Copyright
Michael Sadler.

Moral instruction and training in schools; report of an international inquiry .. (Volume 1) online

. (page 13 of 45)
Online LibraryMichael SadlerMoral instruction and training in schools; report of an international inquiry .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 13 of 45)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


ment by which each boy should be regularly brought into personal con-
tact with a master, by taking him work once a week or the like. Such a
system is in force in a few of the Public Schools, and, given the right
master, with excellent results. The expense entailed would, however,
prevent its adoption in the poorer schools. Nearly all my informants were
agreed that a master should see a good deal of his boys out of school
hours, and several instances were given of masters who stimulated the
boys' interest in literature or art or natural history, and thus greatly
widened their mental outlook and raised their ethical ideals. In some
schools a good deal more might be done in this direction.

8*



n6 Moral Instruction and Training in Schools

training is based upon the supposition that the school
society is permeated by the masters' influence. 1 It has
been sometimes said that the prefect system renders the
conduct of a school an easy matter and lightens the
masters' responsibilities. No view could be more mistaken.
It is not the boys who are to rule themselves independently
of the masters. 2 Such a form of government would involve
the masters' virtual abdication. 3 Rather the fundamental
purpose of the system is to make the masters' influence
more effective. Arnold's methods proved so efficacious
because his moral force and earnestness enabled him to
dominate his school.

In all classes of schools there are many masters who

1 It follows that the prefect system can be successful only if the
masters are equal to their work. This demands a high standard of
efficiency, and one observer of wide experience held that Arnold's system
requires an Arnold to make it work. At any rate the masters must be
men of high ideals and of considerable width of culture. In the latter
respect some of the masters in the municipal and poorer grammar schools
are deficient. This will be remedied only when the community as a
whole comes to recognise the importance of the master's function and
the high qualifications it demands. In that case two results would
follow : higher salaries would be paid, and the profession of teaching
would be seen to be attractive by young men possessing ethical ethusiasm.

2 It is essential that the prefects should be able to rely in the execution
of their duties upon the advice and support of the headmaster. Where
they do not feel that this is the case, conscientious boys are likely to be
oppressed by the weight of their responsibilities. I have been told of a
case in which a prefect's health suffered, solely (it seemed) from this
cause. The sense of freedom which some boys experience during their
first term at the university is sometimes intense. One undergraduate
spoke of the joy of being in a place where " it does not matter what one
does ". Again, boys may be so occupied with official duties that their
school work is seriously interrupted. Instances have been given me of
alleged failure in scholarship examinations owing to the claims made
upon the candidates' time and energy. Cases of this kind of overpressure
are probably not frequent, but there is certainly a tendency in some
schools to put too much upon the prefects, especially in connection with
offences against morality.

3 I know of instances in which such an abdication has taken place.
More often, however, we find headmasters simply allowing purposes and
ideals to grow up among his boys, which are clearly antagonistic to his
own. One experienced college tutor held that Public School masters
should be much more drastic. This view is not shared by all, but in
some schools the senior boys are allowed, under cover of the prefect
system, to overstep the bounds of proper discipline.



Methods of Moral Instruction and Training 117

have been singularly successful in thus influencing their
boys. Their power has been largely due to their high
standard of devotion to their calling. In every class of
secondary school one constantly meets men who spend
themselves in the whole-hearted performance of their duty,
often in spite of overwork and with small prospect of pro-
motion. Very few are known outside a narrow circle, but
many a boy when he leaves school looks back upon his
intercourse with such a man as a potent source of inspira-
tion which will abide with him through life.

But the success of these masters must also be attributed
to their possession of special gifts, without which they
could not have won the respect and admiration of their
boys. Boys are keen but not profound judges of their
masters' characters, and one of the most valuable results of
what may be called the Public School tradition has been
the acquisition by a large proportion of secondary masters
of the qualities which specially appeal to boys. Of these
qualities decision and strength of character are among the
most essential. Others are tact and courtesy, fairness in
word and deed, and the absence of that respect of persons
which leads a man to alter his behaviour according to the
importance of those with whom he deals. Of special
value is the healthy and natural character of the typical
master's relations with his boys. He views with aversion
all attempts at conscious moral influence, and aims at
getting his boys to do right acts, not at directly improving
their moral character. 1

III.

But further, assuming that the organisation of the
school society has been carried out and that reasonably

1 Compare Edward Bowen's reference, in Arnoldides Chiffers, to the
cricket captain who should say: " Go to, I will exercise a moral influence
on my team ".



1 1 8 Moral Instruction and Training in Schools

satisfactory results have been obtained, experience seems
to show that in two respects this system of moral training
is incomplete. It does not in its present form sufficiently
develop the independence of the average boy, and it
fails to do justice to the connection of the school with the
life of the community around it.

