« PreviousContinue »
IRISI QUARTERLY REVIEW.
No. XVII.-MARCH, 1855.
Art. 1.-ADULT EDUCATION.
Horace Mann, of Lincoln's Inn, Esq., Barrister-at-Law,
many means devised to ameliorate the condition of our working classes none, perhaps, contributes more to their moral and social improvement than the opening of Evening Schools.
Had public Evening Schools been in operation twenty years ago, how different would be the state of society at the present day! We should not have the thousands that we at present find unable to read and write: had we taught adults then, they would be more earnest for the education of their children now, and would have prepared for them opportunities of self-improvement that might have saved them from pauperism, and perhaps from crime.
Much, no doubt, has been done for the education of the people since the National System of Education was introduced into this country; and doubtless, succeeding generations will
and appreciate its happy effects; but we are to remember that, notwithstanding the many glorious and successful efforts made to educate the poor, our "laboring multitudes” remain, to a very great extent, in a sad state of iminorality and intellectual deficiency. This can be accounted for in a great measure by the poverty or selfishness of parents who, seeing a demand for juvenile labor, accept, through necessity or a desire of gain, even the low remuneration for it; and remove the child from school, to which, perhaps, he never returns : thus sacrificing, at the altar of slavish toil, a child gifted VOL. V.-NO. XVII.
possibly by nature with talents which, if properly cultured, would raise him to a position in society that was unattainable by any of his forefathers.*
For such, therefore, we see the great necessity not only for Evening Schools, but also for having these schools placed under the management of properly qualified persons.
There are few who do not acknowledge that by the influence of these asylums of morality and instruction, and such these schools would be if properly carried out, the progress of vice may be retarded, haunts of blasphemy and intemperance deserted, the seeds of knowledge disseminated, and a taste for literature and self-improvement cultivated among that class of society who otherwise might have plunged into the dark abyss of crime, for which ignorance affords but too many avenues. The task that is before us, therefore, is to educate,-as far as existing circumstances will permit, those waxing into manhood, or with whom some of its years have already elapsed.
Children of the laboring classes are employed at an early agesome permanently, others temporarily-at a rate of recompence which, though apparently but trifling, is sufficient for their maintenance, and more than sufficient to induce their parents to remove them from school. It is evident that even the lowest amount of wages which the child of a laboring man will receive-(from 1s. 61. to 2s. per week) must be so great a relief to the parents as to render it almost hopeless that they can withstand the inducement, and retain the child at school, in the face of such temptation. And this inducement will be almost equally powerful, whether or not there be one where payments from the children are required. It is not for the sake of saving a penny per week that a child is transferred from the school to the factory or the fields, but for the sake of gaining a shilling or eighteen pence a week; and the mere opportunity of saving the penny by sending the child to a free school would not restrain the parents from making a positive addition to their weekly income, if the absence of the child from school would ensure it.
Many children obtain permanent employment at the age of nine, and all from that age upwards are considered capable of certain kinds of agricultural labor. Indeed, some persons qualified to judge, are of opinion that the business of a farm laborer cannot be thoroughly acquired if work be not commenced before eleven or twelve.
In mechanical employments, labor begins even at an earlier age. Children begin to be employed in factories, in needle-making, buttonmaking, as errand boys-and in various other capacities, some as early as six, others at any time from six to ten. Among the middle classes, children remain longer at school, and the boys become apprentices etc., at the age of fourteen or fifteen. In very few cases, excepting those where the sons are destined for professional pursuits, and placed by fortune beyond the necessity for labor, or proceed to college-is the period of education protracted beyond fifteen. Mann's Report on Education in Great Britain, page 9.
It has long been obvious to those acquainted with that state of society which consists of our uneducated laboring classes, that intemperance, and that immorality which proceeds from intemperance, are the predominant crimes to which they fall a prey. Unfortunately no great improvement has been etfected among this class as yet, nor have we any assurance that there ever will be, unless men of higher standing and greater weight in society than the teacher take an active part in bringing back the lost sheep to the fold. Unhappily, Philanthropists, in causes like this, are seldom or never to be found in Ireland ; and, we fear, under the existing state of things, we can scarcely hope that they ever will.
From the managers of National Schools, however, much may be expected, because they have already accomplished a good deal in juvenile education. Still, in the cause of what may be properly called adult education, much remains for them and for us all to do. To establish Evening Schools, which are the schools fit for adults, in every parish, on a proper system ; to secure by the most judicious means a full and constant attendance at these schools, and to manifest our solicitude for the improvement of those pupils who are most anxious for their own progress--would be the first and most important steps for securing a thorough reformation in the social and moral condition of the working classes of our countrymen. No amount of zeal in such a cause should be considered too great, since the consequences of its success are so many boons to society.
