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"Content thee, sweet Lily," that flower replied,
"But wrapt in thy leafits my blossoms would die,
REVIEW OF BOOKS.
The Importance of Educating the Infant Poor. By C. Wilderspin.-Simpkin and Marshall. 4s. 2nd edition, 1824.
WE mention this work rather for the opportunity of making some remarks on it, than to recommend it to notice; not doubting but it is already known to our readers. Should it not be so, besides the universal interest now taken in the education of the poor, making it to every one a personal concern, there are hints in this book very useful to all who have to do with children, in any condition. The modest simplicity with which the author gives the results of his experience as well as of his own good sense, in the treatment of these poor children, is worth a great deal of argument and theoretical reasoning. The anecdote of 'Sir, you stole my whistle,' is worth a volume of systems. We liked also the remarks on
"Children's dispositions and tempers are as various as their faces; no two are alike; consequently what will do for one child will not do for another; hence the impropriety of having any invariable stated mode of punishment."
This is exactly true. The same fault may not be the same fault in one child as in another, and certainly the cure for it is not the same in all. We believe a thousand children, or five thousand, might be managed with
out any punishment at all, provided they had been always under such management; but whether as many hundreds can without it be brought into such training, after two or three years of previous mismanagement, may be very questionable: and if punishment there must be, nothing can be more judicious than this individual application of it to individual cases. If a certain degree of pain is allotted to a certain fault, the little culprit soon learns to measure the quantity of pain against the quantity of pleasure, and very generally, especially when custom has made the punishment familiar, determines to take the pleasure at its current price. But if the remedy is to be pursued, as in a physical disorder, till the right cure is found, the child, however perverse, must in the issue yield. With respect to the punishments so much objected to in Mr. Wilderspin's plan, what appears to us objectionable in them is not to the culprit, but to the other children. Shame is the legitimate punishment of wrong; we would if possible never have any other: but we do not like to see children made the instruments of each other's correction: it is vain to say they do not take pleasure in it: if they did not they would join the cry of 'Old brooms' or 'Green tail.' There is another hint, which, though accidentally dropped, we take up with pleasure, as likely to lessen the mischief of rivalship, in schools in which the numbers taught together make it impossible to be rid of it. We have said much of this as used among the higher classes; and it is impossible to stand half an hour at a class in the national schools, without perceiving the evil spirit engendered by the plan of taking places, as it is called. In bringing a number of children together to try their knowledge with the pictures, the author says:
"Take one, suppose the youngest first."
It seems to us, that if in all such examinations the question were first put to the youngest of the class, or if there are many of the same age, to the seemingly
youngest and backwardest, all the good of emulation would remain, and much of the evil be done away: the child that failed would be disgraced by his own ignorance, not by the success of an elder: the one that succeeded would have credit for knowing his lesson, but not for having excelled a younger than himself.
The care of Mr. W. to change his methods lest they should lose their zest, never to weary a child by detaining it long at the same thing, to keep its body at ease and its mind happy, are much of the secret of infant education. Some persons excite a child's evil dispositions in order to correct them; they might as well exercise the too much enlarged muscle or deformed limb, in order to reduce it. Every time a wrong propensity is called into action it is strengthened. Make a child happy and you almost certainly make it good, for the time being at least; and it is while a child is good, not while it is naughty, that good principles may be instilled, right feelings cultivated, and knowledge imparted. The mental and bodily sufferings of children at school, for such they are to them, however the greater evils of life may afterwards teach us to smile at them, and their usual dislike to it, at once prevent their improvement and spoil their dispositions.
Of all the schemes benevolence has suggested for the improvement of humanity, that of Infant Schools appears to us the wisest and greatest: we can scarcely say which most surprises uss-that it was never devised before, or that any now should doubt of its utility. We know it is urged against this plan that it is taking from the hands of the parent their most natural duty, weakening the filial tie, and too much separating the parent from the child. This has a very fair sound, and to one who knows nothing of life, seems plausible: but we cannot understand why those who do know, should persist in legislating for the world as it ought to be, rather than as it is; and setting forth their Utopian schemes of parental management, in defiance of the plain certainties that surround them. We are told that parents are, or
ought to be, the natural guides and instructors of their children-they might have been so had man remained in Paradise-they may have been so, for ought we know, in patriarchal times-they are so now, I believe, among the Esquimaux and the Hottentot, and perhaps they ought to be in England-but most certainly they are not. The poor cannot, and the rich will not, take it on themselves to form the minds, and habits, and characters of their own children. Do not parents of the higher class, and those the fondest and most anxious, consign their infants to the nurse, and then to the nursery governess, and then to the home of a stranger, too far removed from the parental eye to be seen more than twice a year? Does not the sensible and accomplished mother, on whose education thousands have been expended, commit the improvement of her children's minds and the formation of their characters, to some half-taught girl, whom misfortune has reduced to the heartless drudgery of teaching what she does not know, and devoting herself to children she does not love, or is liable to be parted from at the caprice of another? It is to her, a stranger, the mother gives the credit of their improvement, and to her she charges their faults. We do not determine whether this is natural or unnatural, right or wrong-we suppose there must be some reason for what so universally prevails: but of this we are certain-no plan of education for the poor, by National and Infant Schools, does more separate the children of the poor from their parents, than the rich voluntarily separate themselves from theirs; or deprives the poor of more influence over their offspring, than the rich by choice forego.
This would be true, if even the poor could bring up their children-but what is the actual fate of these creatures when left to parental care? The worst parents turn them out to squall on the roads, and roll in the kennels, and spend their vicious propensities in fighting, swearing, and destroying: the best consign them to the
less healthful amusement of squalling at home, or rolling on the floor, bribed into sulkiness with a lump of sugar, or stunned into it by the louder bawling of the mother. At seven or eight years old, the parent begins to wish they had a little learning-but then they are becoming to be useful; they can take care of the younger children, or let them roll into the fire, according as it may be; and so they cannot be spared to go to school-at ten or twelve they are sent to service, and so ends the course of parental education.
While with this natural system we compare that which benevolence has suggested for the publick education of these children, we feel ourselves in danger of getting enthusiastic on the subject. The parents are enabled to go freely to their work, the elder children to their schools, while the benevolent publick takes charge of their infants; teaches them to be happy, active, and obedient; whether they learn any thing or nothing, signifies littlethey learn to learn. The strongest hold of vice is the self-abandonment of one for whose conduct nobody cares -yet is this the condition to which the opening consciousness of the infant poor usually awakens them. Here their first knowledge of themselves is as responsible, rational beings, to whose actions importance is attachedtheir first feelings, their first thoughts, their first pains and pleasures, have a moral character, and we should say it is almost impossible they should again become the mere animals the uneducated poor very commonly Of heathen nations, the wisest and greatest considered the education of their population a publick rather than a private charge; and it began at the birth, or nearly We have the pleasure of knowing a gentleman who has presented his parish with building and ground, fitted up and prepared to receive three hundred children-we hope that as many as are able will covet the gratification he must experience, in seeing it filled with those happy babies, born to evil as the sparks fly upwards, the heirs by birthright to sin and misery, collected out of the garrets and