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Improvements in Education as it Respects the Industrious Classes of the Community ...
Joseph Lancaster
(1805)

Introduction.

The rich possess ample means to realize any theory they may chuse to adopt in the education of their children, regardless of the cost; but it is not so with him whose subsistence is derived from industry: ignorance and incapacity often prevent his having proper views on the important subject of education, and when he has, slender resources as often prevent their being reduced to practice. Yet, among this class of men, are found many who are not only useful members, but ornaments to society; and from the labours of these it is, that the public derive the conveniencies, and many of the comforts of life: but while they are toiling for the production of those comforts, their children are left destitute of a suitable education. Therefore, it has been acknowledged, that education, as it respects those who are unprovided with it, ought to become a national concern; and this has been so long the public opinion, that no doubt it would have become so, had not a mere Pharisaical, sectmaking spirit intervened to prevent it; and that in every party.

A system of education which would not gratify this disposition in any party, is requisite, in order to obviate the difficulty; and the reader will find something said to that purpose in perusing this tract. — When I view the desolating effects produced amongst the unprotected and unbefriended order of society, what shall I say? Alas; ray brethren and fellow Christians of every denomination, you have been contending whose influence should be greatest in society, while a national benefit has been lost, and the poor objects of it become a prey to vice, to an extent, that all your praiseworthy, but partial benevolence, can never repair. — A national evil requires a national remedy; let not this any longer be delayed: let your minds expand, free from every narrow principle, and let the public good become the sole object of your united Christian efforts.

Above all things, education ought not to be subservient to the propagation of the peculiar tenets of any sect. Beyond the number of that sect, it becomes undue influence; like the strong taking advantage of the weak. Yet, a reverence for the sacred name of God and the Scriptures of Truth; a detestation of vice; a love of veracity; a due attention to duties to parents, relations, and to society; carefulness to avoid bad company; civility without flattery; and a peaceable demeanor; may be inculcated in every seminary for youth, without violating the sanctuary of private religious opinion in any mind. ...

Principles on which the Institution is Conducted.

... The predominant feature in the youthful disposition is an almost irresistible propensity to action; this, if properly controlled by suitable employment, will become a valuable auxiliary to the master; but, if neglected, will be apt to degenerate into rebellion. Active youths, when treated as cyphers, will generally show Their consequence by exercising themselves in mischief. I am convinced, by experience, that it is practicable for teachers to acquire a proper dominion over the minds of the youth under their care, by directing those active spirits to good purposes. This liveliness should never be repressed, but directed to useful ends; and I have ever found, the surest way to cure a mischievous boy was to make him a monitor. I never knew any thing succeed much better [sic], if so well.

In education nothing can be more important than economy of time, even when we have a reasonable prospect of a good portion of it at our disposal; but it is most peculiarly necessary in primary schools, and in the instruction of the poor: — cases wherein the pupil seldom has too much on his hands; and very often a fine genius or noble talents are lost to the state, and to mankind, from the want of it. If we wish to do the best for the welfare of youth, and to promote their interest through life, it will be well for us to study economy of their precious time. "Be careful of time," says the philosopher, "for time is the stuff life is made of." In this respect, I would recommend the teachers of youth, for example, to the industry of the Chinese waterman, who plies one oar with his right foot, another with his left hand, dexterously guiding the sail, in the mean time, with his right hand, while he enjoys his whiff of tobacco seemingly quite at his ease.

