Copyright
Michael Sadler.

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

. (page 24 of 45)
Online LibraryMichael SadlerMoral instruction and training in schools; report of an international inquiry .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 24 of 45)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


hesitate to say they would in the first instance have much
to learn themselves ; almost all were agreed that women as
inspectors, as managers or as members of education com-
mittees can give valuable help. The remark was not un-
common that lessons in the physical care of infants should
be supplemented by judicious teaching upon the ante-
natal as well as post-natal conditions by which children
are permanently influenced.

Without exception, any suggestion to render obligatory
the teaching of hygiene with especial reference to alcohol
and narcotics was negatived. Such teaching seems pre-
ferably left to Bands of Hope and Temperance Society
lectures, for the difficulties to be surmounted by the
staff teacher are immense. The subject is a complex
one, and the bulk of the child population is so accustomed
to the phenomena associated with drunkenness that they
usually fail to connect them with classroom statements.
If these are brought home by apt illustration, parental ire
is liable to be excited and respect for parents weakened.
The teachers say that it is wiser to deal more indirectly
with the evil by making the children realise the Tightness
of temperance in all things ; by inculcating respect for the
body ; by imparting a fuller sense of duty to others, and
a sounder understanding of the economic aspects of
efficiency ; and not least, though this lies outside their
own special province, by securing better opportunities for
wholesome living. In many schools local regulations re-



264 Moral Instruction and Training in Schools

quire one lesson a year to be given upon the dangers of
alcoholic excess, and the subject is touched on in the
domestic and elementary science course. But a general
conviction of the value of these lessons, as now given, is
absent.

(d) Guilds, School Libraries.

Every variety of school guild may be found ; from the
May Queen and her court at a specially favoured school,
to the Guild of Honesty recently formed as a last resource
in the case of a class of inveterate little liars ; guilds of
kindness, of courtesy, or of help, for instance, are popular.
Under almost any title they offer the valuable stimulus to
co-operation in a common object and a training in social
responsibility.

School libraries are another highly appreciated channel
of moral influence, but their number and management
need development and extension. They directly promote
the formation of reading circles, develop a taste for whole-
some books, and bridge over the gulf between school and
home life.

II. INDIRECT MORAL INSTRUCTION AND TRAINING IN SCHOOLS.

(a) The School and its Staff.

The elevating influence of bright clean spacious school
buildings is obvious, though some of the best work is
being done in schools which violate all these requirements.
The better lighted the school the better are revealed short-
comings in neatness and cleanliness of place or person,
the greater the incentive to the practice of personal
hygiene ; certainly the more airy the school the better the
work done in it, and consequently the higher the standard of
moral attainment. For instance, in a Staffordshire school,
where a new method of natural ventilation has been adopted,
the teachers are impressed by the results of the improved
atmosphere upon the character of the children's work. In



Moral Instruction in Girls' Elementary Schools 265

well-planned buildings, again, cloakrooms and offices are
more easily supervised, though the equipment of the lava-
tories still leaves much to be desired ; dirty hands, for ex-
ample, are hard to clean in cold water, especially when one
towel has to serve 360 girls for five days.

A much higher standard of cleanliness needs to be at-
tained in the school buildings; it is not occasional disinfec-
tion but constant soap and water which counteract dirt
and diminish disease. Light cannot penetrate windows
washed but three times a year ; the average school drinking-
cup is a disgrace, and the floors and walls of overcrowded
classrooms are saturated with accumulations of organic
matter from both breath and bodies. England has much
to learn on the economics of school hygiene. Perhaps the
departure most anxiously awaited by teachers is the general
introduction of school baths for washing rather than for
swimming purposes ; excellent agent as is the latter in the
development of physical courage.

The influence upon individual character of the huge
schools which are now in favour deserves careful considera-
tion. However admirable the personality of the head
of these barrack buildings, however unwearying the
exertions made to maintain personal relations with the
many hundred children, it is inevitable that methods must
be adjusted to masses, while temptations are multiplied
and individuals perforce sacrificed to averages. The
quiet word in season, upon which teachers increasingly
rely as their most efficacious corrective agent for good,
becomes well-nigh impossible, and the force of bad example,
necessitating repressive, stringent discipline, seems some-
times aggravated.

