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Experiments of Mr Owen and Mrs Fry.
INSTRUCTION IN FACTORIES.
In travelling, some time ago, in a stage coach, we fell into conversation with a gentleman, on the importance of devising special means for improving the minds and morals of the inmates of our factories, especially where many of them are ignorant, as at Lowell. We were met by the assertion that such people usually had no desire for information or improvement, and that all effort would be so much lost labor. We asked if there was ever a human being, not an idiot, who was wholly destitute of a desire to know; and if this curiosity, so universal, was not sufficient to induce most persons to attend gratuitous lectures 'on common things, in a style adapted to their comprehension.
The only reply we could obtain was, that most of the operatives had not the least desire whatever for knowledge ; and that they who thought otherwise were only to be pitied for their own ignorance.
This did not satisfy us, however. We believed, and still continue to believe, that there is not an individual on the earth, possessed of a tolerable share of common sense, who does not feel a degree of pleasure in the acquisition of knowledge of some sort; and wherever this curiosity to know exists, the subject of it is susceptible of improvement. There is not a siagle person--we venture to affirm it-to be found in all the factories at Lowell, whose curiosity cannot be awakened, excited, and increased, by a judicious oral instructer or lecturer.
Nor is this opinion the result of mere theory. There are so many facts on record in relation to this subject, that we cannot doubt on the subject, if we would. A great number of experiments have been tried on both continents; and no one which has been tried perseveringly has ever failed. We safely challenge the world to produce a single instance of the kind.
An experiment made at Lanark in Scotland, by Mr David Dale, more than 50 years ago, on a group of 500 children, procured chiefly from work houses, and charities in Edinburgh, and carried out and in a measure perfected by his son in law, Mr Owen, is a living record of the truth of our opinion. So also is an experiment made by the benevolent Mrs Fry, about twenty years ago, on the worst female prisoners in the Newgate prison, in London. We might also mention the efforts made a few years since, in the manufactories of Leeds, England; and in several places on the continent.
The first important experiment of the kind, made in our own country, was at Humphreysville, about ten miles north-westward
of New Haven in Connecticut, nearly 30 years ago. Probably no experiment of the kind was ever made under circumstances more unfavorable than this. The laborers were ignorant, and many of them vicious; and they were of many various nations ; American, English, Scotch, Irish, French, &c. From a document published in New Haven, in January 1812, and signed by seventeen gentlemen of respectability living near the works, we derive the following interesting facts.
· The younger of the laborers, not only the apprentices but many of the rest, were instructed daily in spelling, reading, writing and arithmetic, and made a very commendable proficiency. Premiums in books and other articles were often awarded to the more successful members of the classes, and appeared to supersede, almost entirely, the necessity of punishment. Great attention was paid to their physical condition and management. The consequences were a striking improvement, not only in their intellectual, but in their moral condition. Negligence and idleness in a great measure disappeared, and habits of order, industry and cheerfulness took their place.'
Experiments have been made, also, at the Dyottville glass works, near Philadelphia ; at a manufactory in South Boston; and in several other places ; and with uniform good success. The most ignorant and stupid become gradually interested by coming in contact with others already awakened; a spirit of improvement becomes predominant in the public sentiment of the prison or factory, where instruction has been commenced ; and the whole face of things is soon altered and amended.
What then becomes of the cold insinuation, that the operatives in our factories are so degraded, as to render it useless to attempt to instruct them? Can we place the least reliance on them? And, if we except those instances where such statements are the mere echo of the statements of others, what are they but an apology for that selfishness which seeks to enrich or aggrandize itself, by keeping in the most abject ignorance the immortal spirits, whose bodies are, for reasons best known to their eternal Father, entrusted for a few months or years to their care or direction? ..