As a further proof of the benefit resulting from this mode of instruction, the following instance is remarkable. Several boys belonging to my school were in the habit of playing truant continually. This habit was contracted, as it usually is, by frequenting bad, idle company. One boy seemed quite incorrigible: his father got a log and chain, chained it to his foot, and in that condition, beating him all the way, followed him to school repeatedly. Nothing was of any avail — neither was the lad reformed by any thing the parent could do. At last he was reformed by a contest about an old rusty nail. 1 am not fond of laying wagers; but, without any other design than the improvement of two classes, by raising a spirit of emulation among them, I betted with one of my subordinate monitors, a shilling against an old rusty nail, that another class would excel in writing on the slate, [than] that in which he taught. In case it did, the old rusty nail was to be mine; and the oddity of the thing tickled the fancy of the boys, and served as well for the bone of contention as any thing else. Both classes were disposed to exert all their powers on the occasion, determined not to be excelled. I lost the wager in the sequel; but if it had been fifty times the value, it could not have had a better effect than it had. The truants I have been mentioning were in the two contending classes. The interest they took in the honour of their classes was so great, that instead of playing truant, they came to school, to aid their companions in securing the honour, which was more than the prize. The interest they took in the thing was so great, that they became pleased with school; and, above all, the almost incorrigible boy became reformed, and one of the best proficients in learning in the whole school; and for two years after, which he remained with me, no more was heard of his playing truant. Thus, a little emulation and mental interest in what he had to do, produced that improvement in conduct, and delight in learning, which neither the log, nor the horse-whip, or any other severe treatment he received from his father, could produce. The reformation was more striking in him, because he seemed a more hardened offender; but there were several others who were completely reformed at the same time, and by the same means. It is by application of this powerful influence, and by controlling and directing the influence lads have over each other, to useful purposes, that, under the blessing which hath rested on my labours, I have been so successful; and I believe, that others who may wish to establish similar institutions, upon the same principles as mine, must build on the same foundation. The passions of the human heart must be their study; and they will find the system itself answer to the effects, as face to face in a glass. ...

In establishing this institution, the influence a master has over his scholars, and the influence they have one over another, have been the objects of constant study and practice; it has most happily succeeded in proving, that a very large number of children may be superintended by one master; and that they can be self-educated by their own exertions, under his care.

The whole school is arranged in classes; a monitor is appointed to each, who is responsible for the cleanliness, order, and improvement of every boy in it. He is assisted by boys, either from his own or another class, to perform part of his duties for him, when the number is more than he is equal to manage himself.

The proportion of boys who teach, either in reading, writing, or arithmetic, is as one to ten. In so large a school there are duties to be performed, which simply relate to order, and have no connexion with learning; for these duties different monitors are appointed. The word monitor, in this institution, means, any boy that has a charge either in some department of tuition or of order, and is not simply confined to those boys who teach. — The boy who takes care that the writing books are ruled, by machines made for that purpose, is the monitor of ruling. The boy who superintends the enquiries after the absentees, is called the monitor of absentees. The monitors who inspect the improvement of the classes in reading, writing, and arithmetic, are called inspecting monitors; and their offices are indeed essentially different from that of the teaching monitors. A boy whose business it is to give to the other monitors such books, &c. as may be wanted or appointed for the daily use of their classes, and to gather them up when done with; to see all the boys do read, and that none leave school without reading, is called the monitor-general. Another is called the monitor of slates, because he has a general charge of all the slates in the school. ...

On the Arrangement of the Institution, as Connected with Improvements in Education.

To promote emulation, and facilitate learning, the whole school is arranged into classes, and a monitor appointed to each class. A class consists of any number of boys whose proficiency is on a par: these may all be classed and taught together. If the class is small, one monitor may teach it; if large, it may still continue the same class, but with more or less assistant monitors, who, under the direction of the principal monitor, are to teach the subdivisions of the class. If only four or six boys should be found in a school, who are learning the same thing, as A, B, C, ab. &c. Addition, Subtraction, &c. I think it would be advantageous for them to pursue their studies after the manner of a class. If the number of boys studying the same lesson, in any school, should amount to six, their proficiency will be nearly doubled by being classed, and studying in conjunction. There are two descriptions of boys to be found in every school; those who are learning to read, and those who have learnt: to the last, reading is not a study, but a medium of religious or moral instruction. To the first, a progressive series of lessons, rising step by step, to that point, where children may begin to store their minds with knowledge for use in future life. This is the second object of instruction, and to which a series of reading lessons connected with those mechanical, or other pursuits in life, which they are likely to be engaged in, and with religious knowledge, is a valuable auxiliary. ...

