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education in forming character and habits is displayed in all the various nations of the earth, and meets us at every turn in the circle of our own acquaintance.
The influence of mind upon mind is much greater than is commonly imagined, and even silent example often acts powerfully. We have had striking instances of the good effects produced upon depraved characters among the female prisoners in Newgate, through the influence of virtuous and benevolent minds; and this is a cheering earnest of what might be expected if the attention of society in a more general way were directed towards the formation of character in the great body of the people. It is incomparably more easy to form good habits and fix good principles in the tender minds of the children of the poor, than to reclaim those who have already become vicious. A very little consideration will show how deeply we are all interested in the good or bad habits and principles of the poor; they form in all countries the most numerous class, and hence in them the physical strength of a nation resides. The middle and upper classes are dependent upon them for the production or the preparation of articles of the first necessity; the rich could no more do without the poor than the poor without the rich; the interests of both classes are inseparable if the poorer classes are in a state of suffering, the effects will be felt by the classes above them; and in proportion as the poor are more depraved and vicious, exactly in that proportion will the security of our persons and property be diminished. We are then called upon in the most powerful manner to place within the reach of the poor the means of providing a religious education for their children; seeing that it would tend to the prevention of crime and consequently of misery; that it would increase our own happiness as well as theirs, and promote to an incalculable degree the security of the state.
The force of these great truths has been deeply felt in this country; pious and benevolent individuals have already established a great number of schools; the prejudice against instructing the poor is now confined to a very few, and generally whenever the subject is mentioned, the only question is, as to the best means of carrying the object into effect. The Sunday schools established in the first instance, in order to bestow the blessing of education upon those poor children who were confined on all the working days of the week in manufactories, have proved a signal blessing, and in a twofold point of view:-first, in forming many pious and virtuous characters among the children; and, secondly, in providing such an object for the exercise of benevolence, as must heighten and exalt the virtue of those who gratuitously devote their time as teachers.
As the good moral effects of education by the multiplication of schools became more and more apparent, it seemed highly desirable to embrace if possible the whole population; but the expense of the common method of teaching was such as to render schools for the instruction of all impracticable, until plans were introduced, by which one master, assisted by monitors from among the scholars, is enabled to teach several hundred children. By these economical arrangements the charge of educating a child is reduced to a comparative trifle; and in consequence schools have rapidly increased in number. Still, however, many thousands in the metropolis, and in different parts of the country, are at the present moment totally unprovided with the means of instruction. To impart still further the benefits of useful knowledge, active measures must be taken to ameliorate the general condition of the labouring classes: these measures will principally consist
I. In an investigation into the actual circumstances of all the poor, by associations of disinterested and benevolent persons in the middle and upper ranks of life, by the separation of cities, towns and villages into districts, with a view to the division of labour.
II. In removing, as much as possible, from about the poor the temptation to do wrong.
III. In providing for the education of all the children of the poor in moral and religious habits.
IV. In assisting the poor to support themselves, as far as possible, by their own exertions; by placing them in such a situation that they may feel that they are respected, and have a character to support, and that it would be humiliating to them to receive parochial relief.
We will now consider how these measures can be carried into effect; and it is evident that the first step requires the CO-OPERATION of disinterested and benevolent persons.
In every country where a sufficient number of public-spirited individuals can be found, arrangements may be easily made, to remedy many of the most pressing evils of poverty; to educate all the children of the poor; and to give a bias to virtue instead of vice in the great mass of the people. If we lived up to the principles of the Christian religion, if we loved our neighbour as ourselves, we should not answer, when invited to assist in some benevolent exertion, "I have no time." We should, in the first place, consider the nature of the duty to our family imposed upon us by our situation in life, and, valuing time as property, make that arrangement of it, as should provide sufficiently for the fulfilment of such duty, and leave something to spare for the duty of evincing our love to our neighbour. If only two or three hours in a week
could be thus devoted by every individual, it might, upon a suitable plan for the division of labour, do all that is in contemplation. The great work of ascertaining the circumstances of the poor in any given district, and providing for the education of their children, must be, in a country like England, the work of individuals. It can never be made a measure of Government. But Government might, with the best effect, lend its assistance to every rational and practicable plan for ameliorating the condition of the poorer classes, when it had satisfactory proof that such plans were conducted by persons of intelligence and probity, and were calculated to secure the objects in view. As it is impossible to assist any person effectually without knowing his particular circumstances, investigation will be the first step in the course to be pursued. Whenever ten or a dozen individuals can be found who reside near each other, and are disposed to devote a certain number of hours in a week to endeavour to improve the situation of the poor among them, the first thing to be done will be, to mark out the streets or districts which it will be in their power to visit regularly. The districts being defined, the persons associating must form themselves into sub-committees of two members each; and a certain street or part of a street must be allotted for the visitation of every sub-committee. Books ruled in columns must be provided, and the information obtained arranged under separate heads; as, name of street; name of heads of family; trade or occupation; number of children and ages; whether educated or not; how many of the family can read; have they a bible; are: they members of a bible association; are they depositors in a savings bank; do they receive parish relief and to what amount; if in distress what is the cause of it; the number of public houses and spirit shops in the district; the names and description of the societies or clubs held at them and the times of their meeting, with any other inquiry that may be thought desirable, and particularly if there be any school in the district. The association should meet once a week, when the state of the district may be, ascertained from the visitor's books, and measures taken accordingly.