And after all, it is a most mistaken selfishness which leads to such base treatment of the human soul. It is not for the pecuniary benefit of those who employ laborers in factories or else. where, to keep thein in ignorance. At least it cannot be for their benefit in the end. No man can enrich himself and his posterity after him, by grinding the faces of the poor in this manner. The very ordinances of Jehovah, in the constitution of civic society, forbid it. The punishment of such misdeeds can
Appeal to the Friends of Education.
never be wholly evaded, until it ceases to be true that the sins of the parents are visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.
We conjure those individuals then, who have it in their pow. er to establish schools, lyceums, lectures, libraries, &c., for the benefit of the operatives whom they employ, to take the matter into serious consideration; not merely as a general duty to God and their fellow men, but also as a duty to themselves and their families ; nay, even as a matter of mere economy.
We call upon those friends of education—whose hearts beat high with philanthropy –residing in the vicinity of large faciories, to exert themselves in endeavoring to convince the proprietors of these establishments of the importance and necessity of improving every means in their power for promoting the physical, intellectual, social and moral improvement, not of the children merely of their laborers, but of the adults of both sexes and of all ages. You know not what will be the result of your efforts till you have made the experiment. Perhaps they stand ready, even now, to listen to your suggestions, and to co-operate with you and your associates, in effecting the reformation you seek. Or if not, perhaps it needs but your earnest and faithful endeavors to awaken them, and to lead them to measures upon which Divine Providence will bestow a most liberal blessing. Again we say, you know not your strength, in these cases, till you have tried it. Moreover the work must be done. It cannot long be deferred. The time is at hand when even a low public sentiment will not permit such blots to darken and disgrace' our country. The character of the inmates of factories and large mechanics' shops must and will be elevated ; but the sooner it is done the better, both as respects the public happiness and the public safety.
There are not a few females, in every manufacturing village of country, a portion of whose time might be devoted to preparing the way for this most desirable work. Grant that they have not the power in their hands-physically speaking-to accomplish any thing; they have in their hands a moral power, I mean a kind and degree of influence which needs but to be put forth, and the work of the intellectual emancipation of factory inmates would soon be achieved. Were the means of improving the minds and hearts of these persons to become as common a topic of conversation among the ladies in their circles, as some other topics now are, it would not be possible for the present state of things to remain. A change would follow as inevitably as the magnetic needle turns towards the pole.
Interior of a School Room.
DISTRICT SCHOOL HOUSES.
The following is a representation of the interior of a school room, constructed according to the recommendations of the Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education, in his late excellent report on School Houses.
C Step for ascending the Platform.
H Pupils' single Desks, 2 feet by 18 inches.
her’s Plariding the Plats, Cabinet, ses:
Explanation of the Engraving.
M Pupils' Seats, 1 foot by 20 inches.
I Aisles, 1 foot 6 inches in width.
den indisposition, for interviews with parents,
for the Library, &c. FF FF F Doors into the boys and girls' entries--from the
entries into the school-room, and from the
school-room into the recitation room. í G Windows. The windows on the sides are not
lettered. · The seats for small scholars, without desks, if needed, to be movable, and placed as the general arrangement of the school shall render convenient.
Where there is but one teacher, the space between the desks and the entries are to be used for recitation. Here, also, is the place for black boards, whether movable or attached to the wall. This space should be 8, 10, or 12 feet wide, according to the size of the school.
· The height of the room should never be less than 10 or 12 feet.
The following is designed to represent an end view of the pupils' Desks and Seats.
'J represents the Pupils' Seats, and K the shape of the board or plank which forms the side and support of the desks.
A light green is perhaps the best color for the scholars' desks and seats, as it is more grateful than any other to the eye. For the outside of the house, white is the color most universally pleasing.'
We have seen numerous representations of improved school rooms, not only for our own State, but for New York, Obio, and other States; but no one, (as we observed in our last number) which we have seen, comes so near our own plan-developed many years ago—as that which is here presented. The general outlines of the two are the same; but the plan of Mr Mann is certainly an improved one. It is more simple, and at the same time, more philosophical than any we have before seen.