A Method of Teaching to Spell and Read, whereby One Book will Serve instead of Six Hundred Books.

It will be remembered, that the usual mode of teaching requires every boy to have a book: yet, each boy can only read or spell one lesson at a time, in that book. Now, all the other parts of the book are in wear, and liable to be thumbed to pieces; and, whilst the boy is learning a lesson in one part of the book, the other parts are at that time useless. Whereas, if a spelling book contains twenty or thirty different lessons, and it were possible for thirty scholars to read the thirty lessons in that book, it would be equivalent to thirty books for its utility. To effect this, it is desirable the whole of the book should be printed three times larger than the common size type, which would make it equal in size and cost to three common spelling books, value from eight-pence to a shilling each. Again, it should be printed with only one page to a leaf, which would again double the price, and make it equivalent in bulk, and cost to five or six common books; its different parts should then be pasted on pasteboard, and suspended by a string, to a nail in the wall, or other convenient place: one pasteboard should contain the alphabet; others, words and syllables of from two to six letters. The reading lessons gradually rising from words of one syllable, in the same manner, till they come to words of five or six letters, or more, preparatory to the Testament lessons. ...

When the cards are provided, as before mentioned, from twelve to twenty boys may stand in a circle round each card, and clearly distinguish the print, to read or spell, as well or better than if they had a common spelling book in each of their hands. If one spelling book was divided into thirty different parts or lessons, and each lesson given to a different boy, it would only serve thirty boys, changing their lessons among themselves, as often as needed; and the various parts would be continually liable to be lost or torn. But, every lesson placed on a card, will serve for twelve or twenty boys at once: and, when that twelve or twenty have repeated the whole lesson, as many times over as there are boys in the circle, they are dismissed to their spelling on the slate, and another like number of boys may study the same lesson, in succession: indeed, two hundred boys may all repeat their lessons from one card, in the space of three hours. If the value and importance of this plan, for saving paper and books in teaching reading and spelling, will not recommend itself, all I can say in its praise, from experience, will be of no avail. When standing in circles, to read or spell, the boys wear their numbers, tickets, pictures, &c. as described under the head, Emulation and Reward; and give place to each other, according to merit, as mentioned in the account of the two first classes. ...

Extempore Method of Spelling.

In this method of spelling the card is used instead of a book — the monitor assembles his whole class, by successive circles, or rather semicircles, of twelves or twenties; calling each scholar by numbers; so as to begin at number 1, and go regularly through the whole class. This preserves a regularity in their reading, and prevents any one scholar omitting a lesson. At first this is troublesome, and occasions some noise; because, in the minor classes, the monitors are obliged to call the boys to read or spell, by the list of their names; but, as a number is affixed to each name, the monitors soon become familiar with the names and numbers of boys in their respective classes, and this obviates the difficulty.

When the circle is formed around their card of lesson, the monitor points, with his pencil or pen, to the columns of spelling which form the lesson for the day. The first boy reads six words, by syllables: he does not spell the words by repeating each letter, but, by repeating, in a distinct manner, each syllable in every word. If he commits any mistake, the next boy is required to rectify it, without being told what the mistake is; if the second boy cannot correct the first, the third or fourth may: in which case, the scholar who rectifies the mistake takes precedency of him that committed it, and receives his insigna of merit at the same time. In no case is a monitor suffered to teach or tell the boys in his circle what the error is, unless they should all be equally ignorant: then it becomes his duty to do it. This is, in fact, each boy teaching himself; and the principal duty of the monitor is not so much to teach them, as to see that they teach one another. ... It is very important, that in all these modes of teaching, the monitor cannot do as the watermen do, look one way and row another. His business is before his eyes; and, if he omits the performance of the smallest part of his duty, the whole circle are idle or deranged: and detection, by the master, immediately follows his negligence. In society at large, few crimes are ever committed openly; because, immediate detection and apprehension of the offender would follow. On the contrary, many are committed in privacy and silence. It is the same, in performing the simple duties of monitors in my institution: their whole performances are so visible, that they dare not neglect them; and, consequently, attain the habit of performing the task easily and well. This effect is produced from this one cause: that every thing they do is brought to account, or rendered visible in some conspicuous way and manner. What applied to the monitors strictly applies to the boys. There is not a boy, who does not feel the benefits of this constant emulation, variety, and action; for, they insensibly acquire the habit of exercising their attention closely, on every subject that comes before them; and this, without straining it too much. ...

