Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Humanism in the Continuation School, Board of Education Pamphlet 43, HMSO 1921 ( Blog Part 1)

This article is about a Board of Education Educational Pamphlets No 43, commissioned by Mr Frank Pullinger, Chief Inspector of Technical and Continuation Schools, and prepared in 1918, the year of the H.A.L. Fisher Continuation Education Act. The pamphlet was written by Mr J. Dover Wilson, HMI of schools and called, 'Humanism in the Continuation School' and published by HMSO in 1921.

The reason for this report is that the 1918 Education Act sought to provide schooling for children aged 12-14 and continuation education for 14-16. Of all the issues, apart from taking children out of work, exploited child labour in agriculture and industry, which was battled against by business and parents in Northern England, was the lack of training or personal development for teenagers, millions employed in London and the cities as cheap, unskilled labour, replaced as they get older, and left destitute.

Children & teachers from two Tower Hamlets Schools celebrate Centenary of 1918 Ed Act on UN World Children's Day.
The country faced bringing into its day schools and, after 14, into part-time continuation education, all its teenagers. Though the Bill allowed for exemptions due to work provision for children over 12, in specific circumstances. It was a Bill based on compromise, and resulted from a long process of delays, negotiations and blocks, mainly on the issues of church schools potentially losing their monopolies if they were the only schools in the neighbourhood, and industrial and agricultural bosses seeking to maintain their cheap supply of child labour.

"The Education Act of 1918 foreshadows the establishment of part-time continuation schools for the entire adolescent population of the country, with the exception of those already receiving full-time instruction in secondary schools and elsewhere. This means that the administrative difficulties involved, such as the provision of buildings and teachers for millions of additional scholars, the Act implies the setting up of a type of instruction which is new in kind, in as far as the conditions which have made it inevitable have never existed in the world.

"These conditions have not been created by the immediate international crisis... The advent of industrialism has made the world one, had established human society on a basis of machine production, and has perhaps affected the life and thought of man more profoundly and universally than any material change in his history since he first learnt to use fire and make tools."  p5

What would be this 'type of instruction which is new in kind'?  Referring to practice in already existing in technical continuation evening schools, and the scarce evidence for Humanism in day schools, this pamphlet builds on successful practice and the principle that the foundation of education is the development of the human being, the human as a cultural maker and participator in community life and democracy. For this was an Education Act not about the few, but about all.

It always amazes me how some academics and speakers from the alternative education field revise the history of schooling with the simple claim that our present schools are relics from an industrial past, and that schools like Sudbury Valley are a new revolution, or others talk about the age of creativity, of communication, or e-technology, and the redundancy of the industrial school.

They bleach history of teachers, school inspectors, professors, suffragettes, politicians, Drs who saw the effects of the industrial revolution as a need to humanise our schools, to alleviate the worst effects of industrialisation, and poverty, to 'liberate the child in the school' as the New Ideals Community not only proclaimed, but lobbied, created models of practice, looked for further models, and shared them. Earl Lytton, the politician who guided the 1918 Education Act through the House of Lords with such skill that it was recognised by all sides, was founding member and President of New Ideals in Education.

Though there are many tensions and issues over the image of freedom and development of the child, this pamphlet expresses some of them, its philosophy is that culture is created by everyone, and not an elite, and that the Humanities is vital to the development of the human being.

"Humanism is as wide as the human spirit; and in education it means the awakening and liberation of this spirit in the individual child by cleansing the channels and increasing the flow of his self-expression, by making him conscious of his heritage and of his true function in society, and lastly by teaching him to take flight upon the wings of imagination." p9

This echoed the values of the New Ideals community, it is the voices we hear now from our children, frustrated parents and teachers; and those marketing 'innovative' tools, methods and schools; and even the politicians worried about the future of democracy and the rise of racism, fear of the stranger, and the issues of identity and community, but without the depth of the discussion that was present in the 1918 debate, the question of why we have schools... Within our present debates we will fail unless we regain the history to make our schools fit for developing human beings. This history is not about a golden age, it is not about resurrecting methods, or theories of human development, it is about, as Wilson, among many others, argues in this pamphlet, our identity is built around our communities, our culture and our history.

