chapter  1
20 Pages

ENGLISH ELEMENTARY EDUCATION

A ITS ORIGINS English elementary education in the nineteenth century was the result of the gradual development and bringing together of a number of organizations basically unrelated in purpose or form. Some were inspired by purely vested industrial and monetary interests, whilst others were philanthropic or burning with a religious zeal which saw the education of the poor as a part of the divine plan for the salvation of souls. Just as it would be facile, as well as wrong and misconceived, to damn all 'dame' schools, particularly on the basis of some of the contemporary literature, it would be equally misjudged to think of all 'religious' schools as entirely altruistic because of the missionary fervour displayed by some of their founders. Perhaps nothing was more calculated, initially at least, to keep the peasant in a constant awareness of his 'station' in life than the catechetical indoctrination of some of the church schools, whilst the attempt to teach him the three Rs frequently did little more than make him increasingly aware of his ineptitude in the world of literacy. There are ways of keeping people ignorant other than by simply ignoring their educational needs: they can be taught enough and in a sufficiently selective manner to make them even more the mere instruments of political engineering. Today we know only too well that the 'monitorial' system is not the only way of providing mass misinformation-although from many points of view it proved a highly successful one.