In spite of the activity and outward freedom charac-
teristic of life at a secondary school, it cannot be said that
the majority of the boys when they leave show any special
power of independent thought and action, 1 and their
deficiency in initiative appears to be partly though not
wholly due to the training they have received at school.
The level of the boys' society has not always been raised
from that dominated by custom to that characterised by
independent moral action. This latter stage, indeed, can
be fully reached only by the elder boys. It is unnatural
for the boys in the middle of the school to advance much
beyond the stage of obedience to tradition. But the im-
portant question is whether this stage represents the
highest ideal of the school society, or whether it is pre-

1 The evidence I have been able to collect upon this point is somewhat
conflicting. Some informants state that it is the boys from Public Schools
who more particularly show a lack of enterprise and are guided by custom
and convention. This is disputed by others who point to the fact that
Public School boys often make excellent leaders of men. Perhaps the
conclusion may be drawn that the Public School system encourages ini-
tiative in the ruling boys, but does not develop it sufficiently in boys
who fail to reach positions of authority. The same deficiency is frequently
charged against boys from middle-class day schools. Business men of
wide experience complain that boys willing and able to bear responsibility
are comparatively few. This is doubtless due to many causes, but I think
there is reason to believe that the schools tend to produce respectable
mediocrities rather than energetic leaders. The boys from colonial
schools, I am informed, usually possess greater initiative, I have been
told that the same holds good of many boys from the smaller grammar
schools. An unreasoning social conservatism is most noticeable in Public
School boys, but it may also be observed in boys from other types of
secondary schools. Social conventions are important in all organised
school societies, though they take different shapes according to the social
environment from which the boys are mainly drawn. They have an im-
portant function, but they do not represent the highest stage of social
evolution.



Methods of Moral Instruction and Training 119

paratory to the attainment of moral freedom. This
weakness of the system may be partially counteracted by
providing more frequent opportunities for independent
action in the case of the boys below the ruling class, 1 but
the real remedies must be sought in a closer connection
between the school and the outside world, in the improve-
ment of the teaching given by the school, and in the
development of the religious instincts of the individual
boy.

The second weakness from which the prefect system
often suffers is its tendency to narrow the boys' social in-
terests. The isolation of the school from the world at
large was accepted as axiomatic by the founders of our
system of great boarding schools. These schools were
intended to carry on a form of education which was
essentially a disciplinary process. They aimed at the re-
pression or transformation of the boys' natural instincts
rather than at their guidance and development. They en-
deavoured to train the mental powers by formal studies,
and came to consider it no part of their function to impart
knowledge of practical utility. The original stringency of
the system has been modified in many ways, but the de-
sirability of separating boys from their home environment
is the fundamental principle by which the existence of
boarding schools is justified. Now it may be at once ad-
mitted that some measure of seclusion is necessary, as
supplying the negative condition for the effective influence
of the school. And it is in some cases needful to take a
boy away from home in order that the school may have
him more completely under its control. But the inter-
ference with his life as a member of a family normally

1 For instance, appropriate duties are in some schools assigned to as
many boys as possible in the middle forms. Junior games have their own
officers, and junior school societies are encouraged. In one school I visited
there are flourishing debating societies for boys of various ages almost
down to the bottom of the school.



I2O Moral Instruction and Training in Schools

involves a serious loss, and not infrequently issues in an
incomplete development of his moral nature. Speaking
generally, the influences of school and home should be con-
current and supplement each other. For school and home
represent to the boy the two great types of social institu-
tions. Life at school is based upon the principle of re-
semblance ; life at home on that of difference. At school
a boy associates pre-eminently with his equals, at home
with those who are older or younger than himself or with
persons of the opposite sex. It is needful that he should
enter by experience as fully as possible into the meaning
of both these fundamental types of human relationship.
There is perhaps a tendency for this to be more widely
recognised, and the popularity of first-grade day schools
is apparently increasing. But at present a section of
society sends its boys away to school as a matter of course,
and often at an early age. This fact is, I believe, re-
sponsible for some of that lack of sympathy with minds
unlike our own, which has been one of the chief weaknesses
of both our social and political life.

In day schools the tendency to erect a barrier between
the school and the world is less pronounced, but their
corporate life has been largely modelled upon that of the
boarding schools, and the tradition of isolation is still to
some extent maintained. This is seen in the lack of
systematic efforts to interest the parents in the school, in
the aloofness of some schools from the interests of their
towns or villages, in the social exclusiveness which is not
infrequently encouraged, in the absence of definite partici-
pation in the national life, and in the tendency to regard
school successes as ends in themselves. We hear complaints
that when a boy leaves school he often does not possess
the interests, habits and knowledge needful to enable him
to do good service in his calling. There is apt to be a
lack of continuity between his school life and his later



Methods of Moral Instruction and Training 121

work, and the lessons of corporate loyalty and of responsi-
bility for others which have been learned at school do not
always find their application in the larger sphere of pro-
fessional or business life.