"But the essential subjects of Humanism are those which begin with man, among which art, literature, music, history, geography and economics are clearly of greatest immediate importance. Manifestly it will not be possible to teach all these subjects in the continuation school. What we have to do is to start the boy and girl on the right road so that they may find matters out for themselves." p9-10

With the lack of hours for continuation schooling for over 14 year olds, like today with the cramming of subjects, once defined by a National Curriculum, now defined through exam boards and Inspectors, Wilson recognises that it is more important to generate the child as a life long learner, who willingly engages in schooling because they see it as part of their humanity. Sir William Mather, the industrialist who funded booklets of case studies of such practice, stated that the primary school was successful only if it created children who wanted to continue to learn as part of  their teenage life.

"One of the main functions of education must always be to linkup each rising generation with the national life, to enrich minds of the coming race with those national memories which we call history and with that highest expression of the national spirit which we call literature, in short, to hand on the accumulated experience and tradition of the race to its sons and daughters..." p32

This links our identity with our schooling and our history and culture. We recognise it as part of our development of science, and also, more recently, different human groups struggling for their rights, but we fail in terms of our children, and in terms of our schools. If we use history in our present education debates, which is rarer even than references to philosophy, then it is normally as part of a propaganda point, made with simplicity and lack of research into the history quotes.

The old argument that there is not enough time in the timetable, one put by people who see teaching as a transference of knowledge and skills defined in a National Currculum set of subjects, is a view without a foundation for the school, except measurable output, and that old adage, you would not want an untrained, unqualified surgeon operating on your brain! In this pamphlet, as in the New Ideals in Education Conferences, which not only at every opening of their conferences summarise their own history, but states a foundation value that underlines the teaching and life of the school, for New Ideals this was 'liberating the child in the school'.

"Citizenship is not a subject, any more than 'character', 'devotion' or 'love of truth.' It is a spiritual principle, an atmosphere which must pervade all our teaching, inform all our educational plans." p32

The use of the student's experience as a learning resource, as a motivating starting point, as a way of creating a relationship with the teacher, as a philosophy to allow the student to explore who they are, and what they do, within the context of teaching history. We will find, time and time again, resemblances to the methods advocated and sold as new by our great industry of school and teaching innovation.

"...turn the humanistic class into something like a debating society... The problems selected for treatment must be real and not academic ones, problems which the students hear discussed at home and in the workshop, topics which are bandied about with heated prejudice in the daily Press. For what the teacher has to aim at is the encouragement of close reasoning, of respect for differences of opinion, of contempt for catch-phrases, of charity and tempered judgement; and these qualities are not to be obtained in set argument upon matters of indifference. The value of the tutorial class is that the students learn to think without passion, to weigh opinion in the scales of informed judgement, to get past the froth of partisan politics to the realities of the social structure..."

We will see how Wilson envisages the teaching of history in the second half of this blog...

An article based on Wilson's Pamphlet, and arguing for the inclusion of this history when we celebrate the history of Women's suffrage, 'Begin to Sing Once More... Why is it time to use the centenary of women's votes to transform our schools into communities fit for a democratic society based on equality?'

Saturday, November 24, 2018

In Celebration of Children as Active Citizens: 1918 Ed Act

Imagine a bus of 45 children and their teachers from East London schools, an old Routemaster bus, with a conductor interrupting the chatter with a few words about the history and buildings that they pass. The kids are excited by the historic bus, and peer out the windows as London goes by. We even see a calvacade of police and a minister of government go by...

The bus has picked them up at their schools, and they are on a journey to celebrate them as activists in their schools, as school councillors etc, and to celebrate the film 'To Sir, With Love' and its scene of using the 15 bus to take the children for a day out to the Victoria and Albert Museum. More importantly it celebrates the school which the film is based on, St Georges-in-the-East, lead by headmaster, Alexander Bloom. E.R.Braithwaite's book, on which the film is based, is
autobiographical, about him as an ex-RAF pilot and an engineer failing to get work in London after the war, and being forced to resort to teaching. He portrays himself as a hero in a failing school, with the progressive headteacher failing the children through low academic expectations and failing to control the behaviour of the children. A very different image is portrayed by HMI school inspectors, who stated in 1948 that this was the image of what all Secondary Modern schools should be.
A school based on co-operation, democratic participation, learning through group research and peer teaching. One such project was a form choosing 37 different locations on the 15 bus route, self-selecting their research groups, writing and phoning the locations, and doing self-managed research for an exhibition to teach others about London, as reported in the Times Educational Supplement in 1951. This was A.S.Neill's, the state school teacher who created Summerhill, favourite state school, and he visited as guest of honour at their prize giving, an event to celebrate co-operation.

