Michael Sadler.

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

. (page 33 of 45)
Online LibraryMichael SadlerMoral instruction and training in schools; report of an international inquiry .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 33 of 45)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

of Jesus takes the leading place. But biography, poetry,
art, science, may all have their part in this process. 1 A
teacher who would feel shy and awkward in the attempt
to expound a passage of Scripture, or who is doubtful about
its historic truth, may hold a class in breathless interest
as he explains the skeleton of a small bird, unfolds a series
of photographs of the phases of the moon, or rapidly
illustrates on the blackboard the growth of a flower.
" There are so many kinds of voices in the world, and no
kind is without signification." This view is not, of course,
peculiar to any denomination, and it is likely to become
more or less general in all. But it leads to greater elas-
ticity and freedom of method. It has already deeply
influenced the practice of the Friends. It has obvious
dangers which need to be vigilantly watched ; but it rests
upon the important truth that the scholar " is not alter-
nately boy, schoolboy, and Sunday-school boy. His life
is a unity, and so is the education process which ministers
to his life. In whatever type of institution it is carried
on, whether in Sunday school, day school, or in centres of
higher education, the process has, broadly speaking, the
same aim and meaning, viz., the awakening of the mind

1 See, for instance, The Sunday School Code Book and Teachers'
Manual, issued by the Sunday School Association, Essex Hall, pp. 46-56.

The Sunday Schools and the Adult Schools 381

to truth, of the heart to the admiration of what is worthy,
and of the will to the pursuit of what is good." x

In the meantime the Bible is being studied afresh in the
light of modern knowledge. The exercise of historical
imagination needed for its adequate interpretation is often
difficult, but all kinds of helps are now provided. Inter-
national lessons have marked out yearly cycles of passages,
and efforts have been generated to gather teachers into
preparation classes, and test scholars by examinations.
Criticism has not unnaturally followed some of these
experiments ; 2 and it is at present impossible to say pre-
cisely what form they will ultimately assume. The
necessity for more effective training led to the opening of
the Training Institute for Sunday School Workers at
Selby Oak, near Birmingham, under the direction of
Mr. Hamilton Archibald, where the Bible, Religious
Pedagogy, and Child Psychology, are studied with special
reference to practical work. Short " Summer Schools "
for Sunday-school teachers have been held for some years
past at Manchester College, Oxford. In these and kindred
efforts the ethical aim acquires more and more prominence ;
and the historical study of the Bible necessarily involves
increasing attention to the moral elements of Scripture,
as implied in the conception of an enlarging revelation.
To the "Guild Library" Prof. William L. Davidson (of
Aberdeen) contributes a volume on Christian Ethics ; 3
while in the Sunday School Chronicle for 1907 the Rev.
A. F. Mitchell issued a series of lessons on the " Ethical
Teaching of Jesus," followed during the present year by a
weekly series on the " Ethical and Social Teaching of St.
Paul ". No one, indeed, can look through the columns of
this journal without recognising gladly the increasing

1 The New Movement in Sunday School Work.

2 See in particular the plea for Reform in Sunday School Teaching, by
the distinguished Primitive Methodist teacher, Prof. A. S. Peake, M.A.

3 London, A. & C. Black, 3rd edition, 1907.

382 Moral Instruction and Training in Schools

stress laid on the connection between morals and religion,
and the earnest effort to make it effective for the strength-
ening of character and the conduct of life.