There are, however, many signs that the more earnest
schools are making efforts to overcome this weakness.
Parents are encouraged to make themselves acquainted
with the details of school life ; 1 more frequent reports are
sent home of the boys' work and conduct ; parents' even-
ings are a recognised institution in a growing number of
schools. 2 Attempts are also made in many schools outside
the regular school teaching to interest the boys in the life
of the Empire or of the locality, or in some philanthropic
enterprise. Thus the observance of Empire Day and the
linking of schools in England with others in India and the
colonies 3 are illustrations of the methods by which it is
hoped to enable the boys to realise more fully their
membership of the Empire. The growth of cadet corps
and rifle clubs is largely due to the same desire. One may
recognise in these movements welcome signs of a quickened
national consciousness without being blind to the danger
of a sentimental jingoism to which their perversion may
lead. Efforts are also sometimes made to bring the boys
into touch with the life of the locality, 4 but, speaking

1 In one school the parents of the boys in a given form are invited to
come on a stated afternoon to see the work that is being done. In
another the school is open to the inspection of parents on a certain day.
Circulars to parents upon special points have proved a valuable means of
arousing interest.

2 The parents are invited on a given evening to meet the headmaster
and the staff. In the schools with which I am acquainted the headmaster
gives a short address upon some aspect of school life, and then invites
questions and suggestions from those present. An opportunity is also
given for parents to discuss questions with the masters who teach their boys.

3 Boys in the English school correspond with boys in the school with
which they are linked, and efforts are made to interest each school in the
doings of the other.

4 For example, boys are interested in the local hospital or in boys' clubs.
The school takes part in municipal and other public functions. Friendly
relations are established with the elementary schools.



122 Moral Instruction and Training in Schools

generally, enough is not done even in day schools to
foster local patriotism, while the attitude of boarding
schools often tends to be that of almost ostentatious aloof-
ness from the concerns of local life. Again, several of the
larger schools support school clubs or missions, or help in
such work as the organisation of holiday camps for poorer
boys. 1 In some instances such undertakings have proved
signally successful, but in others they have engendered in
the boys an attitude of benevolent superiority towards those
whom they were supposed to help. Unless boys and
masters treat those poorer or more ignorant than them-
selves as essentially their equals, in spite of superficial
differences, any philanthropic efforts will do more harm
than good.

But in any case the problem how to bring school ideals
into harmony with the best thought and life of the com-
munity will not be solved by such isolated efforts. It is
comparatively easy to add a club or mission to the school
institutions, but to effect a change in the whole tone and
spirit of the school is a matter of much greater difficulty.
In a few schools, indeed, this change has taken place, and
on all hands there are signs that the schools are realising
the nature of the task that lies before them, and coming
to see that its accomplishment demands both strenuous
effort and patient and fearless thinking. The unrest
which is so noticeable in our secondary education is one
expression of the consciousness that our methods need to
be adapted more closely to the new conditions. Never
probably has there been a greater possibility of progress
than at the present moment.

But, besides bringing their boys into contact with the
ethical life of the community, the schools have a duty to

1 1 have been told of a very successful camp in which the boys from a
secondary school lived with an equal number of working-lads on terms
of comradeship. The two parties slept in different tents.



Methods of Moral Instruction and Training 123

perform in saving their boys, as far as possible, from the
besetting temptations of our time. These temptations are
mainly the result of the prevailing tendencies to luxury,
excitement and the pursuit of pleasure. The character
and extent of the efforts made to counteract these ten-
dencies vary much in different schools. In some schools
simple habits are enforced, but in others the reaction
against the Spartan rigour of former days has led the
authorities to provide unnecessary luxuries or to allow the
boys to obtain them for themselves. The amount of
money spent by boys on food, especially at the tuck-shops
connected with certain schools, is often far too large, and
is an indication of self-indulgent habits. But in this as
in other cases a policy of prohibition is insufficient. What
is wanted is a spirit of strenuous self-control and of self-
denial for some worthy object Such a spirit has been
evoked by many methods, from the training for school
games to the sacrifice of pocket-money for some charitable
cause.

Another purpose of the school should be the discourage-
ment of an unhealthy craving for excitement, by filling
the boys' minds with natural interests. In some schools
this is done, but more often undue excitement is positively
stimulated by the introduction of excessive competition.
With boys it is generally to the spirit of rivalry that un-
healthy excitement is chiefly due, and especially to rivalry
before the eyes of interested spectators.

