THE PRACTICAL PARTS
Edited by DAVID SALMON
AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS
Landmarks in the History of Education
GENERAL EDITORS J.
DOVER WILSON, LITT. D.
Professor of Education in the University of London King's
F. A. CAVENAGH, M.A.
Professor of Education in the
University College of Swansea
AND Bell's Experiment
Cambridge University Press
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Landmarks in the History of Education
Joseph Lancaster .... vii
Andrew Bell ...... xiv
Lancaster and Bell . . . . xxiii
Lancaster's Improvements .... xxviii
Bell's Experiment ..... xli
Lancaster's Improvements .... 1
Bell's Experiment . . . . . 57
PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN
Joseph Lancaster was born in Kent Street, Southwark, on November 25th,
1778. His father's pension as an old soldier added to his earnings as a
sieve-maker gave the family a position "decent and comfortable but still not so
far raised above the poor as to open the prospects of ambition." The school
that he attended was probably humble but it gave him one thing which more
pretentious institutions often fail to give — a love of reading. He says,
"I soon learned to read, soon read with delight; my book became my meat, drink,
and diversion.... At the early age of eight years I recollect the spot where I
perused over the sacred pages [of the New Testament] in secret retirement and
Joseph's reading of one of Clarkson's writings on the slave trade led
him at the age of fourteen to run away from home in order that he might go to
Jamaica to teach the negroes. Brought back, he "looked forward to the
Dissenting ministry," for which his natural disposition, pious upbringing, and
eagerness to convert seemed to fit him; but before he had undergone the
necessary training he "became a frequenter of the religious meetings of the
society of Christians called Quakers and ultimately a member of that
society."2 Paid ministers being an abomination to that society he
had to give up the idea of living by preaching, so he decided, as the next best
thing, to live by teaching. He began by serving as usher in a boarding school
and in a day school; then he resolved to be his own master.
1 Part of this Introduction is reprinted from the British and
Foreign School Society's Educational Record with the permission of the
2 The minutes of the Horselydown Monthly Meeting show that he
did not formally apply for admission till the end of the year 1799 and was not
formally accepted till the beginning of the year 1801.
Lancaster opened his first school on New Year's Day 1798, in an outhouse
on his father's premises. This soon proving too small, he rented three larger
and larger and larger rooms in succession, and finally, in June 1801, moved
into a room which he had had built to accommodate 350 boys1 in
Belvedere Place, Borough Road.
Lancaster had many of the qualities of a great schoolmaster —
enthusiasm, self-confidence, ingenuity in devising methods, insight into the
nature of children, an ardent love for them, and rare power of managing them.
But these qualities alone do not account for the wonderful rapidity of his
success. For the benefit or the pleasure of his pupils no labour was too
severe, no sacrifice too onerous. For them he spent mind, body, and estate; on
holidays he took parties of them into the suburbs; on Sundays he had parties of
them to tea; during the hard winter of 1799-1800 he fed and clothed scores of
them. If it be asked how a youth dependent for his own living on the fees of a
school claiming to be exceptionally cheap could afford such a "luxury of doing
good" the answer is that he could not afford it; that no man ever ran into debt
with a lighter heart; that he was a skilful, persistent, and unblushing
beggar2; and that he had joined a sect which combined in a greater
degree than any other the will and the ability to give.
1 The accommodation was doubled in 1805 and a room for 200
girls was soon afterwards added.
2 His success in raising subscriptions would be incredible if
it were not so well attested. In the list of subscribers to the third edition
of his Improvements, published before his interview with the King had
brought him into general notice, will be found the names of three dukes, three
duchesses, four marquises, nine earls, twelve countesses, two viscounts,
fourteen "lords," twenty-three "ladies," fifteen "sirs," thirty-six members of
parliament, two archbishops, and nine bishops, besides such foreigners as a
prince, a baron, a baroness, an ambassador, and a general.
Lancaster's success in attracting pupils nearly overwhelmed him. They
were too many for him to teach alone and he had not the means of paying
assistants. The idea therefore occurred to him of making the boys who knew a
little teach the boys who knew less, and he thought that he had made one of the
most useful discoveries in the history of civilisation. He did not know that
monitors were prescribed in the statutes of some of the Elizabethan grammar
schools or that they had been employed sporadically down the ages at home and
abroad — and always abandoned sooner or later. It was probably in 1800
that the idea occurred to him, and when he published the first and second
editions of his Improvements in 1803 he had done little more than apply
it in the obvious manner. But he really possessed a fertile invention, so that
when he published the third edition of the Improvements in 1805 he had
evolved not only a new kind of teacher but also a new kind of teaching and a
new kind of school management.
Lancaster's success in gaining the patronage of the great had its climax
in August 1805, when he obtained an interview with George III, then making one
of his periodical stays at Weymouth. He presented the King with a copy of the
new edition of the Improvements with a petition1 and also
gave an oral account of his system. When he had finished, the King said, "I
highly approve of your system and it is my wish that every poor child in my
dominions should be taught to read the Bible; I will do anything you wish to
promote this object." As a concrete expression of his approval the King became
an annual subscriber of £100.
1 Both now in the British Museum.
The royal patronage confirmed Lancaster's belief in the importance of
his discovery and encouraged him to spend money in promulgating it. His
recklessness, his extravagance, and his ostentation almost pass belief. He had
built two schools with a subscription of barely £600; he had made himself
personally responsible for several others as well as for a kind of training
college at Maiden Bradley in Somerset; to prepare his best monitors to become
masters he took them to live with him free of cost; and he set up a printing
press and a manufactory for slates — neither of which ever paid. Francis
Place says that he "sometimes kept one and sometimes two carnages. He seldom
went from home but in a carriage, and generally had some of his
lads1 in one or two post-chaises following him, and, as if to waste
his time, indulge his love of ostentation, and squander the money of other
people, he used to take excursions,. . . dine sumptuously, and return in the
evening. Sometimes these excursions occupied two or three days." When Lancaster
drove to New Lanark to call on Robert Owen he had four horses to his
1 Chiefly on his lecturing tours.
Such a course could lead to only one end. That end was reached the last
week of May 1807, when Lancaster was arrested and immured in the King's Bench
Prison. By a piece of legal finesse which a layman cannot explain he was
released without paying his debts. To avoid being arrested again he spent the
next six months in the country, lecturing on his system and establishing
schools. He returned to London on January 19th, 1808. Three days later he met
two friends whom interest in the education of the poor had led to seek his
acquaintance — a hatter named William Corston and a surgeon-dentist named
Joseph Fox. The result of their meeting is set forth in the following
London, January 22nd, 1808.
At a meeting held at Mr. William Corston's, No. 30, Ludgate Street
— Present: Messrs. William Corston, Joseph Fox, and Joseph Lancaster
— it was unanimously resolved, "That, with a humble reliance upon the
blessing of Lord God Almighty and with a single eye to His glory; and with a
view to benefit the British Empire; the persons present do constitute
themselves a Society for the purpose of affording education, procuring
employment, and, as far as possible, to furnish clothing to the children of the
poorer subjects of King George III.; and also to diffuse the providential
discovery of the vaccine inoculation in order that at the same time they may be
instrumental in the hands of Providence to preserve life from loathsome
disease; and also, by furnishing objects for the exercise of industry, to
render life useful1.
1 Fox was one of the founders of the Jenner Society, which
awarded him its gold medal for his efforts to promote vaccination. Corston had
established a school of industry at his native Fincham, where girls were taught
to make straw-plait to supersede the Leghorn article. It may be well to add
that we hear no more of vaccination or straw-plait.
"That in order to prevent any impediment to the prosecution of this
grand design, the persons present do constitute themselves Managers of this
Society, to plan, prepare, and direct all its future operations; and that no
business shall be brought before any meeting of subscribers who may probably
come forward in aid of this Society but what has been recommended by this
Committee of Managers."
The Committee met again a week later, when "Mr. J. Lancaster presented a
statement of his debts amounting to more than £5000, in liquidation of a
part of which bills. . . amounting to £2698 13s. 4d. have
been drawn by Mr. J. Fox and accepted by Mr. W. Corston."
While Lancaster spent much of the next three years lecturing and
establishing schools the Committee was trying to reduce his finances to order,
to increase the income and diminish the expenditure. The Maiden Bradley school
was closed, the responsibility of maintaining other schools was thrown on the
local managers, the printing office and the slate manufactory were wound up.
Still the men who had found the money to pay the original debts had not been
repaid, while the success of Lancaster's lectures caused a growing demand for
teachers. The Committee (to which small additions had been made from time to
time) resolved therefore (in July 1810) that it was "essentially necessary to
procure a more extensive co-operation from benevolent persons whose situations
in life give them influence in order. . .to place the establishment upon a
permanent footing." In December forty-four "benevolent persons" were chosen,
many of whom are still remembered as zealous advocates of popular
The institution which the enlarged Committee was to render permanent was
in form public but in fact private. The school was Lancaster's own; the debts
were his own, though other people were trying to pay them. This was a
thoroughly unsatisfactory arrangement. The Committee realised that the money it
collected was given to it for the promotion of education; Lancaster thought
that it was given to him for his own use — that the Committee had the
privilege of increasing his income but not the right of regulating his
expenditure. The strain of the arrangement was great while his activities were
centred around the institution: it reached breaking-point when (in July 1812)
he opened a middle-class boarding school on his own account at Tooting. The
failure of this enterprise (and the Committee, with its dearly bought
experience of him, could predict its certain and speedy failure) would make him
insolvent; hence, if the Borough Road property were still in his name, nothing
could save it from the grasp of his creditors and nothing could prevent the
ruin of the institution. Lancaster, anxious that the fortune which he was going
to make in the new school should not be seized for the debts of the old, saw
the advantage of separating them. The minutes record that on October 2nd,
Joseph Lancaster, on account of his private engagements at Tooting,
having proposed to this Committee to undertake the sole management of the
public concern, promising at the same time to use every exertion in his power
to promote it, and also to make over all his right and interest in the properly
and premises, with the furniture, stock, utensils, and all the articles at the
Borough Road of every description, provided that this Committee will exonerate
him from all claims on account of such advances for the public work as are
recorded on their minutes, the same is agreed to.
Though the arrangement had been proposed by himself, Lancaster
complained loudly to everyone who would listen that the Committee had usurped
his glory and "chowsed" him out of his property. Among those to whom he
complained was Francis Place, who had been a generous supporter of the Borough
Road school and had sent his son to the Tooting school. Place tried to mediate
between him and the Committee but found him so utterly unreasonable that he
gave up the attempt.
Lancaster appealed to the Duke of Kent, who took a very active interest
in the Society. The Duke commissioned Joseph Hume to enquire into the whole
business. Hume's report was presented to a meeting held at Kensington Palace on
August 13th, 1813, with the Duke in the chair. Lancaster then scouted "the
handsome terms which were offered him" but when, soon afterwards, the Tooting
venture ended in bankruptcy he accepted the Committee's proposal to pay him
£365 a year for undertaking the office of superintendent of the Borough
Road school. He never made any pretence of performing the duties and, in April
1814, formally resigned the office. Soon afterwards, having obtained money from
a Spaniard sent to England to "learn the system," he advertised that he had
"removed the institution under his superintendence to schoolrooms... in the
He believed that when he separated himself from the Committee the
subscribers would follow him. Never did vanity receive a ruder shock. The
Society continued to grow from strength to strength; his rival school was
stillborn; his undignified boasts and complaints, his bitter, baseless libels
on the men who had so generously helped him, disgusted the public, and he sank
into complete obscurity and deep poverty. Hoping to begin a new life in the New
World he left England in August 1818. Of his few triumphs and many tribulations
in North and South America this is not the place to speak; here it is enough to
say that he "finished joy and moan" in New York on October 23rd, 1838.
Andrew Bell was born in the city of St Andrews on March 27th, 1753. His
father was a barber of whose family nothing is recorded; the collaterals of his
mother's family included a dean and a general. The father was famous for his
mechanical skill and his proficiency at draughts, backgammon, and chess. The
mother was eccentric till she became insane, and it is easy to trace in the son
some of the features of both his parents.
We do not know what school Andrew Bell attended, but we do know that he
was very unhappy in it. Learning then chiefly meant learning by heart, and
though he was neither a dunce nor a drone, his verbal memory was weak and the
master strove to strengthen it by frequent doses of the tawse. He says, "I
never went to school without trembling. I could not tell whether I should be
flogged or not." The senseless severity which he endured may have been one of
the reasons which made him insist on a humaner discipline in his own
In 1769 Bell entered the University of his native city, living partly on
a small family bursary left by the collateral dean and partly on money made by
"coaching." Mathematics and natural philosophy appear to have been his
When he left (presumably with a degree) he had no means of obtaining
admission to any profession which needed training. It is true that teaching was
supposed to need no training, but Bell resolved before becoming a poor dominie
in Scotland to try his luck in America. Early in 1774 he sailed for Virginia.
What he did during the first five years of his residence in that colony is not
known, but his leaving no information respecting the period seems to show that
his occupations were such as he thought beneath his later dignity. In 1779 he
entered the family of a wealthy planter named Braxton as tutor at £200 a
year. But "the political state of the province" prevented his enjoying this
liberal salary long. In 1781 "he thought proper to return to his own country
for a while."
Bell was one of those men who save out of the smallest income and are
not satisfied with the largest. His American journal "is filled with memoranda
of dealings in. . .currency and tobacco." When he left Virginia he had
£30 in money and £232 7s. 7¾d. in bills, and
the price of over 37,000 lb. of tobacco was owing to him.
He left Yorktown on March 15th. With him were two of Braxton's sons,
whom he was to fix at some "genteel academy." "If a private tutor, a man of
abilities and morality could be engaged at the college to attend and advise
them, and read with them," the father would "wish such a one to be procured at
an annual salary of £40," and if Bell "could sit down with them at the
same college" he would be "both tutor, friend, and companion." They were fixed
at St Andrews, where they remained till July 1784. Bell watched over them with
the most devoted care, at the same time pursuing his own studies and conducting
a class in mathematics.
When the youths had gone home he began seriously to consider the
question of a career. He turned his eyes towards America again, and wrote to
ask Braxton, "What prospects may I indulge from a revisitation to Virginia? Any
academies erected? Any encouragement in the line of the Church? Shall I come
out in holy orders?" Since he had gone out as a Presbyterian the Anglican
Church had been disestablished in the United States. She could now scarcely
support her native clergy and did not offer any encouragement to a foreign
A son of the great Bishop Berkeley, who was staying at St Andrews,
advised Bell to persevere in his intention of taking orders and sent him to
that part of England where his friendship could be of most service. The convert
was ordained on September 12th, 1784, by Barrington, Bishop of Salisbury, who
was afterwards, as Bishop of Durham, to do so much for the Madras System. On
December 12th he preached with such acceptance to the small congregation
assembled in the Episcopal chapel at Leith that they chose him for their
minister, with a stipend of fifty guineas, soon raised to £70.
As there was not more "encouragement in the line of the Church," Bell
accepted the offer of a passage to India and the advice that he should go to
that country "where there was every probability that he might turn his
attainments and acquirements to account as a philosophical lecturer and in the
way of tuition." That he might go out with proper dignity his University was
asked to grant him a doctor's degree. The authorities made no difficulty about
complying, but instead of the expected LL.D. or D.D. they gave him an utterly
1 After he had attained wealth and fame the University
granted him the desired LL.D., and the Archbishop a Lambeth D.D. Till then he
used to write himself "the Reverend Doctor Andrew Bell."
He reached Madras on June 2nd, 1787, and wisdom was immediately
justified of her child. In August he was appointed chaplain of one regiment and
deputy chaplain of another; in October he was appointed deputy chaplain of two
more; in 1789 he was appointed deputy chaplain of still another regiment,
junior chaplain at Fort St George, chaplain at Vellore, superintendent of the
undertaker's office, superintendent of the Military Male Asylum at Egmore, and
"minister of St. Mary's Church at Madras"; and every course of philosophical
lectures which he delivered brought in some hundreds of pounds.
The Asylum was a semi-official charity school for the orphan boys of
soldiers. It was housed free in a redoubt at Egmore which had lost its military
importance, and it was maintained partly by grants from the Company, partly by
subscriptions, and partly by fines, unappropriated prize money, and other
regimental waifs. It was originally intended for a hundred boys, but as the
funds increased the number was gradually doubled. Bell charged nothing for
superintending. As he loved managing and loved teaching, he threw far more
energy into his work than the masters liked. They had taken to teaching because
they could not find anything better to do, and their incapacity was equalled
only by their obstinacy. Bell found both trying.
He was dissatisfied with the want of discipline, and the imperfect
instruction in every part of the school; but more particularly with the slow
progress of the younger boys, and the unreasonable length of time consumed in
teaching them their letters. They were never able to proceed without the
constant aid of an usher, and, with that aid, months were wasted before the
difficulties of the alphabet were got over. Dr. Bell's temper led him to do all
things quickly, and his habits of mind to do them thoroughly, and leave nothing
incomplete. He tells us that from the beginning he looked upon perfect
instruction as the main duty of the office with which he had charged himself;
yet he was foiled for some time in all the means that he devised for attaining
it. Many attempts he made to correct the evil in its earliest stages, and in
all he met with more or less opposition from the master and ushers. Every
alteration which he proposed they considered as implying some reflection on
their own capacity or diligence; in proportion as he interfered, they , thought
themselves disparaged, and were not less displeased than surprised that,
instead of holding the office of superintendent as a sinecure, his intention
was to devote himself earnestly to the concerns of the Asylum, and more
especially to the school department. Things were in this state, when, happening
on one of his morning rides to pass by a Malabar school, he observed the
children seated on the ground, and writing with their fingers in sand, which
had for that purpose been strewn before them. He hastened home, repeating to
himself as he went "'Eurhka, I have discovered it";
and gave immediate orders to the ushers of the lowest classes to teach the
alphabet in the same manner, with this difference only from the Malabar mode,
that the sand was strewn upon a board. — Southey, Bell, i. 172.
Ushers who had no enthusiasm for teaching would resent being asked to
try experiments, and unsympathetic Europeans would deeply resent being asked to
try a device picked up from the natives. To the superintendent's eagerness the
assistants offered a tacit resistance, but if Bell could not accomplish his
purpose in one way he would in another — if he could not get what he
wanted done by men he would get it done by boys. Thus (in 1791 or 1792) he was
driven, as Lancaster some eight years later was driven, to employ
monitors1, and in both cases the use of monitors led to various
changes in the methods of discipline and instruction.
1 It must be remembered that in Bell's school the monitors
were in addition to, and in Lancaster's instead of, assistants.
Bell was very happy in India. Both the civil and the military
authorities were friendly; he liked his work; he was making money fast, and he
thought the climate "delightful." But, delightful as it was, he found by 1794
that it was affecting his health and he began to turn his eyes towards England.
On December 29th, 1795, the Government issued general orders stating that those
officers "who from indisposition or from the urgency of their private concerns"
were "compelled to return to Europe. . . should receive permission for that
purpose without prejudice to their rank or loss of pay." Bell at once
determined to avail himself of the permission, though he did not actually leave
Madras till the next August.
He had been in Madras nine years and had saved £3000 a year, but
he had no idea of retiring. He intended, after a recuperative holiday, to
return and make a satisfying fortune. Soon after reaching London, however, he
changed his mind and applied to the Directors for a pension, basing his
application chiefly on the "disinterested conduct he had shown in refusing...
to accept any salary or remuneration" as superintendent. In July 1797 the
Directors granted him £200 a year.
Before leaving Madras, Bell had presented to the Directors of the Asylum
an account of his work there. This, with the title An Experiment in
Education,1 was published in October 1797.
In August 1799 he was offered and accepted the post of "supply" minister
of the Episcopal Chapel in Edinburgh. In November 1801, through the influence
of a Scotch friend with the patron, Bell was presented to the rectory of
Swanage, worth over £6oo a year. Lancaster visited him there at Christmas
1804, and the relations between the two men were quite cordial till Mrs
Trimmer, towards the end of 1805, persuaded Bell that the Quaker was stealing
his glory. Bell then tried to exchange Swanage "for some other preferment more
eligibly situated" that he might be in a better position to protect his
interests. He also sent a circular to the members of the Government asking for
"an official post whence I may be enabled to rear in Europe the fabric of which
I laid the foundation in Asia." There was no immediate result, but zealous
Churchmen were becoming alarmed by Lancaster's success, and Bell was more than
once invited from his "insulated village" to organise schools on the Madras
System, In May 1807 he was given two years' leave of absence from his benefice
so that he might devote all his time to the good work.
To encourage and reward his labours, Barrington, the only bishop zealous
for popular education, gave him, in May 1809, the mastership of Sherburn
Hospital near Durham, a sinecure office worth about £1200 a year and a
house, though, much to Bell's annoyance, the statutes Compelled him to resign
his rectory. In January 1812, when the National Society was organised, he was
appointed superintendent of the schools and soon after he was made an honorary
member of the General Committee.
In the summer of 1816 Bell made a tour on the Continent, examining
wherever he went any school considered exceptional and generally finding fault
with what he saw. In Paris he visited a school established on the English model
by the Duchesse de Duras, where he found "about seventy boys in bad order,
noisy, with all the Lancasterian nonsense, loss of time, dreadful clattering of
hands and slates." The Abbé Gaultier, who had invented a system of
instruction through games, was "most bigoted and prejudiced. His devices are
tedious and lengthened, they want simplicity and effect." At Geneva, de Roche,
who had been educated at Edinburgh, was "deeply wedded to his own opinions and
resolute in arguing and disputing every point." He wished to improve on all who
had gone before him and would not budge till he felt conviction, and it was "an
Herculanean labour.. .to convince an Edinburgh man." The school at Lausanne,
though the master (Froissard) had been trained at the Borough Road, was "less
noisy and disorderly than some others."
Bell was charmed with Pestalozzi. "He has much that is original, much
that is excellent. If he had a course of study, if he were to dismiss
four-fifths of his masters, and to adopt the monitorial system and the
classification of a Madras school, with the emulation, he would be
super-excellent." There was some hope for de Fellenberg also, but the reformers
generally were very obstinate and unwilling to learn from the only man who
could teach them. "Every one wants to remake a discovery which has only been
made after the world had existed almost six thousand years." Only Père
Girard of Fribourg showed the temper of a disciple. "This liberal father felt
the true spirit of the Madras System and had introduced none of the fooleries,
noise, and nonsense which are found in the other schools or in the
[Lancasterian] models from which they are chiefly taken." In January 1818 the
Archbishop of Canterbury offered Bell a stall "of good value" in Hereford
Cathedral "as a testimony of the esteem in which" his "public services" were
held. Bell was not a man to refuse anything "of good value." He accepted
promptly, but when he found that "more than half the emoluments" of the stall
were derived from benefices which the Sherburn regulations precluded him from
holding he decided that Hereford was no abiding city for him. He thought the
Crown might "make arrangements to obviate those mishaps" to which he had been
His wishes were granted. In March 1819 the Prime Minister, Lord
Liverpool, arranged that he should exchange the Hereford stall for one in
Of Bell's doings during the next nine years there is little to record.
He performed his duties as canon of Westminster; according to certain
persistent critics he neglected his duties as master of Sherburn; he revised
his old books and wrote others; he visited schools; and he went from one health
resort to another seeking to renew his youth. Apart from his official residence
at the Hospital, which he seems to have seldom occupied, he had no fixed home,
but, in 1828, after a somewhat serious illness, he bought a house in
In the autumn of 1830 "a slight indistinctness and thickness" in Bell's
voice was perceptible. Like the woman in the gospel, he suffered many things of
many physicians and was nothing bettered but rather grew worse, though he did
not, like her, spend all he had. He ultimately lost his speech entirely and had
to communicate by writing or by signs. There was, however, no diminution in the
vigour of his understanding; indeed, the thought of "so much to do, so little
done" seems to have excited him to feverish energy. He kept his secretary
working early and late preparing materials for a ponderous biography worthy of
its hero; he summoned men from all parts of the kingdom to visit him in hot
haste, and he changed his mind from hour to hour. He was obsessed by two ideas,
his ducats and his daughter — his money and his system. He wanted to leave
the one in the way which would best promote the other, but he could not decide
which was the best way. Almost as soon as he had signed a will he would add a
codicil; then he would revoke both and make another will, another codicil, and
another revocation again and again. He dreaded that the "funds laid up" to
educate the young "by a new and stupendous engine" might be "directed to
different purposes," such as "charity schools, hospitals, asylums," and, worst
of all, "colleges and universities," the "asylums for the maimed, the halt, the
blind," nay more, "the receptacles for the dead who cannot hear the new word of
life which I have spoken, and must sleep on."
