Michael Sadler.

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

. (page 17 of 45)
Online LibraryMichael SadlerMoral instruction and training in schools; report of an international inquiry .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 17 of 45)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

These three days are devoted entirely to spiritual exercises.
All lessons, studies and recreations are suspended. They
are replaced by five or six instructions, religious and moral,
meditations, and other religious exercises each day, and
the triduum closes with a general Communion. The in-
structions are carefully planned ; some deal with the great
truths of the Christian faith, and the motives which these
furnish, others with the leading duties and practical details
of the boys' school life, others with the obligations and re-
sponsibilities and difficulties which will meet him on leaving
school. There is a rule of strict silence throughout the
three days, which, on the whole, considering schoolboy
nature, is generally fairly kept. Each boy being thus freed
from distractions is encouraged and helped in every way to
reflect, whilst he is assisted by some five or six discourses
setting before him in the most attractive light the highest
ideal of the Christian life, and the strongest motives of the
Christian faith brought to bear in the most practical manner
on all his daily duties.

I confess, looking back on my own experience both as a
boy and as a teacher and as a priest giving such Retreats, I
am inclined to deem this particular exercise as probably
the most valuable of all the moral agencies employed in
our schools. All that is best in each boy is appealed
to, when he is at his best and in his most responsive mood
usually too at the beginning of the school year. I have

170 Moral instruction and Training in Schools

known many boys who have traced a complete reformation
in their lives and a start upon new lines to some particular
Retreat, whilst almost every boy in the school receives at
least some impulse to strive after a more elevated ideal and
a more strenuous life.

In our day schools, owing to the absence of the boys
on Sunday, the formal religious-moral instruction is neces-
sarily less in quantity. It includes, besides the daily short
catechism lesson, an instruction of about three-quarters of
an hour per week to all, a short practical discourse at a
fortnightly meeting of the Sodality, and the annual three
days' Retreat.

So much in the way of definite or formal moral instruc-
tion. But in addition to this our masters are enjoined in
the Jesuit Ratio Studiorum, or Plan of Studies, to take
advantage of all opportunities that occur in connection
with the History, Literature or other lessons which may
lend themselves to moral teaching. They are, moreover,
often reminded of the importance of such indirect moral

Moral Training. Our system of moral training is
largely the effort to carry out in ordinary life the precepts,
rules and counsels embodied in our religious doctrine ;
and considerable part of the machinery employed in the
exercise of our religion is at the same time instrumental
in the development of ethical habits. There is also the
influence of the regular work and discipline, of the busi-
ness of management, of co-operation and subordination
involved in carrying out the games, of the corporate life
in which each boy shares, of the traditions and esprit de
corps of the particular school, etc.

Looking at the quantity of time per week at present
given to the more formal or systematic religious-moral
instruction and the other occasions indirectly contributing
to the same result, I do not think it would be advisable to

Moral Training in the Catholic Schools 171

increase the formal moral instruction in our boarding
schools. At the same time I would personally be glad
were it feasible to see the religious-moral instruction of our
day schools substantially increased. The obstacle is the
difficulty of an already congested time-table.

In proportion as moral instruction, whilst professing
to be indirect and incidental, is made systematic and
regular, there arises an increasing danger that, in the
hands of the average teacher, it will irritate the boys and
set up their backs against it. But a class of average boys
will readily appreciate and be impressed by a moral infer-
ence hinted at or suggested by some occasional incident in
the lesson, provided this be really incidental and not too
frequent. But as soon as the boys become aware that the
master is constantly striving to improve the occasion, they
are very likely to say that, whilst pretending to teach
history, he is really preaching at them. They may even
start scoring the number of sermons in each class, and the
whole value of the indirect method will disappear.


I could not hope much from a system of moral instruc-
tion given in the form of a series of regular graded ethical
lessons "on non- theological lines" if by this phrase is
meant prescinding from all implications of either Theistic
or Christian beliefs. My grounds are briefly these :

Whatever we may deem the best philosophical theories
to explain the universe and things in general, we find in
childhood and in boyhood certain instincts and feelings to
which a dogmatic and authoritative religious code of ethics,
as distinguished from an abstract autonomous morality,
especially appeals. The child feels his weakness and
dependence. He instinctively recognises the Tightness of
obedience to the command of some person in authority
and acquiesces in the reasonableness of duties ultimately

172 Moral Instruction and Training in Schools

coming from his Father and Creator. The child also
readily accepts the universal sovereignty, providence and
omniscience of God. He appeals to God quite naturally
for help, and is strengthened in the struggle against
temptation and in the formation of virtuous habits by
belief in the Christian doctrine of a future judgment with
punishment and reward for conduct unseen by others here.
He can realise the life and character of Christ as an
ideal and model, and be attracted by it ; and the relation
in which our Lord stands to him in the Christian scheme
as Redeemer, Sovereign and Father, can, in a school
where the religious spirit is real, be made to constitute a
moral influence of precious value, while the belief in the
companionship of Christ in His living presence and near-
ness is often for some boys a very real moral aid.