The children arrive at Tower Hamlets Town Hall, where they go to a committee room and chat to children from a different school, after a short introduction to the UN Children's Day, Local Goverment Day called #Ourday and the Being Human Festival, a festival celebrating humanities and their power to develop our humanity. They are given a little demonstration of what they are to do, with a ppt slide of Harriet Finlay Johnson's Sompting School children from early 1900s interviewing a girl holding a flower. Like 'hot-seating' now, she would get the children to choose an object, that they found on their rambles, research them, and then be interviewed, as if they were the object. Also in French schools a teacher would get the children to bring chosen objects to school for the class to describe and explore, through questions, and to create a card caption, with information they have researched, as a growing encyclopedia... lead by the children's objects, questions and research.

The workshop presenter, Michael Newman, stood infront of the children, and told them his chosen object was a flat cap, that he put on his head. He told a short story about the hat, it was his father's, who wore it in memory and pride of his father, a miner, who started working in the coal mines at 13 years old, and saw the older man he worked with crushed to death. The children were invited to ask questions, and then in their pairs, each student from a different school, took turns to describe their chosen object, person or event.

Next the children were told about the 1918 Education Act and Earl Lytton's view of what a school should look like, as a result of the Act. Earl Lytton was responsible for taking the Act through the House of Lords. He saw schools as cultural and museum centres of their communities, with objects, documents, maps, art, images, and interviews collected and researched, and displayed by the children, with support from their teachers.  A slide with a quote from the London County Council's report on their implementation of the Act was shown and partly read.

The children, in pairs were then handed quotes from Earl Lytton's speech for the 2nd Reading of the Act (23rd July 1918) and from the London County Council's report, and asked to discuss them, what was being argued, did they agree or disagree, what would be the reasons for this.

They then went into the Tower Hamlets Town Hall Council debating chamber, which had been booked by the directly elected Mayor, John Biggs.  After a welcome from the Deputy Mayor, Rachel Blake, celebrating Local Government Day (#OurDay) and UN Children's Day, and after answering questions, starting the debate with asking them what they thought of active learning. The children debated their views on learning, teaching and schools.

Next the students went back into the Committee Room to have a Fairtrade Orange break, for the
Deputy Mayor to present to each child a Children's Rights Handbook, published by Children's Rights Alliance for England, and part funded by A.S.Neill Summerhill School Trust.

And before leaving they were given a final briefing about the rest of the day. They were told of Nellie Dick, who as an eighteen year old Jewish girl in Whitechapel, despite little support from the adults she created a school run by the children, as she was fed-up of the local school's propaganda of state support and reliance of obedience and children passively being taught. She created a 'Modern School', inspired by Francesco Ferrer. It was a school which the children ran, choosing visiting teachers/lecturers and creating their own lessons and courses.
Nellie Dick with her husband, her school students created a human shield to protect Suffragettes like Sylvia Pankhurst.
They decided to go out into the streets to form a human shield around the protesting Suffragettes to protect them from violence. The school children are going to repeat this event, forming a wall of children in front of the statue of Millicent Fawcett, in Parliament Square, as a celebration of UN Children's Day and children as active citizens.

Sadly the cakes ordered for everyone to celebrate the centenary of teenagers right to schooling was delivered late, and will be used with the school children and teachers at a later date.

The power point and teaching materials will be posted here shortly.

The next blog will be about the next stage in their No.15 bus trip... to the Whitechapel Gallery...