From the data thus obtained, the association would be prepared to consider of the best means for accomplishing the second measure, viz. to remove as much as possible from about the poor the temptations to do wrong. Having by kind and conciliatory treatment obtained a place in their affections, they might dissuade them from attending clubs at public houses, and encourage them to employ their leisure in useful reading and improving their minds, and in the care of their families. Access should be given
them to the library of the nearest school, whence under certain regulations they might borrow books.
The third measure, or the education of the children of the poor, must claim the greatest share of the attention of the association. They will ascertain, by the reports of their visitors, the number of children in want of education; they must not rest until every poor child of a suitable age shall be kept from wandering about the streets by being lodged in some school; and they should encourage all parents to send their children to some Sunday school. If the number of children in want of education should amount to one or two hundred, a school association should be formed upon such a plan that the parents of children might by weekly contributions nearly provide for the whole expense. The following plan now adopted in a considerable district in Spitalfields, with the greatest success, may serve as a model.
Every subscriber of 2d. per week and upwards shall be a member of this association, as long as the said subscription is kept up; but every subscriber who, on application being made, for four weeks, shall neglect or refuse to pay, shall lose the privileges of a member.
Each subscriber shall have the privilege of sending one child to school for every 2d. per week subscribed, and the right to attend, and vote, at every public meeting of this association, as long as his, or her, subscription is kept up.
All the children admitted into these schools shall be registered under the head of the religious denominations of their parents or friends, who shall engage that they attend every Sunday at such place of religious worship as the said parents or friends may prefer, and means shall be taken to ascertain the regular attendance at such places.
The business of this association shall be conducted by a committee, which shall meet once a fortnight, or oftener, on a day to be fixed by themselves.
The members of the school society committee (or managers) shall be er officio members of this Association. All additions or alterations, in the committee of the association, are to be made at the quarterly general meetings. The first business of the association committee shall be to appoint a secretary, and chairman for each meeting of the members present.
As the boys and girls school-rooms will hold only a limited number of children; when the number of subscribers amounts to 550, no more members shall be admitted except as vacancies occur, which vacancies shall be filled up by the admission of new subscribers.
The association committee shall appoint for every district, suitable persons as collectors, who shall wait upon every family in their respective streets, and collect, weekly, the subscriptions which they are to pay into the committee on the night of its meeting; and the whole amount of the subscriptions is, after every said meeting, to be paid to the secretary of the school committee, and a receipt to be taken for the same.
Á general meeting of the subscribers shall be held once a quarter*, at
It has since been altered to every six months.
which an examination of the children shall take place, and rewards shall be publicly distributed: this distribution shall be as general as possible, and the value of the rewards shall depend on the number of merit tickets each scholar may acquire, and also on his, or her, general good conduct. The regular attendance of the children at some place of divine worship shall be essential to the receiving of prizes.
After every general meeting of the association, a list of the subscribers shall be printed in a cheap form, together with a report, and the names of the children who have received prizes; the names of the committee and the names of the collectors of each street shall also be printed. Every member is to be furnished with a copy.
All the money subscribed by this association shall be applied solely to pay the salaries of the master and mistress, to purchase articles of clothing, &c. for the children, as rewards, and to defray the other regular expenses of the school: it being understood that the committee of the school society (or managers) will grant the use of the school-rooms and keep them in repair out of their own funds.
The collectors are to call upon the parents or friends of all absentees from the school, a list of whom is to be furnished them every week by the master. The members of the association are to visit the school whenever it is convenient to them, and are desired to note down, in a book to be provided for that purpose, the date of their attendance, the number of the children present, and the state of the school at the time; but no visitor shall be allowed to interfere with the master and mistress in the manner of teaching, without an order from the school committee (or managers).
Every subscriber shall be furnished with one or more blank printed forms of recommendation, according to the amount of his, or her, subscription; and when any child quits the school, the master shall report the same to the collector of the street, who shall supply the subscriber that recommended him with another printed form of recommendation.
The whole of the management of the association is under the immediate care of those, who on many occasions have given solid proof of the interest they feel in the welfare of the working classes in Spitalfields, and who wish to see this class, as much as possible, dependent upon their own exertions; they are anxious that their children should receive a moral and religious education at the expense of their parents or friends, without any badge being put upon them as the receivers of public charity. Deeply impressed with the conviction, that the present and eternal happiness of all classes of society depends, through divine assistance, upon the performance of the great duties of life, the principal object of the founders of these schools is to promote a knowledge of these duties, and to impress them upon the youthful mind; but in doing so no attempt will be made to proselyte any of the children, nor any interference permitted with those peculiar religious opinions which the parents or friends of the children may profess: but, after all the care that may be taken in school to teach religious principles, much, very much of the success will depend upon the co-operation of the parents and friends of the children AT HOME: If the example set THERE be bad; if the parents indulge in the angry passions, use bad words, show little regard for truth, and suffer their children to associate in the streets with bad characters, it is much to be feared that all the care of the managers and the committees will be in vain.