The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
The Relations Between Home and School Authorities.

by T. E. Cattrell, Esq.
Volume 15, 1904, pg. 339-348

I. The preparation of a paper on a general educational subject at the present time is not altogether an easy matter. The times are somewhat out of joint in the educational world. Whilst on the one hand the control and administration of schools are in many cases at present changing hands--a process which must be regarded as only the type and earnest of a very wide absorption of the controlling bodies of our schools by a national central authority which will work through local committees, or in other words a kind of nationalisation of schools--on the other hand the very essence and nature of what constitutes education itself is everywhere a fruitful subject of discussion, and on no other question is there, at the present time, much greater diversity of opinion, not only amongst many of the new local magnates in the educational world, at which no one can be surprised, but even among experienced educationists themselves.

"The object and aims of education," says one school, well represented by [Gabriel] Compayré, "are to aid Nature in the development of the physical, intellectual and moral faculties of man; the cultivation of his intellect as well as the imparting to him of positive knowledge; and the formation of his heart and will." Your own Union adds to these, quite rightly, the care and nurture of his spirit.

Another school takes Matthew Arnold's famous definition of education as "an atmosphere, a discipline, a life" for the basis of its views. I need hardly remind you that the founder of this Union--Miss Charlotte M. Mason, a lady whom all interested in real education must admire and respect as one of the most inspiring and broad-minded of the educational reformers of the day--is one of the great leaders of this school. The term "education"--a leading or drawing-out, as it literally means--appears to her very inadequate; "training," too, is an almost synonymous word; the homely Saxon phrase "bringing-up" is nearer the truth; but nothing less than Arnold's full definition, rightly interpreted, will satisfy her.

Well, I say, in these times of change and discussion, when we are modifying our system of government without and reviewing our fundamental principles within--when we may almost be said to be passing through a second Renascence, of a very different character to the first--one feels it to be no easy matter to write a paper on an educational subject which shall steer clear of difficult and disputed questions, and yet which shall be both interesting and instructive.

Fortunately, however, my subject, "The Relationship between the Home and the School Authorities," can be treated in a broad way with reference to general principles only, and I shall, therefore, be able to avoid to a great extent statements and considerations which belong to what may be called the argumentative field at the present time.

Now I will first clear the ground somewhat by laying down that the term "authority" in this paper means "educational authority," or authority from a purely educational point of view, and the term "school" must be generally understood to mean a public or at any rate large private school, and often a public day school.

II. Now, when does the education of a child begin? Well, in one sense it may be said to begin at its birth, and for some time onwards it is the parent upon whom the responsibility of it all rests. For the first few years of life the home authority is the sole educational authority. And whence then does the relationship between the two authorities come in at this period? Only in this way: that the school authority will later on have to take over the product of this early bringing-up. Now some of us know a good deal of these products. What is the wonderful variation which we find in them due to? Partly, of course, to a difference in natural gifts and capacity, but principally, I am afraid I must say, to the difference in the ways in which the home authorities carry out their duties. And what can the home authority be expected to do in these early days? Well, all parents ought to know, and mothers especially. And your Union tells you. "The child," says Miss Mason, "brings with it into the world, not character, but disposition. He has natural tendencies which he has inherited to a great extent from his ancestors. These may need only to be strengthened, or again, to be diverted, or even repressed." And how is the work to be done? The P.N.E.U. wisely devotes a good deal of its energy to the consideration of parents' duties in these early days of the lives of their children. "All mothers," it says, "can, in the first instance, secure for their children the best conditions for rest and growth, absolute quiet and darkness during sleeping hours, absence of fuss, noise, or excitement during waking hours. But they can do more than this. They can definitely train them in habits of obedience, good temper, reverence and attention, and encourage within wise limits their natural disposition to acquire knowledge. They can lay the physical basis of memory and take care that its memories, which will certainly remain through life, engraved on the unthinking brain, be pleasant, tender, pure. They can lay, to some extent, the foundation for the development of all the mental functions--the imagination, judgment, reasoning, etc."

