The Infant System For Developing the Intellectual and Moral Powers of all Children, from One to Seven years of Age

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     "Whoso shall receive one such little child in my name, receiveth me." Matt. xviii. 5.
     "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones." Matt. xvii. 10.


     In again presenting this volume to the world, I trust I feel thankful to God for the favour with which the Infant System has been received, and for all the aid I have enjoyed in my course of labour. Had the measures I originated for the development of the infant mind, and the improvement of the moral character, been sanctioned at first, as many now think they should have been, their progress would, undoubtedly, have been far greater; but when I consider what has been accomplished under the divine benediction, and amid greater difficulties than ever beset the path of an individual similarly occupied, I know not how to express the gratitude of which I am conscious. It seems proper and even necessary to remark, that the system explained in this volume, is the result of many years of labour. Thousands of children have been attentively observed, and for the necessities that arose in their instruction, provision has been made. Others have doubtless reached some of the conclusions at which I have arrived, but this is only another instance of the coincidence in judgment and effort, often discoverable in persons far apart, whose attention has been directed to similiar subjects; but with the exception of the elliptical plan, devised by Dr. Gilchrist, I am not aware that I owe an idea or contrivance to any individual whatever. Upwards of twenty-five thousand children have been now under my own care, in various parts of the United Kingdom, whose age has not exceeded six years; myself, my daughters, and my agents, have organized many score of schools, and thus I have had opportunities of studying the infant mind and heart, such as none of my contemporaries have ever possessed.
     Still I am aware I have much to learn. I am far less satisfied with the extent of my knowledge, and far less confident of its perfection and completeness now than I was in the earlier part of my course. The whole energies of my mind, however, having been thrown upon the subject, and the whole of my time for the third of a century having been zealously devoted to it, I trust the volume will contain knowledge of a more plain, simple, and practical character than is elsewhere to be found:—perhaps it may not be presumption to say than can elsewhere be found. Should I have the pleasure to labour for years to come, I trust I shall have much more to communicate on the subject.
     Two editions of this work in its former state have been printed in German; and it has also been reprinted in America. I have, however, felt it due to the friends of education, to make this volume as complete as possible, and though still occasionally engaged in superintending and organizing schools, I have felt it necessary to revise this eighth edition very carefully throughout, and commence it with a new and additional chapter.
     Moor Cottage,
 Westgate Common,
 Nov. 1552.