Death relieved Bell from his money and all his other troubles on January
27th, 1832. He was buried, where he wished and where he thought he ought to be,
in Westminster Abbey.
LANCASTER & BELL
A copy of Bell's Experiment fell into the hands of Lancaster in
the year 1800, and in the first edition of his Improvements he fully
admits his indebtedness to it, saying, "I ought not to close my account without
acknowledging the obligation I lie under to Dr. Bell of the Male Asylum at
Madras, who so nobly gave up his time and liberal salary, that he might perfect
that institution, which flourished greatly under his fostering care. He
published a tract in 1798 [should be 1797]. . ..From this publication I have
adopted several useful hints; I beg leave to recommend it to the
attentive perusal of the friends of education and of youth.... I much regret
that I was not acquainted with the beauty of his system till somewhat advanced
in my plan; if I had known it, it would have saved me much trouble and some
retrograde movements. As a confirmation of the goodness of Dr. Bell's plan, I
have succeeded with one nearly similar in a school attended by more than 300
On November 21st, 1804, Lancaster wrote to Bell, detailing the
difficulties with which he had had to contend, asking for any original reports
of the Orphan Asylum, and "for further information on the use of the sand,
whether wet or dry, and how the boys were first taught their letters." On
December 6th Bell replied in the most friendly spirit, saying, "I had before
heard of your fame, and the progress which you had made in a new mode of
tuition, and have long expected the pleasure of seeing you at Swanage." He was
strongly urged to publish a "brief extract of" the Experiment and asked
Lancaster to do him the favour of drawing his pen through every line which he
thought might be spared, "taking care to efface whatever is not necessary to
give an idea of the system of instruction." In the second edition Bell might
have an opportunity of recommending Lancaster's institution, but, for this
purpose, "I must see everything with my own eyes, and by hearing of your
difficulties I shall best know what requisite information I omitted in the
report of my system.... I am anxious to see your book, and still more to see
Lancaster accepted the invitation, and at Christmas went down to
Swanage, where he spent some days. Whether anything occurred during these days
to make Bell change his mind respecting the second edition of the
Experiment it is impossible to say, but instead of condensing he nearly
doubled its size. It was published at the end of April 1805, and soon
afterwards, Bell, being in London, had fifty copies transmitted to Lancaster,
who sent a deputation of his scholars to thank him. Bell then visited the
school, where he spent an hour — and nothing else, for he emphatically
refused to subscribe.
So far the relations between the two men had been most friendly, and
Lancaster might have continued to praise Bell for inventing the monitorial
system, and Bell might have continued to praise Lancaster for showing the
possibilities of such a system, but for the intervention of Mrs Sarah
Mrs Trimmer (1741 — 1810) was the daughter of John Joshua Kirby, a
friend of Gainsborough, Reynolds, and Hogarth, teacher of perspective to George
III, and Clerk of the Works at Kew Palace. She married James Trimmer of
Brentford, became the mother of six daughters, whom she educated entirely, and
of six sons whom she helped to educate. In 1782, stimulated by the example of
Mrs Barbauld, she published some of the lessons which she had been in the habit
of giving her children. Their great success encouraged her to expand them into
six volumes. In 1786 she opened Sunday schools at Brentford, and had an
interview with the Queen, who wished to open similar schools at Windsor. The
remainder of her life was devoted to promoting education, chiefly by her pen.
Her industry was prodigious. She wrote for the nurseries of the wealthy; she
wrote for the schools of the poor; she wrote for zealous clergymen, for
benevolent ladies, for farmers, for cottagers, for servants. Her writings and
her practical work gradually led the public to consider her what she had long
considered herself — an authority on education. In course of time she also
came to consider herself its heaven-appointed champion. If she did not actually
call herself the "Guardian of Education" she gave that title to a magazine
which she published. In the second edition of Bell's Experiment
(probably sent to her for review) she saw the means of counteracting
Lancaster's unsectarianism. Writing on September 24th, 1805, to tell Bell that
a notice of his work would appear in the next number of her Guardian,
she added — "From the time, sir, that I read Mr. Joseph Lancaster's
'Improvements in Education' in the first edition, I conceived an idea that
there was something in his plan that was inimical to the interests of the
Established Church, and, when I read your 'Experiment in Education,' to which
Mr. L. referred, I plainly perceived that he had been building on your
foundation.. . . Engaged as I have long been in striving to promote the
interests of the Church by the exertion of my little talents for the
instruction of the rising generation, and the prevention of the mischief that
is aimed against them in various ways, I cannot see this 'Goliath of
Schismatics' bearing down all before him, and engrossing the instruction of the
common people, without attempting to give him a little check."
Bell replied on September 28th acknowledging her letter and describing
Lancaster's visit to Swanage. He says, "I observed his consummate front, his
importunate solicitation of subscriptions in any and every shape, his plausible
and ostentatious guise, and in his third edition I think I can see something
which indicates that he can now stand alone basking in the sunshine of royal
countenance and popular applause." The monitorial plan "appears to me, who am
an enthusiast, so simple, so natural, so beautiful, and so true, that it must,
sooner or later, have obtained a footing; and all I ever expected by my humble
Essay, printed rather than published, was that it might fall into hands which
would bring the system forward sooner than might otherwise happen in the course
of things. J. L. has certainly contributed to this consummation. How far he has
directed it to the best purposes, and whether he has intermixed much quackery,
conceit, and ignorance, is another question."
Mrs Trimmer replies on October 1st that "Of all the plans that have
appeared in this kingdom likely to supplant the Church, Mr. Lancaster's seems
to me the most formidable.. . . Mr. Joseph Lancaster's school is, in my
estimation, a direct philanthropine," which must be something even worse than
Swift's parallelopipedon. She states that she is about to write a book
attacking the unsectarian system and explains her tactics. She will admit that
the mechanical parts are good; will gently insinuate that they are stolen from
Bell; and will prove that instruction which does not include the dogmas of the
Church must be hostile to the Church.
Bell's reply is dated October 14th. He expresses the very sensible
resolution of not entering "personally into any polemical discussion or
controversial writings in defence" of his system, adding, with multitudinous
metaphor, "It must rest on its own basis. I have cast my gauntlet: let them
wield it who may. I know no one more equal to the task or better disposed to
apply it to the useful and pious purposes to which it is fitted, than yourself.
If founded, as I believe, on truth, it will last for ever."
Thus encouraged, Mrs Trimmer worked with ardour, and, before the end of
November, published "A Comparative View of the New Plan of Education
promulgated by Mr. Joseph Lancaster, in his tracts concerning the instruction
of the children of the labouring part of the community; and of the system of
Christian Education founded by our pious forefathers for the initiation of the
young members of the Established Church in the principles of the Reformed
The publication of the Comparative View was the first overt act
in a seven years' war. The Church party were the assailants; their weapons were
books, pamphlets, sermons, review articles and newspaper letters; their tactics
the flank attack suggested by Mrs Trimmer — admission that the "mechanical
parts" of Lancaster's system were good but stolen from Bell, with assertion
that the original parts were bad, especially the unsectarianism, which was
fatal to true religion.
A contest about the merits of two systems, neither of which had any
permanent value, seems now absurd:
Strange all this difference should be
'Twixt tweedle-dum and
It is certain that monitors had been used many times before Bell or
Lancaster was born; it is certain that the idea of using them occurred
independently to each. As for the methods of employing them in teaching and
managing a school there is so little similarity between Bell's and Lancaster's
that there can be little ground for a charge of plagiarism in either system.
All they have in common is the sand-writing, the spelling lessons, the slates,
and the ruling of copy-books by the pupils. Lancaster borrowed the first and
second with full acknowledgment1; Bell probably borrowed the third,
but without acknowledgment; the fourth necessarily followed from the
fundamental principle of both systems.
Between the years 1803 and 1810 Lancaster published nine new works and
half a dozen new editions. During those same years he was perfecting his
system, conducting his school, travelling thousands of miles, delivering
hundreds of lectures, calling on many possible patrons, collecting
subscriptions, getting into debt, marrying, having domestic troubles, and
breaking down in health; hence, though some of his works were only pamphlets
and some only abridgments, and though several of the new editions were little
more than reprints, the amount of his writing is remarkable. Still, it is
easily explained. He wrote rapidly, never pausing to choose his words or polish
his sentences; books were necessary for the diffusion of his system, and the
energy to produce them was supplied by his inexhaustible belief in its
The first book, which prepared the way for all the rest, is entitled:
Improvements | in | Education, | as it respects the | Industrious
Classes | of the | Community: | containing, | a short account of its present
state, hints towards its improvement, | and a detail of | some practical
experiments conducive to | that end. | By Joseph Lancaster. | London: |
Printed and sold by Darton and Harvey, Grace- | church-street; J. Mathews,
Strand; and | W. Hatchard, Piccadilly. | 1803. The size is extra crown 8vo;
the Introduction contains three pages and the text 66.
1 See Improvements, 3rd ed., 46, 58, 60.
The Introduction begins with a statement that "ignorance and incapacity
often prevent" a poor man's "having proper views on the important subject of
education, and when he has, slender resources as often prevent their being
reduced to practice." It had therefore "long been acknowledged that education,
as it respects those who are unprovided with it, ought to become a national
concern; and... it would have become so had not a mere pharasaical1
sectmaking spirit intervened to prevent it."
Thus, on his first public appearance, Lancaster, by accident or by
design, placed in the very forefront that principle which was to bring him the
warmest support and the bitterest opposition — the principle that common
Christianity sufficed for common schools and that sectarian peculiarities
should be left to parents or pastors2. When he views the "desolating
effects" of ignorance he exclaims —
Alas! my 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.
1 Any departure from the ordinary spelling or grammar is
faithfully copied from the original. Pharasaical is repeated in the
second edition, but corrected in the third. The text of the Improvements
and of the Experiment is reprinted exactly.
2 But for the unsectarianism of Lancaster the development of
English elementary education would have been different; but for it he would not
have been helped by Corston or Fox, or Alien, and there would have been no
British and Foreign School Society; but for it Bell would not have been drawn
from his retreat to establish rival schools and there would have been no
National Society; fewer schools would have been opened, government grants would
probably have been later and legislation on other lines.
Education, he maintains, "ought not to be made subservient to the
propagation of the peculiar tenets of any sect, beyond its own number."
"Reverence for the sacred name of God and the Scriptures of Truth," a love of
veracity and a detestation of vice may be inculcated "without violating the
sanctuary of private religious opinion." When the fruits of Christianity were
produced the number of Christians was increased, "which is far better than the
increase of party," so he wished "as every friend to mankind must, that names"
might "perish, but truth prosper." The book itself is divided into three parts.
Part I is "An introductory Account of the State of those Schools in which the
Children of Mechanics, etc., are generally educated." "Initiatory Schools" are
These.. .abound in every poor neighbourhood about London; they are
frequented by boys and girls, indiscriminately, few of them above seven years
of age; the mistress is frequently the wife of some mechanic.. . .The subjects
of tuition are comprised in reading and needlework. The number of children that
attend. . .is very fluctuating and seldom exceeds thirty; their pay very
uncertain. Disorder, noise, etc., seem more the characteristic of these schools
than the improvement of the little ones who attend them.
"From the disgusting1 scene — from these graves of early
genius even in its cradle," Lancaster turns to "see what they would be under
proper regulations." "By the excellent modes of preparatory education, frequent
in the more respectable circles, much invaluable time is saved.. . . Why not
realise this idea among the poor?" Lancaster was "an advocate for this class of
schools" because women generally managed them and "the infancy of their pupils
requires a combination of the school and nursery." "But it is of peculiar
importance to the poor that these schools should be better regulated, as many
children of that class have no education but what they obtain in them, and that
at an early age when totally unfit for other employ." Under better regulations
and "supplied with proper mistresses" the schools might teach, in addition to
reading, "writing on slates and some small portion of arithmetic." The pupils
being usefully occupied would not get into mischief, and the schools would no
longer be "disgusting scenes of noise and riot."
1 Lancaster uses disgusting in its etymological sense
of distasteful, unpleasing, as Dr Johnson and Miss Austen, who were both fond
of the word, used it.
The next section of Part I is headed "Second Class of Schools." "The
masters of these are often the refuse of superior schools, and too often of
society at large. The pay and number of scholars are alike low and fluctuating;
of course there is little encouragement for steady men either to engage or
continue in this line; it being impossible to keep school, defray its expences,
and do the children regular justice without a regular income." It was equally
impossible to obtain a regular income from the large number of parents who
could not and the smaller number who would not pay regular fees, so that many
masters used "as much chicane to fill their pockets as the most despicable
pettifogger." Children were encouraged to scribble through their copybooks "to
hasten the demand for fresh" ones; "in some schools the pens are scarcely ever
mended;... in general the poor children are much stinted in this article" and
Lancaster is "credibly informed that some masters use pinions in their rough
state, neither dutched1 nor clarified." When a man was perfectly
honest his living was limited as well as precarious. He could not teach more
than a certain number himself; in summer that number was exceeded so that an
assistant became necessary till, at the approach of winter, the number
decreased; the master's "income of course shrinks by their non attendance and
perhaps poverty and misery stare him in the face. With these dreary prospects
who would be a schoolmaster?"
1Dutch, "to clarify and harden quills by plunging
them in heated sand or rapidly passing them through a fire." — O.E.D.
In the second edition the passage about pens is printed in italics.
Part II of the book is headed "Hints respecting the Formation of a
Society for improving the State, and facilitating the Means of Education among
the industrious Classes of the Community." Lancaster was "sometimes sorry to
hear sensible, intelligent men talk of reformation" in education "by a
compulsive law." He would like to see a society or committee established for
the purpose, but it would succeed only if the members "were inclined to meet
the poor as men, as brethren, and as Christians." He hastens to "add that a
society for this purpose should be established on general Christian principles
and on them only." In support of his opinion he extends the argument of the
preface, ending with a hope that the country "at large may no longer suffer
loss" by the members of the various religious denominations, "a set of the most
valuable and useful men our nation can boast, employing themselves to little
better purpose than to declaim or make wry faces at one another."
After giving a catalogue of "the principal evils attendant on the usual
mode of education among the poor" (which should more logically have been given
in Part I) Lancaster proceeds to point out what should be the objects of the
The first "should be to provide suitable masters and mistresses for any
schools they might chuse to establish, and to encourage such persons who have
schools of their own, to do their duty by the societies (respectable)
patronage, which properly bestowed, and avowed publicly, would (with its
attendant benefits,) be very valuable, and conduce much to the credit of the
teachers possessing it; so, on the other hand, it would tend to expel immoral
and wicked teachers from the profession, as such must ever remain destitute of
To encourage respectable and capable men to become teachers by holding
out to them something better than "the cheerless expectation of ending" a
laborious life "in a workhouse or [debtors'] prison" "a friendly society might
be formed. . . and its funds might be formed into a very respectable stock by
the addition of public donations. . . whereby a moderate capital would
accumulate till the stock was sufficient to defray the expence of sickness and
funerals, and, perhaps, a liberal and honourable support for old age."
"In addition to this a fund might be established for the occasional
relief of deserving teachers in distress"; "for encouraging the commendable
exertions of teachers. . . gold or silver medals" might be given; "Bibles,
Testaments, slates, spelling, writing and other books" might be bought at
wholesale prices by the society and sold without profit to teachers; "the
institution of a public library containing books on education would be well
adapted for the information of teachers, many of whom are not able to purchase
expensive publications on those subjects."
"It most probably would not be thought proper" for the society "to
insist upon or enforce any particular modes of tuition, religious systems, or
creeds. If a teacher was honest, assiduous, and careful, it is as much as any
society ought to expect from him."
"An additional object would be worthy the society's notice, — to
enforce as much as possible the regular attendance of the children at school,
and that as near the appointed time as can be."
Part III of the book is headed "Some Account of the Rise and Progress of
an Institution for improving the Plan, and facilitating the Means, of attaining
primary Education amongst the industrious Classes of the Community, established
in the Borough Road, Southwark; wherein near Three Hundred Children are
educated, and trained to habits conducive to the Welfare of Society."
This is both the most novel and the most important, and one would
naturally expect it to be the longest part. The fact that it consists of only
twenty-two pages, half of which would suffice for the necessary explanations
and descriptions, proves fully that at the end of 1802 Lancaster had made few
innovations. The section begins with a history of his school. "The institution
which a benevolent Providence" had "been pleased to make" him "the happy
instrument of bringing into usefulness" was opened in 1798. "It was well
attended by scholars, whose number soon exceeded eighty." "During several years
the number of scholars continued to vary with the circumstances of their
parents, who severely felt the exigencies of the times." "In summer one hundred
and twenty was common; in winter they would sink to fifty or sixty. In a trying
season of recent scarcity many of them were provided with dinners gratis,
chiefly at the expence of a noble and generous minded body of
friends."1 "During several years" Lancaster had "essayed to
introduce a better system of tuition into the school, and every attempt had
failed." After the free dinners "the internal organisation of the school was
gradually and materially altered for the better. The public reputation of it
also increased to such a degree that more than two hundred scholars were
admitted in about eight months."
1 This might have been printed "Friends," i.e.
The school was "attended by near three hundred scholars. The
whole system of tuition is almost entirely conducted by boys; the
writing books are ruled with exactness and all the writers supplied with good
pens by the same means. In the first instance the school is divided into
classes, to each of these a lad is appointed as monitor [the first mention of
the word]; he is responsible for the morals, improvement, good order, and
cleanliness of the whole class."
As the monitors "leave school when their education is complete" they
were "instructed to train other lads as assistants" and successors. "To be a
monitor" was "coveted by the whole school, it being an office at once
honourable and productive of emolument: 'Solid pudding as well as empty
From the monitors, Lancaster proceeds "to give some account of" his
"improved methods of tuition." "The method of spelling" seemed "to be the most
excellent." It is not fully or very clearly described, but it seems to be
nothing more than the dictation of detached words. Lancaster goes into raptures
over its excellence, and prints in full the calculation which proves that a
hundred boys, spelling a hundred words a day, would spell two millions in a
school year of two hundred days.
He does not claim that he has accomplished much, or that what he has
accomplished is very wonderful. He simply says —
The system of rewards and the new method of teaching to spell are, I
believe, original. Some attempts have been made to introduce a more easy and
better mode of teaching the first rules of arithmetic, which has been very
successful, but is not yet sufficiently mature to meet the public eye; when it
is, if of apparent utility, it will be cheerfully at their service. A method of
teaching to write has also been invented, and carried into effect at
considerable pains and expence.. .but it is attended with so much trouble in
the execution that I consider it to be more local, and not of that importance
to the public, with the method of spelling which has been
He adds that he had "adopted several useful hints" from Bell's
Experiment and regrets that he "was not acquainted with the beauty of
his system till somewhat advanced in" his "own plan." If he had "known it it
would have saved" him much "trouble and some retrograde movements."
The first edition of the Improvements, published early in 1803,
was soon sold out and the type had scarcely been distributed before it had to
be reset. Except for the alteration of a few words, the omission of a few
sentences, and the insertion of one footnote and an Appendix of twelve pages,
the second edition is an exact reprint of the first.
The Appendix says that —
during the short time that has elapsed since the appearance of the
first edition. .. the institution.. . has continued to make fresh advances to
maturity and usefulness, under the blessing of Divine Providence, The
children have continued very healthy, improving in morals and learning to the
satisfaction of many respectable persons whom benevolence has induced to visit
the school. A considerable addition has been made to the school-room, which is
now seventy-five feet long, by thirty-three wide.
Lancaster takes "this opportunity to give some account of our improved
method of instruction in the elementary parts of arithmetic." Since the
publication of the first edition "a very considerable improvement has taken
place in the minor classes, as respects spelling." Dictation was only possible
with those who could write "but in all large day-schools there are always a
number of children who have not acquired this art, who are sent to school
solely to learn to read. These mostly repeat their lessons in classes, or
singly in rotation, and as usual nineteen are waiting, employed or unemployed,
as they please, till the turn comes to repeat their lessons to the
teacher, after which they occupy their time as before.. . . Dr. Bell was fully
sensible of this waste of time in schools, and his method to remedy the evil
was crowned with complete success." Lancaster had adopted this method, the
famous printing in sand.
In 1803 Lancaster's school had not begun to attract public attention.
Even the Quakers, whose generosity promoted its success, did not visit it;
"none of" them "regarded it in any other light than a well conducted school
with some few improvements in the modes of instruction." By 1805 the "modes of
instruction" had grown into a complete system, and the school had become one of
the sights of London, the resort of "foreign princes, ambassadors, peers,
commoners, ladies of distinction, bishops and archbishops, Jews and Turks." As
they were all "desirous of carrying home a memorial of the interesting scenes
they had witnessed" a manual was indispensable.
A reprint of the second edition would not suffice, because its
descriptions had been rendered wholly inadequate and partly obsolete by the
marvellous development of the System. Lancaster, therefore, wrote what was
practically a new work. The pamphlet of eleven thousand words was extended into
a book of fifty-five thousand on an entirely different plan. The change of
perspective is indicated by the change of name, the title of the third edition
being Improvements | in | Education, | as it respects the
Industrious Classes | of the | Community, | containing, | among other important
particulars, An Account of the Institution for the Education of | One Thousand
Poor Children, | Borough Road, Southwark; and of the New System of Education on
which it is conducted. In the first and second editions the "Detail of some
practical experiments" comes after "a short account of" the "present state" of
education and "hints towards its improvement"; in the third edition the
"practical experiments" (transformed into "the New System") are "the first in
glory as the first in place," while the "present state" and the "hints" limp on
irrelevantly at the end, and appear at all only because the author was
reluctant to sacrifice anything that he had written.
The book opens with a dedication "to John Duke of Bedford and John Lord
Somerville, in testimony of the cheerful, generous, and important Assistance
they have repeatedly given to the Institution and System of Instruction
described in the ensuing Pages."
The "Introduction" reproduces, with a few verbal alterations, that of
the first edition, but the three pages are extended to seven. The added matter
is an earnest appeal to Christians to "cultivate a spirit of unity, brotherly
love, and peace."
The first section of the book proper is "A short history of the
Free-School, Borough Road, George's Fields, and some account of its funds."
From this we learn incidentally that the fee was 4d. a week, that the
first subscribers who enabled the master to remit it in the case of poor
children were "Thomas Sturge of Newington Butts and Anthony Sterry of the High
Street, Borough," and that "the only person who assisted" him "in
raising subscriptions was Elizabeth Fry, wife of Joseph Fry, of the Poultry,
London." "The Duke of Bedford and Lord Somerville were the first who
visited" the school and "entered closely into its detail." "They began the
subscription for buildings needful to enlarge the schoolroom," and in "Third
Month, 1803" the world at large was invited to imitate "the generosity of those
two noblemen." "In the spring, 1804," Lancaster "proposed. . . extending the
school from three hundred and fifty to seven hundred boys." "The extension. .
.was made at a very trifling expence above the estimate" of £180 and "the
proposed extention to one thousand boys" could be made for about
£300. "Another design supported by a subscription began by the Duke of
Bedford and Lord Somerville is a plan for training lads and young men as
schoolmasters by a practical knowledge of these improved modes of tuition to be
obtained in" his "institution and under" his "own eye." "Eight lads and several
men are now1 in a course of training."
1 "Now" apparently means the spring of 1805.
In professing to give "some" account of the funds Lancaster happens to
have chosen the right word. The expenditure side of the accounts shows such
items as 25,000 pinions to be made into pens and afterwards used as
pencil-cases; "Expence of 6 excursions: to Wandsworth, Clapham, Sydenham,
Norwood, and Blackheath with 50, 80, or 124 Boys at a time, as a recreation and
reward of attention to their learning"; "Several excursions with 180 boys to
Clapham; 450 to the Green Park; to Greenwich, Sydenham and Kew, with select
parties"; "300 toys, etc. as premiums"; "Five thousand toys," and "Several
thousand toys as bats, balls, kites, etc., etc."; "Sundries for the
encouragement of the children as gingerbread-nuts, apples, oranges, cherries,
etc., etc., for scrambles"; "1500 commendatory tickets"; "130 leather ditto,
lettered 'A Reward for Merit,' etc.": purses, silver pens, engraved
half-crowns, star medals and books for the School Circulating Library, which in
the first year consisted of "above 300 vols. calculated to improve the morals
of youth which they are permitted the use of gratis according to merit."
