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For that purpose, I visited various public schools in New York, in Philadelphia, in country villages in the interior of Pennsylvania, in Pittsburgh on the Ohio, in Cincinnati, in Cleveland on Lake Erie, in the State of Rhode Island, and finally, in Boston. In every instance, I was aided in my inquiries either by the superintendents of public instruction, or by the masters of the schools, and in some instances by both together. The facts were gathered from the state of the schools exactly as I found them, without preparation, and without their being previously aware either of my visit, or of the nature of the facts which I wished fairly to ascertain. The result was as I have stated it in the volume above referred to, namely, that of the pupils attending the day-schools, in some cases a large, in others a small, but generally a very considerable proportion, “either did not attend any Sunday school, or did $0 only very irregularly."
The only hostile criticism upon those statements, which has come under my notice, has been directed against the information given me respecting the Sunday schools at Lowell, by the Rev. Dr. Edson, for twenty-seven years past the rector of a church at Lowell, and a gentleman held in the highest estimation by all his neighbours. Dr. Edson, after giving me his reasons for having arrived at the conviction that the public-school system had “ already undermined” among their population, “ to a great extent,” the doctrines and principles of Christianity, stated to me his belief that less than half of the whole number of children (at Lowell) between the ages of five and sixteen attend any Sunday-school, or do so only most irregularly."
This statement of Dr. Edson's excited great attention at Boston and in the State of Massachusetts generally, and was subjected to violent attacks in some of the public papers. An inquiry was very soon instituted by the Board of Education, throughout the State, and the result was, I am informed, that the children at the day-schools who did not attend at some Sunday school were found, at that time, to constitute a very small per-centage of the whole. Without entertaining the slightest particle of suspicion that such a result was unfairly obtained, I confess its purport does not in the least surprise me, considering how probable it is that many parents would have been awakened to the propriety of sending their children to Sunday school by the discussion that had arisen.
I beg, however, again to call attention in this country to some additional evidence since furnished to me by Dr. Edson, which, as it rests upon public documents, will scarcely admit of dispute.
These documents are:-1. “The Annual Report of the School Committee of the City of Lowell, for 1852, with a Summary of Returns ;" 2. “ The Annual Report of the Lowell Sabbath School Union.” Of this latter document Dr. Edson says :-" This Union is a voluntary association for the benefit of Sunday school instruction, and comprehends fifteen out of twenty-four Sunday schools in the city. The schools not associated are—the Roman Catholics, who have three schools; the Unitarians, two; the Universalists, two; and two not connected with any particular form of religion, and claiming not to teach any particular religion. I have not the numbers connected with the nine schools not associated, but I have reckoned them, by a large estimate, at the average number attending the associated schools.”
Dr. Edson then subjoins the following Table, completed by estimates on the above-named basis. It will be seen that it bears out in a remarkable manner, and almost to the letter, the statement which he made to me as the result of observation only, namely, that less than half of the whole number of children between five and sixteen (in Lowell) attend the Sunday schools.
“ According to the summary appended to the Annual Report of the Lowell School Committee, the total number of pupils in the time-books from January, 1851, to January, 1852, was . . . . . .
9012 Subtract ‘sent to other public schools of
same rank,' because these names are
repeated in the time-book . . . 636 Subtract also “sent from primary to gram
mar schools,' for the same reason . 629 Subtract sent from grammar-schools to the high school' . . . .
1394 Total number of pupils attending the dayschools for the year 1852 . . .
7618 “ According to the report of the Sabbath School Union for 1852, in the statistical column 'under fifteen years of age,' and filling the blanks with estimates derived from the average of schools reported of the same persuasion, the total number of children under fifteen in those schools for the year 1852 . . . 1947 + 348 = 2295 Add for schools not associated— namely, Roman Catholics, 3 ; Unitarians, 2; Universalists, 2 ; of no particular religion, 2; 9 schools-estimated number of pupils therein, under 15, according to the ave
rage of schools reported . . . . . 1377 Add for such pupils above 15 in the public
schools as may be in Sunday schools (estimated) . . . . . . . 204
Total number of pupils attending the Sunday schools, according to statistics and estimate . . . . .
Dr. Edson's statement to me, founded on general observation, was, “ that less than half of the whole number of children (at Lowell) between the ages of five and sixteen attend any Sunday school, or do so only most irregularly."
Multiplying the above number of 3876 by two, will give 7752.
The number 3876, therefore, exceeds the half of the number 7618 by 134 only (7752 — 7618 = 134); and Dr. Edson's statement to me, with regard to the attendance at Sunday schools being less than half of that at the dayschools, is proved to be almost literally correct, by the published statistics of the day and Sunday schools of Lowell, completed by fair and liberal estimates.
" It will be seen,” Dr. Edson adds, “ by perusal of the Report of the Sabbath School Union, that the tendency of each particular school is to report itself large. It is but the natural result of a laudable emulation of the schools between themselves to report as many as circumstances will justify, and of course to include those pupils whose attendance is but very irregular and of inconsiderable amount.
“ It may be remarked also that there are included in the 3876, pupils privately educated, or otherwise not belonging to the public schools. If these were added to the 7618, it would somewhat affect the ratio of the two numbers,” in the way of further confirmation of Dr. Edson's calculations.
When it is remembered how much it is the custom among the upper and middle classes in the United States to send their children to the Sunday schools, and to attend themselves as teachers, it is perfectly safe to infer that the great majority of those who neglect to send their children, belong there, as in this country, to the least educated portions of society.
By these latter, secular education is, in England, coming more and more to be regarded almost in the category of material wants, since it is found to be one of the best instruments towards supplying them. Such persons will send their children to the day-school to obtain the small amount of common learning which they think necessary, and withdraw them at the earliest possible age at which this can be attained. And the better the school, generally speaking, the earlier the age at which the majority of such children leave it. After that period, neither schoolmaster, nor clergyman, nor dissenting minister, can feel the least certainty that he will ever see anything more of them again as far as education is concerned, secular or spiritual. If the few early years of secular instruction are not seized upon, to impart at the same time all the elementary principles of Christian doctrine, and to make the first impressions in favour of a firm Christian belief, where is the probability that the great majority of those who most need such early training and direction will ever obtain it? Even if the whole were gathered into Sunday schools, which is beyond all expectation, who is to teach them? The clergy are already overburdened, and greatly too few to meet the present demands upon them. The voluntary teachers, whatever may be their zeal, cannot be expected, except in comparatively rare instances, to possess that command of elementary knowledge and that tact in using it, which are indispensable, if teaching is to be impressive and successful. And if these elementary principles of a firm Christian belief are not fixed early in the mind, according as they are understood by the church or sect to which the child belongs, the progress is direct and rapid, first to indifference to any, and then to the rejection of all. That this process is going on in the United States, as the direct