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REWARD GIVING IN SUNDAY SCHOOLS.
Though a teacher, and I trust a Christian teacher, holding the same views as a "Sunday School Secretary," my cheeks were not tinged to the extent required by a "Country Superintendent," in your number for March, nor did I feel" the blush of honest shame," which the proprieties of the occasion demanded. I did feel, it is true, that while it may be "a very lamentable and humiliating fact," that the children in our schools should be rewarded for being good, it is a more lamentable and humiliating fact that the Sunday Schools of this country, as a rule, require such helps to their efficiency, and that we are only on the road to perfection, not having yet attained thereto. And though we may be pitied by our more enlightened brethren, yet we are vain enough to believe, that the advocates of the system of rewards may not therefore be more sinful than their fellow-teachers, and may not be necessarily, either ignorant, antiquated, or absurd.
At the risk of being consigned to one of these three classes, I do maintain that the principle of giving rewards to our classes, is founded on reason and common sense, and is neither sinful nor inexpedient, but quite the contrary.
From my very earliest childhood till the present, I have uninterruptedly been in the closest connection with Sunday schools, and have had many opportunities of comparing schools in different parts of the country, and these, again, with regard to their discipline and general efficiency, with well-known day schools. My general experience has shown me, (and I know in this matter I am supported by the majority of those who have to do with education in its more extended forms,) that our most efficient institutions number very largely those in which a judicious system of rewards is pursued.
Before proceeding further, let me look at a few of the reasons brought forward by those of contrary opinions. It is said, that "we should teach them, (i. e. the children,) to love and serve God, as both their duty and their highest pleasure, and not for what they can get by it "-that the good they receive should be a sufficient inducement for them to come to schoolthat to give them prizes is to appeal to their lower nature-and that it is unjust to poor children of slender capacity, and fewer advantages. These considerations are the chief that I have ever heard against the system of prizes. The first, no teacher who upholds prizes, ever disbelieves, or ever attempts to teach its latter clause, and it has, therefore, nothing whatever to do with the question. The rest I hope to notice incidentally as I proceed.
The moral government of God is a system of rewards and punishments. If we do good, we are rewarded; if evil, we are punished. The principles of human law, being founded on those that are Divine, recognize the same general truth. Those who do right, though not immediately rewarded by the State, feel that they receive remuneration for their good conduct in the protection of the government to both their lives and property. The bad are directly punished. Why then, in the school, should not the same principle hold? Why should we not deal with our children as God deals with us? God has not merely told us to do good, and left the satisfaction which the performance of good brings to be our only reward. No, he promises us
Heaven as a positive prize. Why not, then, positively reward our children? It is, I know, comparing higher things with lower, but why not?
But "the system of giving rewards appeals to the lower natures of the children." That this should be brought forward as an objection to prizes, strikes me as most ludicrous. Do the opponents of this practice by exhibition of art, handicraft, or scholarship, ever endeavor to carry off a medal or a prize? Shocking selfishness! What a yielding to the lower nature! Why is not the satisfaction of having exercised one's mind and hands a sufficient reward? But is it so? We forget, however, that this has to do with secular affairs, and we were considering holy things. Where, I would ask, is there to be found in the Bible any motives for action in secular affairs different from those for action in sacred ones? The Christianity of Christ has as much to do with the counting house, the workshop, and the studio, as with the Sunday school. He gave us the religion of common life-the rules for every-day holiness. What is morally right in one place, cannot be wrong in another, for right is immutable and changes not. And if wrong to reward in Sunday schools, it is wrong to reward for doing good in the affairs of life, and vice versâ.
Our public day schools, our colleges, and our universities, are neither infidel nor heathen. Many of the former can be backed for real Christian teaching in a real Christian spirit, and for efficiency and high discipline, against any Sunday school in the country. One well known instance is to be found in the British School at Cheltenham, under the management of Mr. Moore, though I could easily furnish a score of others if required. These, considering numbers and teaching power, are more efficiently disciplined, and have as high a moral tone as any Sunday school I have ever seen. And yet in these schools prizes and rewards are liberally distributed, and their efficiency largely maintained by these means. Mr. Moore's certificates are known to every teacher, and every teacher also knows how much of Mr. Moore's great success is due to them. The privy council have lately imitated the plan, and furnish certificates to deserving children in schools under inspection. The Hants and Wilts, and all the other adult education societies liberally bestow prizes upon the deserving. And think you, that by this appeal "to the lower nature" of those who are brought under such influences, their moral tone is lowered? Go into such excellent schools as I have named, and then answer.