Again, whatever degree of truth is possessed by the
general theory that the child passes through an intellectual
development corresponding to that of the earlier stages of
the race, seems to support this view. At all events the
more concrete, simple, direct and vivid are the ethical
ideals, motives and precepts presented to the child, the
more easily will he embrace and adhere to them. In later
life, when habits of self-control and abstract thought have
been formed, the rules or ideals of an enlightened Utili-
tarianism or of a rationalistic Stoicism may, perhaps,
suffice to guide some men in the conduct of life ; but a
direct, dogmatic morality, resting immediately on Theistic
conceptions, strengthened by the motives presented in the
Christian Creed and concretely pictured in the person of
Christ, seems to me to be peculiarly fitted to meet the
needs of boyhood in the early struggles towards the acqui-
sition of self-control and virtuous habits.

Now the suggested form of " non-theological " instruction
mistakes the chief difficulty of the problem of moral con-
duct the provision of adequate motive power for the will.

Moral Training in the Catholic Schools 173

Unless there be generated the effective desire to do right,
to be good, lessons in morals, even if given with sufficient
skill to awaken the child's curiosity and interest, fail of
their main purpose. Enlightenment of the intellect as to
our social duties and their utility has of course its place,
but the fostering of moral sensibility and virtuous will is
much harder and even more necessary. But whilst all the
agencies and influences of religion ought to conduce to-
wards this result, the mental attitude likely to prevail
during a regular bi-weekly Ethics lesson, occupying a
status indistinguishable from, say, the Geography or the
Dictation class, will not be well fitted for imbibing moral
teaching. Moreover, it seems to me, that the Ten Com-
mandments, even as given in the Penny Catechism, helped
out maybe with the Sermon on the Mount, furnish a not
illiberal syllabus of morality. And I am inclined to think
that the teacher who finds the material therein contained
jejune, will hardly be inspiring in his handling of even the
most ideal County Council Ethical Programme.

I therefore hold the view that if effective moral instruc-
tion and training are to be provided, they must form part
of the definite religious teaching of the school.

The intimate manner in which ethical instruction and
training are, as a matter of fact, at present interwoven with
the religious instruction and training in the education of
our Catholic children will probably be made plainer by
my briefly indicating the main features of such moral-
religious training as ordinarily given to our children.

The earliest religious-moral instruction will probably be
received at home or at an infant school, or a little later at
a preparatory school. Along with notions of God as
Father and Jesus Christ as Saviour, amongst the first
matters impressed on the child will be the duties of obedi-
ence to his parents and to those in charge of him, of truth-
fulness and of respect for the property and feelings of

174 Moral Instruction and Training in Schools

others. But, in the earliest lessons of the catechism,
these injunctions will be immediately connected with the
Ten Commandments, and the child will be explicitly told
that he is bound to do these things because they are com-
manded by God. His dawning consciousness of these
obligations is strengthened and confirmed by the ordinary
Christian teaching of future rewards and punishments for
good and evil actions, even though they be unseen here.
At the same time he is taught to pray to God, and in every
exercise of prayer he is reminded that he is always in the
presence of God, even when unobserved by men ; and, as
soon as he is able to understand it, he is also taught that
desires, as well as words and external acts, may be pleas-
ing or displeasing to God.

About the age of nine or ten he receives instruction with
a view to preparing him for his first Communion, preceded
by his first Confession. In particular, in regard to the
subject of moral purity, the Catholic boy in the process of
Confession will according to his present needs be prudently
advised, warned or admonished of the dangers ahead, and
of the evil consequences of vicious habits into which he
may quite innocently have begun to fall, and he will be
encouraged, exhorted and instructed by his confessor as to
how best to battle with his temptations. The advantage
of this religious-moral aid is closely present to the Catholic
boy throughout his whole school career, the exercise of his
religious duties being a constant stimulus to the practice of
sundry natural virtues, and a check when relapsing into
evil ways. In addition to the ordinary religious exercises
there are in all our schools the annual three days' Retreat
for the boys.

The essential character of the moral teaching and training
in our system lies in the manner in which the direct and
the indirect religious and moral instruction, the Sunday
work and the week-day work, the lessons and the religious

Moral Training in the Catholic Schools 175

exercises, together with the general tone of the school aris-
ing out of community of belief and aspirations, of views of
life and principles of action among masters, and boys, all
form one whole, the several parts acting and reacting on
each other throughout the whole of the boy's school life.
And it is to the solidarity of these various influences that
we ascribe the efficiency as a moral educational instrument
which we believe our system to possess, and which we be-
lieve to be proved by the results of after life.

