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I wish these remarks may be considered with proper exceptions and limitations. I should be
sorry to be so misunderstood by any, as to suppose that these observations imply a general and indiscriminate charge against all parish officers and others concerned in the care of the poor. I am happy to be acquainted with a number of individual exceptions, and am conscious that many more exist; and I sincerely wish there was no cause for the painful remarks I have thought fit to make on the subject.
It is to be hoped, the care of the public for the education of youth, as it respects encouraging suitable persons to have the care of initiatory schools, would have a tendency to do away the superstitions of the vulgar respecting ghosts and apparitions; which are often retailed by some over-credulous persons, and were formerly related by some teachers to their half-astonished scholars. The following curious fact will illustrate this remark. A young woman, who kept a school of this kind in order to procure a livelihood, and who was very diligent in instructing the children that attended her school, in the catechism, hymns, &c. and also to explain them, to them, one day, when gravely commenting on the Ten Commandments, related the succeeding tale, in order to influence them to keep holy the Sabbath day.'
She told them of a rich man's daughter, who had a fine baby-house and an abundance of toys; that she was fond of dressing her
dolls, dolls, but, above all, on the ' Sabbath Day. She continued this practice, till, one ‘Sunday,'the Devil got into the doll. The doll shook its head three times, and said, “Dress me fine, dress-me fine.' The girl, alarmed at what had happened, threw the doll down, and ran out of the room. The doll was afterwards thrown away, and the girl dressed dolls no more on that day. The awful idea of invisible agency was, in this ridiculous manner; impressed on the minds of about twenty children. I think this an additional argument for the necessity of reform in these schools.
SECOND CLASS OF SCHOOLS.
The masters of these are but too 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 but 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. Some masters use as much chicane to fill their pockets, as the most despicable pettifogger. These schools are chiefly attended by the children of artificers, mechanics, and others, whose pay fluctuates with their employ, and is sometimes withheld from the master,
by bad principle. Debts are often contracted that do not exceed a few shillings, then the parents remove their children from school, and never pay it: the smallness of the sum proving an effectual bar to its recovery;--the trouble and loss of time being worse than the loss of money in the first instance. It is to be regretted, that some especial act of the legislature has not effectually secured the pay of the teachers of youth, that they might be secure of having that bread, for which they often labour with almost unceasing toil.
The complaint of bad pay, and the difficulty in obtaining it, is almost generally reiterated through every department of education. It operates powerfully to depress and discourage the energy of the teacher's mind; in particular, when (as is commonly the case) much of that part of the business of school, which is merely mechanical, falls on the master's shoulders; it becomes indeed laborious, with the addition of a poor consolation, that it is worse paid for than any other employ in London.
When a man settles himself to this line as an employ, his prospects are often bounded for life. A merchant may extend his dealings, a tradesman may increase his customers, but the teacher's income de.. pends solely upon the number of his scholars. If he is a just man, he ought not to exceed a certain number, without assistance of some kind in their
tuition. Here then is the ne plus ultra of his expectations, which mostly prove very remote from what they ought to be. It is not much to be wondered at, if these discouraging circumstances often produce deviations from strict rectitude, in the masters, where principle is not deeply rooted in their minds, and in the sequel, prove oppressive to parents and scholars; as, in some instances, permitting the boys to write five or six copies in an afternoon, obviously, that more books may be bought of the master, to his profit. In some schools the pens are scarcely ever mended; and, in general, the poor
children are much stinted in this article. It is very essential to their improvement that their pens should be good; and it operates on their minds, in a very discouraging manner, when otherwise. I am credibly informed, that some masters use pinions in their rough state, neither dutched nor clarified; of course they split up, with teeth like a saw, and write just as well. Such conduct deserves severe reprehension; and admits of no excuse, except the poverty that sometimes occasions it. I have seen writing books, in which it was plain the poor boy had not had one good pen in twenty copies. The reader, who is sensible of the advantage which arises to learners from a plentiful supply of good pens, will easily conceive how discouraging this must be. But encouragement of any kind is seldom adopted from principle or any other motive, in this class of schools. Some teachers plead for the lash, as the
only proper governing medium of well regulated seminaries; and that with as much zeal as the partizans of Robespierre did for the guillotine! Indeed, I am sometimes inclined to doubt, whether some men consider youth as rational and intelligent beings, with minds capable of expansion, and talents formed for usefulness. It is a natural inference, from their obvious conduct, that this must be the case, and a painful one it is. The desks children write at are often badly suited for that purpose, the school-rooms close and confined, and almost all the accommodations unfit for the purpose. Independent of the bad effects such places produce on the children's health, many having to date the ruin of their constitutions from confinement therein, the drunkenness of a schoolmaster is almost proverbial. Those whose who mean well are not able to do so: poverty prevents it; and the number of teachers, who are men of liberal minds, are few: yet, not being sensible of the incalculable advantages arising from system and order, it is no wonder if it is at a very low ebb among them. The poor parent often becomes sensible that something is amiss, but knows not what; and, induced by this motive, hurries his child from one school to another frequently, and thereby makes bad worse; and is eventually disappointed as much as ever. The want of system and order is almost uniform in every class of schools within the reach of the poor, whose indifferent at