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Education, And Case Of Appeal
by [?]

The book may be properly distributed into two parts: the first of which from page 1 to page 125 inclusively (comprehending the three first chapters) unfolds and reviews the system: all that remains from page 126 to page 218 inclusively (i. e. to the end)–comprehending four chapters–may be considered as a second or miscellaneous part, treating of some general topics in the business of education, but with a continual reference to the principles laid down in the first part. An appendix, of twenty pages, contains a body of illustrative documents. The first of the three chapters, composing what we have called the first part, is entitled Outline of the System: and, as it is very brief, we shall extract it nearly entire.

‘A schoolmaster being a governor as well as a teacher, we must consider the boys both as a community and as a body of pupils. The principle of our government is to leave, as much as possible, all power in the hands of the boys themselves: To this end we permit them to elect a committee, which enacts the laws of the school, subject however to the veto of the head master. We have also courts of justice for the trial of both civil and criminal causes, and a vigorous police for the preservation of order. Our rewards consist of a few prizes given at the end of each half year to those whose exertions have obtained for them the highest rank in the school; and certain marks which are gained from time to time by exertions of talent and industry. These marks are of two kinds: the most valuable, called premial[4] marks, will purchase a holiday; the others are received in liquidation of forfeits. Our punishments[5] are fine and imprisonment. Impositions, public disgrace, and corporeal pain, have been for some years discarded among us. To obtain rank is an object of great ambition among the boys; with us it is entirely dependent on the state of their acquirements; and our arrangements according to excellence are so frequent–that no one is safe, without constant exertion, from losing his place. The boys learn almost every branch of study in classes, that the master may have time for copious explanations; it being an object of great anxiety with us, that the pupil should be led to reason upon all his operations. Economy of time is a matter of importance with us: we look upon all restraint as an evil, and to young persons as a very serious evil: we are therefore constantly in search of means for ensuring the effective employment of every minute which is spent in the school-room, that the boys may have ample time for exercise in the open air. The middle state between work and play is extremely unfavourable to the habits[6] of the pupil: we have succeeded, by great attention to order and regularity, in reducing it almost to nothing. We avoid much confusion by accustoming the boys to march; which they do with great precision, headed by a band of young performers[7] from their own body.’

[Footnote 4:
Premial marks:’ this designation is vicious in point of logic: how is it thus distinguished from the less valuable? ]

[Footnote 5:
‘Our punishments,’ etc. This is inaccurate: by p. 83 ‘disability to fill certain offices’ is one of the punishments. ]

[Footnote 6:
‘Habits!’ habits of what? ]

[Footnote 7:
‘Performers!’ Musical performers, we presume. ]