From the finances we proceed to the "Principles on which the Institution
is conducted," and then to the practical part which is reprinted in this
The next section of the Improvements is headed "On Female
Education and Employment," but it is not a necessary part of the book. It says
nothing about Lancaster or his school or his system, and most of it was written
by William Corston. Lancaster feels that he ought to introduce his friend, so,
though he confesses that he has "not been much in the habit of attending to
female education" and has "not had much experience" he pronounces a few
platitudes. Corston writes like a man of business, not to propound any
theories, but to describe his own very successful efforts to start
straw-plaiting as an occupation for girls, and to combine instruction in
reading and writing with the new industry.
The next chapter is "On the Religious Instruction of Youth," and the
next three are practically a reprint of Parts I and II of the first
The third edition of the Improvements was published by
subscription. The "proposals" state that the price had been fixed at 5s.
"in order to avoid the risk and participate in the economy arising from a large
As the 3500 copies, which compose the present edition of this work, are
all subscribed for, many persons would probably be glad to have the work, but
have omitted to subscribe for it; and as not a copy can be had of any
bookseller in the United Kingdom, it is proposed to leave the subscription open
for a fourth edition; and J. L. will be much obliged to his friends in distant
parts to promote it. It will be merely a transcript of the present work, J. L.
having no more improvements in a fit state for public view at present.
Having determined to publish a fourth edition which was "merely a
transcript" of the third, a business man would have kept the type "standing."
It is characteristic of Lancaster that he allowed it to be distributed, and
that, instead of having it reset quickly in a large establishment, he had it
reset slowly by the apprentices in his own small establishment. The dedication
to the third edition is dated "8th of 7th month, 1805," and that to the fourth
edition "8th of 8th month, 1806." A precious year therefore was wasted during
which the popular enthusiasm might have cooled if the King had not fortunately
helped to keep it warm.
I do not possess a copy of the fifth edition, and, in fact, have not
seen one. The sixth edition has the same dates as the fourth on the title page
and the dedication and I have discovered no difference whatever between them,
although they were not printed from the same type. Did Lancaster publish three
editions in 1806? Or is the edition called the sixth really the fifth? Or is it
mis-dated? And why was there no further edition required, although Lancaster
continued till 1812 to push his system with the old enthusiasm and more than
the old success?
These are questions easier to ask than to answer.
Strictly speaking, Bell wrote only one book, though that appeared under
several titles and, between 1797 and 1814, grew from a modest duodecimo of
sixty pages to a portly octavo of over nine hundred. When in January 1796 he
obtained permission to visit England, he fully intended returning to India, but
he determined to leave behind him a record of his "labours and experiments" at
the Male Asylum. He therefore presented to Lord Hobart1, the
Governor of Madras and President of the Asylum, some extracts from the reports.
With the extracts went a note stating that "Dr. Bell wishes to follow up these
reports with some account of a system altogether new which he hopes. . .to see
perpetuated under his Lordship's sanction and diffused abroad in the world
under his Lordship's patronage." Encouraged by the opinion of the Governor that
the promulgation of the system to the public "might be attended with the most
beneficial effects," Bell proceeded with his account, which was laid before the
directors of the Asylum on June 28th, 1796, printed soon after the author's
arrival in England in February, 1797, and published in the following October.
The title-page reads: An Experiment in | Education, | made at the | Male
Asylum | of | Madras. Suggesting a System by which a School or Fa- |
mily may teach itself under the Superintendance | of the Master or Parent. |
By the Reverend | Dr. Andrew Bell, | late one of the Directors, and
Superintendant of that | Establishment, Chaplain of Fort St. George, | A.M., F.
As. Soc. London: 1797, demy 12mo, pp. xii + 48.
1 Afterwards Earl of Buckinghamshire. Hobart Town in Tasmania
is named in honour of him.
After a dedication "to the Honourable the Chairman, the Deputy Chairman,
and the Directors of the East India Company; the President in Council of Fort
St. George; and to the Directors of the Male Asylum at Madras," comes the
In the education of youth three objects presented themselves to my mind:
to prevent the waste of time in school; to render the condition of pupils
pleasant to themselves; and to lead the attention to proper pursuits. In other
words, my purpose was to make good scholars, good men, and good Christians.
In charge of a new institution, and, by situation, free from any bias or
trammel that might warp the mind or shackle exertion, I tried every method,
which a long and earnest attention to the nature and disposition of youth
suggested, to accomplish these ends to my own satisfaction. After many
attempts, with various success, I rested in a system, surpassing, in its
effect, any expectation I had formed, and, "far exceeding the most sanguine
hopes" of the directors of the institution, and others interested in the
The experiment, thus made at Madras, has appeared to those, who have
witnessed the result, convincing and decisive in regard to charitable
establishments; and the plan of education, there adopted, has, after the
experience of several years, been, by those whose opinions are likely to have
the greatest weight, recommended to similar establishments. How far such a
system will apply to education in general, may be inferred from the tenour of
the following report. That farther and similar trials may be made, and the
success, in every instance, ascertained by experience, is the aim of this
Nearly half the pamphlet consists of official letters and minutes, the
Report proper occupying only 36 pages. Short as it is, it would be shorter
still if the author had omitted every commonplace reflection, though it would
be longer if he had described fully and clearly his innovations in the methods
of instruction. Speaking of the circumstances which led him to employ
monitors1 he says (p. 8):
1 Bell calls them "teachers."
The history of the school of the Male Asylum, from its first
establishment, is a detail of difficulties. Among the teachers every thing was
to be learnt relative to the conduct of a school. The boys were, in general,
stubborn, perverse, and obstinate; much given to lying, and addicted to trick
and duplicity. And those, who were somewhat advanced in age, or had made any
progress in reading or writing, were, for the most part, trained in customs and
habits incompatible with method and order. Among these, however, there were
happily several who were industrious and attentive in a high degree; and would
have taught themselves writing and arithmetic at any school at which they had
happened to be placed.
I soon found that, if ever the school was to be brought into good order,
taught according to that method and system which is essential to every public
institution, it must be done either by instructing ushers in the economy of
such a seminary, or by youths from among the pupils trained for the purpose.
For a long time I kept both of these objects in view; but was in the end
compelled, after the most painful efforts of perseverance, to abandon entirely
the former, and adhere solely to the latter. I found it difficult beyond
measure to new model the minds of men of full years; and that whenever an usher
was instructed so far as to qualify him for discharging the office of a teacher
of this school, I had formed a man who could earn a much higher salary than was
allowed at this charity, and on far easier terms. My success, on the other
hand, in training my young pupils in habits of strict discipline and prompt
obedience exceeded my expectation; and every step of my progress has confirmed
and rivetted in my mind the superiority of this new mode of conducting a school
through the medium of scholars themselves.
One of my first essays, for I thought nothing beneath my attention that
was to promote the welfare of the rising generation, and perhaps establish a
seminary of public utility for ages to come, was to instruct beginners in the
alphabet. I had, at first sight of a Malabar School, adopted the idea of
teaching the letters in sand spread over a board or bench before the scholars,
as on the ground in the schools of the natives of this country; a practice
which, by the bye, will elucidate a passage in holy writ better than some
commentators have done. But till I had trained boys whose minds I could
command, and who only knew to do as they were bidden, and were not disposed to
dispute or evade the orders given them, I could not fully establish this simple
improvement, which has since recommended itself to every person who has seen
it. The same obstacles I found in every attempt I made to give the shape and
form of method to this school, to adopt such practices as were established in
the best regulated seminaries, or to introduce, as I went along, such as
appeared to me improvements in the usual mode of instruction.
After pointing out the advantages of teaching the alphabet by writing
the letters with the finger in sand, Bell mentions but does not describe
intelligently his method of teaching spelling. He does not even mention any
other subject of instruction except writing, and of that he says only that
"every scholar is made at the first to rule his own paper" and that "no
teacher, or other person, is ever allowed, at any time or under any pretext, to
write a single letter in the scholar's copy. . .book, but himself." From such
scanty details no reader could learn and no plagiarist could convey much.
The fact that Bell had received no salary as superintendent of the Male
Asylum was the foundation of his claim for a pension from the East India
Company, and his original purpose in printing the Report was to strengthen that
foundation by bringing his unpaid work to the notice of the directors. Only
after some months of hesitation did he decide to offer for sale the copies left
on his hands. In a letter to the printer he says:
Those 830 copies will, I apprehend, be a great deal more than sufficient
for an edition; for I imagine that such an humble publication will produce
little attention, less credit, and far less profit.
As a commercial transaction the pamphlet was a failure. The number sent
with the author's compliments to men of position and influence must have
exceeded the number sold, and the reason for the issue of a new edition was not
the exhaustion of the old: there would have been no second edition of the
Experiment if there had been no second edition of the
That second edition (which appeared towards the end of April 1805)
omitted those details and documents interesting to no one except the directors
for whom the Report was originally written, while it contained a good deal of
matter not included in the first.
The title-page reads: An | Experiment | in Education |
made at the | Male Asylum at Egmore, near Madras. | Suggesting a System by
which a School or Family may teach itself under the | Superintendence of the
Master or Parent. | By the Rev. Dr. Andrew Bell, | A.M. F. As. Soc. F.R.S.
Edin: | Rector of Swanage, Dorset; late one of the Directors and Superintendent
[ of that Establishment, and Chaplain of Fort St. George. [
Second Edition; | To which is prefixed the Scheme of a School on the above
Model, alike fitted | to reduce the Expense of Education, abridge the Labour of
the Master, and | expedite the Progress of the Scholar. The Process of
teaching the Alphabet | in Sand, of Reading, Spelling, and Writing, is
explained; and a Board of | Education and Poor-Rates suggested. London:
1805, demy 8mo, pp. 84.
In an Advertisement, Bell says (p. 5):
Aware of the natural and often just prejudice entertained by men of
sagacity and experience against every novel attempt, I was apprehensive that
the report of what had been done in India might be regarded in Europe as a
speculative doctrine rather than a practical fact. To guard against this
imputation, it was thought advisable to publish the entire despatches of the
Government of Madras relative to the success of this institution. In
consequence of this resolution, documents were introduced for the sole purpose
of establishing the reality of the details recorded.
In the second edition Bell, "leaving. . .the original documents where
they may readily be found," intended to confine himself "to facts and to the
details of the system."
After the preface, reprinted from the first edition, comes the most
important section of the new matter, "The Scheme of a School on the Model of
the Male Asylum at Madras." Then comes a reprint of the greater part of the
Report which formed the body of the first edition. This is followed by a
"Postscript" containing "a description of the mode of writing on sand," an
argument in favour of the establishment of a State Board of Education, one of
the letters from the appendix to the first edition, and a copy of the
Regulations of the Male Asylum.
In this Postscript (p. 62) first occurred the passage which enabled
Lancaster to accuse his rival of "advocating the universal limitation of
It is not proposed that the children of the poor be educated in an
expensive manner, or even taught to write and to cypher. Utopian schemes, for
the universal diffusion of general knowledge, would soon realize the fable of
the belly and the other members of the body, and confound that distinction of
ranks and classes of society, on which the general welfare hinges, and the
happiness of the lower orders, no less than that of the higher, depends.
Parents will always be found to educate, at their own expense, children enow to
fill the stations, which require higher qualifications; and there is a risk of
elevating, by an indiscriminate education, the minds of those doomed to the
drudgery of daily labour, above their condition, and thereby rendering them
discontented and unhappy in their lot. It may suffice to teach the generality,
on an economical plan, to read their bible and understand the doctrines of our
Bell's defenders found this passage most embarrassing, because even if
they agreed with the sentiment, they held it not policy to have it thus set
down. The passage was repeated without alteration in the third edition (p. 90).
In the fourth edition (p. 292) "all of them be" was substituted for "even" and
"All however may be taught" for "It may suffice to teach the generality."
The third edition, which appeared in 1807, is almost a new book with
almost a new title: An | Analysts | of | the Experiment | in | Education, |
made at Egmore, near Madras. | Comprising a System, alike fitted to reduce the
expense of Tuition, abridge the labour of the Master, and expedite the progress
of | the Scholar; and suggesting a Scheme for the better admini- | stration of
the Poor-laws, by converting Schools for the lower | orders of youth into
Schools of Industry. | By the | Rev. Dr. Andrew Bell, A.M.; F.A.S.,
F.R.S.E. | Rector of Swanage, Dorset; | Late Minister of St. Mary's, Madras;
Chaplain of Fort St. George; and Director | and Superintendent of the Male
Asylum at Egmore. London, demy 8VO, pp. xii +119.
This edition is inscribed not to Lord Hobart but to Manners Sutton,
Archbishop of Canterbury. In the dedication Bell says that his every wish in
regard to his System is fulfilled. The boon, which he had "heretofore destined
for general diffusion in future ages" seemed "already realized to the rising
generation" — which means that it had obtained the patronage of two
exalted Prelates and been more or less adopted by three or four charity
In the Advertisement (p. ix) Bell explains why he calls the new edition
An Analysis of the Experiment.
To provide against that confusion, which has arisen in the minds of some
enquirers, from mingling tenets, derived from other sources, with the facts on
the records of the Asylum, and from not discriminating between the system of
the Asylum, and the detached practices there introduced; between the general
principle, on which the School hinges, and the isolated expedients, which were
contrived to forward individual steps in the process of teaching; it is now
meant to analyze the system, to collect into one series, what relates to the
scheme of the School, and the principles on which it is founded; and in a
separate compartment to distinguish and detail the independent, subordinate,
and auxiliary practices in teaching.
Part II contains a description of Bell's methods of instruction, which
are more fully described in the fourth edition. Part III is a reprint of the
greater part of the first edition. Part IV was intended to show that the system
was "not less applicable to Schools of Industry, than to the charitable
Institution in which it originated: and that by its means every School for the
lower orders of youth" might, "without prejudice to their appropriate
education, be rendered at the same time a School of Industry." Nor was "its
intimate connection with the poor laws" overlooked "both as presenting a scheme
not less adapted to their administration, than to the economy of a School; and
as furnishing employment to the children of paupers, and supplying means for
their education in religious principles, in habits of industry, and immediate
In the fourth edition the name of the book is again changed. The label
on the back calls it Elements of Tuition, but the full title is: The
Madras School, | or | Elements of Tuition: comprising the | Analysis of an |
Experiment in Education | made at the Male Asylum, Madras; | with its facts,
proofs, and illustrations; | to which are added, Extracts of Sermons preached
at Lambeth; a Sketch of a National Institution | for training up the Children
of the Poor; and a Specimen of the mode of Religious Instruction | at the Royal
Military Asylum, Chelsea. | By the Rev. Dr. Andrew Bell, | F. As. S.: F. R.
S. Ed. Rector of Swanage, Dorset; | Late Minister of St. Mary's Madras;
Chaplain of Fort St. George; and Director and Superintendent of the Male Asylum
at Egmore. | London, 1808, demy 8VO, pp. xvi +348.
The dedication to the Archbishop of Canterbury is reprinted with an
I should be wanting in grateful duty to your GRACE, as well as in honest
justice to my subject, if I were to alter a word in my address on a
former occasion, bearing date 5th February 1807. What was then prophecy is now
Bell was an eager advocate and practitioner of vaccination1,
but the merits of Jenner's discovery did not make him forget the greater merits
of his own. Here is the comparison (p. vii):
Even in the mere point of the health of the body, and the preservation
of the animal life of man, Vaccination, the most valuable discovery in the
physical art, of which this country, or the world, can boast, falls short of
this invention; which provides the means of supplying a remedy for the
disorders of filth, idleness, ignorance, and vice, more fatal to children than
the ravages of the Small-Pox.
But this is its least recommendation. It is the sanity of the mind,
which is its glory — its moral, religious, and political tendency. . . and
the greatest discoveries, heretofore made for the improvement of human life,
sink into comparative insignificance.. ..
With such convictions on his mind, with such impressions on his heart,
and with such an engine in his hands, — he fears not now to tell aloud,
what eleven years ago he only whispered — when he put the original reports
of the Male Asylum into the hands of his bookseller, and what he has never
ceased to repeat to his friends, — "You will mark me for an enthusiast;
but if you and I live a thousand years, we shall see this System of Tuition
spread over the world." But it was from his ashes he then expected it to spring
up. He did not expect to live, as he has done, to see it patronised, where he
was most desirous of its being patronised; and established, where he was most
desirous of its being established.
The System —
was transplanted into England in the year 1797, when it was partially
adopted with good success in the oldest charity school in London, that of
Aldgate, and in several parts of the kingdom, and is now established at the
parochial schools of White Chapel and of Lambeth, and at the Royal Military
Asylum, Chelsea. (p. 1.)
Lancaster boasted that under his System one master could teach a
thousand children, but Bell was not to be outdone in boasting. Under his System
"a single master, ... if able and diligent, could, without difficulty, conduct,
ten contiguous schools each consisting of a thousand scholars."
1 It is curious to note that one of the declared purposes of
the Society formed on January 22nd, 1808 (which developed into the British and
Foreign School Society), was "to diffuse the providential discovery of the
vaccine inoculation in order that.. .they may be instrumental in the hands of
Providence to preserve life from loathsome disease." — Joseph
Lancaster, p. 38.
Part II, which deals with the Madras methods of instruction, is
reprinted in this volume. Part III is headed "The fitness of the Madras System
to the Education of the Poor and to the Diffusion of the Gospel." It consists
of two chapters, the first an introduction to the second, which is a reprint of
a pamphlet published the year before: Extract of a Sermon on the Education
of the Poor under an appropriate System, preached at St. Mary's, Lambeth, 28th
June 1807, for the benefit of the Boys' Chanty School at Lambeth, by
the Rev. Dr. Andrew Bell. The reader of this sermon is not without excuse if he
is sometimes uncertain whether the glory of God or the glory of the Rev. Dr
Andrew Bell was foremost in the preacher's mind.
Part IV also consists of a reprint with an introductory chapter, the
work reprinted being the original edition of the Experiment. In the
introductory chapter Bell speaks of the "extreme mortification that the manner
in which" this edition "was received produced on a mind deeply impressed with a
sense of its importance." "The cool and phlegmatic manner in which" his "humble
and lowly essay was at first received" almost made him think "all that was done
in India a dream."
Part V is headed "Objections considered." Only three of the objections
seem to require mention. The first was "the economy of the rod and the
commutation of corporal punishment which... is treated as equally chimerical
and dangerous"; the second was the use of emulation as a motive for action; and
the third the system of trial by jury. To the first and second Bell will make
no concession, but with regard to the third, while believing the jury to be a
most valuable instrument of discipline, he gives his readers "perfect liberty
to dispense with" it "if they retain a predilection for a more summary mode of
Part VI, "Application and Conclusion," contains little that is new
except the "Sketch of a National Institution for Training up the Children of
the Poor," and the "Specimen of the mode of religious instruction at the Royal
Military Asylum, Chelsea." The first calls for no comment and the second
offends against so many pedagogical principles that comment would be
(Third Edition. 1805)
On the Arrangement of the Institution, as connected with Improvements
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.
CLASS. READING AND SPELLING LESSONS.
1.............................. A, B, C,
2.............................. Two Letters, or ab, &c.
3.............................. Three Letters.
4.............................. Four Letters.
5.............................. Five and six Letters, &c.
The three succeeding Classes are Boys who may read for Instruction,
8.............................. A Selection of the best Readers.
With these last three classes I use a particular series of reading,
which is annexed; not as the most excellent, but the one I have been able to
find, well adapted to their moral and religious improvement.
I now proceed to describe the method of tuition used in the first
Of the Method of teaching to read
The first, or lowest class of scholars, are those who are yet
unacquainted with their alphabet. This class may consist of ten, twenty, or a
hundred; or any other number of children, who have not made so much progress as
to know how to distinguish all their letters at first sight. If there are only
ten or twenty of this description in the school, one boy can manage and teach
them; if double the number, it will require two boys as teachers, and so in
proportion for every additional twenty boys. The reader will observe, that, in
this and in every other class, described in the succeeding plan and
arrangement, the monitor has but one plain, simple object to teach, though in
several ways; and the scholars the same to learn. This simplicity of system
defines at once the province of each monitor in tuition. The very name of each
class imports as much — and this is called the first A, B, C, class. The
method of teaching is as follows: a bench is placed or fixed to the ground for
the boys to sit on; another, about a foot higher, is placed before them. On the
desk before them is placed deal ledges, (a pantile lath, nailed down to the
desk, would answer the same purpose,) thus:
The letter A, shows the entire surface of the desk, which is supported
by two, three, or more legs, as usual for such desks, and according to the
size. B, is a vacant space, where the boys lean their left arms, while they
write or print with the right hand. The sand is placed in the space C*. The
double lines represent the ledges (or pantile laths) which confine the sand in
its place: sand of any kind will do, but it must be dry. The boys print in the
sand, with their fingers: they all print at the command given by their
monitor. A boy who knows how to print, and distinguish some of his letters, is
placed by one who knows few or none, with a view to assist him; and
particularly, that he may copy the form of his letters, from seeing him
make them. We find this copying one from another a great step towards
proficiency. In teaching the boys to print the alphabet, the monitor first
makes a letter on the sand, before any boy who knows nothing about it; the boy
is then required to retrace over the same letter, which the monitor has
made for him, with his fingers; and thus he is to continue employed, till he
can make the letter himself, without the monitor's assistance. Then he may go
on to learn another letter.
* The space C, is painted black; the sand mostly used, is whitish: when
the children trace the letters in the white sand, the black ground shows them
to more advantage.
The letters are taught in courses: they are arranged in three courses,
according to their similarity of form. There are three simple examples, which
regulate the formation of the whole alphabet. First, a line, as in the
letters, I, H, T, L, E, F, i, 1: Second, depending upon the formation of
an angle; as, A, V, W, M, N, Z, K, Y, X, — v, w, k, y, z, x: a circle or a
curve; as, O, U, C, J, G, D, P, B, R, Q, S, — a, o, b, d, p, q, g, e, m,
n, h, t, u, r, s, f, s, j. These courses of letters are soon acquired, on
account of the similarity of form. The greatest difficulty in teaching the
letters occur in those, the form of which are exactly alike, and are only
distinguished by change of position; p, q, and p, d, are perpetually mistaken
for each other; by making the two letters at the same time, the children
readily learn to distinguish them. Then again, they are all employed printing
at once; and it is both curious and diverting to see a number of little
creatures, many not more than four or five years old, and some hardly that,
stretching out their little fingers with one consent, to make the letters. When
this is done they sit quietly till the sand is smoothed for them, by the
monitor, with a flat-iron, as commonly used for ironing linen. The sand
being dry, the iron meets no resistance, and thus, all the letters made in a
very short time, by each boy, are, in as short a time, obliterated by the
monitor; and the boys again apply their fingers to the sand, and proceed
Another method of teaching the alphabet is, by a large sheet of
pasteboard suspended by a nail on the school wall; twelve boys, from the sand
class, are formed info a circle round this alphabet, standing in their numbers,
i, 2, 3, &c. to 12. These numbers are pasteboard tickets, with number 1,
&c. inscribed, suspended by a string from the button of the bearer's coat,
or round his neck. The best boy stands in the first place; he is also decorated
with a leather ticket, gilt, and lettered merit, as a badge of honour.
He is always the first boy questioned by the monitor, who points to a
particular letter in the alphabet, "What letter is that?" If he tells readily,
what letter it is, all is well, and he retains his place in the class; which he
forfeits, together with his number and ticket, to the next boy who answers the
question, if he cannot.
