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training and teaching. Under the head of Training we
include the corporate life of the school society, the personal
influence of the teacher, the system of school management
all those factors, in short, which influence the scholar
apart from lessons. Now as to all these matters the
League has little to say : I do not think its leaders desire to
depreciate these elements in the growth of the young ; but,
whatever may be the views of this League, all the best
teachers in England have counselled us to attach supreme
importance to training, and I for one, looking back upon
more than twenty years of close association with the inner
life of schools, testify now, as I have done before in other
places, that character is formed, in the vast majority of
cases, by training i.e., by the suggestive influence of the
school society rather than by the formal processes of
teaching.

But leaving all this on one side, what can be said as to
the function of teaching ? Teaching, although it holds the
second place, can certainly be made a great factor in the






The Growth of Moral Ideas in Children 33

formation of character. We who study education, who
have sat at the feet of Pestalozzi, Herbart, Froebel, Arnold,
Dewey what else are we doing than endeavouring by
study and research to find out how to help children to be
virtuous by means of the pursuits of school? If, instead
of speaking of moral instruction (i.e., instruction in morals),
our friends would preach instruction for morals, then we
should have no difference with them. Every lesson is and
must be a step in moral experience, and helps the scholar
either to be better or worse, For your scholar is behaving
all the while. You may take the list of virtues found in the
League's programme, and I venture to assert that room for
the practice of these will be found in the course of every
week during school lessons. Our difficulty as teachers is
not in seeking topics for discussion which raise formal
morals above the threshold of consciousness, but in dis-
covering at each stage of a child's development such a
round of school occupations and studies as shall serve to
advance him step by step to higher levels of moral experi-
ence. That is the pearl of great price, the hidden treasure,
for which all true students of education are in search : and
the easy method of the League does not take us far.

5. For this method, when reduced to simple terms,
amounts just to this :

(l) It recognises that children enjoy story-telling, and it
advises us to select stories which are worthy of being told
worthy because they help the child to understand, so far
as a child can understand, the meaning of human life and
its relationships. But here there is nothing new: story,
in fact and fiction, has always been a great power in
education more so in the life of adults than in the life of
children. Many schools have, however, neglected to give
children a fair chance of reading and hearing good litera-
ture, and, so far as the League calls attention to this
neglect, it does well ; the National Home- Reading Union,
VOL. i. 3



34 Moral Instruction and Training in Schools

however, and Mr. W. T. Stead, with his " Penny Books,"
have done far more in the last few years. But it is also
needful to bear in mind that story-telling, whether of fact
or fiction, is stimulant rather than solid food : the practical
needs of experience are sterner monitors, both to ourselves
and to our children, than romance or song.

(2) It criticises the selection of story which has hitherto
been offered to children, and provides new material, partly
composed, partly selected, by specialists in moral instruc-
tion. Some of these stories are delightful : others are the
reverse. I am sure we must admit a debt of gratitude to
these writers, so far as they possess literary gifts and con-
tribute story for children which is really adapted to the
environment and experience of the child of to-day. It
must be admitted that, while the great classical stories of
our childhood the old ones of the Bible and of Homer,
the modern ones of Defoe and Bunyan, of Grimm and
Andersen must always hold their place, there is room
for a new literature of childhood centering round the
homes and lanes which lie about our little ones to-day.
Miss Chesterton certainly has gifts of this kind, but I
must not delay to attempt any criticism of her work : she
is one among many writers, chiefly women, who during the
last thirty years have enriched the children's library.

(3) It proposes to plan the telling of stories so as to
make a direct appeal to reflection about the terms of moral
conduct. Here we come at the root of the matter, and to
the one point in which the League offers a new contribu-
tion to pedagogy. Much that I have said already will
show why I cannot obey their dictum, and choose a child's
story in this fashion. The method is, in my view, false to
the truth of things, false to art. I quite admit that much
good literature has been created in response to moral
demands. I am no advocate of art for art's sake. Many
writers, great and small, have spoken their message to the



The Growth of Moral Ideas in Children 35

world by means of a story ; but a literature planned to ex-
pound a series of moral categories cannot be true to experi-
ence, and, if we adults would resent the employment of
such story upon ourselves, we ought to resent it on our
children's behalf.