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The First World War and the Home Front

The New Ideals in Education community was founded at the Montessori Conference in July 1914, before the outbreak of war. It was inspired by the huge interest in Montessori through national tours of lectures and reports from 1912 onwards, and  the inspirational works of Lillian de Lissa in Kindergartens, Harriet Finlay Johnson’s work on nature and drama at her school in Sompting, Homer Lane’s work at the newly founded Little Commonwealth, and Norman MacMunn’s work on democratic teaching in the classroom. 

On the way back from the Conference, on the train, Earl Lytton, President of the Conferences, reports that he met a Minister and they talked about the likelihood and the dire consequences if we were to go to war.
"As I was coming down in the train from last year’s inspiring conference at East Runton near Cromer I met a Cabinet Minister, who expressed great anxiety concerning the consequences of the war which had just broken out between Austria and Serbia, which if it involved other European nations, would produce the ghastly experiences, and so change all the conditions of life that nothing would ever be the same again...” Earl Lytton, 1915
This is important as the development of a schooling system ‘to liberate the child’, with its emphasis on growth and freedom for the child, maybe seen, by some, as a response to the horrors of war, though it did most certainly heighten the issues at stake.
It was more in response to poverty and industrialisation, and the movements to large cities, with the threat of rural depopulation, and the question of identity and community, as people moved away from their birth places, families and churches, and crafts became replaced by industrial production.
From 1870 England had a national education system for children up to eleven and twelve years old, overseen locally by elected school boards, including women as members. Some thirty years, before the beginning of the new century, for experimentation into how national schools should be run. Several of the many examples of such teachers to experiment with methods of teaching and dynamics of the classroom are Harriet Finlay Johnson, Clara Grant, John Arrowsmith, Norman MacMunn, A.S.Neill, Muriel and Doris Lester. The conference of 1914 brought many of them together, people who had had years of innovation and practice but who felt sometimes alone, bringing them together with newer examples, and those looking for inspiration.
The start of war brought a discussion on the importance and relevance of the conferences, which indeed got bigger each year, 1914 there were 250 delegates, 350 in 1915 and some 400 in 1916. Whilst our young men were being killed at the front, was it important to present, share, discuss and promote new schooling methods?
“This, as some of you will remember, was on the eve of the War. Under the shadow of that impending catastrophe a movement was initiated which, if successful, would go far towards making such catastrophes impossible, seeing that its object was to work for a constructive freedom, in which the latent energy and capacity for doing good inherent in every child, would have an opportunity to unfold , and in which the spirit of comradeship would therefore thrive apace.”  Bertram Hawker.
There were several threads of input that focused on the war, apart from mentions of how it affected projects like the cooking lessons that were inspired by previous Conference presentations, and needed to take into account the need not to waste food because of submarine’s torpedoing our merchant ships. Luckily all the ingredients were successfully used, and the products were either eaten by the girl’s families at home or sold to the boy’s school.
There was the comparison between the German education system and the English and how they related in terms of going to war, exploring the values of nationalism, obedience, identity and the concept of democracy.
“The traditional ideal of education may be set forth in the homely words ‘Do what I tell you’. This ideal of education Germany has adopted as her ideal for life. ‘Do what I tell you’ is what the German teacher says to the pupil, what the German Officer says to the soldier, what the German official says to the citizen, what the German State says to the people, what the German people would like to say to the rest of the world.” Mr Edmond Holmes 1915    Ideals of Life and Education – German and English  P18
Dr Arthur Brock, Wilfred Owen's Therapist.
There was the link between the psychological problems and therapy of soldiers for shell shock and  the dehumanisation of the child through industrialisation and poverty, as expressed by Wilfred Owen’s doctor, Dr Arthur Brock, speaking at a New Ideals Conference, 1919.
“These are people who know how to “make a living and are yet quite ignorant of how to live. Such people, as soon as they get outside the beaten track of their own particular professional reaction, and emerge into the broader battlefield of life, drift like rudderless ships, and often founder."
He urges the conference to sustain the mental health of our children by founding their learning in schools on creative making, developing the enthusiasms of the children to arts, crafts, working with hands within the context of local history and culture.
There was also the training of soldiers, fit to fight for democratic values, as part of experimenting with teaching methods. Finally there was to be the legacy of the conflict, to create a world fit for soldiers to return to.
The issue of women’s rights had been part of the social make up of schools, most elementary and nursery teachers being women, who were also to be found active in the Suffrage movement. The lack of men as workers due to conscription, reinforced the dominant role of women in schooling, but also in inspection and local government. The venues of the conferences were supported by women academics, like the Bedford College for Women in 1917, and the reports were published by the Women’s Print Society, London.
Bertram Hawker, replacing Earl Lytton, who was busy with the Transport Bill, opened the 1919 conference and thanked the women, many of whom were or had been struggling for the right to vote, and for equality.
"...kindness and self-sacrifice of the principles and staffs of certain colleges of Women...” 1919
The use of history education to engage children in the understanding of the causes of war was explored through the development of methods of learning through research and critical questioning. How to judge evidence. Exploring how historians create their concepts of history.
Finally there was the question of the relationship between teaching and the prevention of war.
"It is surely significant that notwithstanding we are engaged in the most terrible conflict which has ever ravaged Humanity, there should yet be found time for us to meet together to discuss, not war and its accomplishments, but Education, the offering of Peace; and to give expression to those new ideals which animate us.
"It is not an exaggeration to say that the outbreak of war came as a shock – that many of us sustained a mental upheaval, which overthrew the ideals and ideas of a life time. Those who laboured, it matters not how humbly, for the uplifting of their fellows, were filled with despondency; and I do not hesitate to say that some of us asked in weariness of spirit, “to what end have we toiled?” The Montessori Principle in the Elementary School by Mrs Hutchinson, from Catherine Street LCC School, 1915.
(The research this summary originates from can be read in the articles section of the website: New Ideals in Education)