One of the worst results of an atmosphere of publicity
and excitement is the destruction of the boys' mental
peace which is essential to their healthy moral growth,
and which is already threatened by the number and variety
of their interests. The danger of mental distraction,
which shows itself in our general social life, is even more
imminent in the schools. In some schools the boys' time
is so completely filled with duties and amusements that at



124 Moral Instruction and Training in Schools

the end of the term they are worn out in mind and body.
Among the remedies that have been tried are the simplifi-
cation of the curriculum, more leisure for employments of
the boy's own choice, 1 the total or partial abolition of
prizes for work and games, 2 and in the case of boarders a
definite time set apart for private thought and reading. 3
But the most effective antidote is found in the peaceful
atmosphere of certain schools, in which good organisation
and a prevailing tone of quiet purpose combine to give a
sense of rest and order which is a help and not a hind-
rance to an energetic common life.

Any discussion of the efforts to break down the barrier
between school and world would be incomplete without
some reference to co-education. It is claimed that its
general introduction would enable us to assimilate the con-
ditions of school training to those of home and social life
much more closely than would otherwise be possible. No
adequate consideration of the many questions raised by
this contention can be here attempted. I must confine
myself to a brief statement of the conclusions to which our
present knowledge seems to me to point. I believe that
the advocates of co-education are right in their criticism
of the separation of the sexes during the period of school
life. This separation is partly the result of an artificial
condition of society, partly a relic of mediaeval methods.
It appears to be generally desirable for boys and girls to be
taught together until the age of twelve or thereabout, and

1 One school has a special afternoon once a week for hobbies. Other
schools excuse home preparation on one evening of the week.

2 A few schools have abolished marks and prizes altogether, but the
experiment has not in my judgment been so successful as to justify the
general adoption of this policy. On the other hand it has been proved
by experience to be quite possible to substitute form cups for individual
prizes in the school sports.

3 In one school a bell (" the Angelus ") is rung each evening for a
five minutes' interval of silence, which is much appreciated by the boys.
A definite time on Sundays is allotted in some schools to private reading
and writing, no conversation being allowed.



Methods of Moral Instruction and Training 125

it is well that older boys and girls should be brought to-
gether in natural intercourse much more than is at present
customary. This is, however, primarily a matter for the
parents, and whether attendance at the same school would
be advantageous is doubtful, except in special cases. But
such attendance, assuming proper management, need in-
volve no special danger. The demand, however, that
boys and girls of more than fourteen years of age should
receive the same instruction I hold to be mistaken. It
appears to underestimate the differences, physical, mental
and moral, between the sexes, and in particular to recog-
nise insufficiently the diversity of their social functions.
A system of complete co-education would correspond to
the conditions in a society where no distinctions, either
legal or professional, were drawn between men and
women. But the new conception of education leads to
greater emphasis being laid upon specific preparation for
definite callings or other social functions, and encourages
the differentiation rather than the unification of teaching
methods. We may therefore expect that in the future both
the curricula and the methods of instruction will be more
carefully adapted to the special needs of boys and girls.

Perhaps the most obvious means by which the schools
can bridge the gulf which too often separates them from
the world is by the reconstruction of their curricula and
the improvement of their teaching methods, that is by
the use of the second of the two great instruments of
moral training, which were previously distinguished. Just
as by its organisation and administration a school must
enable its boys to enter into the ethical activities of the
time, so by its teaching it must help them to assimilate
the ethical thought and aspirations by which this activity
is inspired. 1 The spheres of thought and action are

1 Of course in the boys' minds these thoughts or aspirations will be
present in an elementary and undeveloped form. But it is possible, for



126 Moral Instruction and Training in Schools

closely related, and the school's teaching must be the ex-
pression, on the plane of intellect and feeling, of the prin-
ciples which underlie its corporate life. In the past it has
been one of the weaknesses of our schools that they have
shared the national tendency to underrate the importance
of systematic thinking which consciously aims at explain-
ing, criticising and guiding the process of our lives. The
last few years, however, have seen a growing appreciation
of the part which may be played by instruction in promot-
ing the boys' moral growth, and hence in many schools
the teaching given has become a more effective instru-
ment of moral training.

Speaking generally, however, and allowing for not a few
exceptions in the case of individual schools and masters,
secondary schools as a class have failed to reorganise their
teaching in accordance with these principles, and their
instruction has therefore been deprived of much of its
proper reality and stimulating power. There are still too
many boys who look upon their work as a necessary evil,
and others who do it mainly for the sake of some ulterior
advantage. A larger number work respectably but with-
out real interest, and thus fail fully to assimilate what
they learn or to draw from it motives for their lives.
Many boys, indeed, are keenly interested, at any rate in
certain subjects, but this attitude is still in some schools
the exception.



Online LibraryMichael SadlerMoral instruction and training in schools; report of an international inquiry .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 13 of 45)