This promotes constant emulation. It employs the monitor's attention
continually; he cannot look one way, while the boy is repeating his letters
another; or at all neglect to attend to him, without being immediately
discovered. It is not the monitor's business to teach, but to see the boys in
his class or division teach each other. If a boy calls A, by the name of B, or
O, he is not to say, it is not B, or O, but it is A; he is to require the next
boy in succession to correct the mistakes of his senior. These two methods, of
the sand and alphabet card, with their inferior arrangements detailed, are made
use of daily in rotation, and serve as a mutual check and relief to each
* Having some old alphabets, which were of no use in the school else,
they were nailed before each boy: this is not absolutely necessary, but
contributes to expedite their progress. While the monitor is smoothing the
sand, the employment of the class is unavoidably suspended: the time thus
unoccupied is, indeed, but short; but the little printed alphabet often
attracts the involuntary attention of the children, when waiting till the sand
is ready for them. The example of one often spreads through the whole class;
and they make quite a buzz, repeating their letters, till the monitor calls
them again to make use of their fingers to shape in the sand.
The figures are taught in the same manner. Sand is a cheap substitute
for books any where; but more so in those parts of the country where the soil
is sandy, than in London. This method was taken in the outline from Dr. Bell,
formerly of Madras; but he did not say, in his printed account of that
institution, whether wet or dry sand was used. It for a long time involved our
minor classes in much difficulty, having begun with the wet sand: we continued
it some time. It required great care in wetting: if wetted either too much or
too little, it was equally useless and inconvenient; it occasioned a deal of
trouble to smoothe, and took double or treble the quantity of sand which it
would have taken dry. All these difficulties my boys overcame in a short time;
but every time we had a change of monitors in this class, we found it a
troublesome qualification for him to attain the art of preparing it properly.
All these difficulties were obviated by my hearing from Dr. Bell, that it was
dry sand. This circumstance fully shows, how essential a minute detail is, to
the ready practice of any experiment, and will be an apology for the length of
this, on the art of teaching the A, B, C. We of course use no books for this
class of children, nor indeed for several other classes, as will be seen in the
The second class are chiefly boys who, having learnt to print the
alphabet and figures in sand, and readily to distinguish the same on
paper, are then advanced to this second, and comparatively superior, class.
Their business is to spell short words, by writing them with their fingers in
the sand, as the monitor dictates to them: a method clearly described in the
account of the new method of spelling in the sequel: the monitor pronouncing a
word, as, to, &c.; or a syllable, as, ba, &c. and each boy printing it
on the sand with his fingers, and thus spelling it. The order of the desks, and
smoothing the sand with the irons, is the same as in the first class. They also
make the figures in the sand, to a great number. Besides this they have small
slates, the method of obtaining which will be described hereafter. On these
slates they learn to make all the alphabet in writing: this is done that they
may not, when in the preceding class, be perplexed with learning the printed
and written alphabet at once. Care is also taken, that the series of words, and
syllables of two letters, which this class print in the sand, is so arranged as
to contain all the letters of the alphabet; which, otherwise, being recently
learnt, would be easily forgotten, unless kept in memory by daily practice.
This arrangement of words, and syllables of two letters, will be published on a
sheet by itself, for the use of persons concerned in the education of youth.
The words are arranged by themselves, and syllables by themselves: words of two
letters, being most familiar to the juvenile mind, are placed first. Syllables
are what they cannot attach any sense to; and, in fact, have no sense or
meaning, unless compounded into words above the comprehensions of children in
this class. They have a card, with words and syllables of two letters, round
which the whole class successively assemble, in subdivisions of twelve
boys each. The first boy is required to spell a word by the monitor, in the
same manner as the first boy, in the a, b, c, was required to distinguish a
single letter; and precedency is awarded according to excellence, as before. In
short, this method is the same as with the a, b, c, card, only it is combining
the letters, instead of distinguishing them. The succeeding classes have no
sand allowed them, but they write on a slate. They are taught to read and spell
on the same plan; and therefore, the management of them will be best described
by detailing the methods of reading, spelling, writing, arithmetic, emulation,
competition, and reward. It is only to be observed, that the class which reads
and spells in three letters, spells, by writing on the slate, words of three
letters; the 4th, or four-letter class, writing words of four letters; and the
5th, or five-letter class, writing words of five letters on the slate; and the
superior classes, words of three or four syllables; also, words with the
meanings attached. Each class has cards, in the same manner as the first and
second classes; all of which are made use of in a similar way, only varying as
to the length of the words or syllables each class may be learning.
Improved Method of teaching Spelling by Writing
This method of spelling seems to be excellent: it being entirely an
addition to the regular course of studies, without interfering with, or
deranging them in the least. It commands attention, gratifies the active
disposition of youth, and is an excellent introduction and auxiliary to
writing. It supersedes, in a great measure, the use of books in tuition, while
(to speak moderately) it doubles the actual improvement of the children. It is
as simple an operation as can well be conceived. — Thus, supply twenty
boys with slates and pencil, and pronounce any word for them to write, suppose
it is the word "ab-so-lu-ti-on;" they are obliged to listen with attention, to
catch the sound of every letter as it falls from their teacher's lips; again,
they have to retrace the idea of every letter, and the pronunciation of the
word, as they write it on the slates. If we examine ourselves when we write
letters, we shall find, that writing is so much associated and connected with
orthography, that we cannot write a word without spelling as we write, and
involuntarily correcting any inaccuracy that may occur.
Now these twenty boys, if they were at a common school, would each have
a book; and, one at a time, would read or spell to their teacher, while the
other nineteen were looking at their books, or about them, as they pleased: or,
if their eyes are rivetted on their books, by terror and coercion, can we be
sure that the attention of their minds is engaged, as appearance seems to speak
it is? On the contrary, when they have slates, the twentieth boy may read to
the teacher *, while the other nineteen are spelling words on the slate,
instead of sitting idle. The class, by this means, will spell, write, and read
at the same instant of time. In addition to this, the same trouble which
teaches twenty, will suffice to teach sixty or a hundred, by employing some of
the senior boys to inspect the slates of the others, they not omitting to spell
the word themselves; and, on a signal given by them to the principal teacher,
that the word is finished by all the boys they overlook, he is informed when to
dictate another to the class. This experiment has been tried with some hundreds
of children, and it has been found, that they could all write, from one boy
dictating the words to be written. The benefit of this mode of teaching, can
only be limited by the want of hearing distinctly the monitor's voice; for, if
seven hundred boys were all in one room, as one class, learning the same thing,
they could all write and spell by this method, at the dictation of one monitor.
I appeal to the candour and good sense of every reader, justly to appreciate
the benefit and importance of this method of teaching. The repetition of
one word by the monitor, serves to rivet it firmly on the minds of each one of
the class, and also on his own memory; thus, he cannot possibly teach
the class without improving himself at the same time. When we reflect,
that by the advantage of this invention, a boy who is associated in a class of
an hundred others, not only reads as much as if he was a solitary individual
under the master's care, but he will also spell sixty or seventy words of four
syllables, by writing them on the slate, in less than two hours: when this
additional number of words, spelt by each boy daily, is taken into account, the
aggregate will amount to repetitions of many thousands of words annually; when,
not a word would be written or spelt, and nothing done by nineteen twentieths
of the scholars in the same time. Thus, it is entirely an improvement and an
introduction to their other studies, without the least additional trouble on
the part of the teacher; without any extra time of attendance being requisite
from the scholar; without deranging or impeding his attention to other studies,
as is usually the case with the study of extra lessons; at least, more than
doubling the advances of each individual towards a proficiency, at the same
time; and, possessing all these advantages, it prevents idleness, and procures
that great desideratum of schools, quietness, by commanding attention:
for, as it requires much writing, but few boys can write and talk at the same
time. In this, nothing is wholly committed to the pupil or monitor. Some
Studies require a degree of mental exertion, that may or may not be made, and
yet the ommission remain undetected; but this is so visible, that every boy's
attention to his lesson may be seen on his slate; and detection immediately
follows idleness, or an indifferent performance! That a thing, so simple in
itself, should abound with so many advantages, is scarcely to be supposed, at a
first glance; but, that it does, I am well convinced, by daily experience of
its utility; particularly, the improvement it affords by so great a practice in
* It will be seen in the article Reading, I do not approve of solitary
reading, one by one: it has no emulation with it.
Boys who learn by the new mode, have six times the usual practice in
writing; but, in the old way the expence is, at the first cost, 5½d. per
month, for writing books, pens, and ink, each boy: this will be six times
increased, if it is desired to give both classes of boys equal practice; the
usual cost for sixty boys is 16l. 10s. per annum.
OLD WAY. NEW WAY.
Six times the usual If they have not slates charge for writing paper,
already provided, sixty
&c...................... £. 99 slates will cost ..........
Allow a hundred slate pencils per annum, each boy, at 8d. per hundred
£ 3 Balance in favour of the new mode £. 96.
The many hundreds of respectable characters, nobility, clergy, gentry,
merchants, and others, who have visited the institution, can bear witness, that
the progress of the boys in writing, by this method of writing all they spell,
is astonishing! Not of one, or a few boys, but of the whole school. By this
practice of writing on a slate, they learn to humour their pencils, so as to
write just like a pen, in making the up and down strokes of the letters. About
one hundred and fifty boys have writing books, and their writing on the slate,
is a fac simile of their writing in books: which they seldom do, more
than four times in a week, and then only a single copy, which covers but a
quarto page, each time. Slates are an article so great in request, on this
plan, that it is proper to procure the best sort: those of a reddish cast allow
the pencil to play with more freedom; those of the black kind, though neater in
appearance, are generally hard and brittle; and the pencil is more apt to
scratch than write thereon: yet, there are some of the black kind which are an
exception to this observation. If any gentleman, in a country town or village,
should be pulling down an old building that has been slated, the damaged slates
from it would be a valuable acquisition to village children: for, by the
friction of a little Portland stone and water, on the surface of the slate,
they will obtain a good polish, and serve as well for use, as slates of ten
times their value. I hope to see the day, when slates and slate-pencils will be
more resorted to than they have heretofore been, and thus afford to every poor
child a cheap and ready medium of instruction, in spelling, writing, and
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 paste-board 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. There is a circumstance very seldom regarded enough, in the
introductory lessons which youth usually have to perform before they are
admitted to read in the Testament. A word of six letters or more, being
di-vi-ded by hy-phens, reduces the syllables, which compose it to three, four,
or five letters each; of course, it is as easy to read syllables, as words of
five letters: and the child, who can read or spell the one, will find the other
as easily attainable.
In the Testament, the words of two and three syllables are undivided,
which makes this division of the lessons a more natural introduction to the
Testament. In the preparatory lessons I have used, the words are thus
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 needful; 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.
In reading, they read lines or sentences, and sometimes paragraphs, in
rotation. They are required to read every word slowly and deliberately, pausing
between each. They read long words in the same manner, only by syllables: thus,
in reading the word, Composition, they would not read it at once, but by
syllables: thus, Com-po-si-ti-on; making a pause at every syllable. This
deliberate method is adapted to prevent those mistakes, which boys so often
make in reading, by pronouncing words wrong: adding, or taking syllables at
random, from the words in their lesson, so as to make nonsense of it. A boy may
read the word, He-te-ro-dox, in haste, he may call it Heterodoxy; or vary it in
any way that haste induces him to misapprehend: but if he read it deliberately,
He-te-ro-dox, pronouncing every distinct syllable by itself, he cannot possibly
read it amiss. This method, also, accustoms the eye at once to read the
syllables in every word, before the word is pronounced. For those who are apt
to make blunders in learning to read, this mode will be found the best remedy.
We are daily in the habit of speaking to each other: in so doing, we combine
syllables into words, and words into sentences; by which we make ourselves
understood. This is combination; but those who combine syllables or words
improperly, do well to look back to analysis. Syllables are the component parts
of words; those who can read syllables distinctly, will soon learn to combine
them into words. Every sentence we express, is a combination of syllables and
words; under the influence of these daily habits, there is more danger of
inattention in learners, to the leading principles of correct reading, than to
any other circumstance. I am much indebted to Doctor Bell, late of Madras, for
the preceding information on the subject: I have reduced it to practice, and
find it does honour to its benevolent inventor; to which I have added several
valuable improvements, particularly that of the reading and spelling cards.
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 or 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 insignia 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.
When the boys in the circle, have thus studied their spelling by reading it,
the monitor takes the card into his own hand, and requires them to spell and
pronounce such words extempore, as he repeats to them. In doing this, they
correct each other's faults, and take precedence as before described.
This method of spelling is commonly practised in schools; but, for the
method of studying the spelling lessons, I am indebted to Dr. Bell,
believing it was his peculiar invention. A great advantage derived from this
method, is, that it forms an excellent practical counterpart to the method of
spelling on the slate. The boys usually spell this way in rotation; but, if the
monitor detects any boy looking about him instead of looking at the lesson, he
immediately requires him to perform a part of the lesson which he was
inattentive to: he usually performs it ill; and thus his negligence immediately
punishes itself, by his losing precedency in his class. 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 applies 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 expence 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
But this operation of adding or subtracting, for instance, is
intellectual, not mechanical or audible; of course, we cannot ascertain how
many times a boy repeats his sum before it is brought to his master for
inspection: steady boys may do it five or six times, but the idle and careless
seldom do it more than once; here is much time lost, and a remedy adapted to
the case is not in the teacher's power.
Again, 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
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.
3, Compound ditto.
5, Compound ditto.
7, Compound ditto.
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 of the whole school are
concerned, is attended with but little bustle, and no confusion. It is usually
done in less than five minutes; and the school-room is so large, it will take
near that time to go round it. If there are any boys who cannot cypher, they
remain under the monitor's care, for instruction in reading, while the others
The modes of teaching arithmetic are so simple and easy, that all the
boys in the school, who can read and write text-hand in four letters, are put
in the first cyphering class.
It is not uncommon to find boys thus instructed, who learn to write and
cypher remarkably well, in six months, who never handled a pen, or were taught
by any other method. Before boys go into arithmetic it is needful they should
learn to make the figures: on my plan, they learn to make and combine
them at the same time. The class of boys, who are learning to make their
figures, form, in the institution,
THE FIRST CLASS OF ARITHMETIC
In the tuition of this class, the boys who constitute it, are not
limited to number: any boy, for whom it is requisite, is immediately placed in
it. Instead of teaching them to make figures in the order of the nine digits,
as is usually done, by writing occasionally in copy-books, they have each a
slate. The monitor takes a long Addition table, which combines not only units
with units, but tens with units: a thing in which the pupil's
greatest difficulty, as to simple and compound Addition, occurs. The monitor
reads from this table:
9 and 1 are 10, 9 and 2 are 11, &c. 25 and 1 are 26, 25 and 2 are
27, 25 and 3 are 28, 25 and 4 are 29, 25 and 5 are 30, 25 and 6 are 31, 25 and
7 are 32, 25 and 8 are 33, 25 and 9 are 34; or other variations of the same
When these are dictated, each boy writes them on his slate: the monitor
and senior boys in the class, assisting in teaching the beginners, to make the
figures, till they can make them themselves. The monitor also varies the
Take 9 from 10, 1 remains; 9 from 11, 2 remain; 9 from 12, 3 remain,
He also uses the Multiplication table, and reverses it in the same
manner: 6 times 2 are 12, 2 in 12 6 times.
In the same way he teaches them the Shillings' and Pence tables. The
knowledge of figures which the children acquire by this method is great; and
the improvement of this class in making the figures, does much credit to the
class and teachers. It is true, the class are told all they are to do: but, in
doing what they are bidden, they acquire a ready knowledge of the figures;
whilst they are insensibly led into the habit of giving attention to all they
do, and taking pains in doing it. By making their figures so many times over,
they unavoidably attain freedom in making them; and this is the best step that
can possibly be taken to facilitate their improvement in the next stage of
their progress in arithmetic.
The same variation and tables, without the total, or answer to the
monitor's question, applies to Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, and the
Pence and Shillings' tables. This method of instruction has also a counterpart:
an arithmetical table of this kind, applied to the first four rules, without
the amount of each combination annexed, is placed on the wall, or other
convenient place. In the former instance, the monitor told the class, 9 and 9
are 18, and they wrote it. He now subdivides the class; and they assemble,
successively, in circles of twelve boys, around the tables of figures on the
wall. They have their numbers, insignia of merit, prizes, &c. as in other
divisions of classes. The monitor then puts the question to the first boy
— How much are 9 and 4? and the boy is expected to tell the amount —
13. If he cannot answer correctly, the monitor puts the question to another
boy, till he finds one who can: and he takes precedence and the badge of merit
from the boy who is
unable to answer the question. The boys in this class are called out, in
successive companies of twelve each, to answer questions of this nature,
applicatory to the similar lesson they have that day been performing on the
slate; and he varies the questions, as, How much are 9 and 9? — take 9
from 18 — what remains? — How much are 9 times 9? — How many
times 9 in 81?
Whilst one company of twelve boys (the number need not be restricted to
twelve, but it can hardly be more than twenty, with propriety) are performing
this task, the remainder of the class continue at their seats, writing what the
monitor dictates, till the first division of twelve have finished their lesson.
Then another division goes out, to the same lesson on the card; and they return
to write on the slate. This is done every day, till the whole class has
performed their lesson both ways. This method serves as an introduction to
Numeration, which, it will be seen in the sequel, is only taught in a
The next is the Simple Addition class. Each boy in every cyphering
class, has a slate and pencil; and we may consider, that the subject now before
us relates to the best method of conveying the knowledge of arithmetic to those
who are unacquainted with it. They usually begin with small sums, and gradually
advance to larger; but, boys who have been well instructed in the preceding
class, are not only qualified for this, but have a foundation laid for their
future proficiency in every branch of arithmetic. As the reader will observe,
the whole of this method of teaching is closely connected with writing: it not
only unites a mental exertion with itself, but always renders that
mental exertion, however great or small, visible to the teacher; and
enables him to say, with certainty, that his pupils have performed their
business. The monitor, or subordinate teacher of the class, has a written book
of sums, which his class are to do; and he has another written book, containing
a key to those sums, on a peculiar plan, which will be described, and which
fully shows how they are to be done *.
In the first place, when his class are seated, he takes the book of sums
— suppose the first sum is as follows:
Ibs. (No. 1.) 27935
He repeats audibly the figures 27,935, and each boy in the class writes
them; they are then inspected, and if done correct, he dictates the figures
3,963, which are written and inspected in like manner: and thus he proceeds
till every boy in the class has the sum finished on his slate.
He then takes the key, and reads as follows:
7 and 9 are 16, and 3 are 19, and 5 are 24. Set down 4† under the
7, and carry 2 to the next.
This is written by every boy in the class, inspected as before, and then
2 and 7 are 9, and 6 are 15, and 3 are 18, and 2 I carried are 20. Set
down 0 and carry 2 to the next.
* Any boy who can read and numerate a little, is able to perform this
duty as well as the principal monitor. The boy who reads the sum cannot be
idle: if he is, the whole class must be so too; and, whilst teaching others, he
is rapidly improving himself.
† When the teacher reads, set down 4 under the 7 and carry 2 to the
next, the lads who are inspecting the manner in which the boys in this class
perform their sums, see that each boy writes down the 7 under the 4, and that
they do the same with the amount; to be set down in every succeeding
3 and 6 are 9, and 9 are 18, and 9 are 27, and 2 1 carried are 29.
— Set down 9 and carry 2.
4 and 8 are 12, and 3 are 15, and 7 are 22, and 2 I carried are 24.
— Set down 4 and carry 2.
1 and 2 are 3, and 2 I carried are 5.
Total, in figures, 54,904 lbs. Total, in words, fifty-four thousand,
nine hundred and four pounds.
The whole of a sum is written in this manner, by each boy in the class:
it is afterwards inspected by the monitor, and frequently by the master; and it
is a method, in particular, well adapted to facilitate the progress of the
scholars in the elementary parts of arithmetic.
Its good effects are deducible from principle, as well as practice. For
youth to be conversant in arithmetic, it is needful that the most frequent
combinations of figures which occur in the first four rules, should be familiar
to their memory. Now, the frequent recurring of one idea, if simple and
definite, is alone sufficient to impress it on the memory, without sitting down
to learn it as a task; and, in the method of tuition just described, every boy
is obliged to repeat it at least twice. First, the impression it makes on his
mind, when listening to his monitor's voice, and the repetition of that
impression when writing it on the slate. When a certain quota of sums are done,
the class begins anew: and thus repetitions gradually succeed each other, till
practice secures improvement, and removes boys individually into other classes
and superior rules, when each boy has a suitable prize, which our established
plan appropriates to the occasion.
Multiplication is easily attained by this method: and the use which is
made of the Multiplication table in general, as an auxiliary to the memory in
acquiring this rule, is a cogent reason in favour of the method I suggest to
In the instance of dictating the figures 27,935, and any other
variations after the same example, the scholars, by writing, acquire a thorough
knowledge of Numeration, expressed both in words and figures, without paying
any attention to it as a separate rule. In fact, Numeration is most
effectually learned by the scholars in my institution, not from the study, but
by the practice of it; and I may add, almost every other branch of knowledge,
taught in the different classes, is acquired in the same easy and expeditious
The boys vie with each other in writing their sums neatly on the slate,
and their practice and improvement in writing is greatly increased by this
Before the introduction of this method, I had found it needful to employ
the senior boys as teachers of arithmetic: and, when their improvement in the
lower rules was desirable, a more honourable and efficacious mode could not be
adopted; but when proficiency was such as rendered it needless, it was time not
so usefully employed as it might be. This I saw with regret, and have the
pleasure of seeing the difficulty removed by this improvement.
It must be obvious, that if a boy had studied and attained a quickness
in addition, and was to repeat it before me, in the usual way, to show his
improvement, the key to the preceding sum comprises the substance of what he
would express; and if I were to take a scholar, unacquainted with arithmetic,
and show him minutely how he was to work the sum, the key contains not only the
substance of what I should express, but also the same of any other teacher in
By this means, any boy of eight years old, who can barely read writing,
and numerate well, is, by means of the guide containing the sums, and the key
thereto, qualified to teach the first four rules of arithmetic, simple and
compound, if the key is correct, with as much accuracy as mathematicians
who may have kept school for twenty years.
Perhaps it is not reasonable to expect much invention and intellectual
exertion from boys, whose talents are yet in embryo; but, when the line is
drawn, they can abide by it. Boys in general are excellent agents, in whatever
they are equal to; and, in this case, nothing is left to their discretion, and
they cannot err, without they go to sleep, or do it for the purpose.
Here is a positive certainty to the teacher, that every boy in the class
is employed, and detection follows a disposition to idleness as soon as it
exists; that none sit idle while others are waiting the master's partial
instructions; and that three times the usual quota of sums are done and
repeated by every boy.
Some examples of sums, in the succeeding classes, are added. — I
propose soon to publish a collection of sums, with appropriate keys, for the
use of schools.
¼ and ½ make ¾, and ¼ makes 1d. and ¾
make 1¾, and ½ make 2¼. — set down ¼ under the
farthings and carry 2 to the next.
7 and 8 make 15, and 9 make 24, and 1 makes 25, and 10 make 35, and 2 I
carry make 37. 37 pence are 3 shillings and 1 penny. — Set down 1 under
the pence, and carry 3 to the next.
7 and 9 make 16, and 6 make 22, and 1 makes 23, and 10 make 33, and 10
make 43, and 10 make 53, and 10 make 63, and 3 I carry make 66. 66 shillings
are 3 pounds 6 shillings. — Set down 6 under the shillings, and carry 3 to
POUNDS, FIRST COLUMN
8 and 8 make 16, and 2 make 18, and 7 make 25, and 9 make 34, and 3 I
carry make 37. — Set down 7 under the 8, and carry 3 to the next.
3 and 1 make 4, and 8 make 12, and 3 make 15, and 3 make 18, and 3 I
carry make 21. — Set down 1 under the 3 and carry 2 to the next.
6 and 1 make 7, and 4 make 11, and 2 make 13, and 6 make 19, and 2 I
carry make 21. — Set down 21.
Total, in figures, 2117 6 1¼
Total, in words, two thousand one hundred and seventeen pounds, six
shillings, and one penny farthing.
