« AnteriorContinuar »
peculiar information, then we add that we know that such are the consequences of this impure and disgrace. ful system,
We still hope that those who are better qualified to treat this branch of the subject will not, from false delicacy, shrink from the task. Facts are abundantly known to some physicians who have had extensive opportunities of attending to certain mental disorders, the consequences of certain physical derangements; and no nobler object could be proposed to them than to show how those passions, which, when under due control, contribute so largely to human happiness, may not become, through the inattention and ignorance of the guardians of youth, the poison and the bane of their existence. The fundamental principle of correction, as to this matter, is the superintendence of the boys both by day and night, and the total separation of the younger from the elder in the sleeping-rooms. Many considerations besides these would be required to develope this matter fully; but in the active, systematic exercises of the gymnastic, and the strict, yet not severe, discipline of the school, the means for carrying out this principle would be found. A daily proper portion of bodily fatigue is the antidote to all wandering of the thoughts and dwelling on improper objects. In our schools many healthy boys take exercise enough of their own accord, and would often be better for taking less; but there are always some who are little inclined to indulge in athletic exercises, and these are they who specially require the encouragement and the direction of the master of gymnastic. A weakly and sickly frame is more liable to some of the evils at which we have hinted than a robust
and muscular body. The value of gymnastic in such cases cannot be estimated too highly.
We have said that the fagging system brings the older and younger boys too much into contact; to which it may be objected, that the fagging system has a tendency to separate the older from the younger boys: and this objection is a truth, but let us see if it consists with what we have said. The fagging system does separate boys into distinct classes ; it does separate older from younger boys. The older boys have a circle of enjoyments peculiarly their own: within this circle there is no sympathy of any kind between the senior and the junior boys. The junior boys are not qualified by age, or in any other way, to participate either in the proper amusements and pleasures of the older boys, or in the improper amusements and pleasures of these boys. This, then, is a good reason why they should, to a great degree, be kept apart from them. But by the fagging system the junior boys are broughtinto contact with the senior boys, not as participators in their pleasures, but as ministers to their pleasures, their wants, and their caprices: they are brought into contact with them exactly under the circumstances which are most disadvantageous to both parties. The nature of this relationship (supposing the senior to abuse his power and to set a bad example, which no person can deny does often occur) is not unlike the relationship between a dissolute man and his servant. The bad inaster and the man are, we all know, as much separated as any two beings can be in one point of view; while in another point of view they are brought into very close contact. There are no sympathies common to the two which tend to improve either; there are abundance of acts, of words, on the part of the master, witnessed by the servant, which tend directly to corrupt him. Were there no fagging in schools, and were the intercourse between boys, differing considerably in age, limited to that which it would be by the very nature of a good system, the intercourse between the older and younger boys would, we think, as a consequence, be of that kind which would exercise all their best sympathies; it would be sufficient for that purpose, and nothing more.
In many of our schools where fagging exists, we have no doubt that many older boys do behave well to their fags, and do not take any improper advantage of their power: many masters also set a good example to their servants, use them well, and by their words and actions exercise a beneficial influence over them. An older boy, under the fagging system, may in some instances do the same towards a junior ; but while we admit the possibility of this, we beg to observe that the analogy between master and fag, and master and servant, which we have pointed out as existing in a certain case, is not one that must he insisted on to any great extent, either for or against the system of fagging. In the case which we have taken, it seems to us to hold, so far as the influence of had example goes. As to the abuse of power by the master, the servant can free himself from that, by taking his leave. In the case of the fag, the remedy is not so clear; and that the power of a senior over a junior is liable to abuse, and that it is not unfrequently abused, will, we think, be admitted even by the boys in our public schools. And how can this be otherwise, especially in those endowed schools where so many boys of different ages are so much thrown together, and shut up in the same room for so large a part of the twenty-four hours ? In these rooms, fagging probably had its origin, and no place so well calculated for the production of this kind of government.
Let us now see on what the supposed necessity of the fagging system, as explained by our correspondent, rests.
Boys (see "Letter of a Wykhamist,” p. 287) in English boarding schools, “ for nearly nine months of the year, live with one another in a distinct society :" "at their studies and at their amusements, by day and by night, they are members of one and the same society, in closer local neighbourhood with one another than is the case with the ordinary society of grown men:" " for this their habitual living they require a government.” Doubtless they do require a government, and a good government: the question is, What shall it be? “It is idle," says our correspondent, “ to say that masters form, or can form this government; it is impossible to have a sufficient number of masters for the purpose ; for in order to obtain the advantages of home government, the boys should be as much divided as they are at their respective homes." It certainly is idle to say that masters in this country do, as a general rule, form the govern. ment; it is perhaps equally idle to say that they can form it, for they have generally neither the inclination nor the kind of knowledge, nor the habits that are necessary to enable them to form a good school government, But why cannot masters form this government? The reasons are curious.--(See Letter, p. 287.)-The object of a school, it is assumed, is to obtain the advantages of home government: to obtain this, boys should be divided as much as they are at their respective homes; there should be no greater number of boys under one master than of brothers commonly living under one parent: nay, there should be fewer, inasmuch as there is wanting the bond of natural affection which so greatly facilitates domestic government, and gives it its peculiar virtue: a father with thirty sons below the age of manhood and above childhood would find them difficult to govern; but it is more difficult for a master to govern thirty boys who have no natural bond to attach them either to him or to one another; and hence, for all these reasons, if you have a large boarding school, you cannot have it adequately governed without a system of fagging; and hence it is concluded, that a government among the boys being necessary, the actual constitution of public schools places it in the best possible hands. This government of boys, it is further said, like
other government, requires to be watched, or it will surely be guilty of abuses.
All this rests on the assertion, that boys in boarding schools form a distinct society; that by day and by night they are all in a close local neighbourhood to one another; and that this must be the case. On that circumstance in the constitution of nearly all large boarding schools, which most reflecting men believe to be the radical evil in such schools, is grounded the defence of all the evil consequences which flow from it. But boys must not be allowed to form a distinct society of their own: they are not sent to school to form a society for themselves; they are sent to live in a society framed and governed by the intelligence and virtue of a man whose profession it is to train boys. Boys are sent to school, among other purposes, to be instructed in the knowledge of social life, not a social life founded on their own notions, but one which shall be a fit introduc.