Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/464

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

report prepared for the consideration of the Education Committee says of them:

"In the long-time schools, during the time the boy is kept waiting under restraint, his mind is absent from his lessons, which are commonly so uninteresting as to be repugnant to his voluntary attention, and his thoughts are away on cricket, or some sort of pleasurable play, so that he generally only returns, upon call to the lesson, as to a task to be got rid of. Under the restraint of separate confinement in a prison, the mind of the young criminal can not, as is shown by his action on release, have been occupied with compunctious visitings of remorse, as commonly assumed. His thoughts are of his ill-luck under the wide chances of escape of which he has had experience during all the time he has been at large before detection, and of how he may have better luck when he gets out. He is exhorted to be good: but the child of the mendicant or of the delinquent does not see his way to doing other than he has done before; and why should he, so long as he feels his inaptitude of hand and arm for industrial work? Be this as it may, under the common conditions of restraint in the district schools, or in the reformatory schools—all of which, comprising some thirty thousand children, are now of necessity conducted on the half-time principle of varied physical and mental teaching—the pupil is placed under entirely new and opposite conditions, by which bad thoughts are excluded and good thoughts induced and impressed from day to day by practical work from the like of which he may hereafter get something good for himself. In the morning he is roused out of his sleep to attend to his head-to-foot washing and his dressing. Then he has to go with others to his breakfast; after that to the school, where, with his class, he is kept to the simultaneous class lesson without waiting, to which he willingly gives himself, as it is not over-wearisome, like the lessons of the long-time schools. He may next have to fall under the drill-master or the gymnast, and, if he stumble or fail, he is jeered by the other pupils, or reproved by the corporal; but he soon participates in the zeal and competition of common lively action. He may on the following day have a swimming-lesson. He may next have some naval exercise at the mast, where, unless he holds on, he will fall into the net spread beneath to receive him. Then he has to go to the workshop, where the work-master—in carpentry, in shoemaking, or in tailoring—keeps the mind, the hand, and the eye, of the pupil intently occupied. His day's occupation may be varied by freehand drawing, so useful to handicrafts, or by lessons in singing, or, if he be a very good and apt boy, by lessons in instrumental music. The enumeration of the incessant occupations may sound as of severe labor; but the course is varied by "relief-lessons," and it becomes so little irksome that an interruption is disagreeable, and an exclusion from any part of it is acutely felt as a punishment. When some parents exercise their right of taking away children from the district school,