Take 9 from 9, 0 remains — 9 from 8 I cannot; borrow 10 and say, 9
from 18 and 9 remain — carry 1 to the 8 is 9 — 9 from 7 I cannot;
borrow 10 and say, 9 from 17 and 8 remain — carry 1 to the 4 is 5 — 5
from 3 I cannot; borrow 10 and say, 5 from 13 and 8 remain — carry 1 to
5 is 6 — 6 from 4 I cannot; borrow 10 and say 6 from 14 and 8
remain — carry 1 to the 7 is 8 — 8 from 8 and 0 remains —
6 from 7 and 1 remains — 1 from 6 and 5 remains.
Remainder, in figures, 51088890.
Remainder, in words, fifty-one million, eighty-eight thousand, eight
hundred and ninety.
Take ¾ from ¼ I cannot; borrow 1d. and say, ¾ from
1¼ and ½ remains — carry 1 to the pence.
1, I carry to the 9 is 10 — 10 from 1 I cannot; borrow 12 and say,
10 from 13 and 3 remain. — carry 1 to the shillings.
1, I carry to the 17 is 18 — 18 from 13 I cannot;
borrow 20 and say, 18 from 33 and 15 remains — carry 1 to the
1, I carry to the 9 is 10 — 10 from 7 I cannot; borrow 10 and
say,10 from 17 and 7 remain — carry 1 to the 3 is 4 — 4 from 6 and 2
remain — Bring down the 1.
Remainder, in figures, 127 15 3½. Remainder, in words, one
hundred and twenty-seven pounds, fifteen shillings, and threepence
12 times 8 are 96. — Set down 6 and carry 9. 12 times 4 are 48, and
9 I carried make 57 — 7 and carry 5. 12 times 7 are 84, and 5 I carried
make 89 — 9 and carry 8. 12 times 9 are 108, and 8 I carried make 116
— 6 and carry 11. 12 times 8 are 96, and 11 I carried make 107 — 7
and carry 10. 12 times 7 are 84, and 10 I carried make 94 — 4 and carry 9.
12 times 6 are 72, and 9 I carried make 81 — Set down 81.
Total, in figures, 81476976.
Total, in words, eighty-one million, four hundred and seventy-six
thousand, nine hundred and seventy-six.
12 times 1 are 12 — 12 farthings are 3d. Carry 3 to the pence.
12 times 11 are 132, and 3 I carried make 135 — 135d. are us. 3d.
— Set down 3 under the pence and carry 11 to the shillings.
12 times 16 are 192, and 11 I carried make 203 — 203s. are 10l. 3s.
— Set down 3 under the shillings and carry 10 to the pounds.
12 times 2 are 24, and 10 I carried make 34 — 4 and carry 3 to the
next. 12 times 3 are 36, and 3 I carried make 39 — 9 and carry 3. 12 times
7 are 84, and 3 I carried make 87 — 7 and carry 8. 12 times 6 are 72, and
8 I carried make 80. Set down 80.
Total, in figures, 80794l. 3s. 3d.
Total, in words, eighty thousand, seven hundred and ninety-four pounds,
three shillings and threepence.
7319372 — 4
12 in 87, 7 times, and 3 over I carry to the 8 make 38. 12 in 38, 3
times, and 2 over I carry to the 3 make 23. 12 in 23, once, and 11 over I carry
to the 2 make 112. 12 in 112, 9 times, and 4 over I carry to the 4 make 44. 12
in 44, 3 times, and 8 over I carry to the 6 make 86. 12 in 86, 7 times, and 2
over I carry to the 8 make 28. 12 in 28, twice, and 4 over.
Product, in figures, 7319372 — and 4 over.
Product, in words, seven million, three hundred and nineteen thousand,
three hundred and seventy-two — and four over.
L. s. D. 12)637 14 1¼
53 2 10 — 1¼ over.
12 in 6 I cannot; but 12 in 63 — 5 times and 3 over. 12 in 37
— 3 times, and I over I carry to the shillings.
1l. over I carried to the 143. makes 343. 12 in 34 twice, and10s.
over I carry to the pence.
10s. over I carried to the 1d. makes 121 pence. 12 in 121, 10 times, and
1d. over I carry to the farthings.
1d. over I carried to the ¼ makes 5 farthings. 12 in 5, I cannot.
— 1¼ over.
Product, in figures, 53l. 2s.10d. — 1¼ over.
Product, in words, fifty-three pounds, two shillings and tenpence.
— five farthings over.
Every rule in arithmetic is usually considered as a study appointed for
a separate class. (See table of classes mentioned page 19.) The object of the
boys in each class is to study only that rule or lesson appointed for
them; and, whatever number of boys there may be in any one class, whether ten,
fifty, or five hundred, the trouble of tuition is not at all increased by the
addition of numbers. The inspection of the sums or spelling written on
the slate is more, and the number of inspecting boys is greater in proportion.
By the method of arithmetic just described, every boy in each class is
told by the teacher all he is to do; and his sole business is to do it,
so often as to become quite familiar with it. In the succeeding method, the
boy's business is to do every thing without instruction.
Each arithmetical class is called out according to the list, in
companies of twelve. To each class is allotted a proper sum, according to the
rule they are in. This sum is written on a card, with ink; or on a board, with
chalk. The twelve boys stand round the sum they are to work; and the board, on
which the sum is, is suspended from the wall. The teacher is provided with a
key to the sum, similar to those before described. Each semicircle have their
insignia of merit, &c. and each boy gives precedence to any other
boy who excels him in performing his lesson. The teacher then requires the
first boy to add the first column, if in Addition; or to multiply the first
figure, if in Multiplication. He is to do this aloud, extempore, without
any previous knowledge of the sum, or assistance from his teacher in performing
it. If he mistakes, it is not the monitor's business to rectify the mistake,
but the next boy is to try if he can do it: and if none of the twelve can
answer right, it must be done by the monitor. When many mistakes in a whole
class occur, such boys must practise more in the methods first described,
before they are tried this way. The former method affords an easy introduction
to this. The same advantage is possessed by both, that neither teacher nor
learner can be idle. Our system of emulation enables me to combine
encouragement and reward with it, in a manner more than usual in schools where
this is practised. The last method being such as is usually taught in some
schools, it requires a boy of superior abilities, to teach those who are
inferior to himself in proficiency. The improvement I have made is by
introducing the key, which reduces it to a mere system of reading on the
monitor's part. If the boys repeat the sum, extempore, naming the total,
according to the key in the teacher's hand, they are correct; if their account
differs, the monitor immediately detects the error, when it becomes the
business of the next boy in the class to correct it. On this plan, any boy
who can read, can teach; and the inferior boys may do the work usually done
by the teachers, in the common mode: for a boy who can read, can teach,
ALTHOUGH HE KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT IT; and, in teaching, will imperceptibly
acquire the knowledge he is destitute of, when he begins to teach, by
There is yet another way of trying the proficiency of the scholars,
after they have been used to both the preceding methods of tuition: the teacher
places each boy in a situation where he cannot copy from, or be assisted by,
any other, who has the same task to perform. He gives him a sum, according to
the rule he is in, and requires him to make a key to the sum, in a correct
manner. If he can do this readily, a number of times, it is a proof that he is
conversant with the rule he is in; and, when practice has deeply impressed it
on his memory, he may advance to another rule. The first class, or combination
of figures, is examined the same way. The tables in Addition are written on the
slate, without the amount, thus: 6 and 6 are — the boy who is examined, is
required to add the amount — 12. If he can do this, with every combination
of figures, in the Addition and other tables, he is then fit for cyphering. By
the old method of teaching arithmetic, there is usually a great consumption of
printed books of arithmetic; the new method almost entirely supersedes them.
The same economy applies to another expensive article of consumption in
schools, cyphering books; in which the scholars usually write down all the sums
they do. The expeditious progress they make, both in writing and accounts, is
so great, they need only commit to writing a very short specimen of
their sums, for the satisfaction of their parents; and even that is not
absolutely needful. By using their pencils well, they acquire an equal facility
in the use of their pens.
Having detailed a method of tuition for the several classes, it will be
obvious, that, on the admission of boys into the school, they should be classed
according to their proficiency. Those who have not learnt their letters, will
be placed in the A, B, C, class; those who know all their letters, but do not
know how to combine them, are placed in the two-letter class. Such as can spell
in two letters, but not in three, are placed in the three-letter class; the
four and five-letter classes are organized, and receive additions, on the same
principle. After this it is considered, boys should read for the improvement of
their minds; and are classed accordingly, in the Testament or Bible. The
arithmetic classes are constituted in the same manner. Each boy should be
examined before he is classed. The lessons for every class being determined on,
and the name of each class, descriptive of the lessons, learnt by it; no other
lessons can be taught to each class than those appointed for it. Boys should be
removed from one class to another, as soon as they are proficient in that to
which they belong. Thus, a boy in the A, B, C, having learnt to distinguish all
his letters, should be removed to the next, or mono-syllable class of two
letters; and, when he is proficient in that he should be removed higher, and so
on. As the scholars are all arranged in different classes, many of them will
soon make a proficiency, by these 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 effect as powerful, if
not more so, than the prizes themselves.
EMULATION AND REWARDS
In spelling by writing on the slate, the performances of the scholars
are inspected, sometimes by the monitor of their class, often by an inspecting
monitor, and occasionally by the master.
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, I,
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 lament that there is not a
series of cheap, regular pictures, that would be fit to put into the hands of
children. Nothing can be better adapted to allure their minds into a love of
learning. Yet, many of the common pictures, of which tens of thousands are
printed annually, and sold among the children of the poor, are mere catchpenny
rubbish; so badly designed and executed, and on such silly subjects, as to be
fit only to debase the minds of youth. A regular series of instructive prints
might be published at the same expence; but they should be selected or designed
by a person acquainted with the minds and manners of youth. The advantage of
some prints, as rewards for children, is their cheapness; and others, is their
utility: those are printed for sale, at one halfpenny or a penny each; and are
sold, wholesale, at a much cheaper rate. Many such prints can be cut into four
or six parts. Every part will be a complete subject itself, and fit for a
prize: thus, less than a shilling per day will afford prizes, morning and
afternoon, for a hundred and twenty children or more, and raise emulation among
the whole school. I hope all ladies, who are patrons of schools, will adopt
these articles for prizes.
By the foregoing observations it will appear, that emulation and reward
are closely united with continual inspection and application to learning.
Another method of rewarding deserving boys is by paper tickets, which are
numbered, one, two, three, &c. they are given to such boys as distinguish
themselves in writing with the pen; which is done about four times a week, by
part of the school only, in order to accustom them a little to the use
of the pen. Each number is to be obtained several times, before the bearer can
obtain the prize appropriated to it: as,
Number 1, three times, to receive ½d.
2, six times, ......... 1d.
3, eight times, ......... 2d.
4, nine times, .........3d.
5, twelve times, .........6d.
Every time a ticket is obtained, it is booked by a monitor, whose office
it is to record tickets, prizes, &c. The tickets are given, according to
the evident and various degree of pains the scholar may have taken with his
performance. They are given by the monitor or teacher who inspects the written
copies, according to his judgment of the performances submitted to his
inspection. It requires some discretion in the master to choose a lad for this
office, whose eye is capable of at once discriminating between one
performance and another, and of discerning where exertions have been made
by the learner to improve. In small institutions the master may perform this
office; in large ones he can only do it occasionally. I have several lads who
are capable of this office, and perform it well. The best way to qualify a boy
for such a duty, is to accustom him to inspect and compare the performances of
boys in writing on the slate, one with another; he may decide improperly in
some instances, at first, but practice will soon make him perfect in
discriminating and deciding; and then he will be found a very useful auxiliary
in a school. It is as easy to form a number of boys, as one or two, on this
plan; and they may be qualified sooner than usual, if required, provided the
master renews the same inspection and decision in their presence, after they
have done; and shows them every prominent case in which they may have decided
wrong, and why they have done so. When boys have obtained their tickets
for writing the stipulated number of times, they are permitted to choose any
prize of the value appropriated to the number on their tickets: and there is a
choice variety of prizes, consisting of toys, bats, balls, kites, &c. but
the books with prints or pictures are more in request among the children, and
generally more useful than any other prizes whatever.
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
always 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 develope 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.
It is certainly a distinction founded on the principle of nobility. In a
community, those who, from the nobler motives that animate the human mind,
render important services to the nation to which they belong, are its nobles;
and it is impossible that the son of such a man should not inherit his father's
distinction, if his own conduct does not disgrace it. It is morally impossible,
that the splendour of actions which are of real benefit to society, or of
another class of actions, which are of no real good to, but only dazzle
mankind, should not shed a kind of true or false lustre over the
descendants of such distinguished men. I believe this is the original principle
of true and of hereditary nobility. Hereditary nobility cannot possibly exist
in schools, but it may in the first instance. In every case the distinctions of
nobility that exist in society at large, are only civil distinctions, that
imply the possessors have rendered a real service to the state. Nobility may
possibly be abused, as other institutions are; but I think it in itself one of
the most beneficial distinctions that ever existed in society at large. A
distinction that has existed, and will exist in all societies, because it is
natural. The distinctions and titles which are attached to nobility, are only a
civil description and definition of what existed before. Those distinctions may
be proper or improper, as they are connected with truth or flattery; but the
foundation of nobility still continues pure, uncontaminated, and beneficial to
society. In the community at large it is more distinguished, because the cause
of it is more beneficial and extensive. In small and select societies, of any
description, the advantage of civil distinctions for those who are privileged
by them, is, that they are known, in a good degree, at first sight, to
strangers and foreigners. They do not stand in the back ground, as they would
if their merit was unknown and undistinguished. 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.
Those medals are not often given away, but remain in the school, and are
distributed, to those who are privileged to wear them, morning and afternoon;
and are returned, before the boys leave school, to the monitor who is appointed
to take care of them. No instance has occurred of losing a medal by theft
— a singular thing among so many hundred children.
Another method of rewards is for those boys who are first in their
classes: these have not only a badge of merit, of leather gilt and lettered,
but a similar badge lettered 'Prize Book,' 'Prize Cup and Ball,' 'Prize Kite,'
&c. The boy who continues first in his class, for three or four
successive times, is entitled to the prize lettered on the ticket he has worn.
If any boy excels him, he forfeits his ticket and place in the division, to
that boy. The boy who obtains the ticket once, must retain it three or four
times successively — if he once forfeits his place and ticket, he forfeits
his chance of the prize, although he may have obtained it three times out of
four. These prizes are very much limited to the arithmetical classes.
There is also a similar method of encouraging the monitors to diligence.
The object for them to pursue is to improve their classes as much as possible.
Each monitor of a class or division, is to teach that class a specific object
or lesson. When the boys have individually acquired the object of their
studies, it will be perceived, by the system of inspection before described,
that they are removed to another class. The monitors who improve their boys, so
as to get them to another class, are permitted to wear a ticket, 'Commendable
Monitor;' and, whoever gets this six times
in succession, is entitled to any prize, which may have been previously
promised by the master, according to his discretion. — This applies
chiefly to the monitors of reading and arithmetic.
It frequently happens, that boys distinguish themselves much in their
learning at school; and occasional letters, sent by the master to their
parents, to inform them of this, is encouragement for the child to continue a
regular attendance at school.
It is a common practice for one class to try to excel another. The
highest class, as to proficiency in learning, occupies the most honourable
place in the school: a place no otherwise distinguished from the rest, than
that it is the customary seat of that class. When an inferior excels a superior
class, the superior class quits its station, and goes down to the seats of the
inferior. When this happens, the superior class finding itself excelled, and
not liking the disgrace, usually works very hard to regain its former seats.
These contests are decided by writing on the slate, or in a book. — The
performance of every boy in an inferior class, is compared impartially with
that of a boy in the superior. The umpire decides which is the best of the two.
On which side the decision is given, a number 1, is minuted down on a slate, in
favour of that class; then the umpire, or monitor appointed to decide, proceeds
making comparisons between two boys of each class, till both classes are
entirely examined. When the examination, which may be compared with polling at
elections, is finished, the number of ones in favour of each class is
cast up, and decided in favour of that which has the majority. The industry and
exertion this creates is surprising; and the exultation which takes place among
the boys, when they find the majority in favour of their own class, and the
manner in which the monitors spur on their classes, by reproaches, when boys
are remiss; and by commendations, when they strive to excel, affords much
pleasure. When a contest of this kind occurs, which frequently happens, the
whole school, and, above all, the monitors of the classes, are so interested,
that, if permitted, they would attend to no other business while the decision
is carrying on. The contest is speedily terminated, mostly in less than ten
minutes. A striking advantage accrues from this emulation: each monitor and
scholar is interested in such a degree, in the contest, that he exerts his
utmost abilities — and, having once discovered what they are able to do,
the master knows what to require of them to do in future, according to the
specimen they have shown of their abilities. It is a contest much in the nature
and spirit common in elections; but controlled and directed, without excess, in
a peaceful way, to a very useful purpose.
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 at 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.
When a boy is disobedient to his parents, profane in his language, or
has committed any offence against morality, or is remarkable for slovenliness,
it is usual for him to be dressed up with labels, describing his offence, and a
tin or paper crown on his head. In that manner he walks round the school, two
boys preceding him, and proclaiming his fault; varying the proclamation
according to the different offences. When a boy comes to school with dirty face
or hands, and it seems to be more the effect of habit than of accident, a girl
is appointed to wash his face in the sight of the whole school. This usually
creates much diversion, especially when (as previously directed) she gives his
cheeks a few gentle strokes of correction with her hand. The same event
takes place as to girls, when in habits of slothfulness. Occasionally, such
offenders against cleanliness walk round the school, preceded by a boy
proclaiming her fault — and the same as to the boys. A proceeding that
usually turns the public spirit of the whole school against the
Few punishments are so effectual as confinement after school hours. It
is, however, attended with one unpleasant circumstance. In order to confine the
bad boys in the school-room, after school-hours, it is often needful the
master, or some proper substitute for him, should confine himself in school, to
keep them in order. This inconvenience may be avoided, by tying them to the
desks, in such a manner that they cannot untie themselves. These variations in
the modes of unavoidable punishment give it the continual force
of novelty, whatever shape it may assume. Any single kind of punishment,
continued constantly in use, becomes familiar, and loses its effect. Nothing
but variety can continue the power of novelty. Happily, 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 reason; 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.
When a boy gets into a singing tone in reading, the best mode of cure
that I have hitherto found effectual, is by force of ridicule. —
Decorate the offender with matches, ballads; (dying-speeches, if needful;) and,
in this garb send him round the school, with some boys before him, crying
matches, &c. exactly imitating the dismal tones with which such things are
hawked about the streets in London, as will readily recur to the reader's
memory. I believe many boys behave rudely to Jews, more on account of the
manner in which they cry, 'Old Clothes,' than because they are Jews. I have
always found excellent effects from treating boys, who sing or tone in their
reading, in the manner described. It is sure to turn the laugh of the whole
school upon the delinquent — it provokes risibility, in spite of every
endeavour to check it, in all but the offender. I have seldom known a boy, thus
punished once, for whom it was needful a second time. It is also very seldom
that a boy deserves both a log and shackle at the same time. Most boys are wise
enough, when under one punishment, not to transgress again immediately,
lest it should be doubled. They are mostly prudent enough to behave quiet and
well, in hopes of being set at liberty from the one they already suffer.
It is unavoidable, on a large scale of education, to do without giving
many commands, and some of a very trivial nature. On my plan, many of the
commands, which would be given by the master, are given by the monitors. As it
is not proper that commands without number, and perhaps of a nature opposite to
each other, should be given at random by the monitors, it becomes needful to
limit the number that are to be given, as much as may be. It is an important
object to secure implicit obedience to those commands, on the part of the
scholars; and, for the monitors to acquire as prompt a manner in giving them,
as will secure the attention of the scholars, and lead them to a ready
compliance. The first of these objects is easily attained. It is only to write
down on paper the commands most necessary to be given by the monitor to his
whole class; and, it is essentially needful, that he should not vary from the
rule once laid down.
The practice of giving short commands aloud, and seeing them instantly
obeyed by the whole class, will effectually train the monitor in the habit of
giving them with dignity and propriety. It is not a desirable thing to raise
the love of war and false glory in the youthful mind. The reasonable part of
mankind have already seen enough of its dreadful and desolating effects, to
deter them from encouraging such a spirit. It is on this ground I am careful to
avoid all commands which are strictly military. Even when the monitor has
occasion to order the class to go to the right or the left, it is done by a
sign, in order to avoid the command, 'To the right,' — 'Go on,' instead of
'March,' — and, 'Stop,' in lieu of 'Halt.' The classes are permitted
occasionally to measure their steps, when going round the school in close
order, to prevent, what else would often occur from their numbers, treading on
each other's heels, or pushing each other down. In this case, measuring their
steps commands their attention to one object, and prevents their being unruly
or disorderly. It is not required that the measure should be exact, or be a
regular step; but, that each scholar shall attempt to walk at a regular
distance from the one who precedes him. A number of commands, trifling in
appearance, but conducive to good order, are given by the monitors. When a new
scholar is first admitted, he is pleased with the uniformity, novelty, and
simplicity of the motions made by the class he is in. Under the influence of
this pleasure he readily obeys, the same as the other boys do. None of these
commands are, in themselves, a hardship; and are well supported by the force of
example. I never knew a boy object to obey them; yet, I have been sure, some
boys, if they had been individually told to do such a thing by the monitor,
would have said, 'You are only a boy like myself; do you think I shall be such
a fool as to be commanded by you?' but, in the above instance, such a boy gets
into habits of obedience before he is aware what he has been allured into; and
then, when the monitor gives him a command of an unpleasant nature to execute,
he does it from the power of example, and the force of habit — and,
however reluctant he may feel, that reluctance does not show itself.
The commands that a monitor usually gives to his class, are of a simple
nature: as, to go in or out of their seats: 'In' — 'Out.' The whole class
do this at one motion — they learn to front, or go to the right or left,
either single or double. They 'show slates,' at the word of command; take them
up, or lay them gently down on the desk, in the same manner. Instead of hanging
the slates to nails on the wall, every boy has a slate numbered according to
his number in the class, and fastened to a nail on the desk at which he sits.
By this means all going in and out for slates is avoided. But, if slates are
suspended to nails on the walls, the class must go from their seats to fetch
them; and the same to replace them, when they have done work. When boys write
in a book, which is only done by part of the scholars four times in the week,
merely to accustom them to the use of the pen, they sling their slates; that
is, let them hang suspended from the nails on the desks, by the slate-strings.
When slates are suspended in this manner, if the strings are good, there is
little danger of their being thrown down or broken; so that, when boys are
writing, there are very few who have any occasion to get off their seats: and,
if they should have, there is ample passage-room between the desks for them to
pass. If the slates are accidentally stricken against by a boy passing, they
hang loose, and of course give way when pressed against; which greatly
Another command is, to 'sling hats,' which is always done on coming into
school; and, 'unsling hats,' which is always done on leaving it. This alludes
to a very convenient arrangement, which prevents all the loss of hats,
mistakes, and confusion in finding them, which would naturally occur among so
large a number of boys. It saves all shelves, nails, or places where they are
usually put in schools. It prevents them all going to put hats on the nails or
shelves, and all going to get them thence, before they leave school. These are
great advantages — as, with eight hundred boys in school, they save
sixteen hundred motions, unavoidable on the usual plan, both morning or
afternoon — motions that, before this arrangement was made, produced much
inconvenience in the school; and complaints were made, almost daily, of boys
losing their hats, which have ceased since this arrangement. All these
advantages are gained, and inconveniences are avoided, by every boy slinging
his hat across his shoulders, as a soldier would sling his knapsack: by which
means he carries it always about him, and cannot lose it without immediately
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.
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 schoolroom, and writes on the slate the
numbers which are vacant. Take a specimen of six boys mustered according to the
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:
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. When any boy repeats the
crime, or is incorrigible, he is sometimes tied up in a blanket, and left to
sleep at night on the floor, in the school-house. When boys are frequently in
the habit of playing truant, we may conclude that they have formed some bad
connections; and, that nothing but keeping them apart can effect a reform. When
bad habits and connections are once formed in youth, they often become an easy
prey to various temptations, in spite of all their good resolutions to the
In the smaller classes of readers it is well to subdivide the boys into
twenties — the children being mostly young, learn to distinguish such
numbers with greater facility: it is on this account the minor classes muster
in twenties. One series of numbers on the school-room walls, serve for all the
classes in the school to muster at in succession. The time taken by a class of
a hundred and twenty boys to muster in, is seldom so much as ten minutes. The
numbers attached to boys' names in the class-list, are all estimated alike.