By educating the adult, and inculcating in his breast the principles of morality and industry, you save him from the wretched misery and disgrace of the felon's dungeon and the pauper's home. From boyhood he has been inured to labor, and most likely to hardship—his moral as well as literary education neglected—and fitted only for employments where physical strength and animal endurance are required. *
• A child is trained up to working-he is hammered into a hardy laborer, a stout material bone and muscle for the state- this is good 80 far as it goes : but it is bad because it goes no farther. He is not taught reading, nor religion-above all, he is not taught thinking. He never looks into his other-self; he soon forgets its existence, the man becomes all body, his intellectual and moral being lies fallow. The growth of such a system will be a race of machines, delvers and soldiers, but not men. So much brute physical
We do not attempt to describe the condition of the instructed and ignorant artizan, but we reiterate what we have stated in a previous part of this paper regarding the great and zealous care eviuced in the education of children attending the Daily National Schools ; but that to which we wish to direct the attention of the reader is, the education of those who ir early youth were compelled, perhaps by the poverty of their parents to seek employment which would enable them to tribute to the support both of their parents and themselves. For them should our earnest solicitude be enlisted as well as for those attending our day schools.
What we would, therefore, suggest is, that in every parish an evening school be opened under the patronage of the managers of tlie daily schools situated in the parish, and that some of the most influential gentlemen of the parish be requested to form a Committee, and that the management of these schools be entrusted to none but competent and efficient teachers. We entertain very little apprehension for the success of these schools under such an arrangement as is stated here; and it would render their success still more certain if a preference were shown on the part of employers for the educated operative. Of course this is but a mere suggestion of ours, knowing as we do the difficulty and inconvenience that would be likely to attend such a proceeding, and how unjust it would be to prevent the uneducated, but well inclined operative from providing for the wants of a family, which of course we could by no means advocate. However, in employiug boys whose age does not exceed sixteen years, it would have a most admirable effect on their education, if sonce slight difference were made between those who could read and write, and those who could not. This distinction, however trivial, coupled with a manifest desire in the employer to encourage the spirit of self-improvement in the employed, would contribute most considerably to the elevation of the social condition and to the temporal interests of the latter. This in itself would be a sufficient inducement to them to attend to their own education in the evenings, and endeavour to acquire as extensive a knowledge as possible of the subjects pertaining to their daily avocations.
energy swinging loosely through society at the discretion of more spiritual natures, to hom the education, neglected or perverted in another way gives wickedness with power, and teaches the secrets of mind only as an instrument to crush or play with men for their own selfish purposes. - Wyse on Education Reform, Vol. I. Page 324.
By these means many of the temptations to evil that bestrew the paths of our laboring multitudes would be avoided, and once the desire for improvement is secured it will be our fault if it does not continue; because, when the seeds of knowledge are diffused among them they are sure to be followed by a spirit of enterprise and a desire for independence : the people will begin to feel that the power of bursting the bonds that fetter them to slavery and toil is placed in their own hands. The smallest amount of education opens avenues to employment on which the wholly uneducated can never enter, and the mind of the instructed artizan or laborer being accessible to the knowledge contained in books, he can always find employment "in his hours of ease,” which will tend to the amelioration of his worldly condition and the improvement of his heart. Let him but feel this, let him but know the blessings that flow from a good education, and the evil consequences of ignorance and debasement, a happy reformation of character will set in and become abiding, and conduce, as it must, to prevent-
-The Widow's tears
And the Orphan's cry of woe." How many of the industrious classes say, “ if we only knew how to write and read we should be much happier and better off ;” and surely if these poor toil-worn creatures were enabled to read a chapter in that Book of Books, which contains a balm for every wound sent by Providence or inflicted by their fellow-man, what a boon would be conferred on them! If, on the other hand, we were duly to consider the great connexion between ignorance and irreligion, and their couscquences-pauperism and crime-doubtless we would have long since devised some plan calculated to ensure greater success than has yet attended our efforts to educate our laboring population. But let us now begin, let our greatest efforts and most zealous exertions be directed to the education of this class of our fellow creatures, ere they become too far advanced in years; if not, much apprehension may we entertain of effecting among thein any change calculated to further their spiritual or temporal welfare. If we look around among the uneducated working poor, how few do we see that have reached an advauced age; the prime of their life was spent between over laborious toil and excessive debauch-foolishly thinking to repair the fatiguing effects of the former by indulging in the