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tion of his quiet companion, you are not fully discouraged even now?”
“I have no right to be, if I am,” returned the other. The thing is as true as it ever was.”
Throughout his writings Dickens vigorously condemns the class distinctions that separate mankind into sections, and thus destroy the bond of unity and brotherhood that should exist between them.
Miss Monflathers, in Old Curiosity Shop, drew the line very definitely between genteel children and the children
of the poor.
Mr. Dombey pompously consented to have the children of the poor educated, because “it is necessary that the inferior classes should continue to be taught to know their position.” Fancy using education to prevent the unity of men, when its highest function should be the revelation of community and the qualification of individuals for the functions of brotherhood.
In David Copperfield the pathetic side of the evil of class distinctions is shown by the appeals of Mr. Peggotty to Mrs. Steerforth that she would consent to her son's marriage with Little Emily, and her indignant refusal to allow her son to do so.
In Bleak House Sir Leicester Dedlock was amazed at the audacity of Mr. Rouncewell's democratic ideas, and his mind was filled with gloomy forebodings of the evil that such principles as those held by Mr. Rouncewell would work in the social organization as planned and fixed by the Dedlock class. These were his thoughts:
From the village school of Chesney Wold, intact as it is this minute, to the whole framework of society; from the whole framework of society, to the aforesaid framework receiving tremendous cracks in consequence of people (ironmasters, lead mistresses, and what not) not minding their catechism, and getting out of the station unto which they are called-necessarily and forever, according to Sir Leicester's rapid logic, the first station in which they happen to find themselves; and from that, to their educating other people out of their stations, and so obliterating the landmarks, and opening the flood gates, and all the rest of it; this is the swift progress of the Dedlock mind.
In American Notes, after describing at length the admirable co-operative arrangements, and the varied means of culture, amusement, and refinement enjoyed by the young women in the factories at Lowell, Mass., he says:
The large class of readers, startled by these facts, will exclaim with one voice, How very preposterous! On my deferentially inquiring why, they will answer, things are above their station.” In reply to that objection, I would beg to ask what their station is.
It is their station to work. And they do work. They labour in these mills, upon an average, twelve hours a day, which is unquestionably work. And pretty tight work too. Perhaps it is above their station to indulge in such amusements on any terms. Are we quite sure that we in England have not formed our ideas of the “ station ” of working people from accustoming ourselves to the contemplation of that class as they are, and not as they might be? I think that if we examine our own feelings, we shall find that the pianos, and the circulating libraries, and even the Lowell Offering, startle us with their novelty, and not by their bearing upon any abstract question of right or wrong
For myself, I know no station in which, the occupation of to-day cheerfully done and the occupation of tomorrow cheerfully looked to, any one of these pursuits is not most humanizing and laudable. I know no station which is rendered more endurable to the person in it, or more safe to the person out of it, by having ignorance for its associate. I know no station which has a right to monopolize the means of mutual instruction, improvement, and rational entertainment; or which has ever continued to be a station very long, after seeking to do so.
Walter Wilding planned an ideal relationship between employer and employed in No Thoroughfare. He advertised for a housekeeper so that he “might sit daily at the head of the table at which the people in my employment eat together, and may eat of the same roast and boiled, and drink of the same beer, and one and all form a kind of family."
He planned, too, to train his employees to sing “ Handel, Mozart, Haydn, Kent, Purcell, Doctor Ame, Greene, Mendelssohn, to make music a part of the bond
between us. We will form a Choir in some quiet church near the Corner.”
He touched the true chord of community when Joey Ladle used the word “they.” Joey asked, when Mr. Wilding unfolded his plan:
“ Is all to live in the house, Young Master Wilding? The two other cellarmen, the three porters, the two 'prentices, and the odd men?”
Yes. I hope we shall all be a united family, Joey." “Ah!” said Joey. “I hope they may be.” “They? Rather say we, Joey."
Not many employers have reached the ideals of Dickens yet.
NUTRITION AS A FACTOR IN EDUCATION.
The influence of diet in the development not only of physical power, but of intellectual and spiritual power also, has now begun to attract general attention. There is no longer any doubt that the character of the bones, of the muscles, of the nerves, and of the brain itself, is decided to a considerable extent by the food that is eaten. There is no longer any doubt that many children have been urged to do work which becomes destructive beyond the fatigue point of their little brains, when their brains have not been properly nourished, either from lack of proper food or of properly cooked food, or from eating too much or too little.
The deterioration of the physical system, and especially the deterioration of the neurological system, is one of the most startling subjects within the range of view of educators and psychologists. One of the most attractive departments of child study is that which investigates the means of deciding from external manifestations of form, proportion, action, voice, and attitude the nature and condition of the brain and neurological system of the child. When this discovery has been made, however, it but prepares the way for further investigation to discover in what way abnormal or weak systems may be helped to become normal and strong.
One of the fundamental things to be done by scientists and educators is to discover the kinds of food adapted to different stages of the child's growth, and to the varied functions of study and work required of him. By proper nutrition and by proper exercise much may be done to increase the power and efficiency of the body and the brain and the rest of the neurological system.
Dickens saw the need of attention to the problems of nutrition very clearly. He began to write about it in Oliver Twist.
He first exposed the horrors of baby farming, with its terrible percentage of deaths, resulting almost entirely from the villainous indifference to the diet of the children. Children yet die in homes from similar causes, or, if they do not die, they go through life weakened and dwarfed.
For the next eight or ten months Oliver was the victim of a systematic course of treachery and deception. He was brought up by hand. The hungry and destitute situation of the infant orphan was duly reported by the workhouse authorities to the parish authorities. The parishi authorities inquired with dignity of the workhouse authorities whether there was no female then domiciled “in the house ” who was in a situation to impart to Oliver Twist the consolation and nourishment of which he stood in need. The workhouse authorities replied with humility that there was not. Upon this the parish authorities magnanimously and humanely resolved that Oliver should be “ farmed,” or, in other words, that he should be despatched to a branch workhouse some three miles off, where twenty or thirty other juvenile offenders against the poor laws rolled about the floor all day, without the inconvenience of too much food or too much clothing, under the parental superintendence of an elderly female, who received the culprits at and for the consideration of sevenpence halfpenny per small head per week. Sevenpence halfpenny's worth per week is a good round diet for a child; a great deal may be got for sevenpence halfpenny, quite enough to overload its stomach, and make it uncomfortable. The elderly female was a woman of wisdom and experience; she knew what was good for children; and she had a very accurate perception of what was good for herself. So she appropriated the greater part of the weekly stipend to her own use, and consigned the rising parochial generation to even a shorter allowance than was originally provided for them. Thereby finding in the lowest depth a deeper still; and proving herself a very great experimental philosopher. The system did not work well for the children.