An Account of the Improved Method of Instruction, in the Elementary Parts of Arithmetic.

It is necessary to premise a little respecting the usual mode of teaching arithmetic, which many of my readers will remember to be the method in practice at such schools as they frequented in early youth.

The sums are, in many instances, set in the boys' books, by the master or teacher, at the expense of much pains and labour; in other instances they are copied by the pupil, from Walkingame's, or some other arithmetic.

The boys are, or should be, instructed how to work their sums, in the first instance, by the master or teacher; they are then expected to do other sums of a like nature, by the example shown.

This is to be done by them, at their seats; and, when it is finished, the master or teacher should, and in most cases does, inspect it, to see if done correctly. ... when sums are brought up to the master for inspection, each boy's must be individually attended to; here is another great loss of invaluable time. Perhaps, twenty boys have sums ready for inspection at once, and nineteen wait, sit, idle, or talk, while the twentieth is at his master's desk, with his sums. Nor is this all: if an incorrigible dunce happens to show up his sums first, and, as is often the case, adds new blunders to mistakes, he may easily delay his master, and the boys who are waiting to follow him in succession, for some time; and a few instances of this sort, arising from carelessness, inattention, or incapacity on the part of the scholars, will completely derange the business of a morning, and keep a number of their school-fellows unemployed.

Independent of this, it is disgusting to teachers of any description to be continually plodding over the same ground of elementary arithmetic. Sameness, in every instance, produces listlessness; and variety is ever productive of agreeable sensations. I have seen a respectable schoolmaster, well versed in the mathematics, have a dozen boys standing round his desk, waiting for him to attend to their sums, while he has been listening to a slow boy, repeating his sum, till he has bitten his lips with vexation.

To prevent this dulness, I have invented an entire new method of teaching arithmetic, that commences when children begin to make their figures. The following is the arrangement of the cyphering classes:

Class 1, Combination of figures.

2, Addition.

3, Compound ditto.

4, Subtraction.

5, Compound ditto.

6, Multiplication.

7, Compound ditto.

8, Division.

9, Compound ditto.

10, Reduction.

11, Rule of Three.

12, Practice.

The first object is to teach children to make their figures. In order to do this, the class learning to make figures are assembled under the monitor, in one part of the school, by themselves. It is to be observed, the same boys who are in one class, according to their proficiency in reading, are in another, according to their progress in arithmetic; that, when the school is cyphering, the classes are organized on the annexed plan of the cyphering classes; when they are reading, they are arranged on the plan of the reading classes, given in a preceding page. They always, on the commencement of school, come in, in their different reading classes; and, when cyphering, afterwards, separate to their several arithmetical classes: after having performed the cyphering, they return to their reading classes, before they go out of school. This changing about from class to class, in which three fourths [...] expeditious modes of teaching; and, as they cannot learn more than what is appointed for the class — cannot remove themselves — nor can their monitor remove them — they must remain where they are, losing time, and making no progress, unless the system of inspection I am about to describe, prevented the evil. A monitor is appointed as inspector-general of reading: he keeps a list of every class of reading in the school. Whenever a new scholar enters, another monitor, whose business it is, examines what progress in learning the pupil has made, and appoints him to a class accordingly. The first duty of the inspector of reading, is to see, that each scholar's name is duly entered on the list of the class to which he is sent on commencing school. This is a matter of consequence. If any omission be made in the entry of each boy's name, it is possible the inspection may be conducted well, and yet the boy, whose name is omitted, be passed by, and, whatever his improvement may be, he may remain stationary.