     It is said that we are aiming at carrying education too far; that we are drawing it out to an extravagant length, and that, not satisfied with dispensing education to children also have attained what in former times was thought a proper age, we are now anxious to educate mere infants, incapable of receiving benefit from such instruction. This objection may be answered in two ways. In the first place, it should be observed, that the objection comes from those very persons who object to education being given to children when they arrive at a more advanced period, on the ground that their parents then begin to find them useful in labour, and consequently cannot spare so much of their time as might be requisite: surely, that, the education of the children should commence at that time when their labour can be of value to their parents. But the other answer, in my opinion, is still more decisive: it is found even at the early age of seven or eight, that children are not void of those propensities, which are the forerunners of vice, and I can give no better illustration of this, than the fact of a child only eight years old, being convicted of a capital offence at our tribunals of justice; when, therefore, I find that at this early period of life, these habits of vice are formed, it seems to me that we ought to begin still earlier to store their minds with such tastes, and to instruct them in such a manner as to exclude the admission of those practises that lead to such early crime and depravity. A Noble friend has most justly stated, that it is not with the experiences of yesterday that we come armed to the contest: it is not a speculation that we are bringing forward to your notice, but an experiment.'—The Lord Chancellor.
     "In leaving poor children to the care of their parents, neglect is the least that happens; it too frequently occurs that they are turned over to delegates, where they meet with the worst treatment; so that we do not in fact come so much into contact with the parents themselves as with those delegates, who are so utterly unfit for the office they undertake. Infant Schools, however, have completely succeeded, not only in the negative plan they had in view, of keeping the children out of vice and mischief, but even to the extent of engrafting in their minds at an early age those principles of virtue, which capacitated them for receiving a further stage of instruction at a more advanced school, and finally, as they approached manhood, to be ripened into the noblest sentiments of probity and integrity."—The Marquis of Lansdowne.
     "I am a zealous friend, upon conviction, to Infant Schools for the children of the poor. No person who has not himself watched them, can form an adequate action of what these institutions, when judiciously conducted, may effect in forming the tempers and habits of young children; in giving them, not so much actual knowledge, as that which at their age is more important, the habit and faculty of acquiring it; and it correcting those moral defects which neglect or injudicious treatment would soon confirm and render incurable. The early age at which children are taken out of our National Schools, is an additional reason for commencing a regular and systematic discipline of their minds and wills, as soon as they are capable of profiting by it; and that is at the very earliest opening of the understanding, and at the first manifestation of a corrupt nature in the shape of a childish petulance and waywardness."—The Bishop of London.
     "The claims of this Institution were of such a nature, that they required no recommendation but a full statement of them. The foundation of its happy results had been pointed out to exist in the principles of policy, and of religion paramount to all policy—a religion that appealed to every feeling of human nature. He would recommend this charity, as one less attended with perplexity in its operations or doubt as to its utility, than many, which, though established with the best possible motives, frequently failed in effecting the good proposed; but in this the most acute opponent could not discover any mischief that would arise from its success."—Sir James Mackintosh.
     "I have always thought that that man that would be the greatest benefactor to his country who did most for the suppression of crime; this I am sorry to say, our legislature have neglected in a great degree, while they have readily employed themselves in providing for its punishment. Those acquainted with our prisons must know that those found to have sunk deepest into vice and crime were persons who had never received any education, moral or religious. In the Refuge for the Destitute, an exact account was kept, and it was found that of the great mass of culprits sent there by the magistrates on account of their youth, two-thirds were the children of parents who had no opportunity of educating them. By this institution they would at once promote virtue and prevent vice."—Dr. Lushington.
     "The real fact is, that the character of all mankind is formed very early—much earlier than might be supposed: at the age of two or three years, dispositions were found in children of a description the most objectionable. In these schools the principles of mutual kindness and assistance were carried as far as could well be conceived, and it was most delightful to regard the conduct of the children towards each other. Instead of opposition, they displayed mutual good-will, inculcated to the greatest degree, so as to destroy in the minds of the children that selfishness which was the bane of our nature. Such effects appeared almost to realize the golden age, for the children appeared always happy, and never so happy as when attending the schools."—W. Smith, Esq. M.P.
     "I feel, having witnessed the happy effects produced by these schools, a warm zeal in support of such institutions. We cannot begin too soon to impress religions principles on the minds of the young; it is an affecting consideration, that while great statesmen have been busied in their closets on some fine scheme or speculation, they have neglected these salutary principles which the Almighty has given to mankind. It is remarkable how eagerly the young mind receives the histories of the Bible, and how well they are fitted to work on their dispositions; and when I consider the miserable state of the poor, I cannot but feel that the rich are in some degree, the authors of it, in having neglected to afford them the means of education."—W. Wilberforce, Esq.
     "I am much delighted with what I have seen and heard. I confess I entertained doubts of the practicability of the Infant School System, but these doubts have this day been removed. If in one month so much can be done, what might not be expected from further training? I now doubt no longer, and anticipate from the extension of such schools a vast improvement in the morals and religion of the humble classes. I conclude with moving a vote of thanks to Mr. Wilderspin."—Lord Chief Justice Clerk.
     "Sir John Sinclair, rose, and in addressing Mr. Wilderspin, said, that he was astonished with the results of five weeks training in these perfect infants. He had never seen a greater prodigy. He too had had his prejudices—his doubts of the possibility of infant education; but these doubts had now vanished, and for ever. The arrangements for bodily exercise, connected with mental and moral improvement, especially delighted him. He was amused as well as instructed by the well-applied admixture of diverting expedients to keep the children alive and alert. It was 'seria mixta jocis,' but there was practical sense in the seemingly most frivolous part of the plan. He trusted that the time was not far distant when there should be many such institutions. He called on all present to join him in returning cordial thanks to Mr. Wilderspin."—Scotsman.
     "The grand secret of the improvement found to be derived from these establishments, is their constant tendency to remove evil example and misery from the little creatures during almost the whole of their waking hours. Consider how a child belonging to one of these passes his day. As soon as he is up, the indispensable condition, and the only one of his admission to the school, that of clean face and hands, is enforced, and the mother, in order to be relieved of the care of him during the, day, is obliged to have him washed. He then leaves the abode of filth and intemperance, and squalid poverty, and ill-temper, for a clean, airy place, pleasant in summer, warm and dry in winter; and where he sees not a face that is not lighted up with the smile of kindness towards him. His whole day is passed in amusing exercises, or interesting instruction; and he returns at evening-tide fatigued and ready for his bed, so that the scenes passing at his comfortless home make a slight impression on his mind or on his spirits."—Edinburgh Review.