This sketch, which I do not think is overdrawn or exaggerated, shows very pointedly the importance of the duties and responsibilities of parents. But, as a matter of fact, who can fix limitations to their power? The destiny of the child is ruled by them, because they have the virgin soil all to themselves. And what an honour and privilege is theirs on this account! And yet I am afraid it must be confessed that the tendency of our age is in the direction of the abdication on the part of parents of this their priceless privilege and prerogative, and your Union deserves the strongest support from all earnest men and women in this country, if for no other reason, for this great one that it calls the attention of its own members, and through them of other parents, to these their duties to their children in the days of their sole responsibility.

III. School.--But the time comes when a secondary authority joins the home authority in the work of bringing up the child. I say deliberately "joins," not "supersedes." As the child grows up its whole education becomes too great and important a work for an authority to undertake whose free time is possibly curtailed, and whose knowledge and experience of educational methods are often limited. So an expert must be called in. Generally the child is sent to school.

Now, the considerations upon which many parents decide what school they will send their children to are a constant source of wonder to me. The two most general ones, I think, are: (1) Where do Mrs. So-and-so's boys and girls go? or, where does Johnny So-and-so go? or, my boy or girl must not go to a school where So-and-so's children go--all of which are variations of the one consideration of caste, and (2) I shall not send my boy or girl to a local school, however good it may be, but away. The guiding ideas in this consideration seem to be absence of faith in home influence, and the enchantment which distance generally lends. England is the only country in the world where these considerations have any great weight. But I must not dwell on this point. After all, taking English society as we find it, the main thing for a parent to do is to choose a school which is conducted and ruled on sound educational principles, where a real and full education is not only offered in prospect uses and advertisements, but is actually given, because the school is financially able to provide the means of giving it, and the teachers know how to give it, are qualified by experience and character to give it, and make their sole aim to give it.

Now, it is quite clear that the relationship between the two authorities will vary in kind and degree according to the character of the school--whether it is a day or boarding school, for example. But the great point for both authorities to bear in mind is that they are both needed in the work of education, there must be no handing over, on the part of either, of its own special duties to the other. The penny post, cheap and quick and general travelling, and the constant introduction of new means of communication, render it more and more possible for the two authorities to work together. There must be no jealousy between them. One cannot be surprised if the old authority pricks up its ears and raises its eyebrows in surprise when the new authority begins to assert itself, as it must do. It is a great change to hand over the reins, even for a time, to a new driver. But reflection, charity, and forbearance can do much. The thought of the common object in hand ought to smooth away difficulties. And it is because some of the aims and objects of this Union are to increase, foster, and encourage harmony between the two authorities, that it is deserving of the support of all of us. Poor Pestalozzi had no such help in his one-handed struggle against jealous, stupid, and ignorant parents.

IV. I propose now to deal, for a short time, with what I may call the correlation of the two authorities in the work of education as it is carried on in the best public and private schools. For if this paper is to be of any value, we must look at the practical side of the question. Reforms cannot be carried out in a day. Mr. Chamberlain may be a great prophet--I don't say that he is--but at any rate he does not expect to turn the tide of public opinion into the channel in which his own views run for many a long day. So that when we come to the practical part of the paper we had better divide our educational work into the usual branches of physical, mental, moral and spiritual, and lay it down as a premise that the aim of the school authority is to carry out its part of this complex work in such a way as to make its education, as far as possible, an atmosphere, a discipline, a life to its pupils.

Now, let us take first physical education--hygiene and gymnastics. May not the two authorities give one another much help and support here? Hygiene is the art of preserving and promoting health--health, one of the greatest blessings in this world. Without it there can neither be happiness nor the due fulfilment of social duties. What is the duty of the school authority in this matter? To look after the physical condition of the school--its drainage, ventilation, warmth and the like, and to see that pupils are taught to obey, as far as possible, the fundamental laws of health even in a varied climate such as ours, and that the course of work is arranged so as not to necessitate too great a physical or mental strain at one time, even on the delicate child--to deal exceptionally with specially-constituted children. The home authority (which, in the case of a school boarding-house, is the head of the house) is responsible for the regimen of the child, its cleanliness of body and clothing, the amount and quality of its food, and so forth. Some parents neglect their duties in this matter. We all know that under the late large School Boards, for example--and no doubt it will be the same under the new authorities--this neglect on the part of poor parents had to be seriously rectified at a great public cost.

