Huddersfield Chronicle (01/Dec/1894) - Whitley Beaumont and Bible Teaching

The following is a transcription of a historic newspaper article and may contain occasional errors. If the article was published prior to 1 June 1957, then the text is likely in the Public Domain.

WHITLEY BEAUMONT AND BIBLE TEACHING.

(From Our Correspondent "Cid.")

After a rest, I wander aimlessly until I meet with as cool and refreshing a spring as ever bubbled from nature’s fount. I drink, am satisfied, and, like Antæus when he touched mother earth, rise refreshed and strengthened. As I face the sun I expand my chest and fill and refill my lungs with as pure air as was ever breathed. I think what a blessing it would be if the crowds in foul streets and stifling courts could, at will, be transferred to such a place a few times a week, in order to sweeten and have a respite from their filthy surroundings. Buoyed by the full flow of health, and wondering where in the world the rest of mankind are, especially the owner and attendants of this place, I am agreeably start led by what seems to be an apparition. Half-a-dozen female forms are gracefully moving or reclining on a fairy-ring beneath giant trees overlooking me. There are little ones amongst them, the sound of whose prattle is delightful. I hesitate what to do. They must see me, but it is tantalising to feel how little they heed me. They are bent on enjoying themselves, and unquestioningly leave me to do likewise. They have enough and to spare, and do not begrudge me a share. Their merriment comes on the breeze and it infects me, with the result that I trip along more buoyantly than ever, in the fullest liberty, none caring to make me afraid. I now follow the meandering streamlet, disturb life at every foot-step, and find new beauty at every turn. Look where I will there is a meeting of the sky with the earth, and the spirit of comeliness sheds its influence around me. The lights and shades of the trees, as the uprolled clouds illumine or darken them, are awe-inspiring. Nature looks well in any dress. I have seen this place in its night robes, its dawn drapery, its noon splendour, its after-dinner brilliance, and in its evening and twilight garments. I have seen it in all its changes present itself in surpassing finery, and have wistfully noted it make un-countable ghosts of the trees as the moon peered through them. Its varying and gradual transformations have imprinted on my memory pictures whose colours are as fresh and unfading as when first limned there. At last I find the carriage drive, pass through a gate into a wood, and from the wood into the legally restricted highways and bye-ways, and feel myself a prisoner compared with the liberty I enjoyed in Whitley Beaumont.