Saturday, November 3, 2018

1918 Education Act and the Role of Learning Outside the School

The importance of children learning through going outside their schools is embedded in the New Ideals in Education practice, innovation and case studies. They had presentations by Baden Powell, and others on the new Guides and Scouts organisations, which advocated the child owning their own learning and instead of having  teaching and discipline imposed,
Sompting Children acting out finds they made on a ramble.
to have the child taking responsibility for their actions and learning.
The primary inspiration of New Ideals, as referred to in an earlier blog, was the work of Harriet Finlay Johnson at her state Elementary School in Sompting. She started with rambles and exploring nature as a foundation for her teaching, moving onto the use of drama within the landscape, on which she published a book for teachers. An example was her children living out the stories of 'Tig', the prehistoric boy, building a  hut, digging clay, making pots, firing them, knapping stones, cooking outside...

Building the 'Tig' shed to act out a story.

Edmond Holmes, the Chief Inspector of Schools, persuaded Harriet to write a book on her methods,'The Dramatic Method of Teaching' (1912), he wrote one that featured her school as an image of what all schools should be like, 'What is and What Might Be' (1911), and later 'In Defence of What Might Be' (1914).
Children playing in the streets, mural in Children's House by Eve Garnett.

Her work inspired the 'Mantle of the Expert', that uses drama as the framework of all learning in the primary school, as can be found practised in the state village
primary school, Bealings.
Children walking towards 
the door to go to the countryside

Developing a relationship between children and nature was promoted by Margaret McMillan and her open air nurseries in Deptford, the Settlement Movement as in Kingsley Hall, which organised school trips to the countryside, day and residential (in their Children's Home nursery school there is a mural inside the classroom of children playing, happily in the streets, and walking along a wall to the doorway to the countryside and on the other hand playing in the woods and by the river...).

George Lansbury founded and opened a countryside based training school, a children's home for East London's destitute children, in 1905, Hutton Poplars in Essex. He also had community plantings of trees, and promoted public gardens and parks.

The image of the school, as portrayed by Earl Lytton in a report, ‘Working Out the Fisher Act – The Human Aspect of the Continuation School’ by Basil A. Yeaxlee, Oxford University Press, 1921:

“The elementary school would be the 'regional museum' of any given locality. In it would be stored and classified information relating to the natural features, animal and plant life, public services and buildings, and historical records of the neighbourhood, collected by the children themselves and set forth by them, under the direction of their teachers, in maps, charts, and plans, together with specimens of peculiar local interest or application gathered in their rambles. Lord Lytton claimed...”

Children walking through the door to the countryside.

