above that of their own low level. Priggishness may be and usually is cured by contact with the world; self-satisfied ignorance is a disease much more chronic and much more difficult to eradicate.
Yours sincerely,
Henry Sewill.
The Old Rosery,
Earlswood Common,
November 21st, 1903.

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