Our colleges and older universities are professedly, and in the main, really religious. Those who go there are not children but men. They are thus more open to higher considerations, and should therefore act accordingly. It follows that the cultivation of religious knowledge (at least) should, if anything, give to them a sufficient reward in itself. It should be studied for its own sake, our opponents would say, and any probability that it will count towards a medal or a fellowship, ought not to be thought of. Yet is such the case? How many would not strive as they do, did not prizes and rewards allure them?
Our minds have been given us by God. We are responsible for them, and bound to cultivate them. If anything is to be striven for, for its own sake, surely it is knowledge. Any other motive, argue such as a "Union Secretary,"
is low and unworthy. How wrong then for men, and Christian men too, ministers even, to toil with might and main for a wranglership or doublefirst. They should get up the knowledge by all means, for it is, or ought to be, self-satisfying-but the reward—that they ought not to touch. It's the unclean thing—a sop to their "lower nature." Yet men strive hard for these prizes to whom money is of little object; but it is the honor of a reward which stimulates them, and so it is with children, for to them, even as with adults
"Fame to generous minds is dear."
Besides, "it is " evidently "unjust to those of slender capacity and fewer advantages." Have a "Union Secretary" or a "Country Superintendent" any children at school, and do they ever bring home prizes? It may be actually for Scriptural Knowledge! Or has either of their sons passed the Scriptural Examination at the University of London, and received a prize? If so, not a moment should be lost in sending back such prize to the school or university. The good obtained in the "working up" should have been a sufficient reward-besides, it was evidently unjust that A. B., the son of a "Union Secretary," passed and received a prize, while C. D., the son of your humble servant, and a young man of slender capacity and fewer advantages, was plucked-and for nothing but disgrace.
Such are the legitimate results of the advocacy of a "Union Secretary," and a "Country Superintendent," if properly followed out. That they will ever be received by the world, I do not believe. That they will ever find much acceptance with children, especially with boys, I also do not believe-for children are but men of smaller growth. It is all very well to tell children that the good they receive, should be a sufficient inducement for them to attend school. They do not see it, or if they do, they do not believe it. They want tangible, visible, and immediate results. Tens of thousands only attend for the rewards they get; or, the compulsion of parents. If these were removed, they would leave next Sunday. In schools where the system of rewards has been abolished, I know the greatest secret discontent, and secret indifference arise. The good have nothing to strive for more than the bad-hence the former grow careless, and the latter continue so. This I have heard from the boys themselves, and one of the best means of learning the feelings of your scholars is to descend ex cathedrâ, and for a time be their companion. In advocating rewards, I do not plead for their indiscriminate use, or rather abuse. This is the real cause of mischief after all. We do not wish to reward children for coming to school, as some indeed strangely imagine, but for coming early. We do not ask that prizes should be given for any behaviour, but for good behaviour. We do not seek to reward all the scholars, but only those who deserve rewarding. We demand proof if told that we mistake.
A few words more, and I have done. In many schools where the teachers believe they have abolished prizes, they have done no such thing-they have only changed the method of distributing them. The teachers meet, they fold their arms and talk complacently of the changes they have effected, of the improvements they have made. They did away prizes long ago, and they are not Tories to return to a worn-out policy. But miserably
do they find themselves deceived, when it is pointed out that though they have changed the name, they have not changed the thing named. One instance from the school with which I am connected, will illustrate my meaning. Some years ago the teachers abolished the practice of giving tickets as rewards to well-conducted children. By doing so, they imagined they had abolished prizes. Whereupon they decreed that every boy of good behaviour should have a Bible at half-price! In a school I am acquainted with, the teachers did away with tickets on principle, and immediately threw open the library to boys recommended by the teachers, all having previously to pay for that privilege. Are not these prizes? If not, what are they? I could adduce many other similar instances, but space forbids. Of course under the system in our own school a boy receives but one prize; then he is on the same level with the others. Whether the school has improved or not under the new regime must remain a secret. The valuable opinion of our faithful and tried senior superintendent, after 50 years of service, may, possibly, have some weight with, and be useful to, a "Union Secretary," and a "Country Superintendent." I shall be most happy to place it at their private disposal.
