Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/391

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
377
KINDERGARTENS AND MANUAL TRAINING.

of a terrific crisis. Its light shot across the Atlantic to safe and peaceful America, and a new style of teaching was inaugurated largely through the influence of Horace Mann; but this again was improved upon, and brought more into harmony with the fundamental laws of mind by Froebel in Germany—one of his most earnest American propagandists being the venerable Miss Elizabeth P. Peabody—and now it seems as if his ideas are on the verge of universal realization.

In 1831-'32 England was in a state of ferment; incendiaries kept the country lighted up by a line of blazing hay-ricks from county to county, cattle were poisoned or mutilated, and every day brought news of some fine machine broken up by the factory people, as a devouring monster that had come to eat the bread out of their mouths, and the real oppressions and fancied injuries of the factory population had become so unbearable that Parliament could no longer remain apathetic and supine.

In 1833 a commission was appointed to examine into the condition of the labor of young persons and children employed in factories. The commissioners found generally that the children were worked during the same stages as adults—eleven, twelve, or more hours daily—and this long-time labor had practically excluded the children from the means of education, so that a population had been growing up deteriorated morally as well as physically by excess of labor. Sir Edwin Chadwick was charged with the work of drawing up a bill that should remedy the evils of their condition. The commission declared that six hours of daily labor was all that young children could endure without permanent bodily harm, and insisted that manufacturers enforcing work during those long hours should do it with double sets of children, six hours to each set. The provision which Mr. Chadwick proposed as an efficient protection to these little factory slaves against exclusion from education was, "that it should be a condition of the employment of children by the manufacturer that every child so employed should produce a certificate from a competent teacher in a fitting school, certifying that the child had been under instruction three hours every working-day during the week preceding; three hours being half the time then generally occupied in the working-schools. Hence the name "half-school-timers," which soon shortened into "half-timers."

These three hours' schooling much of it in inferior or nominal schools was primarily intended as a security from overwork, for it was reasoned "Three hours in the school-room keeps them out of the workshop three hours," and the immediate effect, as testified by competent medical men, was a better growth; and, quite unexpectedly, employers admitted, a better quality of work. But, over and above these results, there came out of these inves