Report of the PNEU Meeting

Report of the PNEU Meeting

The Parents’ Review, 1926, pp. 250–251

The Chairman raised some interesting points. It had struck him, in listening to Mr. Glover’s paper, that possibly there was at present too great a tendency to teach children to become critics of the arts rather than votaries. As regards Nature Study, he found there was often a difficulty in interesting country children in Nature. He hoped that Mr. Household would give his experience on this point.

Miss Pennethorne, the  Organising Secretary of the P.N.E.U., agreed with the Chairman that analysis of the arts might be pushed too far; she instanced the reading of Shakespeare with many notes. This sort of thing tended to injure a child’s innate powers of perception.

Mr. H. W. Household, Director of Education for the County of Gloucestershire, felt that the question was not so much How to interest children in Nature Study, but How to interest them in all the subjects of the curriculum. If one was to follow the Parents’ Union School programme with success, one must realise that underlying them there was a complete philosophy of education; one could not dissociate one subject from another, all were closely inter-related. One sometimes heard a criticism that in geography, for instance, only the human side was dealt with to the exclusion of the scientific side. The critic had plainly noted only those books set under Geography—if he had studied the programme as a whole he would have realised that the subject was carried further in the books set under Science, Ancient History, Books of Travel, etc.

Touching on the question of Nature Study, Mr. Household said he often found that teachers, especially those who had just begun, thought that the work was more than they could get through, and Nature Study—a subject about which they themselves knew little—was crowded out. When this was not so, the teacher did not always give the child an opportunity of enjoying the book set and of using his eyes.

Mr. Household warned those who had lately started the work that their first year would be a very hard one and full of disappointments. He urged them to have faith in the children, and not to “explain.” The more they did this, the less opportunity the child would have of doing something for himself. A teacher starting with elder children not brought up on the methods, might find them slow to narrate and doing it badly. If he had not faith, he would shorten the passages until perhaps the child was never narrating a complete whole—merely a few words for which a slight effort of memory was all that was required. One did not want memory in this connection but concentration—a making of the passage one’s own, and with patience and faith this could be achieved.

Miss Wright (Ash C of E. School, Kent), spoke of the good effect the methods had had on the two very different types of children in her school—children of hop and fruit-pickers and those of agricultural labourers.

Mr. Cowan (Director of Education, County of Southampton), spoke of the influence of Miss Mason’s ideals in his schools. Speaking of æsthetics in school, he thought that there was a danger of the teacher coming between the child and beauty, as he sometimes did between the child and the book. He knew of children who disliked Nature entirely through the way they had been shown how to love Nature. He hoped that the day would come when children would be turned out from school with material for building up fine standards and values in after life.

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