The monitor of each class keeps a list thereof. It is also his duty to see the inspection conducted, so that no boy is passed by who is in his class. But the inspector of reading keeps a list of every class of reading in the school; and, when his lists are correct, he proceeds to duty, but not before — He begins his inspection, by desiring the monitor of the first class to bring up six boys, according to the list. He then compares their names with his own list, and examines them, to see if they can tell all their letters, and make them in the sand. If so, they are fit for the next class, and the inspector orders them to be removed accordingly. Then he proceeds with every other class in the same way: and, when he has examined the whole, he begins anew. Thus, by diligence and attention on his part, some hundreds of boys may be examined in a few days. When a boy is removed from one class to another, he has permission to choose a prize, of a stated value, for himself, as a reward for his diligence; and the monitor is entitled to one of the same value, for his care in improving his scholars. The date of examination, class removed to, prize chosen, &c. are all entered in a book at the time of inspection.

It is no unusual thing with me to deliver one or two hundred prizes at the same time. And at such times the countenances of the whole school exhibit a most pleasing scene of delight: as the boys who obtain prizes, commonly walk round the school in procession, holding the prizes in their hands, and an herald proclaiming before them, 'These good boys have obtained prizes for going into another class.' The honour of this has an effect as powerful, if not more so, than the prizes themselves. ...

Emulation and Rewards.

Printing in the sand is inspected in the same manner as in the new method of teaching arithmetic. Every boy is placed next to one who can do as well or better than himself: his business is to excel him, in which case he takes precedence of him. In reading, every reading division has the numbers, 1, 2, 3, &c. to 12, suspended from their buttons. If the boy who wears number 12, excels the boy who wears number 11, he takes his place and number; in exchange for which the other goes down to the place and number 12. Thus, the boy who is number 12, at the beginning of the lesson, may be number 1, at the conclusion of it, and vice versa. The boy who has number 1, has also a single leather ticket, lettered variously, as, 'Merit,' — 'Merit in Reading,' — 'Merit in Spelling,' — 'Merit in Writing,' &c. This badge of honour he also forfeits, if he loses his place by suffering another to excel him. He has also a picture pasted on pasteboard, and suspended to his breast; this he forfeits to any boy who can excel him. Whoever is in the first place at the conclusion of the lesson, delivers the ticket and picture to a monitor appointed for that purpose. The honour of wearing the ticket and number, as marks of precedency, is all the reward attached to them; but the picture which has been worn entitles the bearer to receive another picture in exchange for it; which becomes his own. This prize is much valued by the minor boys, and regarded by all. Pictures can be made a fund of entertainment and instruction, combined with infinite variety. When a boy has a waggon, a whip-top, or ball, one thing of the kind satisfies him, till it is worn out; but he may have a continual variety of pictures, and receive fresh instruction as well as pleasure from every additional prize. ...

... I believe, the emulation I have described as united with my methods of teaching, will be found most useful as a stimulus to the exertions of those scholars who possess no more than common abilities; indeed, it is for this class of learners, who, in general, give the most trouble, that such methods of teaching and encouragement, are most wanting. The drudgery of teachers is alway greater or less, in proportion to the quickness or dullness of their scholars; but, in these modes of teaching all must exert themselves according to their abilities, or be idle. If they exert themselves as well as they can, they will improve accordingly — if they are idle, it is immediately detected, and as rapidly punished; of the method of doing which I shall treat presently. However, where lads of genius and quickness of intellect are found, they will soon show themselves. Indeed, I believe, that many lads of genius are unknown in the schools they attend, even to the masters themselves, because they have no stimulus to exertion, no opportunity of distinguishing themselves — or, that nothing happens to develop their latent powers. Similar to this was the case of the Portuguese in Brazil, who frequently passed diamonds, when in the rough, through their hands, and despised them as pebbles; but, when the mines were discovered, they regretted their ignorance. Whenever superior merit shows itself in schools, it should always be honoured, rewarded, and distinguished: one or two lads of this description influence a whole school by their beneficial example. I generally reward such by gifts of some of the most valuable books and other prizes: silver pens, and sometimes silver medals. The medals are engraved with the name of the youth who obtains them, and for what given. To some of my senior lads I have given silver watches, at my own expence; and think the encouragement so given has had its good effect.