These numbers are never changed by precedence and improvement in
learning. They remain fixed for the sake of order, and have not the slightest
connection with the system of rewards and encouragement adopted in the
(Fourth Edition. 1808)
THE MADRAS SYSTEM OF EDUCATION
Scheme of a School on the Model of the Madras
"The best way to learn any science is to begin with a
or a short and plain scheme of that science, well drawn up
into a narrow compass." — Watts .
1st. The Asylum, like every well-regulated school, is arranged into
Forms or Classes, each composed of as many scholars as having made similar
progress unite together. The scholar ever finds his own level, not only in his
class, but in the ranks of the school, being promoted or degraded from place to
place, or class to class, according to his proficiency.
This of schools in general, now more particularly of the Asylum.
"Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the
people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers
of tens." Exod. xviii. 25.
2d. Each class is paired off into tutors and pupils. The tutor sits by
the side of his pupil, and assists him in getting their common lesson.
3d. To each class is attached an assistant teacher, whose sole business
it is to attend his class, to prevent idleness, to instruct and help the tutors
in learning their lesson, and teaching their pupils; and to hear the class, as
soon as prepared, say their lesson, under,
4th. The teacher, who has charge of the class, directs and guides his
assistant, intends him in hearing the class, or himself hears both the
assistant and scholars say their lesson, and is responsible for the order,
behaviour, diligence, and improvement of the class.
5th. A sub-usher and usher are appointed to inspect the school, watch
over the whole, and give their instructions and assistance wherever wanted, as
the agents and ministers of,
6th. The schoolmaster, whose province it is to direct and conduct the
system in all its ramifications, and see the various offices of usher,
sub-usher, teachers, assistants, tutors, and pupils carried into effect.
7th. Last of all comes the superintendent, or trustee, or visitor, or
chaplain, or parochial minister, whose scrutinizing eye must pervade the whole
machine, whose active mind must give it energy, and whose unbiassed judgment
must inspire confidence, and maintain the general order and harmony.
For this purpose, there is kept by the ushers, teachers or others equal
to the office,
8th. A register of the daily tasks performed; and, by the
9th. A register of daily offences, or black book, to be
expurgated weekly by,
10th. A jury of twelve or more boys, selected for the purpose.
This in brief is the scheme of the Madras School in its most multiplied
form, and yet abundantly simple.
Let us now enter into the exposition of this scheme, and assay its
character by the principles on which it has been shewn that Education should be
founded, the means by which it should be conducted, and the end which it has in
Of the peculiar Features, which mark the Character of
the Madras System
"Ut illi (pueri) efferuntur lætitia cum vicerint? Ut
Ut se accusari nolunt? quam cupiunt laudari? quos illi
labores non perferunt, ut æqualium principes sint?" Cic.
Having in the foregoing chapters given a brief summary of the Madras
system, I am now to refer this system to the principles premised above, on
which it was said to be built, and to the end to which it was proposed that it
should be directed, in order to ascertain the peculiar features of this school,
and mark its characteristic advantages.
For this purpose I retrace the scheme through all its regulations in
1st. "The school is arranged into classes." By this classification,
which, though not new nor peculiar to the Madras School, is yet carried to a
greater length there than in any other school I have seen, a teacher or master
has no more trouble, nay has less trouble, in the tuition of a whole class than
of a single scholar. Nor does it require more time for him to instruct a class
of thirty-six scholars, or hear them say a lesson each a portion by rotation,
than it does to instruct a single boy, or hear him say the same lesson by
himself. And that emulation or desire of excellence, which the Creator has
implanted in the human breast for the wisest and noblest purposes, is thus
elicited (or called forth), and proves a powerful and unceasing excitement to
laudable exertion — a mild, yet effectual instrument of discipline. The
scholar is continually stimulated to obtain pre-eminence in his class, and even
to rise above it, and be promoted to a superior; and especially not to sink
below it, and be degraded to an inferior class.
When a boy has held a high rank in his class for some time, he has an
option of being advanced to a superior class, where he is placed at the foot;
and if, in a few days, he rises near the middle, he maintains a permanent
footing in this class; if not, he must revert to his original class, as a
scholar is far more profitably employed in learning easy and short lessons,
which he gets well, than difficult or long ones, of which he does not make
Also a boy who fails, for some time, in saying his daily lessons well,
is degraded to an inferior class, where he is placed at the head; and if he
sink to its level, he is doomed to permanent degradation: but if he maintain a
high rank, he is allowed to resume his original class on a new trial; when it
often happens that, by redoubled exertion, he can now keep pace with them.
By these means, no class is ever retarded in its progress by idle or
dull boys; and every boy in every class is fully and profitably employed; and,
by thus finding his own level, his improvement is most effectually promoted,
and rendered a maximum. By these means, too, the classes naturally form
themselves in point of numbers as well as proficiency: and if any become
numerous and unwieldly, or the reverse, a subdivision or consolidation takes
place, by uniting the higher boys of an inferior class with the lower of a
superior, or otherwise combining them according to their proficiency.
So much for the general formation of a school.
Now more particularly of the asylum:
2d. "Each class is paired off into tutors and pupils."
Thus in a class of twenty-four boys, the twelve superior are tutors
respectively to the twelve inferior. Of course in their seats the boys take
their places in different order from that in which they stand in their class:
as each pupil sits by the side of his tutor.
Mark, at the outset, how many advantages grow out of this simple
First, The sociable disposition, both in the tutor and pupil, is
indulged by the reciprocal offices assigned to them.
Next, The very moment you have nominated a boy a tutor, you have exalted
him in his own eyes, and given him a character to support, the effect of which
is well known.
Next, The tutors enable their pupils to keep pace with their classes,
which otherwise some of them would fall behind, and be degraded to a lower
class, or else continuing attached to their class, forfeit almost every chance
of improvement, by never learning any one lesson as it ought to be learned.
This is the reason why so many boys in every school are declared
incapable of learning. As often as this was said to me of any of our pupils, in
the beginning of my essay, by such ushers as I then had, my reply was, "It is
you, who do not know how to teach, how to arrest and fix the attention of your
pupil: it is not that he cannot learn, but that he does not give the degree of
attention requisite for his share of capacity." I then gave an experimental
proof, that by just exertion on the part of the teacher, and fixing the
attention of the pupil, this imaginary impossibility, like most others created
by ignorance and indolence, might be surmounted. This I did by teaching the
boy, who was pronounced incapable, the very lesson which, it was declared, he
could not learn.
When, by such means, I had, in course of time, capacitated all the
heretofore inefficient boys, and brought the school into such shape that every
boy, in his place, was equal to the task assigned him, and learnt his daily
lessons as they ought to be learnt, I was wont to say before all the school to
those who honoured them with a visit, "You have often heard that there are boys
in every school, who cannot learn their lessons distinctly and accurately.
Examine every class in this school, and shew me a boy of this description." Or
if in a hurry, "Lay your hand upon any class, and any boy in that class; let
him say how far he is advanced: open his book at any prior place, and hear him
read and spell," &c. Another advantage, attending this arrangement, is that
the tutor far more effectually learns his lesson than if he had not to teach it
to another. By teaching he is best taught. Qui docet indoctos, docet se." Still
another advantage is, that here is a grand stimulus to emulation; for what
disgrace attaches to the boy who, by his negligence, is degraded into a pupil,
and falls perhaps to be tutored by his late pupil, promoted to be a tutor!
3d. "Each class has an assistant-teacher, whose sole employment it is to
instruct that class; to see that the tutors do their part, that they not only
get their own lesson, but assist and forward their pupils; and, under the
teacher, hear the whole class — tutors and pupils — say the lessons,
which he has assisted them in preparing."
The assistant sees, at every instant, how every boy in his class is
employed, and hears every word uttered.
This is a station of great emulation; for distinctions*, fitted to take
a strong hold of the youthful mind, are conferred upon such as perform their
tasks with diligence, fidelity, and success: and the degradation, consequent
upon ill conduct or ill success, is deeply felt. This observation applies, with
still greater force, to the next link of the chain,
4th. "The teachers, who have each charge of one or more classes."
* What were these distinctions? Some of them were local, and regarded
their daily food and dress; some pecuniary; some honorary. Silver medals, of
different numbers and size, were distributed at the annual examination by the
Their business is to direct and guide their assistants, inspect their
respective classes — the tutors and the pupils, —and see that all is
maintained in good order, strict attention, and rigid discipline. It is also
the province of the teacher either to hear the class say their lessons, or
intend his assistant, while he hears them. And, when he has more than one class
under his care, he occasionally leaves this task to his assistant, if himself
happen to be engaged with another class at the same time.
"The introduction of monitors, an extremely important part of the whole
scheme, is as great an improvement in schools, as the introduction of
non-commissioned officers would be in an army which had before been governed
only by captains, majors, and colonels: they add that constant and minute
attention to the operations of the mass, without which, the general and
occasional superintendance of superiors is wholly useless. An usher hates his
task, and is often ashamed of it; a monitor is honoured by it, and therefore
loves it: he is placed over those who, if their exertions had been superior,
would have been placed over him; his office is the proof of his excellence.
Power is new to him; and trust makes him trustworthy, — a very common
effect of confidence.————————The
extraordinary discipline, progress, and economy of this school, are, therefore,
in a great measure, produced by an extraordinary number of noncommissioned
officers, serving without pay, and learning while they teach." — Edinb.
If this scheme of teachers and assistants presented no other advantage
than enabling the scholars to be heard a lesson every quarter or half hour, or
oftener, it were an invaluable acquisition. It is not so much the time that is
saved in waiting the conveniency of the master, as the promptitude produced by
short and easy lessons, which are instantly to be prepared, and said as soon as
prepared. In schools, where children learn one lesson a day, it often happens
that even the same lesson is not so well learnt, as if it were to be prepared
and said in a prompt manner, admitting of no delay in the commencement of that
preparation, which otherwise is frequently not only postponed, but neglected
It often happens that the assistant-teacher proves himself fully equal
to the entire charge of his class, in which case he is promoted to the rank of
a teacher, and performs the double office of teacher and assistant. It oftener
happens that a teacher, instead of one class, is set over several classes with
their respective assistants.
There were fourteen in all of these teachers and assistants, for two
hundred boys, at the Asylum, none of them less than seven, or more than
fourteen years of age.
5th. "An usher and sub-usher are appointed, when necessary, to act
6th. "The schoolmaster, whose province it is to watch over and to
conduct this machine in all its parts and operations, and see the various
offices, which I have described, carried into effect."
From his place (chair or desk) he overlooks the whole school, and gives
life and motion to every member of it. He inspects the classes, one by one, and
is occupied wherever there is most occasion for his services, and where they
will best tell. He is to encourage the diffident, the timid, and the backward;
to check and repress the forward and presumptuous: to bestow just and ample
commendation upon the diligent, attentive, and orderly, however dull their
capacity, or slow their progress; to stimulate the ambitious, rouse the
indolent, and make the idle bestir themselves: in short, to deal out praise and
displeasure, encouragement and threatening, according to the temper,
disposition, and genius of the scholar. He is occasionally to hear and instruct
the classes, or rather overlook and direct the teachers and assistants, while
they do so.
The advantage is, that not being perpetually occupied, as at most
schools, in hearing and instructing one or other of the classes, which
necessarily withdraws his attention for the time from the rest of the school,
he has leisure to see that all are employed as they ought. The great advantage
is, that it is his chief business to see that others work, rather than work
himself; and that he is most usefully employed in doing what men in general are
most ready to do.
7th. "Last of all comes the superintendant (who may be the chaplain of
the seminary, the parochial minister, trustee, or visitor, or any gentleman who
delights in such pious offices) whose scrutinising eye must pervade the whole
machine, whose active mind must give it energy, and whose unbiassed judgment
must maintain the general order and harmony." For this purpose there is
8th. "A register of the daily tasks" performed by each class, and by
each boy, when he happens to be individually engaged in writing, arithmetic, or
any solitary exercise, which are added up weekly and monthly, and compared with
each other, and with former performances. This simple contrivance is admirably
fitted to correct idleness, and detect negligence in their origin, and to bear
permanent testimony to merit and demerit, even if overlooked in passing.
For these important purposes, too, there is lodged in the hands of the
schoolmaster (to whom, lest there should be no superintendant, I have
attributed some of the offices peculiar to the latter) a most powerful
9th. "The black book, as the boys call it, or register of continued
idleness, negligence, ill-behaviour, and every offence, which requires serious
investigation and animadversion."
To this simple instrument I attach immense importance in preserving
order, diligence, good conduct, and the most rigid discipline, at the least
expense of punishment, of which it is a great object to be frugal and a good
economist. The manner, in which this instrument is employed, may appear to some
despotic, partial, and unjust. To me, who tried it on a preconceived opinion of
its utility, and witnessed, on trial, its wonderful operation in producing
diligence, truth, contentment, and happiness, it wears a widely different
aspect. Suppose an offence committed by a pupil, deserving a place in the black
book, and known at the time of commission to his tutor, who yet failed to mark
it to the assistant; the schoolmaster, on discovery, puts down the tutor for
neglect of duty. In like manner, if the tutor gave notice to the assistant, and
the assistant did not to the teacher, the assistant is noted on the book: and
so of the teacher. Also if the assistant be guilty of misbehaviour, the teacher
who witnessed, and did not report it, is made responsible, and so on. Nay,
there was no obstacle to prevent any of the inferior orders from doing what
often happened, noting, in their turn, the offences of their superiors, as
these last had no other means of punishing the former, than by registering
their offence in the black book, when the accused is generally tried by his
peers, as will be seen in the sequel, and is sure of a candid hearing and an
In every instance, every serious offence is either noted by, or carried
to, the schoolmaster, who is to judge whether it deserves a place in the
register, or whether an immediate reprimand, or threat, may suffice.
Our language, when enforcing his duty on the tutor, is, that it is the
business of the pupil to be idle, if the tutor will allow it; and so on.
This register is solemnly inspected and scrutinised, once a week, in
presence of the whole school, drawn up in a circle for that purpose; when the
nature* and consequence of every omission or commission is explained in the
language of the school; and the fact tried and sentence pronounced on the
10th. "A jury of their peers," which sentence is inflicted, mitigated,
or remitted, at the discretion of the superintendant, visitor, or
* Abstract lectures, which my schoolmaster tried for a while, are little
attended to, and still less understood, by children. To reach their minds and
touch their hearts, you must give a visible shape and tangible form to your
doctrine. When a meritorious conduct is displayed, or a crime perpetrated, and
you can thus give a body to your lecture, it is listened to, understood, and
felt. My lectures were all of this sort, with the subject under my hands, and
before the eyes of all his schoolfellows, assembled on the occasion. "Jesus
called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said,"
&c. Mat. xviii. 1 — 6; See also Mat. xii. 48 — 50; xxii. 15
— 22; xxiv. 1, 2; Mark, xii. 41 — 44; Luke, x. 40 — 42; John,
iv. 9 — 26; and gospels passim. How much might we learn, if we read our
Bibles as we ought to do?
Mark the advantage of this process. An offence is committed, the
punishment of which, if the superior officer does his duty, cannot reach beyond
the culprit; but, if he fail, he becomes himself involved, not for the offence
of another, but for his own omission of the task assigned to him. The facility,
which this process affords to the detection of every crime, and consequent
prevention, must be obvious at first sight. Mark, also, that no one in this
link is called upon to do more than to report what he sees and knows to be
done, contrary to the rules of the school, in the department committed to his
charge, and for which he stands responsible.
But what are all these advantages compared with the next I have to
mention? It is the grand boast of this system, not that it thus detects,
convicts, and corrects the offender, but that, by the perpetual presence and
intervention, as well at play as in school, of our teachers and assistants (not
to say tutors) who are tried and approved boys, aided by their (emeriti)
predecessors, who acquitted themselves, while in office, with credit and
applause, it prevents the offence, and establishes such habits of industry,
morality, and religion, as have a tendency to form good scholars, good men,
good subjects, and good Christians.
In a word, it gives, as it were, to the master the hundred hands of
Briareus, the hundred eyes of Argus, and the wings of Mercury.
But this scheme lays claim to still higher praise. It is the superlative
glory of the system, that, when duly administered, it applies itself to every
principle of humanity. It engages the attention, interests the mind, and wins
the affection of youth. Their natural love of activity is gratified by the
occupation which it furnishes them. They are delighted with being, to every
wise and good purpose, their own masters. They are charmed that they see the
reason, feel the justice, and perceive the utility of all that is done to them,
for them, and by them.
And, still further, this system is to be estimated by the civility, the
decorum, the subordination, the regard to good order and good government, which
it inculcates and exemplifies; while, by the various offices performed in the
different departments of the school, it prepares the disciples for business,
and instructs them to act their part and perform their duty in future life with
punctuality, diligence, impartiality, and justice; and also cultivates the best
dispositions of the heart, by teaching the children to take an early and
well-directed interest in the welfare of one another.
Every boy, not totally corrupted and depraved, sees in this system a
friend, to whom he is sure to attach himself in the closest bands of amity, and
will himself, whenever it is conducted with no interested view, but with
impartiality and ability, for the general good, come forward and exert himself
in every emergency, for its due support and administration. The policy of your
scholars is on your side as well as their heart. Not to forfeit such high
privileges, as the system confers on them, they take a deep interest in its
support, preservation, and advancement. For should they, by falsehood,
perverseness, or ill conduct, disturb its order and harmony, they must expect
to revert to other jurisdiction, than that of themselves and their peers; an
immunity of which they are no less jealous than every Englishman is of his
invaluable privilege, the trial by jury.
By these means, a few good boys selected for the purpose (and changed as
often as occasion requires) who have not begun their career of pleasure,
ambition, or interest; who have no other occupation, no other pursuit, nothing
to call forth their attention, but this single object; and whose minds you can
lead and command at pleasure, form the whole school; teach the scholars to
think rightly, and, mixing in all their little amusements and diversions,
secure them against the contagion of ill example, and, by seeing that they
treat one another kindly, render them contented and happy in their condition..
In a word, the advantages of this system, in its political, moral, and
religious tendency; in its economy of labour, time, expense, and punishment; in
the facilities and satisfaction which it affords to the master and the scholar;
can only be ascertained by trial and experience, and can scarcely be
comprehended or credited by those, who have not witnessed its productive powers
and marvellous effects.
Like the steam engine, or spinning machinery, it diminishes labour and
multiplies work, but in a degree which does not admit of the same limits, and
scarcely of the same calculations as they dp. For, unlike the mechanical
powers, this intellectual and moral engine, the more work it has to perform,
the greater is the facility and expedition with which it is performed, and the
greater is the degree of perfection to which it is carried.
Such are the advantages of conducting a school on the scheme of the
Asylum at Madras.
It is almost unnecessary to add, that all the facilities of this system
apply as well to the first elements of moral and religious instruction, as to
the rudiments of letters. The teacher, by instructing the scholars by classes
in the catechism and other religious exercises, leaves only to the master or
superintendent the easy charge of solemn examination, and of explaining to the
teachers what they are to explain to the rest of the school.. . .
Such is the general outline of the system. How far it is fitted to
produce undiverted and uninterrupted application and proportionate progress,
with close habits of diligence and obedience, the attentive reader may now form
a judgment. He has before him the scheme, and the principles on which it is
founded. On this ground its claim might perhaps be rested. And even if, from
any cause whatever, it had failed of producing an adequate effect, still it may
not be thought unworthy of another and better trial. But then too it might,
perhaps, be ranked with those visionary projects, with which the press teems,
and which, however plausible in theory, do not admit of being reduced to
practice. Far remote from the lofty tone, which these assume, of deep
investigation and profound speculation, the humble claim of this humble essay
is, that of being founded on obvious principles, and even suggested by the
occasion and the circumstances, in which I was placed. Its claim is, that it
has been reduced to practice; nay, was suggested by, and arose out of,
practice. The experiment has been made, and facts must now speak for
themselves. The facts, recorded in the official documents in Part IVth, will
enable the reader to ascertain how far the effect corresponds with the judgment
he has formed. And if he seek for further proofs, and inquire how far it is
adapted to schools in this country, he will find abundance of corresponding
facts in the several schools, where this system has been successfully
introduced and established, some of which have been submitted to the public in
the reports of these establishments.
Instructions for modelling a School on the above
"Ludos literarum strepere discentium vocibus," —
Having gone through the system of the Male Asylum, explained the
principles on which it is founded, and set forth some of the manifold
advantages, with which this mode of conducting a school is attended, I am now
to comply with a requisition frequently made to me, by giving minute and
particular instructions for reducing this scheme to practice.
Begin with arranging the school into classes. In large schools, where
great numbers have made an equal progress, each class may consist of from 24 to
36 scholars. But when your school does not exceed 200, it should be studied not
to have more than six or eight classes. In general, the fewer the classes the
better. As these are formed according to the proficiency of the scholars, the
size, more than the number of the classes, will vary with the magnitude of the
school. In the higher classes the gradation of proficiency is not so defined as
in the lower, and by consequence in small schools there will more scholars fall
together in the former than in the latter.
Your next step is to select your ushers and teachers from among your
senior and best scholars, chiefly out of the two or three higher classes. This
is best done, if you yourself are not acquainted with the dispositions,
characters, and attainments of your scholars, by the elective voice of the
higher classes and best boys in the school, and afterwards by means of those
teachers, who seldom fail to find for you the boy best fitted for your purpose.
Their intimate knowledge of their school fellows, and their being responsible
to you for their recommendation, are pledges of their faithful discharge of
this duty. The assistant of a class may often be a trusty boy of the superior
class, and may be left, when it is deemed advisable, to the option of each
trusty teacher: and, in large schools, and even in your early arrangements in
small schools, when much is to be done, and in some hands the simplest
operations, if never before practised, appear difficult and operose, an usher
and sub-usher may, in the first instance, be nominated of the most capable
boys. It is better to begin with a full share of teachers and assistants. Their
numbers, where the classes fall short of twenty-four scholars, may be
diminished as the school gets into regularity, and the task of teaching becomes
facile and familiar, and the work of teachers and scholars goes on with
satisfaction and delight.
New arrangements of teachers is a powerful instrument of discipline, as
well as a sure mean of obtaining willing and able help-mates in the office of
tuition. These are to be made as often as convenient.
Next, each class is to be paired off into tutors and pupils: the head,
or rather the most trusty and best boy tutors the worst; next best next worst,
and so on. The pupil takes his seat, of course, next to his tutor. But the rank
each scholar holds in his class, depends on his daily exertions and
proficiency; and, by prompting or correcting one another, varies every lesson
with his comparative diligence and attainment: and the tutor often falls below
his pupil, where, if he remain for any length of time, he becomes in turn
pupil, and his pupil, tutor. In those lessons of writing, arithmetic, &c.
where the tasks are performed individually, each inferior boy or pupil in the
class sits by a superior or tutor, who sees that he is busy, and assists him
when necessary; while himself is instructed by his teacher or assistant.
Of this allotment of tutors and pupils, by no means the most important
and necessary to the system, a new arrangement will be requisite, as often as
the Pupils gain upon their Tutors, and every change operates as a stimulus.
In each class, the teacher's book is marked with the day of the month,
where the lesson begins in the morning; and each lesson for that day with a
score, by a pencil, or otherwise. No lesson should, with the lower classes,
occupy more than a quarter of an hour, and with the higher more than half an
hour both in learning and saying. This material rule yields only in importance
to another, that no lesson must, on any account, be dismissed till it be well
said. If a master overlooks a class in getting their lesson, and sees all busy
and attentive, what the best moiety of the class can learn in ten minutes, and
say in five, is a proper task for the half-hour, and in same proportion for the
quarter, if that class is thus employed all day long: but if for a shorter
period, stricter attention will be required, and a longer task assigned for the
half hour. The assistant teacher often, and the teacher occasionally, says his
lesson with his class to the teacher, master, or usher. In the respective
classes, the tutors learn their own lessons, while they teach their pupils,
letter by letter, syllable by syllable, word by word, line by line, verse by
verse, or sentence by sentence, as the classes ascend; that is, one letter, or
syllable, or word, or line, or verse, or sentence, is respectively learnt
before the next is looked at: and, when all is gone over in this way, the
lesson is revised as often as necessary, and, on every revisal, is divided into
larger portions, which are first learnt one by one, till the whole is well
gotten at a single rehearsal. Difficult words, and words which have not
occurred before, are to be particularly attended to, and first learnt, and
after awhile they only need be learnt, as the great bulk of the lesson will be
already familiar from the frequent recurrence of the same words.