I now live over the days of my youth, page after page opening in succession as fresh as if imprinted but yesterday. I look on as with baby eyes. My boyhood pranks are before me. There is the house of my birth, the croft in which I rolled and tumbled, the farmstead, the hayloft, the hencoop, the dog, the horses, the cattle, the sheep, and the pigs. I seem to hear the varied noises of the farmyard, the domestic pets surround me, the handlooms are going, the weaver’s shuttle is performing its mission and marking, thread by thread, the decreasing warp and the increasing cloth. There is the garden, fruitful of flowers, luscious ripeness, and vegetables. I enter the little schoolhouse, which would hold about a dozen, and see the kind-hearted lady teacher. Time passes, and then winter and summer I walk three miles to Whitley School, in Mr. Wilby and Mr. Brandy Milnes’ days.[1] The Rev. H. Bullivant, B.A., is patting my head, and I feel virtue from his touch. Ever kindly and sympathetic, present or absent, he had influence over us all. We called him old then. I wonder how the dear old gentleman looks now. The memories of the school crowd through my brain, and I see everything and remember everything that took place. There is the playground and the dark passage up to the school. I play over again all manner of games, take part in the quarrels and fights, and can see the master approaching to punish, or the vicar to make peace and then admonish. Mr. Bullivant was ever a peacemaker. I was a chorister then, dressed in white, and as near being a parson as I ever was or shall be. If there was mischief I knew something about it, and if there was any playing truant I generally knew about that too, and when these things came to the schoolmaster’s ears, I not only knew about it, but felt its effects also. We were thrashed then and it did us good. There was sufficient animal spirit in this school to do or risk anything that boys could risk or do, and the punishment meted out would send the School Board parents and children of the present day into hysterics, but they would come out of them and be little the worse, perhaps better, for passing through the ordeal. I prefer corporal punishment to tongue punishment any day. Expressions used to children by teachers in these present enlightened times are scarcely credible, and have a hardening effect upon the characters of little ones, deaden their moral tone, and breed within them disrespect and insolence, whereas a proper application of the rod would not spoil, but improve, the child. Our gloved men and women have gone to the other extreme in the prevention of cruelty to children by assuring those children that corporal punishment is wrong and illegal, and that their masters, or even parents, can be fined and imprisoned for correcting them, with a stick or a more handy means. Hence the lack of honour to parents or wholesome fear the young have of the old, and the prevailing tendency to disobedience and disrespect of authority. Again, as to Bible teaching and religious education. Why this fear of the Bible in schools? It looks to me as if a spirit of irreverence and cowardice is taking possession of men and emasculating their determinations by deadening their high moral aims in the education of the head at the expense of the heart. There is nothing in literature that surpasses the Bible’s biography, that gives the lights and shades, the bad and the good, of its chief characters. Where is there a history like it? If man could discover the history of any great nation, dating back 6,000 years or more, the world would all but go mad in striving to possess it and make it known. A complete life of Homer would fetch a fabulous price, but the history called the Bible is excluded from schools during six days, and left to amateur teachers to hurriedly explain or expound on Sundays, or relegated to educated ministers to condense in a quarter of an hour’s sermon. There is no poetry that surpasses that of the Bible. Man’s imagination cannot reach the high flights depictured in the Old Testament, while the Revelation stands unique, and must stand unique, in the world of imagery with a purpose. The impressions I gained of the Bible at Whitley School are with me now, and although I have examined all lines of thought, for or against the Scriptures, those good impressions are as indelible now as when first gained. The certain and recurring Bible lesson, the committing to memory of the Collects, the Commandments, the relief from school by the change afforded by attending a short service in the church, the looking forward to the Saint days, the regularity and order of all things when under an acknowledged and responsible head, like an educated and duly appointed minister, must tend to the best discipline, and train the mind and heart to the full appreciation of the vital principles of truth enunciated by systematic Bible teaching. The general oversight of the minister, his kindly recognition and seasonable reproofs, must also have a lasting and wholesome effect. Those men who pick out exceptions often do so because they have lost moral tone, and in their irreverent bitterness succumbed to the temptation to make out of a molehill of discrepancy a mountain of bad intent. A child will as gladly take to reasonable and orderly formality and intelligent ceremony as a duck will take to water, and those who assert that Church ministers’ chief aim is to proselytise solely to the Church’s communion are either ignorant or perverters of the truth. There is scarcely a man of eminence of today, not to mention other leaders in less acknowledged spheres of life, that does not owe the groundwork of his moral character to the religious teaching practised in Church schools. On the other hand there is scarcely one in 50 of the children attending schools where the Bible is not explained that can pronounce the names of the Books from Genesis to Revelation without half-a-dozen mistakes. Try this and you will verify what I say. I commenced to work at half-past nine (9½ years of age), and have no hesitation in asserting that I then knew more Scripture than any of the finished products now turned out of secular schools. Further, the education was not, in my youth, too technical for our young minds, but was sound and practical, imparted from a utilitarian point of view, while a common sense groundwork was laid, upon which the best superstructure might be built, without the fear of its being too top-heavy, as is what we are pleased to call our present elementary education. I confess our present-day children seem more clever, they can make even their parents look ignorant, and can repeat from memory a mass of cram, but for practical and useful work they are not to be compared to the youth of the past, either mentally or physically. As to the latter, they simply could not do the work, and mentally, a great part of what they acquire is thrust out of their heads by the itching desire to cram in any variety of other subjects for the next examination. Instead of education being made a pleasurable necessity, the children are now overworked and over-crammed, with the result that the conscientious and clever take their school home with them, and spend their evenings in continuing the excitements of the day and in preparing for the morrow in the shape of home lessons, to the exclusion of wholesome recreation or homework, in order that the Boards and Committees, composed of some who have had little education, and who could not pass anything above the 4th Standard, might wildly proclaim from the house tops increased percentages of passes, refusing to bear in mind that the standard of percentage moves upwards until the percentage of today has topped that of yesterday, and so on, with no better or more lasting results. As to the non-conscientious and less clever, these children are anxiously looking forward to the time when they will be able to leave school and all its feverish excitement behind them, and forget it. When the head is educated at the expense of the heart, and the standards raised accordingly, there is a loss of balance, with the result that the “cultivation” of the one produces atrophy in the other. To obtain the best results from education, the heart, the body, and the mind must hold each other in subjection and work in unison, and as too much attention has of late been paid to the brain, if the heart and body were nurtured and carefully and properly cultivated while the head had its season of rest, or lay fallow for a time, the individual and the nation would be stronger, more manly, and, above all, more sympathetic than now.


Notes

  1. Brandy Milnes (c.1837-1926) is listed as a schoolmaster at Whitley Upper in the 1861 Census. By 1871, he was a schoolmaster at Darlington, Durham.