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the eye of a properly selected master and mistress, these infants may pass the hours during which their parents are at work;-and, in the second place, to render this receptacle not a place of irksome restraint and confinement, but a school for the acquisition of habits of cleanliness and decorum, of cheerful and ready subordination, of courtesy, kindness, forbearance, and of abstinence from every thing impure or profane,-a scene, in short, at once of activity and amusement, of intellectual improvement and moral discipline. In what degree it has been found possible to attain these ends, those only can adequately comprehend who have seen in actual operation the system which it is now proposed to extend more widely. If the period of mere infancy is less fitted, comparatively speaking, for intellectual progress, yet curiosity is even then sufficiently active to enable the superintendent of such an establishment to convey much useful knowledge to his pupils, by means which are calculated to call forth, without oppressing, their faculties. No parent, for example, can be ignorant of the effect produced by pictures, whether of animate or inanimate objects, in engaging the attention, and developing the faculties even of very young children. And this is only one of the many modes by which ideas may be communicated to infants, without the necessity either of resorting to any harsh expedients, or of imposing any strain on their faculties.
But these first years of life are still more valuable with a view to the formation of the temper and moral character of the future man. No doubt can be entertained, both of the susceptibility of right impressions which belongs to the earliest age, and of the unhappy permanence of those vicious or selfish propensities, and of those peevish or violent tempers, which are then too often contracted, and which, when suffered to expand, lead in after-life to domestic misery,—to profligacy,—and to crime. To counteract such propensities, and to prevent the growth of such tempers, is the prime object of the proposed plan; and it is with a view to this object that the whole frame and discipline of infant schools ought to be regulated. The incidental acquisition of useful knowledge, which cannot fail to accompany this course of early tuition, though in itself a circumstance of no mean value, is but of small account, in comparison with that moral culture, with those habits of self-government, and with those feelings of mutual kindness, which form the characteristic tendencies, and indeed the grand recommendation, of the whole system.
In this point of view it is a matter of the highest importance to select superintendents for these schools, who have learned to govern their own tempers; who unite firmness and decision of character, with mildness, patience, forbearance, and kindness of disposition: who are not liable to be moved, either to vehemence, or to peevishness, sharpness, or ill-humor, by the waywardness of the children, or by the various difficulties of their task;—whose tone and manner, as well as feelings, shall be uniformly those of parental affection; and who shall be disposed, from a sense of duty, to exercise constant vigilance in marking, and gently counteracting, every instance the children may exhibit of insubordination or disobedience towards their teachers, or of fretfulness, selfishness, unkindness, or violence in their intercourse with each other, and especially in their house of play, which, at that age, must necessarily occupy by far the largest portion of their time. The qualities here stated to be requisite in the masters and mistresses, may deter many benevolent persons from attempting to institute infant schools, under an apprehension that it may prove extremely difficult, if not impossible, to procure suitable instructers; but we are happy to learn, that the past experience of the infant-school committee tends to obviate this ground of hesitation and discouragement. Hitherto individuals have easily been engaged to fill these important offices, whose conduct has been perfectly satisfactory; and the committee see no reason to despair of finding an increasing supply of such superintendents proportioned to the demand for them.
The committee, however, are deeply sensible, and they wish to impress this sentiment on all who may undertake to form infant schools, that it is by instilling into the infant mind the principles of religion, that the effects even of the most perfect discipline can be rendered permanent, and that those higher ends can be secured for which man is formed, and which infinitely transcend in importance all the temporal advantages, great as they are, to be derived from education. To produce, therefore, in the minds of the children, feelings of reverence and gratitude towards their Creator and Redeemer; to impress upon them a sense of their moral responsibility; to convey to them a knowledge of the leading truths of revealed religion; and to familiarise them with the bright examples of piety and benevolence which the scriptures furnish, ought to form leading features of the system of instruction pursued in these infant schools.
It would be difficult duly to estimate the effects on society, and, amongst many others, the diminution of private vice and of public delinquency, which, under the divine blessing, must follow the general adoption and steady prosecution of such a system of infant training. At present we behold the streets, and lanes, and alleys of the metropolis, and other large towns and villages, crowded with squalid children, left, in utter neglect, to wallow in filth, to contract disease, and to acquire habits of idleness, violence, and vice. Almost the first language which many of them learn to lisp, is that of impurity and profaneness. Almost the first science in which many
of them are instructed, is that of depredation. Abroad, they are exposed to every vicious seduction: at home, they too often suffer from the caprice or violence of parents incapable of instructing their ignorance, whose poverty makes them discontented and irritable, and who feel the very presence of their children to be a drawback on their efforts to earn a subsistence. From such a course of education what can be expected but a proficiency in vicious propensities and criminal practices:-what, in short, but that mass of juvenile delinquency which, in the present day, we have been forced to witness, and to deplore? But if we contrast with this state of things the effect which may
be anticipated from the general establishment of infant schools, conducted on the principles which have now been developed, what heart but must exult in the prospect? Let those who regard such expectations as visionary, only take the pains of personally and minutely inspecting those receptacles for infants which have been already formed at Walthamstow, Whitechapel, Vincent Square, Westminster, Blackfriars, Brighton, Bristol, and Liverpool. Let them view the children, clean, healthy, joyous; giving free scope to their buoyant spirits; their very plays made subservient to the correction of bad and the growth of good dispositions, and the happiness they manifestly enjoy employed as the means of training them in habits of prompt and cheerful obedience, of mutual kindness, of unceasing activity, of purity and decorum. Again, let them watch the return of these children to their homes at noon and at night, and witness the pleasurable sensations with which they are received, so different from the scowling looks and harsh tones with which their teasing importunities and interruptions, during the hours of labor, are apt to be met. And let them, moreover, contemplate the striking re-action of the improved manners and habits of the infants on the older branches of the family. Let them view and consider all this, and they will no longer doubt the beneficial influence of the proposed institution.