When the lesson has been thus prepared or learnt, it is said by the
scholars to the teacher in portions by rotation: and if well said, they proceed
to the next; if not, they must repeat the same lesson, even shortened, if need
be, till it be well learnt. In saying the lesson, the scholar, who prompts
another, or tells him what he mistakes, takes precedence, or the place in the
class above him he prompted, and all those between them; and any of the
scholars, who are found inferior, and deficient, and not able to keep pace with
their class-fellows, are degraded to a lower class; and, in like manner, the
boys, who excel their class-fellows, are promoted to a higher class. The same
division, as above, of each lesson into parts, and learning, portion by
portion, is observed in committing to memory the catechism, religious
exercises, addition, and multiplication tables, and throughout every branch of
education. The rule of the school is — short, easy, and frequent lessons
— divided into short parts, gotten one by one, and well said.
Every class in the school, or (where for the sake of room, the classes
are arranged two and two, as at the Royal Military Asylum, and say their
lessons alternately, the one occupying the ground which the other has quitted)
every other class may be saying their lessons at the same time; and the master
or usher, passing along, may, in some measure, at once observe how the
respective classes acquit themselves. But this is done effectually by
over-hearing the classes by rotation, when saying their lessons: and when the
master gives orders or instructions, requiring attention and comprehension, it
should be to the ushers and teachers, and assistants, and they to the tutors,
and the tutors to their pupils, recollecting always that one capable boy made
by you to comprehend any thing, in which there is the least difficulty, can
bring it down to the level of his schoolfellows' capacities, and explain it to
them, far better than you can. He knows where his difficulty lay in
comprehending you: and his time is only employed in explaining to them, in
their own language, what they do not know, while you are often employed in
telling them only what they do know, and frequently in a language which they do
not understand. Another rule of the school is, that no boy ever knows any thing
you tell him, or is improved by any thing you do for him: it is what he tells
you, and what he does for himself which is alone useful.
In the evening at dismissing, for the day, the progress for each class
is registered by the teacher or assistant in a book; — number of lessons
read; pages or lines gone over in these lessons; and hours thus employed, in
three adjoining columns; and so with catechism, religious instruction, writing,
ciphering, and all the tasks of the day. These are added weekly and monthly,
and compared, by the master and teacher, with what was done the preceding day,
week, and month. In like manner, each boy, employed in writing, ciphering, or
such tasks as, though simultaneous as to the class, are performed individually,
and not collectively, registers of himself all his daily operations in the last
page of his copy, or ciphering book; which are compared, by his teacher, with
what he did the day before, and what other boys of his class and standing do:
— and so weekly, and monthly. The page, in which these registers are kept,
is ruled into thirty-one parallel lines, so as to last a month, and into as
many columns as there are daily entries to be made. In the beginning of each
month the book, and page of the book, &c. where the class begin to read,
The examination of the black book should regularly take place once a
week, on Saturdays for example, and a jury of good boys be selected among the
teachers and scholars, to try the culprits. It is essential to the wellbeing of
the school that its rewards and punishments, which are left to discretion and
circumstances, be administered with equal and distributive justice. It is not
to be forgotten that temperate and judicious correction is more effectual than
that which is intemperate and severe; that praise, encouragement, and favour,
are to be tried before dispraise, shame, and disgrace; confinement between
school hours, and on holidays and play-days, which your teachers enable you to
inflict, is to be preferred to corporal punishment; and even solitary
confinement to severe flagellation. But at all events, the authority of the
master must be maintained by discipline, in one shape or other. I cannot,
however, forbear repeating my opinion, founded on experience in this country,
that with equal justice (the great prop of discipline and contentment),
confinement with a task in charity schools, between school-hours, or on
holidays, may supersede corporal punishment. It deserves to be particularly
remarked, that this system hinges on the teachers of each class; and that their
station must, in one shape or other, be rendered desirable, and an object of
emulation. And also that, if circumstances required it, almost every other
regulation may be dispensed with.
To sum up all, never prescribe a lesson or task which can require more
than a quarter, or at most half an hour for the learner to be completely master
of it: never quit a letter, a word, a line, or a verse, or a sentence, or a
page, or a chapter, or a book, or a task of any kind, till it is familiar to
PART II OF THE PRACTICES OF THE ASYLUM
— Pudeatne me in ipsis statim elementis etiam brevia
docendi monstrare compendia?
In the former part of this essay, I have stated the system of the Male
Asylum, and the plan on which it is conducted; and I have endeavoured to unite
theory to practice, by elucidating the principles on which this system rests.
It is the mode of tuition by the scholars themselves, which constitutes the
system: and this plan of conducting the school is essentially requisite to the
success of the institution. Wherever this scheme is followed, there is the
Madras System; and wherever a school is conducted independently of the agency
of the scholars, there another system is followed. But beside this system,
there are isolated practices, which were also contrived at the asylum, to
abridge labour in the art of teaching and learning in their different
elementary steps. Such are the processes of alphabetical writing on sand or
slate, reading by syllables, spelling without tedious and useless repetitions,
&c. But these form no part of the above system, and do not arrange
themselves under the general law of tuition, which has been explained. These
detached, subsidiary, and auxiliary practices, may go along with any other
system, and be introduced into any school, conducted in the common, or any
They differ from the system, as art does from science. The system,
consisting of a series of consecutive laws, linked together in the closest
union, and depending on a common principle, assimilates itself to a science,
however humble that science may be. Its general laws apply alike to every stage
and branch of elementary Education. The practices which follow are of a widely
different description. Circumscribed in their operation, each of them applies
solely to the peculiar step in the progress of elementary Education for which
it is framed. Consisting of a set of subordinate devices or helps in tuition,
and not depending on the general principle of conducting Education through the
agency of the scholars themselves, they may be said to constitute an art, as
that word is used, in contradistinction to science, to denote a bare collection
of rules or instructions. But this will be better understood when we have
explained the nature, the use, and the peculiar advantages of these
alphabetical, syllabic, and other initiatory processes, by means of which the
art of reading, spelling, writing, and arithmetic is facilitated and
Of Teaching the Alphabet by writing its Characters on
"Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the
JOHN viii. 6.
It will not be deemed a wide departure from my subject, if I preface
this chapter with a recommendation to parents, who would wish to prevent their
children from acquiring a vitiated pronunciation, and to enable them, soon and
readily, to speak distinctly, that they begin at an early period, to teach them
the elementary sounds. This is an ancient practice, which may be revived with
advantage at table, at play, &c. Begin with the letter A, repeating the
lesson at intervals, till the child pronounces it distinctly and readily; and
so with the other vowels, or perfect sounds, E,
I, O, U; then the consonants, or imperfect sounds. It is obvious what a
help this must be to the child, to articulate distinctly and speak early. And
having thus acquired the names of the letters, he will afterwards have only to
learn to trace with his finger, and distinguish by his eye, the forms or
characters corresponding to these sounds. Those parents, who wish their
children to learn French, or any other language, may also instruct them in the
elementary sounds peculiar to that language, at an early age, when the organs
of speech are pliant, and readily formed to any mould.
In writing on sand, a tray or board (thirty-six inches by ten), with a
ledge (of ½ an inch deep) on every side, may be prepared for a school. A
little dry sand is put into it, so that with a shake it will become level, and
spread itself thinly over the bottom. The teacher, who is sometimes the boy who
last learned the alphabet himself, often an expert boy selected for the
purpose, traces in the sand with his forefinger the letter A, of which there is
a prototype before him. The scholar retraces the impression again and again,
the teacher guiding his finger at first, if necessary; the sand is then
smoothed with a shake. Next the scholar, looking at the letter before him,
tries to copy it, and is assisted as before, and directed till he can do it
with facility and precision. The prototype is then withdrawn, and the scholar
must now copy it from memory. This first and very difficult task achieved, a
pause or interval of rest or play is allowed, and as often as is requisite, to
unbend the stretched bow, and to ensure uniform and uninterrupted attention
while at work. These interludes become every day less and less necessary, as a
habit of greater and greater application is superinduced.
In like manner the second letter, B, is taught. When he returns to A,
and makes A and B till he can form both with readiness and exactness. Thus ends
the first lesson, which, at an average of capacity and age, may require an hour
or two hours. But I must warn those, who have not teachers that have been
taught in this way, much more if they have not the same rigid discipline, for
commanding the exertion of the teacher and the attention of the scholar, from
expecting this result. The same observation the reader must apply throughout.
Without the same discipline, and the same skill in the teacher, the same result
cannot be obtained.
This done, the two next letters are taught in the same manner, which
does not require the same length of time, as the great difficulty of forming an
image of a letter in the mind's eye, and copying it, was conquered, in the
first lesson. And thus the capital letters are taught two by two, till the
alphabet is gone through in this manner, when the scholar returns to his first
letters, which by this time have escaped his memory, but are easily revived,
and goes over his alphabet anew, at four letters to a lesson, and again at
eight; and afterwards at sixteen; last of all, the whole, till he is perfectly
master of his capital letters.
The same process is followed in regard to the small letters; particular
attention is shewn to the letters b, d, p, and q, which the pupil is taught to
distinguish, by telling him that each is formed of an o, and a straight line;
that the o in b and p is on the right, and d and q on the left hand, or by such
like device, which will readily occur to the earnest teacher. In like manner
the double letters, monosyllables of two letters, the digits, and numbers are
taught by writing them on sand.
The superiority, which writing on sand possesses over every other mode,
as an initiatory process, consists in its being performed with the simplest and
most manageable instrument, the (fore) finger (of the right hand) which the
child can guide more readily than he can a piece of chalk, a pencil, or pen.
The simplicity of this process, and its fitness for children of four years, at
which age they were admitted into the asylum, entitle it to the notice of all
schools in a similar predicament. But with children further advanced, slates
and pencils may be used after the sand, as is done in various schools in the
metropolis, &c. To simplify the teaching of the alphabet the letters are
sometimes, when found expedient for the scholar, arranged according to the
simplicity of their form, and not their alphabetic order.
This mode of teaching the alphabet in sand not only recommends itself by
the simplicity of the device and facility of the execution; but it also
prevents all learning by rote, and gives at the first operation a distinct and
accurate idea of the form of each letter. It also gratifies the love of action
and of imitation inherent in the young mind. As much as drawing commands the
attention of children more than reading, so much does tracing letters obtain
over barely reading them.
Instead of one pupil, our little teacher has often one or more on each
hand, according to the number who may have entered the school at the same
I have been thus particular in regard to teaching every lesson
perfectly, as you go along, and repeating it as often as is necessary, to leave
a permanent impression, because it applies to practical education in all its
branches, in every language, art, and science.
In teaching the alphabet, the letters (for the prototype) both capital
and small, may be printed on a card, paper, or board; and also the
monosyllables of two letters, with the digits and numbers. Why the horn-book of
our ancestors is thrown aside, there can be but one reason, and this reason
has, in many ways, retarded and defeated education. The first card, or board
(the old horn-book), put into the hands of children, should never go beyond the
alphabet, digits, and syllables of two letters; but of these, a division of two
or more may be made, if chosen, for the sake of economy and brevity; but
especially, that the scholar may see the stages of his journey, and mark his
own progress: and still more, that no one of his books be ever parted with,
till he be perfectly master of its contents, which will enable him to go
through the next, with a precision and despatch, not otherwise attainable. In
the absence of a horn-book, these alphabets may be readily and cheaply
obtained, by cutting out of the spelling books the first and second leaves, and
pasting down the alternate pages on strong brown paper or pasteboard, that they
may endure the thumbing to which they are subjected, and save the remainder of
the spelling-books, which is sometimes worn out in common schools before the
child has learnt his A, B, C.
When familiar with his alphabet, and able, without the smallest
hesitation, both to tell every letter in any book, and write it on sand, then,
and not before, he proceeds to his next stage.
Of Monosyllables and previous Spelling
mega biblion mega kakon
Having laid the foundation well in a perfect acquaintance with the
alphabets in every way in which the scholar can be examined in them, you have
made the best provision for rendering his future progress rapid, pleasant, and
satisfactory. Then, and not till then, you enter upon the first process of
reading monosyllables — the groundwork of all that follows. This branch of
tuition commences in the usual way, by first spelling the word on book, and
then pronouncing or reading it by combining the separate sounds into one
articulation. But the practice of the Madras school does not stop here. As soon
as the lesson is thus said in a retrograde as well as a progressive order, the
book is shut, and the scholar is asked to spell every word in a desultory
order, or dodgingly, as the boys call it.
It is proper here to observe, that whenever I use the word spell
by itself, I always mean spelling off book after the lesson has been said and
the book is shut. In this spelling the Madras scholar is exercised after every
lesson (see Chapter Vth); and in these his initiatory lessons every word is
thus spelt. When, on the other hand, I speak of spelling (in the
spelling-book), previous to the reading of the word, as is usually practised
throughout long spelling-books, &c. and termed simply spelling, as when it
is said, "the scholar is in spelling," this I always denominate previous
spelling, or spelling on book; and, in the Madras school, monosyllables only
are taught in this way. To this distinction it is necessary to attend, as it is
proposed to restrict this practice, of previous spelling, to words of one
syllable, and entirely to abolish it in words of more than one syllable, as not
only not requisite or expedient, but as slovenly, tedious, tiresome, and
fatiguing. It is not a little remarkable, that a practice so barbarous and
unmeaning, and fitted only to waste the time of the master, and retard the
progress of the scholar, should be suffered to go on from generation to
generation without notice or consideration.
The fittest book for a beginner, as consisting solely of monosyllables
and easy stories (one edition for boys, another for girls) of words of one
syllable, is Mrs. Trimmer's Charity-school Spelling-book, Part First.
In perusing this initiatory book, the scholar spells the syllables on
and off book: thus on book, b-1-u-n-t, blunt; off book, blunt, b-l-u-n-t.
Here the utmost pains must be taken that every word, as you go along, be
made perfectly familiar to the scholar, considering always that as four lessons
are at this stage said every hour, it is only necessary that these lessons be
well learnt, and, how short soever they be, your progress will be rapid beyond
example; but if the lessons, even in the first perusal, are passed over, as
often happens in the general run of schools, in a slovenly and careless manner,
a load of toil and tedium is laid up; and the scholar, conscious of his
imperfect and slow progress, and puzzled and embarrassed by every lesson, every
where feels dissatisfied with the irksomeness of his daily tasks, and alike
disgusted with his master, his school, and his book. Let it also be considered,
that this is not only the groundwork, but also the main part of your future
edifice, that the whole of the art of reading in the Madras school is reduced
to its first elements — letters and their combination into single
syllables — and that, in teaching and learning these constituent parts,
all the labour of the master, and difficulty of the scholar, consist. It is not
enough, then, that you go through this spelling-book a first time in the most
perfect manner. The impression of a first perusal, however strong and correct
at the time, wears off, and to be permanent it must be renewed by revision as
often as shall be found necessary. A second or third perusal in due form will,
in general, suffice; and for these very little time is required, if, on the
first perusal, a just attention was paid to the foregoing instructions. It is
not, however, till on examination the scholar (by which it will be noticed I
mean every boy or girl qualified to remain in his or her respective class) can
on examination of the master or superintendant spell readily on and off book
every word in it, that he goes through it once more, reading the words without
previous spelling thus, "blunt," continuing to be exercised as before in
spelling off book, a practice which is followed up throughout. This reading
without previous spelling will be found to cost no trouble or time; you have
only to give leave, and it is done. It is the contrivance of the Madras tuition
in reading, that every step of its progress not only prepares for, but actually
anticipates, as it were, the following step.
In order that this fundamental branch of tuition may receive that
attention which its essential importance requires, Mrs. Trimmer has prepared a
spelling-book contrived to instruct, rivet, and confirm the scholar in this
elementary process, which I have said is not only the groundwork, but the
actual anticipation of all that follows.
This "Monosyllabic Spelling-book" consists of all the syllables which
most usually occur in the English language, in a regulated succession from
short and simple to long and difficult. It contains no reading which the child
can either comprehend or readily learn by memory, or repeat by rote. While
children are thought to be engaged in learning to read, they are often merely
exercising their memories. This second book is taught by spelling on and off
book, and afterwards reading on book without previous spelling; and spelling
off book in the same precise and perfect manner as the Charity-school
Spelling-book. And here, in reality, ends the chief labour in teaching and
learning to read, for by the devices which follow it is contrived that little
more remains to be done, and what does remain, consists almost solely in
repeating and practising what has been already taught and learnt.
Observe, that from this time forward there is no more previous spelling,
in which so much time is wasted, except indeed the scholar happens to meet with
a syllable which, after all has been done, puzzles him, when he resolves that
syllable, and that only, into letters by previous spelling, to enable him to
Of Syllabic and other Reading
"Let that which he learns next be nearly conjoined with that which he
knows already." — Locke.
As spelling monosyllables on book consists in resolving a syllable into
the letters of which it is composed, in order to reunite and combine their
separate sounds into a single articulation; so syllabic reading consists in
resolving dissyllables and polysyllables into the respective syllables of which
they are composed, to prepare for their future reunion and composition.
In the first instance the scholar pronounces and reads these syllables,
one by one, as if they were monosyllables, pausing an instant between each
syllable, and double that time at the end of each word There is no other
difference between his reading now and in monosyllables, than that he is taught
to pause somewhat longer at the end of a word, than between the syllables of
which the word is composed.
Thus — he — pro-ceeds — through — the — child's
— book — part — first — and — se-cond — Mis-tress
— Trim-mer's — spel-ling — book — part — se-cond
— and — is — ne-ver — al-low-ed — to — pro-nounce
— two — syl-la-bles — to-ge-ther — till — he —
can — thus — read — syl-la-ble — by — syl-la-ble
— and — spell — e-ve-ry — word — dis-tinct-ly.
The object of all tuition is to simplify. What else was the invention of
an alphabet, if I may call it by this name, of syllables, which is said to have
preceded the alphabet of letters? And what else is the invention of the
alphabet of letters? Yet in the common mode of teaching we begin to read words
before we can read syllables, and syllables before we know our letters,
defeating, in a great measure, the facilities, which these improvements afford.
The Chinese have no alphabet, and their language is said to consist of 70,000
written characters. With them it is the labour of the life of man to learn to
read. In some African and Eastern Countries, there is said to exist an alphabet
of syllables, which, compared with the Chinese language, where there is a
specific sign for every word, or rather for every object or idea, greatly
abbreviates the number of written characters, and abridges the task of reading.
But the last improvement reduces these signs into a far narrower compass by an
alphabet of letters.
The history of these improvements naturally points out to us our process
in teaching to read. Let us avail ourselves of these invaluable discoveries in
their full extent, by teaching every letter perfectly in the first instance,
then each syllable perfectly. The facility, which this gives to teaching, is
beyond the belief of those, who never tried it and experienced its effect. For
how many fewer letters are there than syllables? And how many fewer syllables
than words? And how much easier is it to read a syllable than a word? Suppose
we have no more than the letters to learn, and we could read; how soon were it
accomplished? Now in this way we have only syllables to learn: the rest, the
reading of a word at once, &c. always follows of its own accord, and often
in despite of your efforts to prevent it. Be-sides — the — very
— act — of — read-ing — thus — may — be —
con-si-der-ed — as — in — some — mea-sure — the —
act-u-al — prac-tice — of — spel-ling.
The difference of teaching to read by syllables instead of words, may be
illustrated by the difference between teaching numeration in the common way,
and dividing the numbers into periods and half periods. In the one way how
tedious and difficult the process, and how few, taught in this way, can read a
number consisting of twenty or thirty places! In the other way how easy is the
process, where you have only to teach the scholar to read a number of three
places, or one syllable, if I may so speak, of numeration: the rest is merely
repetition of this single syllable, with the thousands of the half periods, and
the characteristics of the periods, which being a regular series is readily
acquired. In this way the scholar can, in a few minutes, be taught to read any
number, however long, which otherwise is scarce ever learnt through life: and
yet, whether through obstinacy, inveterate custom, or ignorance, how many more
are still taught in the one way rather than the other! Let those, who read
this, and have never learnt to divide a sum in numeration and notation, look
into any book of arithmetic, where this is taught, or ask the instruction of a
friend, and they will perceive the difference between one mode of teaching and
another; and comprehend how it must have fared with all the branches of
education. See Chap. VII. on Arithmetic.
Though this reading syllabically is nothing more than practising the
reading of monosyllables before learnt, yet it completely prepares the scholar
for his next process, viz. reading word by word.
Having gone through his spelling-book syllabically he now revises it,
reading word by word (which he will be found to have learnt insensibly), making
a pause between each word as he before did between each syllable. He next
begins his Psalter, which he also reads word by word: and now again let it be
observed, that he is, on no account, allowed to join two words together, but is
made to pause at the end of each word, as if there was a comma, thus, "Blessed
— is — the — man — that — hath — not —
walked — in — the — counsel — of — the —
ungodly," &c.. . .
As before, when reading by syllables, if at a loss, he resolves the
syllable into letters; so now, if he be puzzled with a word, he resolves that
word, but that word only, into syllables, thus, "com-men-da-ble." And, when
once he can read readily and accurately word by word, it will be found that he
can already, and without further instructions than a very little practice, read
in the usual way, which these progressive practices enable him to do distinctly
and with precision. The rule is to read slowly, audibly, distinctly,
pronouncing aloud the last syllable of every word, and last words of every
sentence.. . .
Particular attention is now paid to the points or stops, which were
before learnt in the Child's Book, Part II.; and their use is rendered
habitually familiar to the scholar by his being taught while reading to repeat
the word one for a comma; one, two, for a semi-colon, &c. and
question, for a point of interrogation; and so of
Let it also be observed, that the first word (in the school language)
which the scholar reads in every page is the number of that page. By never
passing a verse, or chapter, or lesson, or page, without reading and learning
its number, till it be well known he is taught by degrees, and almost
insensibly, to turn up to any place in his book.
Of unreiterated Spelling
The same attention which has been found to simplify and facilitate every
step in the process of reading is observed in abbreviating the tedious and
wearisome process of spelling as it has been heretofore practised. Having
before entirely abolished the previous spelling of words of more than one
syllable, and by consequence the useless reiteration, with which it was
accompanied, and which consists solely in repeating what the scholar has just
before shewn that he knew and need not to repeat, so now in spelling off book
the same useless repetitions are laid aside.
At the end of every lesson read, each class is required to spell off
book every word with which they can be supposed not familiar. But this is not
done in the common tedious mode, calculated to waste the time of both master
and scholar. Not thus, m-i-s — mis, — r-e — re — misre,
— p-r-e — pre, — misrepre, — s-e-n — sen, —
misrepresen, — t-a-— ta, — misrepresenta, — t-i — ti,
— misrepresentati, — o-n — on, — misrepresentation; but
briefly thus, m-i-s — r-e — p-r-e — s-e-n — t-a — t-i
— o-n; here are 102 letters repeated instead of 17, or 6 for 1.
But to be more particular: the scholar is desired to spell a word; for
example, "faith." He repeats the word after you in the first instance, and
before he spells it, that you may be sure he does not mistake it, which
otherwise often happens; but he does not repeat it after he has spelt it, as it
never, I believe, happens that having spelt the word, he fails in pronouncing
it. So far nothing is gained by this inversion of the common practice but
precision. The teacher says "faith;" the scholar repeats "faith," and spells
"f-a-i-t-h," pausing an instant between each letter, for the sake of
distinctness. It is when the scholar comes to spell words of more syllables
than one that this precision turns to account; while he reads syllabically, he
is also asked syllabically to spell his word, thus, faith-ful-ness, which he
repeats, faith-ful-ness, and then spells, f-a-i-t-h-f-u-1-n-e-s-s, pausing an
instant between each letter, and double that time at the end of each syllable,
but without repeating the syllables as he goes along, or the word after he has
done; neither of which serve any other purpose than to create delay and impede
progress. After he is expert in this mode of spelling, the word is asked in the
common way, "faithfulness;" but he always repeats by syllables,
"faith-fulness," and spells as before.