P.S. While a scholar in the West of England, it was my privilege to have two most excellent men for my teachers. It was the practice of both these men to give out scriptural subjects on which to write our thoughts against the following Sunday. About once in six months, it may be less, we wrote essays for prizes. Although these prizes were in nearly every case monopolized by two members of the class, and though many years have now gone by, yet several of my former classmates have since told me of the incalculable advantage they derived from this exercise. For my own part, I owe an eternal debt of gratitude to both these men for the mental and moral improvement I received in writing my essays, and in striving for a prize : and it is with feelings of deepest and increasing interest that I look from time to time upon two of these prizes on the shelves beside me.
THE TEACHER'S RESPONSIBILITY.
HAVE you carefully considered what are your responsibilities in the selfimposed duty you have undertaken ? If the heart of a child is susceptible of religious impressions, and those impressions do form the germ of a religious character, then your work should have for its object nothing less than the salvation of the children under your care. You have undertaken a duty which never can be properly discharged, if you aim at any less result than bringing them to Christ. Have you considered how responsible such a position is, and how serious are its consequences, both to yourselves and to the children you instruct? Can anything less than persevering earnestness and labour on your part, for their salvation, free you from a responsibility, the burden of which is as heavy as the despair of a lost soul?
We will not affirm that God will hold teachers responsible for the salvation of their children; but, without doubt, He will hold them
responsible for all the consequences of a neglect of their duty to them-and He may see that such neglect has resulted in their eternal destruction.
The only and true mission of a Sunday school teacher is to hold up Christ, as He is revealed in His Gospel, before them continually; to seek to impress them with the loveliness of His character, the power of His claims, the infinite nature of His love, and the exceeding and eternal value of His salvation. And it seems to me, that anything less than this falls below the true standard of duty, in so much as it falls short of bringing them to Christ, where only salvation can be found.
A true labourer in this vineyard will never labour in vain': such is the nature of the Gospel of Christ, and such is the promise of God to every honest worker, that it will become the wisdom and power of God to their salvation. In view of the nature of the Gospel and this promise of God, not only may the faithful teacher labour for, but may absolutely expect to see, his children coming to Christ as the legitimate result of his faithfulness.
And, on the other hand, that teacher has great reason to doubt either his fitness or his faithfulness when he sees no fruits of salvation as the result of his work.
It is not enough to teach your children the history or the geography of the Bible, the theories of commentators, or the abstract doctrines even of the Gospel itself-these are, or may be, all very well and important, too— but they will have time to learn these after they have received other and far greater truths; but seek out of every lesson to find Christ, and hold Him up to them as the great central truth and sun of the whole gospel system; seek to turn that vital light toward them, always letting it rest and settle upon their hearts, and if you are faithful, it will there penetrate and become a fountain of light to guide them safely through this world to heaven.
If every teacher of Sunday schools would so labour as if he considered the salvation of the children depended upon his faithfulness, there would be a directness in his effort, and a solemn earnestness, too, which on the impressible and susceptible mind and heart of a child would have an irresistible power for good. Let once a child feel that you have truths that you consider paramount, and that you are in earnest, and expect that he will yield to and embrace them, and although he may struggle against them, yet the innate power of depravity cannot always hold out against that persuasion to which his reason, his conscience, and his heart invite him to yield; and though you may never witness the surrender of that heart to the claims of God, yet you will there have implanted that leaven of truth which, sooner or later, will work until the whole nature is renewed and the heart regenerated. If God has ordained the use of human instrumentalities as a means of salvation-as He most clearly and signally hasHe has not done so without clothing its use with an almost infinite power; and that not as an exception, but as a result so certain as to be both the unfailing source of encouragement to the one, and the sure channel of blessing to the other.
But remember, teachers, that such glorious results can come from nothing but constant prayer for God's blessing on your labour, and constant faith that that blessing will descend as the reward of your faithfulness. -Christian Treasury.