Then, again, take gymnastics--the positive form of hygiene, the art of exercising the body--no less necessary for girls than for boys. No experienced and well-educated person, in these days, will deny their value in some form or other. But a good many well-educated parents will evade their responsibilities, I am afraid, in this respect all the same if they can. Most schools of standing provide various forms of gymnastics--sports, systematic exercises, promenades, and so on--but I think I am right in saying that in almost all secondary schools, attended by both day scholars and boarders, it is the boarders who support them in earnest, because they are obliged to, and it is often difficult to get even a small percentage of the day boys to take an active interest in them. Athletic sports meetings, where good prizes are to be won, are more successful; but I have had day boys who have never been known to subscribe to any athletic club, or take any part voluntarily in any school athletic club or meeting, and this has not been altogether their own fault. What we want to see in this matter is more co-opertaion with, and support of the school authority on the part of the home authority. This can be done quite easily in various ways--a visit to the cricket field, football or hockey ground, or gymnasium is much appreciated by both masters and boys, and so are chats afterwards on what has been done. We all know that athletics can be overdone, and this is a great mistake and must be avoided.

V. We now come to mental or intellectual education. This kind of education falls more entirely within the domain of the school authority than any other. It is not the highest kind of education, and no general system of education for the race of man would be complete which provided for the highest intellectual culture only, or which only added thereto perfect physical training, but did not also include provision for the development of the moral and spiritual faculties of our nature. We must never forget this. Well, with respect to intellectual education: it is not within the scope of this paper to discuss the best means to be employed, the best methods of imparting this or that subject at any particular age, and so on. Suffice it to say that it is the business of a community to provide competent men and women, and suitable buildings and plant, for the work; it must see that, at any rate, some of the best of its citizens are induced to undertake this work, and it must encourage investigation into the best methods and schemes for carrying on the work. What concerns us more to-day is the part that the home authority takes in the matter. I think its duties may be summed up in this way: choose, if possible, a good school with a good head; support both and don't worry the head; take an interest--a daily interest--in the work and progress of the child as shown by the usual school methods; see that the child has a free hand and clear field in any work that may be given it to do at home; encourage it to persevere and stick to its work during Term; sympathise with it in its difficulties; rejoice with it in its successes; and send it there regularly or even altogether. By all means take part with others in helping to improve public opinion on educational matters. Join the P.N.E.U. and read its publications. In this connection it is interesting to refer to the latest criticisms put forward by this Union with regard to public schools, "that young people are tuned out from excellent schools devitalised as far as their minds go. No large draughts of intellectual day have been offered to their thirst, and yet the thirst was there to begin with. Too much faith is commonly placed in oral lessons and lectures. Education should be by Things and by Books." Even curricula of work for pupils of different ages are drawn up. Surely here is a propaganda which will stir the most lethargic parent.

VI. Moral Education.--"To the intellectual culture which forms the mind," it has been pithily said, "there should be united the moral culture which forms the character." "The child does not go to school merely to be instructed there, but also to become better, to contract virtuous habits, and to be more inclined to the practice of the good."

But, in order that the school may bring into play this great educative force, surely it is a prime and indispensable condition that the teachers know how to make themselves loved and respected, that they be examples of moral qualities, and that they have large authority over the minds and hearts of their pupils. Experience shows what a power and influence the school authority may acquire in this direction. You probably all know the story of the child who, when he was being severely punished by his father for a trifling fault, was heard to cry: "Oh, if my teacher only knew it!" And the father, it is said, stayed his uplifted hand. Thus in his distress the thought of the child turned at once toward his teacher: he appealed to him as to justice itself, and the name invoked caused the father to reflect, and thus disarmed him! What more beautiful homage could be rendered to a man? What finer tribute to his moral authority?

How important it is then that you parents should put your children into the charge of a teacher who can exert this authority, whose training and influence shall support and supplement your own! Is not this more important than the possession on his part of a whole heap of other qualifications? Are you sure that you enquire carefully into the personal worthiness of the teacher with whom you entrust your child? Let no other considerations--appearance, smartness, plausibility--induce you to overlook the absence of, or uncertainty in your mind respecting that moral fibre without which no real influence can be gained. Especially is this necessary in the case of young children. It is in childhood that the habits are formed which go to make up character. You know that the difficulty of moulding character increases at least in direct proportion to advance in age.