Interesting the Boys in Social or Charitable Work.
The most widespread of Catholic charitable organisations
carried on by laymen is the Society of St. Vincent of Paul.
It has local branches in many towns. Active membership
involves personal visiting of the poor. Boys whilst at our
schools, as well as at most Catholic schools, are strongly
advised to become members on leaving school. Some of
them, when living in towns where membership is feasible,
become members and do good work. Practical participation
in the active work of the Society is, however, not possible
whilst the boy is actually at a boarding school. In recent
years some other institutions, particular orphanages and
boys' homes, have been added to the charities in which it
is sought to interest the boys more directly ; and lectures
by gentlemen connected with the working of these institu-
tions have been given to the boys from time to time. Some
of the older boys take a good deal of interest in them, and
subscribe fairly generously out of their limited pocket
money. The main difficulty for boarding schools situated
in the country is that it is practically impossible to enable
the boys while still at school to see the working of such
institutions. There certainly seems to me in recent years
to have been an increasing interest amongst our boys, both
present and past, in such social and charitable work ; and
I am in hopes of a still further considerable increase in the
near future. Still there is one aspect of this problem of

176 Moral Instruction and Training in Schools

" school settlements," " school missions " and the like, which
it seems right to mention when the work of Catholic schools
in this field is compared with that of non-Catholic schools.
Those of our boys and girls who, if they lived as laymen
or laywomen in the world, would probably be the best
supporters of such enterprises, are very likely to devote
themselves completely, once for all, to charitable work
but as members of the priesthood or of some religious
congregation. Of the Protestant ladies who individually
do valuable social work in the world, were they members
of the Catholic Church, many would probably have de-
voted their lives to the service of the poor as Sisters of
Charity ; whilst leading spirits of the School or University
Settlements would probably have similarly entered some of
the religious orders for men devoted to works of charity.


In past centuries, when educational machinery was
much rougher than at present, Jesuit schools have con-
stantly been, both in theory and practice, on the side of
greater gentleness and milder methods. Nevertheless, I
doubt if any of our teachers are at the present day in
favour of the complete abolition of corporal punishment in
schools. As a matter of fact, whilst rectors are constantly
urgent that such punishments be strictly limited, the prac-
tice is retained in all our schools in these countries.

The question is plainly one of choice among unpleasant
medicines. The hope to control and educate a large
number of boys from childhood to youth without any form
of punishment is obviously futile. There are bound to be
faults of varying degrees of gravity. These must be
corrected by the aid of penalties of some kind. In Conti-
nental countries, where all use of the rod or ferule is pro-
hibited, lengthy detentions from recreation, and even
confinement on short allowance of food, have at times to

Moral Training in the Catholic Schools 177

be resorted to. Punishments of these kinds for boys seem
to me far more objectionable than ferules or birching
though these should be employed in as great moderation
as possible. In our schools detention from play and im-
positions are made use of to some extent, but our young
masters are frequently exhorted to be very sparing in
both. I may say in general our view is that a boy is
rarely the better in body or in mind for being set to write
lines in a room for an hour, and that if punishment has
to be given something sharp and prompt is much more

In the lower classes the industry of the boys is stimu-
lated and the lessons are made more lively by a system
of competition or rivalry. As there are quite erroneous
notions respecting this method in some education manuals
a few words of explanation here may be useful.

The system of rivals in the schoolroom is simply the
institution of class matches carried out in the lessons.
It is merely the application to school tasks of the force
of emulation which gives such zest to the ordinary games.
Boys could learn cricket very fairly and get useful exer-
cise by merely practising at a net. But if we wish to
have cricket really well played, and to turn out a large
number of good cricketers, then matches are essential.
Nor do we pronounce such games in general to be morally
unwholesome, because the spirit of emulation may at times
become very keen. Yet I find some writers indulge in
rather sweeping condemnation of this application of emula-
tion to school work which, needless to say, is much duller
and more unattractive to the average boy than any form
of physical exercise. If then you can enliven a class of
twenty-two boys and induce them to get up the irregular
verbs in Latin or French, or to strive to avoid solecisms
in their exercises, or to work out correctly so many sums,
by matching them in pairs of equal capacity, and scoring
VOL. I. 12

178 Moral Instruction and Training in Schools

a point for each success, it ought not to be morally wrong
to do so.