If these are the general aims of the Sunday school on
the side of moral instruction, it remains to inquire how
far they are realised. To such a question no precise
answer can ever be given. The obvious inequalities in
their condition have already been mentioned. Under
the easy-going habits of modern times the teacher's
opportunity has been grievously curtailed. The morning
school, especially in great urban centres where the need
of Sunday rest is urgent, tends to disappear, or to sur-
vive only in the form of short children's services. In
the afternoon the period allotted for religious teaching
is estimated by an experienced observer at only thirty
to forty minutes for two-thirds of the scholars, and for
the remainder at not more than a single hour. 1 Fluctua-
tions of attendance, sometimes caused by petty quarrels,
resentment at fancied slights or supposed injustice, soon
reduce even these scanty opportunities ; and irregularity
is unhappily not confined to scholars. Teachers are not
all equally devoted or equally punctual. Low standards
sometimes creep into volunteer-service; and the dis-
organisation produced by careless absence or (alas) hardly
less careless presence has called forth suggestions from
many quarters for paid superintendents, or for some
arrangement by which a junior pastor, after special train-
ing for the work, shall be placed at the head of the corps
of teachers, and be the responsible director of their efforts.
That the instruction even of well-meaning teachers is
sometimes ineffective must be sorrowfully confessed.
Ignorance, lack of adaptability, fitfulness of method,
want of system and order, difficulty in working with
others and taking a share in common plans, imperfect

1 Bible Teaching, p. 109.

The Sunday Schools and the Adult Schools 383

preparation, or none at all, these and a score of other
defects can easily be discovered by those who look for
them. 1 Most serious perhaps is the lack of knowledge of
the scholars' homes, the inability to realise the conditions
of their lives or the nature of their temptations, which
prevent those who never see their scholars except at the
Sunday class from equipping their lessons with vivid per-
sonal application. No co-operation is then possible be-
tween teacher and parent ; the force of home influence is
never definitely secured, or even invited, in support of
the school.

On the other hand, by concentration exclusively on
religious and moral ends interpreted in the sense of
broad human sympathies the work of the Sunday school
emphasises from the outset the seriousness of life. " A
Christian has no duties," it has been said, " only privileges ; "
but privileges may take on the aspect of obligations ;
and those who remain to adult years in connection with
their youthful religious home testify by their presence to
the force with which the school has shaped their life. 2
Innumerable witnesses repeat that the best and most
helpful influences they have ever known came through
this channel. Thousands of ministers and superintendents
could doubtless confirm the following experience of a
minister in the Midlands : " Most of our scholars are of
the poorer and ' slum ' class. Those who remain some
time under Sunday-school influence show marked im-
provement in personal habits and character. In a few
cases the change for the better is almost incredible.
I have known boys and girls of the very worst and all

1 Some Unitarians note in their own schools, " Sociology much to the
fore ; Bible study is too much neglected ".

2 The Sunday School Union reports (in 1907) 411,260 seniors out of a
total of 1,787,778. In the schools connected with the Sunday School
Association 10,052 are reckoned out of 34,470. The difference in the
customs of the South and the North of England must be borne in mind.

384 Moral Instruction and Training in Schools

but criminal type come to us foul and obscene in habit
and language, and in one year show extraordinary im-
provement, and in four or five become quite self-respecting
and courteous and even 'refined' in tone, and this in
spite of miserable home conditions. . . . The result is,
I think, always to be attributed mainly to the personal
influence of the teachers." l

This is, in truth, the secret of Sunday-school success.
The young scholar is introduced into a society, often
marked by a tone palpable if indescribable, such as he
has never felt before. Where the teachers are some of them
professionally trained, perhaps (in some rare instances)
university lecturers, or heads of pupil-teacher centres, an
example is at once set of first-rate efficiency. There are
no Code formalities, no cramming and driving, no haste or
pressure. The young life grows up under healthful influences.
It is apparent (remarks a correspondent) in the early mixing
of the sexes, where they learn to know one another with
decorum, and to treat each other with respect. In the
midst of reverence for elders, kindness to animals, honour
for manhood and womanhood, a sense of responsibility
for life is generated. Friendships are formed with
teachers, and a bridge of goodwill is thrown over the
gulf of estrangement between class and class. As the
scholar responds to these influences, he advances to take
his share in the work of the school, fills minor offices of
helpfulness, and learns to give something as well as re-
ceive. In many of the larger schools boys' and girls'
clubs, guilds of beneficent service, contributions to missions,
to hospitals, to children's cots in nursing homes, and the like,
promote a spirit of goodwill and call forth real sacrifices.
All kinds of associated institutions await the energies of
the boys and girls who pass into adolescence. Bands of