(4) Is there, then, no place for the moral story ; no occa-
sion when a teacher can tell such a story? Certainly
there is: the example of all great teachers is before us
to show us the right way. When the lawyer asked the
Master : " Who is my neighbour ? " he was told a story in
reply. And the place for moral stories to children is
analogous : they tend to edification only when they serve
to answer a question raised by the child himself. But the
method of the League would invert this order. The
teacher is bound to help the child to explore the moral
world, and he cannot evade his function as a moral guide
on the plea that has been here advanced for delay in
formal instruction.

I said at the outset that the nation has become inquisi-
tive about the schools and their moral influence. People
are asking on every hand, What are the schools really
doing to promote the nation's well-being ? The success of
the League's propaganda is due, I take it, to this awaken-
ing of national anxiety : we are being convicted of sin.
And although I cannot find salvation in a moral instruc-
tion syllabus, I am sincerely thankful that the efforts of
the League are helping to stir the waters. What is
needed above all is to spread more widely among the
English people the belief that the work of the school can
mould, for good or evil, the life of the coming generation.



CHAPTER IV.

PRECEPT VERSUS EXAMPLE.

By Prof. JOHN ADAMS,
Professor of Education in the University of London.

I. ON the philosophical side the old theory of the im-
mutability of character is falling into disrepute, and on the
scientific side the view is now almost universally accepted
that acquired characteristics are not necessarily carried
forward by heredity. The outlook is accordingly much
more hopeful for those who are interested in moral train-
ing. A striking confirmation of the newer theories of
heredity is to be found in the careful records which the
Glasgow Municipal Authorities have kept of some 630
cases of children removed from evil environment when
still very young, and sent to the country to be brought up
in ordinary families at the expense of the Municipality.
Of the 630 children whose career has been kept under
close observation for years only twenty-three have gone
wrong, yet these children came from the worst possible
stock. Evidence 1 to the same effect is given by Dr.
Barnardo. It is probably impossible entirely to root out
the slums of a city. There seems to be an irreducible
surd of immorality inseparably connected with city life.
But it is encouraging to be able to believe that no indivi-
dual child is hopeless if taken in hand soon enough : say
any time before the age of five.

1 See article by Prof. Henry Jones in The Hibbtrt Journal for January,
1906.

36



Precept versus Example 37

2. There is a very general agreement among honest
people as to what constitutes practical morality. It is
only when the attempt is made to formulate views that
difficulties arise. An exact formula is always a source of
danger. All determination is negation, and negation in
discussion leads to strife, and the formation of opposing
schools.

For instance, a good deal of the quarrel about direct
and indirect moral instruction results from a too rigid in-
terpretation of the terms. All teaching may be regarded
as direct that has for its deliberate aim the producing of a
certain moral effect, even supposing there is no exhortation
or open moral instruction of which the pupil is conscious.
Teachers are too much afraid of undisguised moral instruc-
tion. This fear is apparently not confined to secondary
teachers, for the adjudicators in a recent competition ar-
ranged by the Charity Organisation Society among training
college students in London report that the most character-
istic feature of the essays submitted on the prescribed
subject 1 is the horror all the writers show of anything in
the form of direct instruction in thrift. "'The moral
teaching must be veiled ' ; it must be ' insinuated with the
greatest care and delicacy ' ; ' the actual use of the word
thrift must be avoided if possible ' ; such are some of the
recurrent expressions which show the attitude of the
writers. It is ominous to find the teachers of the next
generation affirming the impossibility of direct moral in-
struction."