Such is the outline of the system as sketched by the author himself: to us however it appears an insufficient outline even for ‘the general reader’ to whom it is addressed: without having ‘any intention of reducing the system to practice,’ the most general reader, if he asks for any information at all, will ask for more than this. We shall endeavour therefore to draw up an account of the plan somewhat less meagre, by separating the important from the trivial details. For this purpose we shall begin–1. with the GOVERNMENT of the school; i. e. with an account of the legislative, the executive, and the judicial powers, where lodged–held by what tenure–and how administered. The legislative power is vested in a committee of boys elected by the boys themselves. The members are elected monthly; the boy, who ranks highest in the school, electing one member; the two next in rank another; the three next a third; and so on. The head-master as well as all the under-masters are members by virtue of their office. This arrangement might seem likely to throw a dangerous weight in the deliberations of the ‘house’ into the hands of the executive power, especially as the head-master might pursue Queen Anne’s policy under the Tory ministers–and, by introducing the fencing-master–the dancing-master–the riding-master, etc. under the unconstitutional equivocation of the word ‘teachers,’ carry a favourite measure in the teeth of the patriotic party. Hitherto however the reigning sovereign has shown so laudable a desire to strengthen those checks upon his own authority which make him a limited monarch–that ‘only one teacher has been in the habit of attending the committee’s meetings’ (p. 5): and, where any teacher himself happens to be interested in the question before the house (e. g. in a case of appeal from any decision of his), ‘it has lately been the etiquette’ for that one who does attend to decline voting. Thus we see that the liberty of the subject is on the growth: which is a sure argument that it has not been abused. In fact, as a fresh proof of the eternal truth–that in proportion as human beings are honourably confided in, they will in the gross become worthy of confidence, it will give pleasure to the reader to be informed that, though this committee ‘has the formation of all the laws and regulations of the school (excepting such as determine the hours of attendance and the regular amount of exercises to be performed),’ yet ‘the master’s assent has never even in a single instance been withheld or even delayed.’ ‘I do not remember,’ says Sir William Temple in 1683 to his son, ‘ever to have refused anything you have desired of me; which I take to be a greater compliment to you than to myself; since for a young man to make none but reasonable desires is yet more extraordinary than for an old man to think them so.’ A good arrangement has been adopted for the purpose of combining the benefits of mature deliberation with the vigour and dispatch necessary for sudden emergencies: by a standing order of the committee a week’s notice must be given before a new law can be introduced for discussion: in cases of urgency therefore a sort of orders of council are passed by a sub-committee composed of two principal officers for the time being: these may of course be intercepted in limine by the veto of the master; and they may be annulled by the general committee: in any case they expire in a fortnight: and thus not only is a present necessity met, but also an opportunity gained for trying the effect of a law before it is formally proposed. The executive body, exclusively of its standing members the upper and lower masters, is composed of a sheriff (whose duties are to levy fines imposed by the court of justice, and to imprison on non-payment)–of a magistrate, and of two constables. All these officers are elected every month by the committee immediately after its own election. The magistrate is bound, in conjunction with his constables, to detect all offences committed in the school: petty cases of dispute he decides himself, and so far becomes a judicial officer: cases beyond his own jurisdiction he sends to the attorney-general, directing him to draw an impeachment against the offending party: he also enforces all penalties below a certain amount. Of the judicial body we shall speak a little more at length. The principal officers of the court are the judge who is elected monthly by the committee, and the attorney-general who is appointed at the same time by the master. The court assembles every week: and the jury, consi
sting of six, is ‘chosen by lot from among the whole number of qualified boys:’ disqualifications arise in three ways; on account of holding a judicial office, on account of conviction by the court within the preceding month, and on account of youth (or, what we presume to be tantamount, being ‘in certain lower classes’). The jury choose their own foreman. The attorney-general and the accused party, if the case be penal, and each disputant, if civil, has a peremptory challenge of three, and an unlimited right of challenge for cause. The judge decides upon the validity of the objections. Such is the constitution of the court: its forms of proceeding we cannot state in fewer words than those of the Experimentalist, which we shall therefore quote: ‘The officers of the court and the jury having taken their seats, the defendant (when the cause is penal) is called to the bar by the crier of the court, and placed between the constables. The clerk of the court then reads the indictment, at the close of which the defendant is asked if he object to any of the jury–when he may make his challenges (as before stated). The same question is put to the attorney-general. A short time is then allowed the defendant to plead guilty, if he be so disposed: he is asked no question however that he may not be induced to tell a falsehood: but, in order to encourage an acknowledgment of the fault, when he pleads guilty–a small deduction is made from the penalty appointed by the law for the offence. The consequence is–that at least five out of six of those who are justly accused acknowledge the offence in the first instance. If the defendant be determined to stand his trial, the attorney-general opens the case and the trial proceeds. The defendant may either plead his own cause, or employ a school-fellow as counsel–which he sometimes does. The judge takes notes of the evidence, to assist him in delivering his charge to the jury: in determining the sentence he is guided by the regulations enacted by the committee, which affix punishments varying with the magnitude of the offence and the age of the defendant, but invest the judge with the power of increasing or diminishing the penalty to the extent of one-fourth.’ A copy of the sentence is laid before the master, who has of course ‘the power of mitigation or pardon.’ From the decision of the court there lies an appeal to the committee, which is thus not only the legislative body, but also the supreme court of judicature. Two such appeals however are all that have yet occurred: both were brought by the attorney-general–of course therefore against verdicts of acquittal; and both verdicts were reversed. Fresh evidence however was in both cases laid before the committee in addition to that which had been heard in the court below; and on this as well on other grounds there was good reason to acquit the jury of all partiality. Whilst appeals have thus been so rare from the verdicts of juries, appeals from the decisions of the magistrate, and even from those of the teachers, have been frequent: generally indeed the decisions have been affirmed by the committee; and, when they have been reversed, in all but two cases the reversal has met with the sanction of the teachers as a body. Even in these two (where, by the way, the original decision was only modified and not annulled); the Experimentalist is himself of opinion (p. 12) that the non-concurrence of the teachers may possibly have been owing to a partiality on their side. So far indeed as his experience had then extended, the Experimentalist tells us (p. 79) that ‘one solitary instance only’ had occurred in which the verdict of the jury did not coincide with his own opinion. This judgment, deliberately pronounced by so competent a judge, combined with the entire acquiescence in the verdict of the jury which is argued by the non-existence of any appeals except on the side of the crown (and then only in two instances), is a very striking attestation to the spirit of conscientious justice developed in the students by this confidence in their incorruptible integrity. ‘Great,’ says the Experimentalist, ‘great, but of course unexpressed, anxiety has more than once been felt by us–lest the influence of a leading boy, which in every school must be considerable, should overcome the virtue of the jury: but our fears have been uniformly relieved, and the hopes of the offender crushed, by the voice of the foreman pronouncing, in a shrill but steady tone, the awful word–Guilty!’ Some persons, who hate all innovations, will pronounce all this ‘mummery,’ which is a very compendious piece of criticism. For ourselves, though we cannot altogether agree with the Experimentalist, who seems to build too much on an assumption that nature and increasing intercourse with human life contribute nothing of themselves without any artificial discipline to the evolution and culture of the sense of justice and to the power of the understanding for discovering where justice lies, yet thus much is evident, 1. That the intellectual faculties must be sharpened by the constant habit of discriminating the just and the unjust in concrete cases such as a real experience of life produces; 2. That the moral sense must be deepened, if it were only by looking back upon so large a body of decisions, and thus measuring as it were, by the resistance which they had often overcome arising out of their own immediate interest, the mightiness of the conscientious power within which had compelled them to such decisions; 3. That all sorts of forensic ability is thus cherished; and much ability indeed of larger application: thus the logical faculty of abstracting the essential from the accidental is involved in the summing up of the judge; in the pleadings for and against are involved the rhetorical arts of narrating facts perspicuously–of arranging arguments in the best order of meeting (therefore of remembering) the counter-arguments; of solving sophisms; of disentangling misrepresentations–of weighing the value of probabilities–to say nothing of elocution and the arts of style and diction which even the records of the court and the committee (as is urged at p. 105) must tend to cultivate: 4. (to descend to a humbler use) that in this way the master is absolved from the grievous waste of time in administering justice, which on the old system was always imperfect justice that it might waste but little time, and which yet wasted much time though it was imperfect justice. The author’s own moral of this innovation is as follows (p. 76); and with this we shall leave the subject: ‘We shall be disappointed if the intelligent reader have not already discovered that by the establishment of a system of legislation and jurisprudence wherein the power of the master is bounded by general rules, and the duties of the scholar accurately defined, and where the boys are called upon to examine and decide upon the conduct of their fellows, we have provided a course of instruction in the great code of morality which is likely to produce far more powerful and lasting effects than any quantity of mere precept.’