And in this higher branch of education, how important is it that the two authorities should be in perfect harmony! Each should support the other most fully and unreservedly

Now, as discipline is one of the essential factors in the art of moral teaching, I think I shall be expected to say a few words respecting it. The close relationship between the two authorities is often rudely disturbed over this question. Well, I think it is impossible to conceive a system of education in which it will not sometimes be necessary to resort to disciplinary means--you cannot dispense with punishments, nor do without rewards. It is the reaction against arbitrary or inapt punishments which has led some to say (Rousseau and Herbert Spencer included) that all punishment should be natural, that is, should follow naturally as the result of the offence. If, for example, a child tells a lie, he is to be punished by the distrust with which his future statements will naturally be received until he has regained his character. There is a great principle underlying this; but it is quite clear that the rule cannot always be adopted--nature herself is not always moral nor just in her actions and reactions, and her punishments are often slow to appear. By all means let punishment be moral, and it is most important that both parents and teachers should avoid all appearance of vindictiveness in administering it, and punish, not because they themselves are injured or inconvenienced, but because a wrong has been done, and right demands correction and amendment. As to the question of corporal punishment, I look upon it as the last resource, necessary with some children, and especially with some little children. I agree to a large extent with a famous head master who said that "there is more hope of curing a boy of lying by flogging him than by distrusting him, for days together, as a liar." But I have found that when boys' character is more formed, that is in the upper forms of a school, corporal punishment is scarcely ever necessary.

VII. Spiritual Education.--We have taken the different branches of a complete education in the order of increasing importance, and last and most important comes the care and nurture of the spirit. We all know what a thorny problem we have to face when we attempt to deal with the question of religious education in schools. Dogma; bigotry; church; chapel; fair treatment to all; the London School Board Syllabus--how the words haunt us, and how tired we are getting of being haunted by them. But the whole question is not within the scope of this paper. With regard to the relationship between the two authorities on it, I would, however, make two propositions. First, there can be no relationship if the teaching is all done by one of the authorities. But it is the main object of this paper to show that real success in the education or bringing-up of the young cannot be attained without mutual help and co-operation on the part of other authorities, and I believe that this holds good quite as much in this highest branch of education as in the others. Second, I cannot see how any earnest teacher can avoid doing something in this direction with his pupils, and he will certainly devote some time every week to direct religious instruction, and will refer again and again in the course of his dealings with his pupils and their friends to the great fundamental Christian principles on which our religion is based. I cannot regard the teacher as an educationist in the full sense of the word who neglects all reference to religion in his work. His pupils grow up with wrong views of life, and the best part of their birthright as men and women is not disclosed to them by the authority to whom they naturally look for guidance and instruction in the early days of their development. But whilst I hope the day will never come when we shall be forbidden to give religious instruction in day schools, it is quite clear to me that the responsibility for this part of the education of the young will devolve more and more upon the home authority. Fathers and mothers must realize this fact. From the very earliest days, children must be brought up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. It is the duty and privilege of parents to undertake this, and it should be the aim of all of us who are interested in education and, for the matter of that, who are interested in the future greatness of our empire and the amelioration of mankind in general, to bring this fact home to their hearts and consciences.

I have taken you over a somewhat wide field in dealing with this subject. I have endeavoured to lay before you what real education may be said to consist of. I have shown you that each of the two authorities we have been considering has its own part and lot in the work--in some stages or branches of it one of them is most or almost entirely responsible, in others both are more equally concerned. But I have laid special stress on the importance and, in fact, necessity of mutual support, forbearance, charity and sympathy on the part of these authorities. It is because this National Union has done much to bring this truth home to the nation, so that a better understanding between the two authorities is already, I believe, making itself seen and felt; and also because it has done something, and is, I think, capable of doing a good deal more, to show teachers what intelligent parents think of some of the great educational problems, as a result of which its influence will undoubtedly lead to more personal contact and intercourse between parents and teachers, by means of local councils and the like, so that our views may be widened and our aims elevated and strengthened, that I think it worthy of the support of all who are interested in the great work of education in this country, and it is on this account that it has been a great pleasure to me to prepare this paper and to read it here this afternoon.

Typed by Sabrina Nixon, May 2024; Proofread by LNL, June 2024