1 Communicated by the Rev. J. M. Lloyd Thomas (Unitarian), Notting-

The Sunday Schools and the Adult Schools 385

Hope and temperance societies seek to strengthen them
against the temptations of alcohol ; Christian Endeavour
societies, friendly societies, cricket clubs, reading circles
for the study of the best literature, debating clubs, and
many other forms of common action unite in exerting
directly or indirectly influences of an ethical kind in form-
ing and maintaining right personal habits and high stand-
ards of life. Nor are wider civic and national duties
forgotten. In adult gatherings on Sunday afternoons an
effort is often made to bring religious and moral principles
directly to bear on questions of social organisation and
international relations. When the activities of the school
are thus extended through the week, and its outlook is
expanded over the wider fields of human affairs, the boys
and girls learn that their daily welfare is matter of serious
concern to their Sunday teacher ; and the young men and
women come to understand that the instruction which has
instilled into them principles of personal conduct, and the
training which has helped them to make these principles
their constant guide, supply them with the means of
hallowing the whole life ad majorem gloriam Dei.

[See the publications of the Sunday School Union (57 Ludgate Hill,
London, B.C.), and the Sunday School Association (Essex Hall, Essex
Street, Strand, London, W.C.), and the general literature of the various
great denominations, especially Our Sunday Schools, published by the
Congregational Union of England and Wales, Memorial Hall, Farringdon
Street, B.C.]


By Mr. Arnold Rowntree.

In any review of the institutions whose aim it is to build
up character, to encourage the spirit of brotherhood and
helpfulness, and to develop the sense of civic responsibility,
the Adult School is worthy of a conspicuous place.

It may seem strange at first sight that this useful agency
has attracted so little public notice, but it must be remem-
bered that adult schools, until recent years, were almost
VOL. I. 25

386 Moral Instruction and Training in Schools

solely the concern of the Society of Friends, who have
always been careful not to magnify their work. Adult
schools actually originated in Nottingham as early as 1798,
but the development of the movement began with the estab-
lishment of a school at Birmingham in 1845, followed in
the next decade by the formation of other schools in York-
shire and elsewhere. The commencement was humble
enough, and sprang from the great desire of one or two
earnest men to do something to secure a wider fellowship
between all classes, and to bring a personal knowledge of
the meaning of the life of Jesus Christ into the lives of
those who had not the advantage of education and instruc-
tion in their homes. 1

From the first, the movement aimed at being educational,
and starting as it did with many men who had never
learned to read and write in their boyhood, there was
great scope for the teaching of even the elements of edu-
cation. It was not until the late seventies that the move-
ment became known outside the religious body in which
it originated, and the thirty years' solid foundation thus
laid by Friends has proved of value in keeping the schools
free from sectarian or party bias.

In April, 1907, the schools in Great Britain numbered
1,378, as follows: men, 936; women, 402; mixed, 32;
juniors, 8; the total membership being 97,735, of which
67,547 were men, 26,758 women, and 3,430 juniors. These
figures are almost double those of seven years ago.

The schools (which meet usually at an early hour on
Sunday for men, and on Sunday afternoon for women) are
primarily of a religious character, and the Bible lesson is
made the central point of interest. They aim at being
free from any sectarian domination, and men and women

1 For a short history of Adult Schools see A History of the Adult School
Movement, by J. W. Rowntree and H. B. Binns (London, Headley
Brothers, 1903), and Continuation Schools in England and Elsewhere
(Manchester University Press, 1907), pp. 17-21.

The Sunday Schools and the Adult Schools 387

of all beliefs are working together in them, without diffi-
culty or friction. They are entirely democratic, each
separate school governing itself by a popularly elected
committee, or by a monthly meeting of all the members.
The country is mapped out into county or district unions,
and all the schools are federated accordingly. These
unions appoint representatives to a national council, which
is a central advisory body, binding the whole movement

In the more definitely " religious " work of the schools
the ethical side of Christianity is strongly emphasised, and
the Bible is studied with a view to discovering how its
teaching can be translated into action here and now.
Under the leadership of the president of the class, free
discussion is encouraged, and this interchange of thought
helps to break down barriers and establish fellowship.