All lay stress upon the great influence of the personality,
habits and appearance of the school staff. A few teachers
are adopting the custom of wearing fresh, bright, print
overalls while at work, to guide the girls' taste in ap-



266 Moral Instruction and Training in Schools

propriate dress. The imitative impulse so strong in
children does the rest.

Much diversity of opinion exists on the subject of
" mixed " schools. In early childhood they seem generally
approved, not so after the age of eleven or twelve. It is
felt that great experience is needed to conduct them
properly at any age period, though under good conditions
they may prove morally advantageous. There is the
drawback that a headmaster may be disposed to think
more of the boys than of the girls under his charge.
Many women feel the urgent need of keeping refined
womanly influence paramount over girls emerging from
childhood. If the women are all assistants but never
heads, children are quick to appreciate the implied sub-
ordination.

Good pictures or mural decorations in schools are still
uncommon, though exceptions are found where walls are
beautifully adorned by a local Kyrle Society, or where
there are frescoes and mottoes of great moral value, the
work of the teachers themselves, or beautiful autotype
reproductions of good pictures, the gifts of members of a
school committee. 1 Such decorations should be far more
general, for the visual suggestion of high ideals thus given
is of real worth. Many schools choose a motto for a
year, a month, or a week, which is conspicuously dis-
played, and teachers speak highly of the encouraging
results upon conduct where the custom does not degenerate
into formalism.

(b) The Correlation of Moral Training with Secular
Instruction.

To some teachers opportunities for developing the moral
sense present themselves with every occupation of the

1 A good collection of pictures for school use, issued by various British
and foreign firms, may be seen at the Art for Schools Association, Passmore
Edwards Settlement, Tavistock Place, London, W.C.



Moral Instruction in Girls' Elementary Schools 267

school day; arithmetic (honour, accuracy, perseverance),
history (example), grammar (perseverance and mental con-
centration), serve their purpose almost as well as those
subjects generally recognised as helpful moral agents, such
as reading, recitation, singing, composition, the domestic
arts and games. The great value of true physical training
in this connection will probably be more appreciated when
it is better systematised and has a greater prominence
assigned to it.

Considerable improvement in school readers is happily
noticeable, but much more could be done in selecting
extracts from standard authors suited to the various ages
of the pupils. Most stories appeal to children, but their
appetite should be gratified with literary food of the best
quality.

There is no doubt of the forceful influence of well-
chosen recitations, especially at the ages often to fourteen.
At this period of life, when memorising is easy, girls delight
to store up poems of which they perhaps hardly suspect
the moral lessons, and to recite with marked feeling the
words of great men, which, whether by rhythm or content,
excite their imagination and stir their emotions. Singing
ranks almost as high. The public little realise the ac-
quirements of elementary schoolgirls in the art of part
singing; its practice should be surely continued after
school life, by means of choral societies and clubs, as a
refining channel of social recreation.

The method of oral compositions seems successful
where it has been adopted. Each girl chooses her subject
(ethical, historical, etc.), and delivers a five minutes' address,
which is criticised by her class mates under the teacher's
guidance. The range of subjects selected is varied and
excellent, and the method in careful hands wholly admir-
able for the upper classes.

Teachers rarely approve of " moral " topics for written



268 Moral Instruction and Training in Schools

composition, advancing the reason that a child merely re-
flects what it has last been taught, or writes what it expects
will please the teacher. The slow development of the
moral sense was constantly emphasised in this connection,
and priggishness was frequently mentioned as the result of
taxing it prematurely.

It is a source of regret to some teachers that domestic
economy has been removed from their time-table; they
rely on it as a strong moral agent. In hygiene they
would find a stronger; but its end is still often miscon-
ceived and indeed defeated by its premature introduction
or by inadequate, unskilled methods.