The plan followed varies. The two top boys of the
class may be appointed to pick sides, or some other method
of matching all the boys in pairs of about equal capacity
is adopted. A point is scored according to arrangement
for each mistake, or for the better of the two in each
lesson. The state of the score is announced periodically :
the winning side get an extra half-holiday each half-term ;
the losing side spend the afternoon in the study-place.
This reward is much esteemed. So far from this form of
competition being ethically unwholesome, it has the ad-
vantage over the ordinary prize system that it is the
success of his side rather than his own gain which is
uppermost in each boy's mind. He is, moreover, in com-
petition not with the cleverest boys in the class, but with
his match. Needless to say, the public opinion of his side
is a valuable stimulus to a lazy boy when the gain or loss
of two or three points may decide whether a summer's
afternoon is to be spent in the study-place, or in a pleasant
walk with a bathe in the river. The success with which
the method may be worked largely depends, however, on
the skill of the master. Some get much value out of it ;
others less. It succeeds best in the lower classes, where
indeed there is most need of such aids.

As the pupil advances the various subjects develop in-
trinsic interest, the utility of each begins to appear, the
pleasure of the sense of power makes itself felt, and habits
of mental application gradually take root. In addition
to the principle of duty, work for its own sake may now
begin to be advocated with increasing success, and hence-
forth the need of extrinsic motives progressively diminishes.


This undoubtedly must be to every man responsible for
the management of a school one of the most serious of all

Moral Training in the Catholic Schools 179

problems. But, I think, I may say in Catholic schools
generally this subject is probably felt by the authorities
as a matter of more anxious concern than is the case, in
non-Catholic schools. The reason for this is that our
schools are mainly conducted by priests or religious, and
Catholic parents are wont to entrust the responsibility for
the religious and moral training of their children in a
more complete and absolute way to us than I believe is
done by parents of other denominations to the school-
masters in charge of their children. Having acted thus
they are more exacting in their expectation as to the
amount of individual help and protection their children
will receive, and they are more disturbed by the occurrence
of moral troubles in a school. Catholic theology, more-
over, rates offences against purity very severely, relatively
to most other faults into which boys are liable to fall.
Consequently this matter is always a cause of the gravest
solicitude to the Catholic headmaster. It is, I believe,
mainly owing to this that the supervision and discipline
of our schools, though by no means so rigid as is popularly
supposed, is stricter in some features than in non-Catholic
schools. It is felt by us, I think generally, that although
in regard to many other matters of order and discipline
boys may be wisely entrusted with a considerable amount
of responsibility, the difficulties and dangers with respect
to moral purity, both for the individual boy and for groups
of boys, are of such a serious nature, and the consequences
of a fall so grave, that we cannot confide the welfare of
this virtue to anything so precarious as the public opinion
of schoolboys.

We find also from experience that, though the sentiment
of honour can be relied on with considerable security in
regard to a large number of other points of discipline, it is
hazardous to trust implicitly in it here. As a conse-
quence, the extent to which we feel at liberty to transfer


180 Moral Instruction and Training in Schools

responsibility to the older pupils is limited by this con-

External discipline, however, can only provide con-
ditions favourable to purity in a school. Our main reliance
for the preservation of this virtue above all others in the
school lies in the influence of religion. The instructions
by which the younger boys are prepared for their first
Communion, their frequent reception of the Sacraments,
the advice they are pretty sure to receive from their con-
fessor, the exhortations of the annual Retreat, the influence
which the Sodality and the leading members of it are
expected to exercise over the general tone and conversation
of the school these are the agencies in which we place
our chief trust. On the whole, as far as I can judge, they
produce good results whilst the boys are still at school.
To determine positively whether the subsequent results
are preferable to those of other methods would require an
induction of a kind which I have never seen attempted.
In behalf of our view we assume that if a boy can be
brought up in good habits during the period of weakness
and plasticity, when evil and ineradicable habits are most
easily contracted, he ought to be in a better position to
face the temptations that are sure to come later, and that
anyhow it is our duty to take the utmost pains to protect
the innocent and to postpone the evil day as long as may




Joint Secretary to the Central Education Committee of the Society of



I. INTRODUCTION. Scope and method of investigation Moral ideal
of the higher education movement. II. MORAL INSTRUCTION. Force
of personality in moral influence Moral instruction through religious or
doctrinal lessons Moral instruction through Scripture lessons Moral
instruction through literature and history Incidental moral instruction
Question of supplementing above by more direct or more systematic
instruction : Contra, Pro Direct moral instruction in girls' secondary
schools Instruction in citizen ethics and duties Demand for definite
instruction as to fundamental facts of life. III. MORAL TRAINING. Moral
training through school discipline Moral training in conduct Moral
training in work Difficulties of adolescence Systems of self-government
Prefect system Games Other out-of-school pursuits Social service.
and home Reaction in favour of boarding schools Difficulties of co-
operation between home and day school Economic pressure on the
middle classes in England Strain of modern life Effect on teachers
Tendency to make self-development or self-gratification an end. Prepara-
tion for home duties Motherhood as the chief end Contra Service for


IN the course of the last half-century the education of girls
in secondary schools has twice been the subject of Govern-

Online LibraryMichael SadlerMoral instruction and training in schools; report of an international inquiry .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 17 of 45)