Frequently some member of the class other than the
president takes his turn at introducing the lesson.

In addition to this, much useful practical work is done.
Nowadays there is not the same need for classes in reading
and writing, but the educational work is none the less
emphasised. Many schools devote the first part of their
Sunday meeting to study of this kind. " Lecturettes " or
continuous teaching by competent persons, on literary,
historical or scientific subjects, engage attention, and the
scholars are encouraged to pursue these studies privately
at home, or jointly at week-night classes.

Thus, natural history talks are frequently followed by
Saturday afternoon rambles, where, in an unconventional
way, the lessons of nature may be learned and good fellow-
ship fostered . Sometimes a continuous study of some social
question is taken up, and this has led, in a number of cases,
to the formation of social service circles for more detailed
study, and for the practical application of the lessons learnt.

To aid this side of the work, a series of shilling hand-

388 Moral Instruction and Training in Schools

books is being published by the Friends' Social Union,
dealing with unemployment, housing, sweating, the health
of the State, etc. In one of the women's schools in York
nearly forty working women have undertaken the study
of a book on The Making of the Home, each purchasing
a copy by weekly payments, and each in turn opening
the discussion on the chapter for the week. This is to be
followed by a study of a standard book on the mental
culture of children, conducted in the same free conversa-
tional style.

Great encouragement is given to agencies which inculcate
thrift. In most schools will be found such institutions as
savings funds, sick clubs, coal, clothing and book funds,
benevolent funds, and many thousands of pounds are
saved every year by means of such agencies. Many men
through such personal and brotherly solicitude are induced
to become thrifty, quite a large amount being taken in
pence and halfpence.

Music is another elevating influence which is being
cultivated in a great degree at the present time. In many
schools enthusiastic musicians have induced the members
to form male voice choirs, which practise glee singing,
and sometimes hold annual contests. Occasionally in
schools where the existence of musical talent was hardly
suspected it has been found to a marked degree, and in
many of the industrial villages of Leicestershire and
Northamptonshire capable choirs composed of men who,
until they came into the school, had no idea that they pos-
sessed any such skill, are exerting considerable influence ;
whilst the weekly practices, the frequent intervisitation of
neighbouring schools, and the county competitions all
contribute to the promotion of good fellowship.

A marked feature of the work in recent years has been
the establishment of institutes or clubs where the members
can meet in social intercourse during the week.

The Sunday Schools and the Adult Schools 389

They are frequently started on unconventional lines
and in a very humble way, and it has been found that
better work is often done by these means than on more
ambitious lines. Sometimes a dilapidated building is
taken and put into repair by the personal work of the
men, who gladly give up their spare time for such an
object. Or an old public-house, which has lost its licence,
is taken, and under the old name continues to attract the
men who used it under the old regime. Quite a number
of such converted public-houses are to be found in
Birmingham, and they also exist in Sheffield, Leeds,
Banbury, Kidderminster and other towns. All that was
innocent in the amusements and social life of the public-
house continues under the new conditions, and it is found
that great success follows this very interesting effort.
These clubs are usually self-supporting, the id. per week
members' fee being supplemented by the receipts from
billiard tables and other games. The object of the clubs
is to induce men who have sunk very low in the moral
scale to make another attempt to live a better life, and
hundreds of cases could be given where those who
would be untouched by a temperance or religious ad-
dress have been unable to resist the good comradeship
of their fellows which such clubs make possible, and
have been carefully and tactfully guided into better

Other adult school agencies which may be mentioned
are debating societies, allotment gardens and outdoor
sports of all kinds. Co-operative holidays, week-end
lecture schools and similar institutions are organised, and
the very best of fellowship is fostered in such ways. The
"Co-ops" are held at Whitsuntide and August Bank
Holiday, where parties usually numbering about two
hundred (both men and women) spend some days together
among the hills or by the sea.