(c) Corporate School Life.

To develop esprit de corps proves hard, well-nigh hope-
less in large schools, but once aroused its moral influence
is valuable. School badges and hat ribbons have worked
wonders in some schools, and a useful impetus is generally
anticipated from organised games when suitably introduced.
The monitor system is highly developed. The duties of
classroom and cloakroom monitors are familiar: there
are also playground monitors, to collect stray papers, etc.,
into wire baskets; street monitors, to check coarse, mis-
chievous or unruly conduct in the streets ; and " office "
monitors, to remove at once any scribbling from walls,
even when harmless; all are excellent moral forces.

Interests dependent on corporate support are also fostered
by reading circles, entertainments organised by the girls
in aid of some school "want" or some common cause, or
to give pleasure to others. Thus at one school the elder
girls combine and organise an annual workhouse entertain-
ment, in another they work for the ill-clothed children of
the town; many illustrations could be given of these
attempts to combine the habit of thought for others with
co-operative school effort



Moral Instruction in Girls' Elementary Schools 269

(d) Methods of Discipline.

The greatest reliance is now placed upon encouraging
looks or quiet words of disapprobation as the most effective
means of discipline in girls' schools ; the conviction that
the conscience must be awakened and self-respect de-
veloped is strikingly strong. The majority of teachers
believe in being on as friendly terms with the pupils as is
compatible with the maintenance of respect. Strictness
there must be, but not inconsiderate severity or artificial
repression, which when relaxed result in violent reactions.

Corporal punishment is evidently a rapidly diminishing
quantity in girls' schools, especially where a good " tone "
is perceptible. It is chiefly resorted to in cases of syste-
matic disobedience or of insolence to a member of the
staff ; in rare instances its effects seem magical, but its use
is nearly always confined to the head teacher and it is
employed privately. It is never used for " dullards ".

" Keeping in " dies hard. As a more general knowledge
of child physiology is acquired, it will be realised that
further to repress the energy and inhibit the natural
activity of a naughty child aggravates instead of curing
the complaint. Many teachers feel that a more general
introduction of manual training will solve certain of these
disciplinary troubles. That the home and school may
help each other in this matter appears from the results
when half-yearly reports of progress in studies and of con-
duct are sent to the parents, especially when accompanied
by a request for written acknowledgments. These replies
throw much light on home conditions and undoubtedly
quicken parental interest. One teacher requires these
reports to be preserved, and to be presented complete
when applications are subsequently made for " characters ".
Few teachers are in favour of the expulsion of a child for
bad conduct, describing it as a confession of failure ; and
interesting examples of redeemed "black sheep" were



270 Moral Instruction and Training in Schools

cited. Only in case of a gross breach of morality would it
be resorted to. But there is a feeling that it would be of great
advantage to certain difficult girls if they could be passed
without disgrace into schools of an industrial character.

The opinion prevails that, given time and opportunity,
all the greater virtues can be cultivated in childhood.
Apparently the chief existing difficulty lies in the abey-
ance of the sense of truth and honour in the majority of
our child population. There was no exception to this
serious statement, and the grave reasons advanced shared
a similar unanimity. Briefly they are as follows :

(1) Owing to the disorganisation which characterises
modern home life, children quickly resort to prevarication
to avoid the blow or sharp word which is their portion if
their conduct is faulty or when parents are irritable.
Where weak indulgence fosters licence, unsatisfactory con-
duct is liable to be disguised under a similar veil of deceit.

(2) It is a fashion of the age to ape a style of living
above that justified by the income. As a result the petty
economies, or other inconsistencies of private life, are
jealously shielded from the world, and children are early
trained not to repeat this, or to reveal that, to the neigh-
bours, i.e., to substitute deceit for frankness in any refer-
ences to home customs or doings, and to feel a pride in
the power to outdo their companions in the game of " bluff".