     Days and scenes of childhood—Parental care—Power of early impressions—School experience—Commencements in business—Sunday school teaching and its results—Experiment on a large scale—Development of means and invention of implements—Heavy bereavement—Propagation of the system of education in the neighbourhood of London, and ultimately in most of the principal places in England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland—Misapprehension and perversion of the principles of infant education—Signs of advancement—Hope for the future


     Teachers of theft—Children the dupes of the profligate—An effort at detection—Afflicting cases of early depravity—Progress of a young delinquent—Children employed in theft by their parents—Ingenuity of juvenile thieves—Results of an early tuition in crime—The juvenile thief incorrigible—Facility of disposing of stolen property—A hardened child—Parents robbed by their children—A youthful suicide—A youthful murderer


     Degraded condition of parents—Dreadful effects of drunkenness—Neglect of children inevitable and wilful—The tutorship of wicked companions—Tricks of pantomines injurious—Mischiefs arising from sending children to pawnbrokers—Fairs demoralizing—All kinds of begging to be repressed


     Means long in operation important—Prisons awfully corrupting—Deplorable condition of those released from jail—Education of the infant poor—Its beneficial results—Cases of inviolable honesty—Appeal of Mr. Serjeant Bosanquet—The infant school an asylum from accident and a prevention of various evils—Obstacles in the way of married persons obtaining employment—Arguments for the plan of infant training—Prevalence of profane swearing—The example often shewn by parents—Anecdote in illustration—Parents ill used by their young children—Christian-like wish of George III.—Education for poor children still objected to—Folly of such objection illustrated—Lectures on the subject of infant training


     Moral treatment—Importance of exercise—Play-ground indispensable—The education of nature and human education should be joined—Mental development—Children should think for themselves—Intellectual food adapted for children—A spirit of enquiry should be excited—Gradual development of the young mind—Neglect of moral treatment—Inefficacy of maxims learned by rote—Influence of love—The play-ground a field of observation—Respect of private property inculcated—Force of conscience on the alert—Anecdote—Advantages of a strict regard for truth—The simple truths of the Bible fit for children


     The master and mistress should reside on the premises—Interior arrangements—A school and its furniture—Lesson-posts and lessons—The younger children should not be separated from the older—Play-ground arrangements—Rotary swing—Its management and advantages


     Teachers should practice what they teach—Necessity of patience—Mere automatons will not do for infant teachers—Disadvantage of using excessive restraint—A master and mistress more efficient than two mistresses—Objections to the sole government of females—Too frequent use of the divine names should be avoided—General observations


     Classification—Getting the children into order—Language—Lessons on objects—Rules to be observed by parents—Daily routine of instruction—Opening prayer and hymn—Object or developing lessons—Synopsis of a week's instruction—Cleanliness—Never frighten children—Guard against forgetfulness—Observe punctuality—Be strictly accurate in your expressions—Guard against the entrance of disease—Maxims for teachers—Resolutions


     Original intention of the gallery—What lessons are adapted for it—Its misapplication—Selection of teachers—Observations—Gallery lessons—on a feather—a spider—a piece of bog turf—a piece of coal—Observations on the preceding lessons—Scripture lessons in the gallery—The finding of Moses—Christ with the doctors—Moral training—Its neglect in most schools—Should be commenced in infancy—Beneficial effects of real moral culture—Ignorance of teachers—The gallery most useful in moral training—Specimen of a moral lesson—Illustrations of moral culture—Anecdotes—Simpson on moral education—Observations—Hints to teachers


     Necessity of some punishment—Rewards to monitors—Trial by jury—Illustrative case—Necessity of firmness—Anecdotes—Playing the truant—Its evils—Means for prevention—Devices for punishment—Sympathy encouraged—Evil of expelling children—Case of Hartley—Difficulty of legislating for rewards and punishments—Badges of distinction not necessary


     Means for conveying instruction—Method of teaching the alphabet in connection with objects—Spelling—Reading—Developing lessons—Reading lessons in natural history—The arithmeticon—Brass letters—Their uses


     The arithmeticon—How applied—Numeration—Addition—Subtraction —Multiplication—Division—Fractions—Arithmetical tables—Arithmetical songs—Observations


     Method of instruction—Geometrical song—Anecdotes—Size—Long measure—Observations


     Its attraction for children—Sacred geography—Geographical song—Lessons on geography


     Pictures—Religious instruction—Specimens of picture lessons on Scripture and natural history—Other means of religious instruction—Effects of religious instruction—Observations


     Object boards—Utility of this method


     Exercise—Various positions—Exercise blended with instruction Arithmetical and geometrical amusements


     Infant ditties—Songs on natural history—Moral lessons in verse—Influence of music in softening the feelings—Illustrative anecdote


     Method of instruction—Grammatical rhymes


     Method Explained—Its success


     National schools—British and foreign societies—Sunday schools—Observations


     Introduction to botany—First lessons in natural history—First truths of astronomy—Geographical instruction—Conclusion

      * * * * *


     Days and scenes of childhood—Parental care—Power of early impressions—School experience—Commencement in business—Sunday-school teaching and its results—Experiment on a large scale—Development of plans and invention of implements—Heavy bereavement—Propagation of the system of education, in the neighborhood of London, and ultimately in most of the principal places in England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland—Misapprehension and perversion of the principles of infant education—Signs of advancement—Hope for the future.
      * * * * *
       Be it a weakness, it deserves some praise,
   We love the play-place of our early days;
   The scene is touching."—Cowper
       "What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under
   the sun?"—Ecclesiastes i. 3.

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