The strategy document on the implementation of the 1918 Education Act by the London County Council is a surprisingly exciting read for a local government publication. Indeed its style is one of engagement which it celebrates. Apart from celebrating the freedom of the teacher, the elasticity of the curriculum, the breaking of the timetable... most of which is happening in the nursery and elementary schools, the report talks about the reduction of teacher's talking to the whole class as the best method of learning:

“In a less marked degree, there is evident on the senior school the same tendency to make individual, or, at best, a small group of individuals, the teaching unit instead of the class…”

And in terms of learning outside the schools:

“Perhaps the most noticeable change of all is the increase of incidental activities which involve a departure from the timetable. These are mainly visits of educational interest and school journeys. The visits, especially visits to the theatre to see Shakespearean drama, have multiplied enormously during recent years. The school journey movement, which was retarded by the war, is now going rapidly forward.” p13

The report goes into detail about the Old Vic creating a team of players to do Shakespeare for schools in small theatres/venues around London. It also informs us of the efforts to ameliorate schools in a big city, with grants for schools to cultivate of plants, build aquariums; a Botany scheme to provide plants from the parks, 8.5 million bedding specimens each year to schools; creating 20 school gardens a year, on top of those build in new schools or extended schools.

“Nature study occupies an important position in the school curriculum. Its aim is to evoke in the child a sympathetic interest in his or her surroundings. As the direct observation of animals, plants and rocks in their natural environment is an essential feature of the subject so regarded, London schools are necessarily placed at a considerable disadvantage, but efforts of various kinds have been made to encourage nature study.”

The lessening of the impact of the curriculum and a fixed timetable is joined with the reduction of the imposition of exams on the schools. For how can you have children learning by leaving the classroom and using the world, the park, the museum, the town hall, the workplace... as a learning space.

Picture from Clara Grant's book 'The Teachers Book of Toymaking'.

“Increasing attention is being given to visits to museums and other places of educational interests; to school journeys lasting for a week or more, during which the headquarters of the party are fixed either in the country or at the seaside; and to physical exercises, organised games, swimming, and other subjects to improve the physique of the child or stimulate a wider range of interest.
"Generally speaking, it may be stated that the teaching of the last few years has been to diminish the number of examinations imposed on the schools, and to give more freedom to teachers in framing their curriculum.” p15

From the earliest New Ideals in Education conferences, examples of outside learning were shared and promoted, mirroring this image of the school envisioned by many teachers and others implementing the 1918 Education Act.
“By one dramatic stroke appealing through its very name, the Forest School, assembled together the natural and fundamental requirements of developing childhood, the supply of abundant pure food and air, of healing sunlight and cleansing water,  the opportunity for unrestrained movement and collective games within periods of rest and, if need be, of sleep, together with free scope through association with nature for the development of the child’s life through imagination and joy.”                  'The Open Air School. Its Physical and Educational Possibilities' by Dr R.H.Crowley.  Report of the Conference on New Ideals in  Education held at Oxford from July 29th to August 5th 1916, p241

The 1916 conference had Baden Powell and the Scouts, they mentioned 'playground classes in London', 'open air classroom in North Wingfield School, Derbyshire', 'half day excursions', 'school journeys', 'school camps'...

The City of Nottingham promoted whole schools, and departments into their parks. In one day it was reported that 1,500 children ‘gathered under trees or engaged in some occupation out in the open.’
Chair of the New Ideals discussion, A.C.Coffin, Director of Education, Bradford reported that the Parks Committee and Education committee have formed a joint committee “to do everything they possibly can to encourage schools to go into the parks.”P259 

Let us end with a quote from A.S.Neill's autobiographical first novel, 'A Dominie's Log', about his first year as headteacher of a state, village elementary school from 1914-15.
In the year he concludes, in response to a young girl telling him that her father claims that they have learnt nothing and just played all year. 'Mary's father is right: I have converted a hard working school into a playground. And I rejoice! These bairns have had a year of happiness and liberty... They have hung on my arms as we rambled along in search of artistic corners...'
Our schools, our politicians, our inspectors, all need to remember those before them, those at the homefront, who sought a world in which learning and teaching was everywhere... and needed to be for the healthy childhood of our children.