It is obvious that in all this we have the fear of those
"contrariant ideas" that Mr. Keatinge lays so much
stress upon in his valuable book on Suggestion. As a
practical solution of the problem it would seem that most
of our moral instruction should be given in that form that

1 " A scheme for presenting to an Elementary School the subject of
Thrift, both from the economic and the moral aspect, with special reference
to exercise in composition."



38 Moral Instruction and Training in Schools

is usually known as indirect, but that a certain proportion
of moral instruction may be wisely given in what is ordin-
arily called the direct form. The essential point of im-
portance is the incidence of consciousness. It is necessary
to avoid introducing consciousness at the wrong place.
No exact age or stage can be stated as that at which con-
sciousness should be introduced. It has to come in at
different stages of advancement, according to the needs of
the individual case. The subject of the development of
consciousness in relation to moral evaluation is best treated
by Herbart in his evolution of the subjective character out
of the objective. The exact age at which this evolution
takes place cannot be stated exactly. Herbart tells us that
it begins in the boy and rapidly develops in the youth.

The tendency to self-reference that has so many
dangers in connection with the development of character
has at least the compensation that it works in the in-
structor's favour in a moral lesson. Whether he will or
no the pupil makes personal applications of stories that
come his way. When a tale is told to a pupil with the
express purpose of inculcating a moral, there is certainly
no harm in the pupil being conscious of the moral, though
harm may be done by the teacher giving it undue promin-
ence. " Example is better than precept " is a dangerous
half truth. Precept is higher than example, though ex-
ample is more effective in producing immediate practical
results. Precept is necessary to the intelligent application
of example.

One danger of direct moral teaching is the inevitable
criticism by the teacher of the conduct of the children's
parents. After all, those parents are ordinary human
beings, and inexperienced teachers frequently do harm by
their exaggerated condemnation of certain habits that the
children see every day exemplified at home. Naturally
the home influence is of fundamental importance in moral



Precept versus Example 39

training. So much is this the case that there is a chance
of something not far removed from what the psychologists
call " divided personality " occurring in the case of chil-
dren coming from low homes. As to their language, such
children are frequently described as bi-lingual, having one
language for the home and another for the school. May
it not be true that they are also bi-moral, having one code
of morals for the school and another for the home ? One
main aim of the school should be to co-ordinate the two
kinds of morality, so that the child's character may be
a whole. In ordinary school work we have now realised
the dangers of the water-tight compartment system, by
which each subject is supposed to stand as independent of
all the others. The same danger exists in moral training,
though it is not so clearly seen. It is not so important
that every person should have the same standard of
morality as it is that each person should have a uniform
standard of morality. The English, the French and the
German standards differ in some respects from each other,
and it is sometimes asked whether any evil effects would
follow from the teaching of say English children by French
or German maids. The problem occurs in a very acute
form in South Africa, where the moral effect produced on
white children by associating with black servants is greatly
disturbing white parents. In such cases there is a real
danger of introducing two standards into the moral life of
the child. On leaving school, young people are brought
under the influence of the morality of the workshop that
then begins to function as the complement of the morality
of the home. It is therefore of the highest importance
that every effort should be made to secure that the work-
shop morality shall be a continuation of the school morality,
rather than a reproduction of the morality of the baser
sort of home.

3. With regard to the schoolboy code of honour, it ought



40 Moral Instruction and Training in Schools

to be neither opposed nor ignored, but utilised. To begin
with, it must be known and understood Whether the
master, likes it or not, he has got to deal with it. Mr.
Oscar Browning may be right when he accuses Arnold of
instituting a system that subordinates the masters to the
boys, but the masters who wish to produce a homogeneous
development of the moral nature of their boys must build
on the conventions already established. The essential
conventionality of the schoolboy society may be used as a
very powerful weapon for good : though the masters may
have to stoop in order to conquer. Many of the restric-
tions placed by schoolboys on each other are in themselves
silly and meaningless, but they may be used wisely, and
made an important organon in moral training.