390 Moral Instruction and Training in Schools

Five County Unions promoted such holidays during the
1907 Whitsuntide holidays, and several others followed in

The Adult School Week-end Lecture School is of recent
date, but bids fair to develop into a most useful institution.
One of the most interesting yet held took place at the Adult
School Guest House (a delightful holiday home for adult
scholars at Scalby, near Scarborough). The party con-
sisted of between thirty and forty West Riding working
men, who arrived on Thursday evening, and remained
until Tuesday. They lived togethei, and joined daily in
moorland walks, while each morning and evening lectures
were given on such subjects as natural history, biography
and the art of teaching. Several university men met with
them, joined in the walks and supplemented the lectures
by personal conversation and friendship.

Somewhat similar gatherings have been held at York,
Sheffield, Leeds, Birmingham and other places.

Too much stress cannot be laid on the way in which
this many-sided movement breaks down the barriers of
party, creed or class.

In many villages the social life of the place has been re-
volutionised by the influence of the adult school, in which
men of every class and creed have found it possible not
only to work with each other, but to learn mutual respect
and esteem ; whilst in our crowded towns thousands of men
and women, who in many cases have been untouched by
any other agency, have found througji the adult school a
helpful friendship and a re-awakened interest in life.

Condensed from a communication by Mr. J. Morgan Jones, Aberdare.

In 1905 there were at least 750,000 names on the
registers of the Welsh Sunday schools at least one out

The Sunday Schools and the Adult Schools 391

of every three of the population. Of these about 160,000
were in schools carried on entirely in English ; and about
590,000 belonged to the schools taught in Welsh. All the
schools contain a very large proportion of adolescents and
adults, and the average attendance is probably higher than
in the schools of England, which the English schools in
Wales otherwise resemble. The present survey can there-
fore pass these by.

The Sunday schools in the Welsh districts are now, as
they have been for a century, the most effective moral
educational force in Wales. The main reason for this,
apart from the inclusion of persons of all ages, is that they
have been always identified with Welsh patriotic sentiment,
and have made a point of teaching the native language.
In contrast with the public elementary school, which has
been essentially English in speech and method, the Sunday
school rests on the national and historical presuppositions
of the child. Its buildings may be defective ; its apparatus
inadequate ; its provision for the training of teachers may
be fitful ; the organisation of week-day teaching to bridge
the gulf between the ordinary educational agencies and the
work of the Sunday school may be almost wholly wanting ;
but the attention given to the Welsh language secures it a
powerful hold on the life of the people.

It is not so long since the use of a Welsh word by a
pupil in a public elementary school was severely punished.
The result has been that the time of the junior classes in
Welsh Sunday schools has been largely occupied with the
teaching of language and reading. This is done by a series
of books the matter of which is taken from the Bible. Of
course this involves the expenditure of valuable time, but
it has established an indissoluble connection between
religion and the Bible on the one hand, and the national
life and sentiment on the other. Moreover, it has prepared
the way for freer, less traditional and more educational

392 Moral Instruction and Training in Schools

methods of giving religious instruction to the children
when the schools are released from the obligation of
teaching the elements of the native tongue. They will not
be tied to the exact form and language of the biblical
narratives. But where, as in Glamorgan, the transition
from Welsh to English is going on rapidly, and the younger
generation is becoming monoglot English, the young
people tend to lose touch with the Sunday school. The
boys and girls lose their contact with Welsh life and
literature without compensating gain from contact with
anything of value in English life and books. They fall
into the hands of degenerate sport and unhealthy senti-
mental English papers of the poorer kind. Continuation
schools are a chaos when they are not a farce. It is a
very interesting but a very serious moral situation.

A great majority of the 750,000 scholars are over fifteen
years of age, and the majority probably over eighteen.
The adult classes are all small in number (six, seven or
eight at the most), and the teaching takes the form of free
and open discussion, starting from some verse in the
biblical passage which forms the lesson. Under wise
leadership this may become a force of tremendous moral
and intellectual influence. But as in the case of the
questioning of one or more schools by a special minister

Online LibraryMichael SadlerMoral instruction and training in schools; report of an international inquiry .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 33 of 45)