(3) It was also admitted that trade practices are in
some cases honeycombed with duplicity ; a dual standard
of honour is generally accepted, in which the children are
reared, and to which unfortunately they look for success.

This indictment is grievous, but there seems no reason to
question the statements on which it is based. The exist-
ence in the schools of a deplorably low standard of honour
and truth must be resolutely faced. To raise this standard
is no light task, for it depends more upon the removal of
some deep-seated social cankers than upon school training.



Moral Instruction in Girls' Elementary Schools 271

Emphatic and widespread was the regret at the general
absence of parental interest and support, not only in
matters moral and disciplinary. The prevalent indiffer-
ence to the children's school lives is well-nigh incredible.
If it be broken through, the immediate results are often
unpleasant ; the descriptive adjectives employed were
" aggressive " or " obstructive ". A few parents show some
interest from selfish motives, " How soon will the child
become a wage earner " ; more are ambitious, and resent
any hint that their children are not specially gifted and
distinguished ; most neither feel nor simulate the least
desire to associate themselves with that side of their off-
spring's existence. Efforts directed to arouse what is
wanting are evidently active, occasionally successful, often
futile. In overcoming this parental inertia, teachers
urgently need assistance from those who have more
freedom and more leisure for the purpose; for once a
friendly footing is established the results are encouraging.

Another problem in discipline is presented by "half
timers ". Without exception those best acquainted with
this difficulty desire that special schools should be set
apart for these scholars, and that the methods of teaching
should be more adapted to the greater independence of
their lives. Steady deterioration of character seems an
invariable result of mill life on young girls ; even the most
promising lack courage to hold aloof from their new
companions and not to comply with their customs. Few
teachers can conceal the distress caused to them by the
rapid loss of self-respect which results when a girl early
assumes the character of a factory-hand.

III. GENERAL CONCLUSIONS.

In conclusion a few words must be devoted to a brief
resume of the chief difficulties in the way of training



272 Moral Instruction and Training in Schools

character in girls' elementary schools, and of fresh oppor-
tunities for extending good influences.

The parental attitude towards the whole matter is often
deplorable, the home environment is unsatisfactory, and
associated with this is the independence of authority
common among children to-day. The " half-time " system
and premature work neutralise much patient effort on the
teachers' part and lead to the economic and educational
folly of sending girls when worn out by their work to
school. Large crowded schools and large classes prevent
the possibility of individual treatment ; and last, but not
least, the restrictions imposed on religious teaching are
keenly felt. Under some authorities, any reference to
religious motives is forbidden after 9.30 A.M.

The feeling of many women teachers is decidedly ad-
verse to any secularisation of the curriculum. But mental
confusion often occurs from childish efforts to distinguish
between the moral codes sanctioned at different periods of
Old Testament history and that of to-day. The short
time at the teacher's disposal could be turned to better
account if a selection were made of Bible passages more
suitable to immature minds, or if greater freedom were
allowed in the choice of the subject of their religious
lessons. To the negative commands of the Decalogue
there is often assigned a prominence which were prefer-
ably given to the affirmative law of love to God or man.
Examinations in the subject-matter of religious instruction
are not generally approved : interest and spontaneity are
occasionally sacrificed to verbal memorising and anxiety
to "pass". "Morals" is said to be a popular subject
with children at present ; it is hinted that one reason for
this may be found in the absence, so far, of examinations
in it.

The extension of school life, not at the elementary
school, but along the lines of the Scotch Supplementary



Moral Instruction in Girls' Elementary Schools 273

Courses, is strongly urged by some teachers in the interests
of moral training. It is felt that the restraints of super-
vision and the incentives to self-respecting conduct ought
to be extended from fourteen to sixteen, thus tiding over
two most difficult years, consolidating the moral sense and
protecting the bodily health at a very critical time.
Great stress is laid on this point, because, if enforced, it
would aid in abolishing the pernicious practice of " half-
time ".