It is only words which have not occurred frequently, or that may be
supposed not to be well remembered, that the scholar is required to spell, of
which the number diminishes daily.
The manner of hearing a class spell will serve to give a general idea of
the mode of examining them in their tasks, whether in reading, or morality, or
Each boy in rotation, beginning with the head boy, or as many as may be
thought to suffice, beginning at any part of the class, spells a word the most
difficult in the lesson which has been read. When he mistakes a letter, the boy
next in order, who corrects him, must only name the single letter, where the
mistake was committed, when he takes his place; the same boy (the first) goes
on spelling the rest of the word, subject to the same correction as before,
from the boys below him; and he must spell his word over and over again, if
necessary, till he make no mistake: then all, who have risen above him, have
each his own word in order, so that, in one round, as many words will be spelt,
as there are scholars in the class, each spelling his own word. In the same way
in the spelling book, each boy in a class reads a word by rotation, subject to
the same correction, and taking of place, by the boys below; and when they have
advanced further, they read by lines or sentences, or parts of sentences; each
scholar in turn reading a small portion, till the teacher say, "Stop," or
"next" boy. How simple and unnecessary do such minute directions appear to
those acquainted with these practices? and how little do they imagine that many
will still be puzzled in executing them?
In executing these directions and every other regarding the school, it
is of the greatest benefit to teach every scholar, whenever an error is
committed, as to the rule of the school, in the spelling or reading of the
classes, &c. at once, what the rule is, and never to quit that object, nor
any such, till it be well understood by all the class. This will often cost
some pains at the time, but the labour so bestowed tells ever after. The usual
practice of masters telling the scholars at once, when they mistake or
hesitate, and giving instructions without stopping to ascertain whether the
instructions be attended to or comprehended, is the source of much retardation.
Let not any thing, which can be taught at once, be put off to a future lesson,
(except for repetition or revisal, which after the most perfect instruction for
the first time will still be necessary) but let it be made easy and familiar
before you quit it, whatever time it may require. The teachers and assistants
enable you to do this, at no expense of trouble to yourself; and the benefit is
No better illustration need be required of the devices which have been
employed to waste time in school than that of reiterating the syllables in
spelling. Yet with those wedded to their early custom, this and every similar
practice will find not only apologists, but advocates. They will speak of the
facility it affords the scholar in spelling a long word, and the habit derived
from it, &c. I answer once for all to such objections, that no plea can be
urged in its favour, but must recoil upon the mode in which the scholar has
been taught. It can only be owing to his imperfect progress that he can require
such stepping-stones. These aids, if they be aids, can never be necessary to
the scholar, who has been taught to spell every word perfectly as he goes
along. Nay, even in schools where the scholars have all along practised
spelling in the common way, I have always found that they fall most readily
into the mode I have proposed, and that when they can spell a word one way,
they can, with very little practice, also spell it in the other; and ever after
with equal readiness and facility.
By teaching the scholar to spell off book every word, as he goes along,
with which he is supposed unacquainted, he will learn not only to spell well
and accurately, but also to read more distinctly, and far sooner, than when the
same pains in spelling off book are not taken in the beginning. The attention,
paid to these elementary and initiatory practices, will be amply repaid by the
facility and despatch, with which it will forward and crown the subsequent
In the common careless and hasty mode of reading he may be thought to go
over twice the ground at first setting out; but it is in a wrong road, which he
must either retrace, or wander far wide of his object in a by-path, which grows
every day more and more intricate, and more and more fatiguing; while the
traveller, on the high road, finds comfortable stages to refresh and recruit;
gains fresh strength every day, and advances with redoubled speed to the end of
The management of the pen is of itself attended with no small
difficulty, which should not be increased to the pupil, by his having at the
same time the form of the letters to learn. On this account he is now taught to
trace the written, as before the printed, characters in sand. He may also be
taught to write, in the first instance, on a slate with a slate pencil, which
in many cases may supersede all instruction at school in writing with paper,
pen, and ink.
No person is ever allowed, on any pretence, to set a copy, or write a
single word or letter in the scholar's copy (or ciphering) book, but himself.
He has before him his move-able copy, either of copperplate or written by the
master, or usher, or teacher, &c. prepared at leisure, and ready for the
whole school in rotation. And he is at once, by cutting a slip of paper to the
width of the lines of his copy, or other device of this sort, to rule his own
paper, which a little practice in this way will soon enable him to do without
such help. He is also, as soon as possible, to make his own pen, and do every
thing for himself, under the direction, not with the assistance, of his
The common practice of ruling paper, and making pens, &c. for the
scholar, serves only to prevent him from learning to do these things for
himself; and the writing of copies for each individual scholar in his copy book
cannot too soon be exploded. It not only wastes paper, pen, and ink, and time
uselessly, but also perniciously; for if the master prefers copies of his own
writing to copperplate, he has only to write them on detached slips of paper,
when each slip will serve a whole school in rotation, and may be written with
more care and precision. Equally pernicious is the practice of writing sums for
the scholar in his ciphering book, which so far completely prevents the scholar
from learning what he is sent to school to learn.
When rigid economy is requisite, as at the common run of schools where
the poor are taught, the Madras System enables the ingenious schoolmaster, (by
means of sand and slates, and other devices, which his numerous ministers are
ever ready to contrive, as well as to conduct) to practise various savings in
books, paper, pen, and ink. And besides the great advantage of such little
books as I have recommended for the purpose of stages in your journey, and for
solemn examination, economy is not to be overlooked. The five spelling books I
have named do not exceed in price a large spelling book, and one is not worn
while the other is used; whereas it is not uncommon for a large spelling book
to be worn out before the alphabet is yet learnt. Besides, in schools for the
lower orders of children a few of these small tracts will suffice, and the
others readily dispensed with, as the syllabic reading of the Psalter, or even
the Testament, will supply their place.
In the introduction to arithmetic, numeration, or the reading of any
number and notation, or the noting down of any number, are taught in a way
which, though of long standing, is so little known or practised, that I shall
be excused for briefly referring to it. And here I take the occasion of
observing or repeating, that it is by resolving tasks into their component
parts that they are rendered simple and facile.
Reading was facilitated by a syllabic process, resolving every word into
the syllables of which it is composed, not altogether unlike that by which
numeration and notation are performed, where every number is resolved into its
component parts, which are simply half periods, consisting alternately of units
and thousands; and periods consisting of units; millions; billions, or millions
of millions; trillions, or millions of millions of millions, &c. Let the
scholar be taught to read or note a single syllable, or a number of three
figures, viz. units, hundreds, and thousands; and by ending every period with
its characteristic, and every half period by pronouncing the word thousands,
any number, however long, is read off-hand, and at once; for the periods follow
in a regular and consecutive series, which is readily learnt, and goes on
progressively to an indefinite length. Teach the scholar to read any number
composed of three, or less digits, as 8 and 70 and 78,300 and 308 and 370 and
378. An example must suffice —
3,333; 333,333; 333,333; 333,333; 333,333; 333,333 is read 3 thousand,
333 quintillions; 333 thous., 333 quartillions; 333 thous., 333 trillions; 333
thous., 333 billions; 333 thous., 333 millions; 333 thous., 333.
Note down seventy septillions, eighty thousand quadrillions, five
hundred billions, and four thousand and ten.
70; 000,000; 000,000; 080,000; 000,000; 000,500; 000,000; 004,010.
The master, whom I have only puzzled by these brief and general notices,
I refer to the writers on arithmetic for that explanation, which it is not my
province to detail, because this practice is not peculiar to the Madras System;
and I have to apologize not so much for having despatched this digression in a
few words, as for having at all introduced it, which I was led to do by the
resemblance that the syllabic reading of the Madras School seems to me to bear
to this method of reading numbers, and on account of the illustration, which I
have before derived from this source.
In proceeding to the four cardinal rules of arithmetic, which indeed
constitute the whole, let the same principle be still pursued. Let the
elementary parts be perfectly learnt in classes by short, easy, and frequent
lessons, repeated as often as necessary. Particularly before you begin to add,
subtract, multiply, or divide, let every member of the class be able to say the
addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division tables respectively, in any
and every way without the smallest hesitation or mistake. Examine thus, 9 + 6
and 6 + 9=15.15 — 6 = 9 and 15 — 9 = 6 . 8 x 12 or 12x8 = 96. 96
— 12=8 and 96 = 8 = 12. — In this specimen will be seen, by those who
are adepts in arithmetic, the construction of the addition table, which is also
a subtraction table, and is of the same form with the well-known multiplication
table, which is also a division table. — These thoroughly and perfectly
learnt, every operation is comparatively facile and easy.
It cannot but be noticed how little has been said of writing and
arithmetic, and how few alterations and amendments are therein proposed; the
reason is, that from the nature of these operations less remained to be done,
and what did remain has in a great degree been anticipated in the various
instructions which go before. When the learner writes in his own copy book, and
works his own sum, and sets it down, these operations stand, as it were, in the
place of the Madras overseers and reports: a body and shape are given to his
diligence and progress, of which you can at any time take the dimensions, and
measure its length and breadth, without daily, weekly, and monthly registers.
But in spelling and reading the scholar's progress is not so well defined. The
ground gone over furnishes no criterion of his attainments and advancements
— no visible image remains of his daily diligence and progress. His
letters are not always perfectly learnt when he is reading his Bible. No such
traces of his footsteps are left behind him, either of his good or bad success,
as are to be seen in his copy and ciphering books, or as in the registers and
solemn examination of the Madras School, by which his daily progress in reading
and spelling is as readily distinguished, as in writing and ciphering. And as
no little book is quitted till he is perfectly master of it, his attainment is
at once ascertained by the rank he holds in the school, and the book he has in
his hands. Besides the mode of the teachers instructing by classes, detailed
above, applies to teaching to write in sand and on slate, learning tables in
arithmetic, and adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing, &c. and
need not here be repeated and detailed anew. The same observation applies to
the instruction in
Morality and Religion
It is almost unnecessary to repeat, that all the facilities of the
system apply alike to the first principles of moral and religious Instruction,
as to the rudiments of reading and spelling, writing, and arithmetic. As the
alphabet is taught letter by letter, &c. and the addition and
multiplication tables are learnt column by column, then two at a lesson,
&c. so the same division of labour, and short and frequent stages, and
perfect knowledge of every lesson, are observed in this most important branch
of instruction, to which what goes before should be chiefly subservient. This
division of labour, or short and frequent stages, however common in
well-regulated schools, I inculcate so often, because it is much neglected in
the great run of inferior schools: and it is the hinge on which many questions,
put to me on this subject, have turned. The teachers, by instructing the
scholars in the Catechism, and other religious exercises, leave only to the
master or superintendant the easy charge of solemn examination, and of
explaining to the teachers what they are to explain to the rest of the school.
For this purpose the Church Catechism, broken into short questions, and Mrs.
Trimmer's Teachers' Assistant, and Scripture Catechism are admirably adapted.
Of the first, by reason of its small size and price, one may be put into the
hands of every child: of the others, one will suffice for a class, the teacher
instructing his class viva voce.
In taking charge of the Sunday Schools on my arrival at Swanage, I found
that the great bulk of the children could not be made to learn their Catechism,
and that comparatively few could repeat it distinctly. The reason was, they
were taught the whole, as it were, at once. By restricting them to learn one
question thoroughly, before they went to another, I have now the satisfaction
of hearing the most part of them repeat their catechism distinctly.. . .
But what more particularly regards the moral and religious application
of this system of Education, and the grand views, which it opens to the
Christian world, will be found in the following sermon on the appropriate
Education of the poor.
Such are the chief practices of the art of tuition, peculiar to the
Madras School, or recorded on the books of the asylum, as differing from the
usual mode of teaching, and which will be found greatly useful by the economy
of time and trouble in every school or family where they are adopted and duly
General Remarks on the Scheme and Practices
To enter into the spirit of the institutes now before the reader, so as
to comprehend what is actually achieved by this experiment, it is necessary to
mark the character of the practices, which have been now detailed, as differing
from that of the system before explained.
The system, with its concatenation of occasional usher and sub-usher,
its teachers and assistants, tutors and pupils, registers of daily tasks,
black-book, and jury of peers — being a series of consecutive regulations,
linked together in the closest union, and forming a digested theory, composed
of laws derived from observation, confirmed by experience, and founded on
acknowledged principles of humanity, I regard as completed in all its parts,
and requiring no addition. In framing the scheme, it was studied that no
interstices should be left to be filled up, no deficiency to be discovered in
its apparatus, but that there should rather be a redundancy of performers, and
that the chain should have sometimes double links, where single links may
suffice. Such may be thought the teacher and assistant to each class, when the
members of the class fall short of the complement, proposed for a large school,
where there is an option as to numbers. It is safest, however, to retain both
till the school is organized, if not evidently unnecessary, for both are
generally more profitably employed (during the period it is proper to retain
them in these posts) than they would be in the ranks of their appropriate
classes. It is time enough to lop off redundancies when the school is reduced
to perfect order, and all goes on smoothly and pleasantly. In a word, in the
scheme of the asylum will be found all that is requisite, under every
circumstance, for conducting a school through the agency of the scholars
themselves; and it will only be necessary to drop such performers as, from the
state of the school, are no longer wanting.. . .
With the practices it is quite otherwise. They can only be considered as
comprising an art, of which each of its detached rules is limited to a
particular and individual stage in the process of teaching the first rudiments
of letters. These rules combine only as simplifying and reducing to its primary
and constituent elements whatever admits of decomposition, and as leading to a
common end, facility, precision, and despatch. Indeed, where this system is
adopted in the schools for the lower orders of youth, on the large scale for
which it is particularly fitted, and the saving of expense becomes an important
object, other practices (though of inferior importance) may be pointed out, for
the sole purpose of economy. But I introduced none into the Egmore Asylum, and
notice none here, but what seem to me improvements as well in tuition as in
I only add, that though the system of the asylum may be considered as
more appropriate to the schools for the lower than the higher orders of youth,
it must be allowed that the practices apply to schools of every description.
But it is not on these, — the practices, — or any such, however
important in themselves as individual improvements, that the charm, which this
system is found to possess, depends. It depends on the scheme of tuition by the
scholars themselves. Whereever this general principle is adopted, methodised,
and duly (for all turns on this point) executed, there is the system of the
Asylum, whether they write in sand, spell without reiteration, read by
syllables, &c. as directed in the subsidiary practices of that school, or
whatever other improvements are resorted to in preference. Wherever this
tuition by scholars does not take place, there is not the system of the asylum,
though the writing in sand or slate, spelling without reiteration, reading by
syllables, and all the subsidiary practices of that school be adopted. In every
instance, it is by this system, the tuition by the scholars themselves, that
the success and economy of which it boasts are to be attained: and wherever
this system is not adopted, let the processes be what they may, the same
success and economy cannot, in a large seminary, be attained.
p. 2. which is annexed: The list is given in a "Miscellaneous Appendix"
at the end of the volume. The books named are: Watts' Hymns for Children.
Instructive Hints, which fully answer the title. Barbauld's Hymns.
Pastoral Lessons. Trimmer's Introduction to the Knowledge of Nature and the Use
of the Scriptures.
Martinet's Catechism of Nature, or rather of Natural History.
Turner's Arts and Sciences, an instructive book, read, with the
exception of the heathen mythology, by a class of the senior boys. Scripture
Instruction, by Question and Answer, written by J. Freame, which I am about
to republish, on a plan, that some hundreds of children may learn to read from
one book. Its principle advantage is, its comprising, in Scripture language,
the 'Institutes of Christianity.' It is intended, that every child who attends
school should learn this by wrote, whether he can read or not. It is
hoped, when published, it will be found a valuable auxiliary in the departments
of education. Mental Improvement, by Priscilla Wakefield, used by the
senior class of boys.
p. 5, footnote, employment.. .suspended: Intuition and experience are
combined in Lancaster's motto, "Let every child at every moment have something
to do and a motive for doing it." Disregard of the precept is one of the chief
causes of disorder in a class, p. 39. prize: In the accounts of Lancaster's
school for the year ending Midsummer, 1803, when the number of pupils on the
rolls was only 217, there appear the following items:
£ s. d.
Five thousand toys .............................. 16 16 0
Seven dozen (old) children's books ........... 1 9 0
Twenty-five French half-crowns engraved
"A reward for merit" ....................... 4 17 6
Three star medals ............................... 18 0
Eight silver pens, 3s. each ..................... 1 4 0
Thirty-six purses ................................ 12 6
The total cost of these prizes was more than ten per cent, of the year's
expenditure on the school.
p. 40. order of merit: Of this Mrs Trimmer says, in her Comparative
View: 'When one considers the humble rank of the boys of which
common Day schools and Charity Schools are composed, one is
naturally led to reflect whether there is any occasion to put notions
concerning the 'origin of nobility' into their heads; especially in
times which furnish recent instances of the extinction of a race of ancient
nobility in a neighbouring nation, and the elevation of some of the lowest
of the people to the highest stations. Boys, accustomed to consider themselves
as the nobles of a school, may, in their future lives, from a conceit of
their own trivial merits, unless they have very sound principles, aspire
to be nobles of the land, and to take the place of the hereditary
To this criticism Sydney Smith, reviewing Mrs Trimmer's book in the
Edinburgh for October 1806, replies: "For our part, when we saw these
ragged and interesting little nobles, shining in their tin stars, we only
thought it probable that the spirit of emulation would make them better ushers,
tradesmen, and mechanics. We did, in truth, imagine we had observed, in some of
their faces, a bold project for procuring better breeches for keeping out the
blasts of heaven, which howled through those garments in every direction, and
of aspiring hereafter to greater strength of seam, and more perfect continuity
of cloth. But for the safety of the titled orders, we had no fear; nor did we
once dream that the black rod which whipt these dirty little dukes would one
day be borne before them as the emblem of legislative dignity, and the sign of
p. 44. punishments: When described at length in his books, and at
greater length in his lectures, the novelty of Lancaster's punishments served
his perpetual purpose of attracting attention, but I have always had doubts
whether they were not intended more for advertisement than for discipline. My
doubts are confirmed by Bell himself.
In The Wrongs of Children he lays himself out to prove that both
the principle and the details (except such as were harmful) of the Lancasterian
system had been stolen from the Madras system. Perhaps anticipating the
criticism that all the details of the one had been published in 1805 and hardly
any details of the other before 1808, Bell recalls the interchange of letters
and visits between their authors in the winter of 1804-5 and then feels safe in
asserting that of the details of the Madras system, "as before of the grand
principle of self-tuition, Mr. Lancaster, after a personal and epistolary
correspondence with the author, availed himself more and more, discarding
for the most part his multitudinous race of punishments"
My doubts are further confirmed by a sermon delivered by the Rev. Sir
Henry Moncrieff Wellwood on February 21st, 1812, for the benefit of the
Edinburgh Lancasterian School. In the course of it the preacher alludes to the
objections urged against "the punishments in use in Mr. Lancaster's schools....
It has, indeed, been conceded to us that in the Lancasterian school in this
city we have selected the best and excluded the worst parts of the
Even of this concession.. .the directors cannot avail themselves.
They have taken the whole of Mr. Lancaster's plans — The
punishments actually inflicted. .. have hitherto consisted entirely in the
detention of the children in fault for a quarter of an hour or twenty
minutes after their companions are dismissed."
The log, the shackle, and the rest are not mentioned in the System
with Improvements published at Baltimore in 1821. Lancaster had then either
abandoned them or concluded that Americans would not like them — probably
Coleridge, who (like Southey) suffered from acute Lancastero-phobia,
dragged into all sorts of irrelevant places condemnation of the "barbarous,"
"ignominious," and "soul-benumbing" punishments.
p. 46. tin or paper crown: Of this the humourless Mrs. Trimmer says:
If "THE STAR," which in this kingdom is an appendage of high nobility,
be adopted by him as the insignia of his "Order of Merit" surely the
emblem of MAJESTY should not be made a mark of disgrace and ridicule.
Besides, it should be remembered, that the SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD was
crowned with thorns in derision, which is another reason why the punishment
is improper for a slovenly boy.
p. 51. sling hats: Every hat had a loop of string sewn to it, long
enough to go over the boy's head and allow the hat to hang on his back. The
practice survived in the Borough Road school till after 1870.
p. 62. assistant teacher: Bell, in a letter to Mrs Trimmer, says,
"Teachers, assistants, tutors, as I have styled them, or monitors, as he
[Lancaster] has denominated them."
p. 63. Edinb. Review: The passage quoted occurs in a notice, in the
number for October 1807, of Lancaster's "Outlines of a plan for educating ten
thousand poor children." The omission, indicated by the dashes, begins, "and
exemplified in the most striking manner in Mr. Lancaster's school."
p. 83. Mrs. Trimmer's: The Charity School Spelling Book. Part I
containing the alphabet, spelling lessons, and short stories of good and bad
boys [or girls] in words of one syllable only. Part II containing words divided
into syllables, lessons with scripture names, &c.
p. 85. Monosyllabic Spelling Book: I have not seen this.
p. 98. Mrs. Trimmer's: The Teacher's Assistant, consisting of
lectures in the catechetical form, being part of a plan of appropriate
instruction for the children of the poor. The lectures, all on religious
subjects, were to be read by the teacher. They are followed by the questions on
them he was to ask, and the answers that the pupils were required to give. The
first volume may be considered unsectarian; the second treated of the Church
Catechism and the Book of Common Prayer.
Lancaster, Joseph. Epitome of some of the chief events and transactions
in his life. New Haven, 1833. pp. 56.
[Incoherent. Written in "absolute destitution" to evoke help. Some
Corston, William. Brief sketch of the life of Joseph Lancaster. 1840.
pp. xii + 96.
[Two dozen of Lancaster's letters with rambling recollections of an
Dunn, Henry. Sketches. [Lancaster and William Alien.] 1848. I2mo. pp. iv
[Reprints of poor articles from the Eclectic Review of 1845 and
1848. Dunn was a student at the Borough Road in 1827 and was appointed
secretary of the British and Foreign School Society in 1830. He had access to
all the early records and was familiar with several of Lancaster's leading
monitors but he lamentably neglected opportunities such as no other man ever
Salmon, David. Joseph Lancaster. 1904. pp. viii + 76.
[Fully documented but too brief. Supplemented by many articles in the
Educational Record, 1905-29.]
Improvements in education. (See p. xxviii ante.)
A letter to John Foster on the means of educating and employing the poor
in Ireland. 1805. pp. 44. An appeal for justice in the case often thousand poor
and orphan children. 1806. pp. iv+46.
Improvements in education abridged. 1808. pp. viii + 88 + xii. A
remarkable establishment of education at Paris. 1809. pp. xix + 22.
Instructions for forming a society for the education of the children of the
labouring classes. 1809. pp. ix+ 21.
1 Unless otherwise stated the size is 8vo and the place of
Hints and directions for building, fitting up, and arranging
schoolrooms. 1809. pp. 33.
Address to the friends and superintendents of Sunday Schools. 1809. pp.
The British system of education. 1810. pp. xviii + 56.
The school for girls on the Royal Lancasterian system. 1812. pp. 45 +
Oppression and persecution. Bristol, 1816. pp. viii + 45.
Letters on national subjects. Washington City, 1820. pp. 50.
The Lancasterian system with improvements. Baltimore, 1821. pp. xv +
Epitome. (See under "Biography.")
Southey, Robert [Vol. 1] and his son Charles Cuthbert [Vols. 11 and 111.
Life of the Rev. Andrew Bell. 1844. pp. xx + 531; ix+ 693; ix + 736.
[Ponderous and unreadable. The biographical facts are buried under a
mass of dull letters.]
Meiklejohn, J. M. D. An old educational reformer, Dr Andrew Bell. pp.
[A readable summary of the facts in Southey.]
An experiment in education. (See p. xli ante.")
[There was a 5th and greatly enlarged edition in 1814.] Extract of a
sermon on the education of the poor. 1807. pp. 30. Instructions for conducting
a school. 1808. 12mo. pp.34.
[There were several editions with alterations.] Sketch of a national
institution. 1808. pp. 17. The wrongs of children. 1808.
[A periodical of which only three parts were issued. Excessively rare;
my copy was Bell's own.]
III. BELL v. LANCASTER
(i) For Bell