Another method of encouraging deserving youth, who distinguish themselves by their attention to study, is equally honourable but less expensive. I have established in my institution an order of merit. Every member of this order is distinguished by a silver medal, suspended from his neck by a plated chain. No boys are admitted to this order, but those who distinguish themselves by proficiency in their own studies, or in the improvement of others, and for their endeavours to check vice. ... Every boy of merit in my school, who has a silver medal, is distinguished at first sight, by those benevolent characters who often visit it. No question is more common from a stranger, than, 'Why does that boy wear a medal; and for what?' Every individual so honoured, is conscious that he stands in a conspicuous situation; and, that his medal proclaims his merit to all who see him. He also knows, that it was only obtained in consequence of his diligence, either in teaching others, or improving in his own learning; and, that no indifferent or bad boy can obtain this reward — also, that if he becomes such, he will forfeit his distinctions. This makes him anxious, by a perseverance in good conduct, to merit the continuance of distinction. This is a stimulus to order and improvement, which children, taught only under the influence of the cane and the rod, never can enjoy. ...

Offences and Punishments.

The chief offences committed by youth at school, arise from the liveliness of their active dispositions. Few youth do wrong for the sake of doing so. If precedence and pleasure be united with learning, they will soon find a delight in attending school. Youth naturally seek whatever is pleasant to them, with avidity; and, from ample experience have I found, that they do so with learning, when innocent pleasure is associated therewith. If any misconduct should be punished by severity, vice and immorality are the chief subjects; and, I am convinced that it is not always indispensable in those cases, having known many a sensible boy reformed without, and that, from practices as bad as almost any that usually occur in schools.

That children should idle away their time, or talk in school, is very improper — they cannot talk and learn at the same time. In my school talking is considered as an offence; and yet it occurs very seldom, in proportion to the number of children: whenever this happens to be the case, an appropriate punishment succeeds.

Each monitor of a class is responsible for the cleanliness, order, and quietness of those under him. He is also a lad of unimpeachable veracity — a qualification on which much depends. He should have a continual eye over every one in the class under his care, and notice when a boy is loitering away his time in talking or idleness. Having thus seen, he is bound in duty to lodge an accusation against him for misdemeanor. In order to do this silently, he has a number of cards, written on differently: as, 'I have seen this boy idle,' — 'I have seen this boy talking,' &c. &c. This rule applies to every class, and each card has the name of the particular class written thereon: so that, by seeing a card written on as above, belonging to the first or sixth, or any other reading class, it is immediately known who is the monitor that is the accuser. This card is given to the defaulter, and he is required to present it at the head of the school — a regulation that must be complied with. On a repeated or frequent offence, after admonition has failed, the lad to whom he presents the card has liberty to put a wooden log round his neck, which serves him as a pillory, and with this he is sent to his seat. This machine may weigh from four to six pounds, some more and some less. The neck is not pinched or closely confined — it is chiefly burthensome by the manner in which it encumbers the neck, when the delinquent turns to the right or left. While it rests on his shoulders, the equilibrium is preserved; but, on the least motion one way or the other, it is lost, and the logs operate as a dead weight upon the neck. Thus, he is confined to sit in his proper position. If this is unavailing, it is common to fasten the legs of offenders together with wooden shackles; one or more, according to the offence. The shackle is a piece of wood about a foot, sometimes six or eight inches long, and tied to each leg. When shackled, he cannot walk but in a very slow, measured pace: being obliged to take six steps, when confined, for two when at liberty. Thus accoutred, he is ordered to walk round the school-room, till tired out — he is glad to sue for liberty, and promise his endeavour to behave more steadily in future. Should not this punishment have the desired effect, the left hand is tied behind the back, or wooden shackles fastened from elbow to elbow, behind the back. Sometimes the legs are tied together. Occasionally boys are put in a sack, or in a basket, suspended to the roof of the school, in the sight of all the pupils, who frequently smile at the birds in the cage. This punishment is one of the most terrible that can be inflicted on boys of sense and abilities. Above all, it is dreaded by the monitors: the name of it is sufficient, and therefore it is but seldom resorted to on their account. Frequent or old offenders are yoked together sometimes, by a piece of wood that fastens round all their necks: and, thus confined, they parade the school, walking backwards — being obliged to pay very great attention to their footsteps, for fear of running against any object that might cause the yoke to hurt their necks, or to keep from falling down. Four or six can be yoked together this way. ...