The introduction of a better class of reader and song
book would be welcomed. More manual training is de-
sired, and, if time permitted, more physical exercises would
be approved of, though some teachers are still shy of
games on account of the incidental fatigue. Of the value
of the moral training of games they have no doubt
Cordial reference was made to medical inspection, especi-
ally for "eyes, ears and throats". Teachers, however,
are often discouraged when the inspection is not followed
by necessary remedial measures.

Very few teachers support either free feeding or free
medical treatment ; self-respect, they say, is already too
low to risk further degradation. The development of
school libraries, reading circles and girls' clubs is keenly
desired, and much self-sacrifice is devoted to these ends.

It is generally felt that the preparation of girls for the
increased responsibilities of adolescence must be under-
taken. What should be the mother's work cannot be so
fitly relegated to the medical profession as to those in
constant familiar contact with the girls' lives. It would
seem, therefore, to devolve on those who are bearing many
parental burdens to-day the teachers. In the last year
of school life, hygiene, personal, domestic and public,
should hold a prominent place in the curriculum. It should
be closely linked with other subjects, it should bring out
the point that all learning is primarily directed to the
VOL. I. 1 8



274 Moral Instruction and Training in Schools

betterment of life, to giving power over conditions, to
strengthening physical and moral as well as intellectual
qualities. It should be shown to rest upon a firm founda-
tion of fact, and should be inculcated by observation, ex-
periment and practice, as well as by theory, self-respect
and respect for others being hygienic as well as moral
duties. The best foundation for this instruction is laid by
nature study ; then a few plain words from a trusted source
spoken at the right moment would generally suffice to
show a girl at least the significance of potential maternity
and to inform her to whom she may turn with confidence
for counsel, information and guidance. That nature study
and practical hygiene find places on very few time-tables,
and that head teachers of large schools have no time and
often no place for such confidential talks, are fortunately
objections as surmountable as is their own diffidence to
assume these new responsibilities. In any case the matter
must be considered and handled with knowledge and tact.
It is unquestionably so urgent that some suitable line of
action must be evolved and pursued. School doctors,
especially when women, could give immense help to
teachers, many of whom are actually ignorant of the
temptations and of the indecent information familiar to
some girls. They often need explanatory assistance on
the connection, for instance, between posture, clothing or
regular attention to the daily functions and physical
morality ; and some confess it is difficult for them in the
first place to convince their own minds of the true dignity
of the reproductive function, on the details of which such
reserve is so habitually (and in some senses so wisely)
exercised by the pure minded and innocent, though it is so
degraded and abused by the vicious and self-indulgent.

Unfortunately it is necessary to remind those who con-
trol our education that to develop the latent moral sense,
to form character by habit and instruction, to nourish it



Moral Instruction in Girls' Elementary Schools 275

on high ideals, to check, to prune, to encourage immature
efforts, absorbs time, demands individual attention and
often appears unproductive. It is also advisable to bear
in mind how much is to be learned on the conditions,
methods, possibilities and results of moral training from
the great army of elementary school teachers, of which
the rank and file are slow to articulate their experience or
to publish their practical knowledge. This inquiry has
but strengthened the writer's previous impressions of the
patient labour devoted by the profession to the cause of
moral education ; a work which rarely leads to promotion,
and the enduring results of which are hidden in the folds
of the future.

It must never be forgotten that the supreme factors in
the stability of the national character are the parents ; the
chief pillars which sustain the dignity and beauty of the
national life are fashioned outside the school building. It
is to the agency of intelligent parental care, to the purifying
and elevating of all that constitutes home life, to the exer-
cise of cordial parental co-operation in the school training,
to which the most skilful teachers must look to provide
the soil and the sunshine in which the moral seed they sow
may germinate and thrive. For it is nothing less than the
combined influence of good homes and efficient schools
which is indispensable to the formation of trustworthy
characters and to the production of noble lives among the
boys and girls of England.

APPENDIX.

The gist of the notes made in six typical schools is given
below, to illustrate the character of the information upon which



Online LibraryMichael SadlerMoral instruction and training in schools; report of an international inquiry .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 24 of 45)