We are persuaded that no further motives will be wanting to induce our readers zealously to promote the establishment of such schools, wherever they may be needed, within the sphere of their influence; and with that view to assist in carrying into effect the special object for which this society has been formed, which is, to establish, in some central part of the metropolis, an infant school which may exemplify the principles now explained; and which, while it dispenses its benefits to the adjoining population, may also serve as a model of imitation with respect to its mechanism, and as a seminary for training and qualifying masters and mistresses to form and superintend similar institutions. In the meantime, and until sufficient funds shall have been obtained for accomplishing this ob
ject, the committee have resolved to accept the liberal offer of Mr. Joseph Wilson, to employ his infant school in Quaker-street, Spitalfields, for teaching the mechanical parts of the system to such masters or mistresses as may be sent thither for instruction. The committee have engaged Mr. Wilderspin, of the Spitalfields Infant School, to go into the country, at the request of any person intendding to open a school according to the method now in practice.'
Mr. Wilderspin, whose name occurs near the close of the above statement, has published a work containing an account of his plans of instruction. Of this book there is a review in the Observer for May 1823. We subjoin some extracts.
Here it may be necessary to warn our readers that, as infant education has hitherto received but little systematic attention, they must expect to find, in the details of Mr. Wilderspin's method, some startling novelties. His work contains many things which seem to deviate very widely from the sober routine of ordinary teaching. It offers nothing, however, which will not be approved of on deliberate reflection. Mr. W. submits to his readers no untried, visionary theory. His whole work is an account of what has been fairly introduced in practice. All his experiments have been sụbmitted to public notice, and, after having been in operation for years, have met with universal approbation.
Mr. Wilderspin's work is, as it ought to be, chiefly a book of details. These are not particularly our province; and in truth, after all the controversy about Dr. Bell and Mr. Lancaster, about the comparative merits of large schools and small schools, we are pretty much of opinion that, in these matters at least,
" Whate'er is best administer'd is best." If a schoolmaster is endued with good sense and a spirit of humanity, with conscientiousness of principle, and firmness of mind, we are comparatively little anxious to know what are the minutiæ of his plans; at what hours he opens or closes his school; what grammar he uses; whether he flogs his boys by a steam engine or by hand, or does not flog them at all. There may, and must, be much latitude on secondary points of administration; and, provided men have a right heart and a good understanding, they will not differ essentially in practice, however much they may quarrel about the theory. Still it may not be unamusing or uninstructive to our readers to learn from our author how to perform so arduous a problem as that of managing "three hundred children, from eighteen months to five or six years of age, by one master or mistress," and that so perfectly, Mr. Wilderspin tells us, that a whole day may often elapse without a single tear or serious complaint. The following are our benevolent author's rules for the conduct of the master and mistress of an infant school: they would answer admirably for transcription on the walls of all parlors, nurseries, and seminaries of education; and the third might not be inappropriate for unpunctual tradesmen, courtiers, and cabinet ministers. “1. Never to correct a child in anger.
2. Never to deprive a child of any thing, without returning it again.
3. Never to break a promise.
4. Never to overlook a fault, but in all things study to set before the children an example worthy of imitation, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” p. 16.
“We have a goodly story towards the end of the book showing what perilous events may arise from the infringement of these salutary institutes.
"Here I will mention one circumstance which happened in the school, to show how necessary it is to teach by example as well as precept. Many of the children were in the habit of bringing marbles, tops, whistles, and other toys, to the school, which often caused much disturbance; for they would play with them instead of attending to their lessons, and I found it necessary to forbid the children from bringing any thing of the kind. And after giving notice two or three times in the school, I told them that if any of them brought such things they would be taken away; in consequence of this several things fell into my hands, which I did not always think of returning, and among other things a whistle from a little boy. The child asked me for it as he was going home, but having several visiters at the time, I put the child off, telling him not to plague me, and he went home. I had forgot the circumstance altogether, but it appears the child did not; for some time after this, while I was lecturing the children upon the necessity of telling truth, and on the wickedness of stealing, the little fellow approached me, and said please, sir, you stole my whistle.' 'Stole your whistle!' said I, did I not give it you again ” “No, teacher: I asked you for it, and you would not give it to me.' I stood self-convicted, being accused in the middle of my lecture, before all the children, and really at a loss to know what excuse to make; for I had mislaid the whistle, and could not return it to the child: I immediately gave the child a halfpenny, and said all I could to persuade the children that it was not my intention to keep it. However, I am satisfied that it has done more harm than I shall be able to repair for some time; for if we wish to teach children to be honest, we should never take any thing from them without returning it again. Indeed, persons having eharge of children can never be too cautious, and should on no ac