Hapilly, in my institution, there are few occasions of punishment; and this conduces much to the pleasure it affords me. The advantages of these modes of correction, are, that they can be inflicted, so as to give much uneasiness to the delinquents, without disturbing the mind or temper of the master. The advantage of coolness in correcting of children for misbehaviour, is of so much importance, that it can have no salutary effect on the youthful mind without it. It is in a calm state of mind a master may do real good, by reasoning with his scholars, and convincing them, that, for their good and the order of the institution, such painful regulations are needful.

The object of these different modes of procedure is to weary the culprit with a log; or, by placing him in confinement of one kind or another, till he is humbled, and likely to remove the cause by better behaviour in future. When he finds how easily his punishments are repeated — that he himself is made the instrument — and no respite or comfort for him, but by behaving well, it is more than probable he will change for the better. Lively, active-tempered boys, are the most frequent transgressors of good order, and the most difficult to reduce to reasons; the best way to reform them, is, by making monitors of them. I have experienced correction of any kind to be only needful, in proportion as boys were under the influence of bad example at home. Nothing is unhappily more common, than for parents to undo, by their bad example at home, all the good their children get at school. This occasions the first trouble to be renewed many times; and many punishments fall to the lot of that child, who, however well regulated at school, is spoiled at home. But, certain it is, that, if punishments must exist, such as those mentioned in the preceding detail, are preferable to others more severe, and in common practice. I wish they were never in sole practice, without any thing of a more generous nature existing in schools where they are made use of. ...

It is usual in most schools to have a muster or roll-call, at a particular hour, varied at the discretion of the masters. The list of the scholars contains the name of every boy that attends it. In calling over the list every name is repeated, although three-fourths or more of the boys, whose names are called over, are present. It was needful in my institution to make a strict enquiry after absentees; but, the method above described was so tiresome and noisy, that I devised another more eligible.

As the number of absentees bear but a small proportion to the numbers that attend, I conceived the design of taking an account of the lesser number, without the repetition of names. To effect this, the classes are numbered — each beginning at number 1, and ending its series of numbers at 30, 70, 130, or any other number of which the class may consist. The list of each class is kept by the monitor of it, nearly in this shape.

Number 1, Jones.

2, Thomas.

3, Brown.

4, Williams.

5, Peach.

6, Hall.

These few names will show the manner in which the list of the whole class, perhaps a hundred and twenty, is kept. Answering to this is another series of numbers, printed on the school wall, thus,

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

The monitor calls his boys to muster — the class go out of the seats in due order — go round the school-room; and, in going, each boy stops, and ranges himself against the wall, under that number which belongs to his name in the class-list. By this means the absentees are pointed out at once — every boy who is absent will leave a number vacant. The monitor of the class then passes silently round the school-room, and writes on the slate the numbers which are vacant. Take a specimen of six boys mustered according to the foregoing list,

No. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.
Jones Thomas Peach

The boys, Jones, Thomas, and Peach; are supposed to be present — they are ranged under their numbers. The boys, Brown, Williams, and Hall, are absent — their numbers 3, 4, 6, are vacant. In taking the account of absentees, the monitor writes the numbers 3, 4, 6, on his slate; and the same as to any numbers vacant by absentees, in his whole class. He then makes a list of absentees, by referring to names in the class-list. This list he gives to a monitor, whose business it is to see that the absentees are enquired after. The monitor of absentees has under his charge an alphabetical list of the whole school: he refers to this list — and there he finds the name, dwelling, and parents' trade of each boy who is absent. He writes a number of notes, one for each absentee; varying the name on each: as, "J. Brown, absent from school this morning." "Thomas Williams, absent from school this afternoon," &c. Such notes as these are directed to the parents of each individual absentee; and delivered by trusty boys, who are required to bring an answer. The report of the monitor of absentees stands thus:

Eighth Class

Day of the Month Absentees Enquirers Report
Brown Jones Wanted by his parents
Williams Thomas Truant
Hall Peach Unwell

In case of truants being reported: when they are brought to school, either by their friends, or by a number of boys sent on purpose to bring them, the monitor of absentees ties a large card round his neck, lettered in capital letters, TRUANT; and he is then tied up to a post. ...

Religious Instruction by Catechism.

We look to the Holy Scriptures as dictated and written by Divine inspiration. It would therefore be in vain for me to say any thing in their praise. "It is in all the churches." — It is engraven in the mind of every good man; but I can largely testify of their invaluable importance in the pious education of youth. Timothy knew the Scriptures from a child; and it would be well for this nation if all those of the rising generation herein, had been trained from their childhood in this blessed knowledge. May all the friends of youth, of every persuasion, unite to make it so. The truly religious and benevolent have only to exert their ample powers, and it may be done. There is no important head under which the Scriptures can be arranged, but it is likely to point the mind to some virtue, to prevent some practical error, or arm it against some vice. I believe, had such education as this been general, Deism would have fewer converts; and its delusive snares would have been spread in vain, for many thinking, but uninstructed youth. I do not approve of boys being required to learn whole chapters, or long portions of Scripture by rote, unless united with emulation; and then they should be concise, and connected with some subject that has been recently, or is intended to be introduced particularly to their notice. Tasks are generally burthens; and if we want our children to improve in the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, the first object is to cause them to love and reverence their precepts: but this is not likely to be effected by any other than easy, delightful ways of instruction ... There is [sic] no catechisms for youth equal to Scripture Catechisms; I have an excellent one of this kind in continual use The following are examples:

Question: Is the man blessed unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity?

Answer: Psalm xxxii, verse 2. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.

Question: What will be the end of the perfect and upright man?

Answer: Psalm xlvii, verse 37. Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace. ...

When a monitor is instructing his class or division in this, or any other way connected with religious knowledge, great order and reverential behaviour should be required; and criminality should always attach to any boy who may trifle or play during the time this instruction is carrying on by the class. Yet this solemn deportment should not be so strictly required in cases of usual instruction, lest the greatest evil to be dreaded for youth should happen, and the mind be overburthened and disgusted by the strictness of the order. When this relates to a single class or division, this order should apply only to that class. When it is publicly conducted in the school, it should apply to the whole school. All business should be suspended, and silence so imposed, that a pin might be heard to drop, if required, and every boy seated, with his hands down. In this case the master should perform the duty of the monitor, and, while catechising, the same solemn order observed as in a place of worship. This should be done at least once a day. The chief duty of the master is to see that the monitors have done their duty, which will evidently appear by the order of the school, the readiness with which the children go through their examination, and the general solemnity and attention in the whole school. ...

The memories of youth cannot be too well furnished with the knowledge of the Scriptures. A lad may be trained in the habitual practice of religious duties, and in the daily reading the Sacred Writings; but when he advances to maturity, he may throw off every restraint, and contemn his Bible. But if his pious friends have taken early care to make a Bible of his memory, that is a book he can never neglect. It will stick close to him, even in scenes of dissipation, and alarm his conscience in the midst of all his deceitful enjoyments; and, in many instances be attended with the Divine blessing. Many people despise the cultivation of the memory, unconnected with the understanding. However, the memory ripens first, and fails first. Its powers are often blunted before the understanding expands; and whenever the understanding does expand, a memory that has previously been rendered a storehouse for Divine truths, will be found an invaluable appendage to it.


Source: Joseph Lancaster, Improvements in Education as it respects the industrious classes of the community (London, 3rd ed, 1805), pp vii-ix, 31-34, 37-38. 40-41. 55-65, 84. 86-96, 100-105, 111-114, 155-164


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