4. The experience of the people of Scotland is that moral
training may be very successfully carried out in connection
with religious instruction. Where there is no religious
difficulty, and no conflict between the school and the
home, there is general agreement as to the relation between
religion and morality. Some of the Shorter Catecjiism is
no doubt quite unintelligible to ordinary children, but a great
deal of it, in the hands of capable teachers, forms the best
possible material for moral instruction. It will be difficult
for the Moral Instruction League to get a better manual for
its work than the non-metaphysical parts of the Shorter
Catechism. The fact that the Catechism has the religious
sanction has certainly added to its value as a manual of
morality. The Bible as such is not infrequently taught in
an unreligious spirit, but almost never in an irreligious spirit.
Even teachers who have no sympathy with theological
dogmas, frequently find that for mere moral purposes the
Bible forms an exceptionally good manual, and many of
them admit that this is so because of the religious sanction.
The question has been raised whether it is possible to
prepare teachers for their work as moral instructors without



Precept versus Example 41

the use of religion. This naturally raises the question of
the meaning of religion. It is very generally stated that
what is at issue is not the kind of religion that is necessary,
but whether religion of some sort is necessary. There can
be no doubt but that a sincerely religious teacher gains
from his religion additional power as a moral instructor,
but the question remains whether a philosopher may not
get out of his philosophy the same stimulus that the other
gets out of his religion. In certain purely secular colleges
for the training of teachers the students are taught the
psychological principles on which a soul works, and their
instructors try to inspire them with the idea of favouring
moral development by skilfully guiding the activity of the
child. The usual criticism is that teachers thus trained
lack the fire that religion gives. But many philosophical
teachers are inspired by their philosophy just as others are
by religion, in which case it is sometimes objected that
their philosophy is a religion and the matter may well be
left at that.

Many teachers have the belief that moral instruction can
be better conveyed through religious literature than by
more or less philosophical analysis, but this obviously
comes to little more than a preference for the concrete as
opposed to the abstract, and brings us back to the funda-
mental question of the place of self-consciousness in moral
training. For the highest morality we must be conscious
of our motives, but for a working morality we have to
depend largely upon our paid-up moral capital. By culti-
vating good moral habits in our pupils, we enable them to
be so moral without consciousness of morality that they
have leisure to become conscious of moral issues when
these require special attention. Most of our morality must
be carried on below the threshold of consciousness, but un-
less we are morally dead we must be able to treat new cases
as they arise in the full light of purposive consciousness.



CHAPTER V.

MORAL INSTRUCTION, AS CONVEYED (i) THROUGH SET
LESSONS OR (2) THROUGH THE GENERAL COURSE OF
STUDY. 1

By Mr. F. J. GOULD.

MORAL training, as administered under the Code of the
English Board of Education (i.e., in the two daily secular
sessions of the elementary schools), may be realised
through (i) systematic lessons devoted to ethical subjects,
such as kindness, duty, social service, etc., or (2) the
purposive moral tendency of instruction in literature, his-
tory, geography, art, science, etc. The brief remarks which
follow are based upon my experience in moral instruction
classes, and upon the general impressions gathered up
during my work as an elementary school teacher from
1871 to 1896.

i. The systematic method is often referred to as the
Direct It might also be called the Schematic. Its essence
consists in the endeavour, by means of the presentation of
concrete examples of conduct, and conversational analysis
of motives and consequences, to enlighten and strengthen
the child's judgment. The association with feeling and

1 During the past fifteen years I have given lessons in Ethical Sunday
Schools, and criticism lessons of the same general character before
audiences of teachers and others ; and I have printed some hundreds of
lessons in book or newspaper form. The basis adopted was that of the
Moral Instruction League, namely, the treatment of the ethical factor as
the supreme aim, and through methods that would either be approved as
adequate by parents of various beliefs or approved so far as they went.
Such teaching covers ground generally agreed upon, and avoids theo-
logical sanctions which do not command agreement.

42



Moral Instruction 43

imagination is indispensable in sound instruction, but the
distinctive aim of the schematic lessons is to discipline
thought. Hence this method may be regarded as the
logic of moral education. The term logic will not neces-
sarily imply formal conclusions such as might be indicated
on blackboards. To the skilled teacher there is a logic of
feeling and images as well as of verbal statements. In
younger children the feelings may be aroused in orderly
development by carefully selected stories and poems, etc.,
and by images in the shape of typical heroes in religious
and general history ; and only from about the age of ten
need logical verbal statements take a regular place in the
lessons. The teacher should be left free to choose illustra-
tions from Biblical and other sacred literatures, history,
biography, poetry, art, classical legends, folk-lore, science
and personal experience. Nor (in my opinion) would it at
all conflict with a State teacher's duty if he unobtrusively
allowed the children to see on what religious or social
sanction he rested his own moral ideas and practice. The
sanctions of teachers differ, but to appreciate the loyalty
of any teacher to a cherished ideal is itself a moral lesson
of high value to the children. A marked feature of the
logical instruction would be courses of consecutive lessons
on definite subjects, e.g., kindness or justice, treated in a
series of applications to personal conduct, and the wider
spheres of national and international relations, just as
" periods " are taken in history, or " regions " in geography.
The suggestion is not, of course, that any one year of
school life should be monopolised by one subject, but that
in each year the salient themes of kindness, veracity, self-
control, etc., be dealt with in sets of lessons developed
methodically, and that next year a similar series might be
repeated on a higher level of thought and with greater
complexity of character. The staple material of the
instruction will be examples and incidents dramatically



44 Moral Instruction and Training in Schools

presented. A lesson may consist of one story or several,
but in any case there must be a definite moral end in the
teacher's mind. In the instruction of elder scholars the
end should be rendered explicit. All capable teachers,
without exception, should be expected to show proficiency
in the art of vivid narration. That is already called for
in the ordinary system of Biblical instruction. For the
purpose of schematic teaching no text-book should be
placed in the children's hands. The personal enthusiasm
of the teacher should suffice to impart lucidity and interest.
Speaking from long experience, I can say that " direct "
moral instruction, treated by means of parable, story and
poetry, is more calculated to rouse the attention and im-
press the imagination than any other subject that appeals
to the children's feeling and intelligence. And the mere
fact of dealing with the subject in class is itself a striking
reminder that conduct is a matter of common interest
and social importance.

2. The indirect or incidental method conveys moral
impressions through the ethical use of literature, history,
geography, etc., without explicit logical analysis. Geog-
raphy should associate countries with religious move-
ments, the biographies of patriots, and the heroes of art,
industry, social reform, etc., and form a sympathetic
acquaintance (if only rudimentary) with native literature,
manners and customs. History should embrace records
of heroism, philanthropy and the characteristic poetry,
art and industrial life of each period. Art should make
its appeal through as beautiful a school environment as
local conditions allow. It should be represented in copies
of masterpieces of painting and sculpture. Music should
be associated with sound moral sentiment expressed in
good literary form. The practice of dramatic art, either
in dialogues from standard authors or in the acting of
school plays, should both serve as a vehicle of noble ideas



Moral Instruction 45

and as a means of teaching co-operation in beautiful and
recreative effects. Reading is in the first instance an
instrument of self-improvement, and for that purpose we
need books written in easier diction than that now in
vogue, in order that the mind may follow ideas rather than
words a habit which would make for larger sincerity.
The much-neglected art of elocution should be encouraged,
with a view to reading aloud in the family circle, or at
the bedside of a sick friend, or in social entertainment or
conference. Poetry should be presented through the



Online LibraryMichael SadlerMoral instruction and training in schools; report of an international inquiry .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 7 of 45)