Education at New Lanark


Figure 1.--This is the schoolroom at New Lanark in Owen's time. The children dancing are both boys and girls. It certainly looks to be a well equipped school. The academic lessons were inriched with dancing lessons as seen here. I'm not sure what kind of dance was taught, but note the children are groupedrather than square dancing. One source says that the children wore uniforms which were dresses in Scottish plaid. The children here look to be white dresses with plaid trim. I'm not sure up to what age the boys wore these dresses.

Robert Own and his Quaker partners used used mill profits to build a village school. One author describes teacing in the village school. "In addition to this elementary instruction, those over two were given dancing lessons and those four and upwards taught singing. Military-style exercises were also a major feature of both schools, and the sight of youthful marches led by fife and drum was frequently remarked upon by contemporaries, especially the upper class dignitaries who much approved of such discipline. Conformity in the children was further reinforced by a 'beautiful dress of tartan cloth, fashioned in its make after the form of a Roman toga'. However, like the kilt and plaid worn by older boys this was thought by some of Robert Owen's partners to encourage sexual promiscuity. According to Captain Donald Macdonald of the Royal Engineers, who like the laird, Archibald Hamilton of Dalzell, had become a convert to the New System and who accompanied Robert Owen on the visit of inspection to Harmonie in 1824-25, the New Lanark dresses and plaids were part of the baggage. Owen showed them to fellow passengers and apparently had them copied in New York to be displayed there and in Washington along with his plans and models of the Village Scheme. The dress code for the new communities was another subject about which Robert Owen said little about unless pressed to do so." [Donnachie]

New Lanark

Observing the impact of the Industrial Revolution and the factory system on people there were several different reform movements which developed. Some of these reforms took a political approach. Another was the creatian of utopian societies. One of the utopian communities develooed in Scotland. New Lanark was created when two Glasgow financiers (David Dale and Richard Arkwright) purchased land on the River Clyde. It was at this location that they founded their mill and a new village--New Lanark (1785). Dale as was not unsual at the time, relied heavily on children, especially orphan children who were very inexpensive to obtain. An estimated 800 of his 1,100 employees were children. Unlike many such employers, he provided 2 hours of education. (This was before free public education existed, but it was beginning to develop in Scotland.) He also built reasobable housing for his employees. A Welshman Robert Owen married Dale's daughter Caroline (1799). Owen and Quaker partners thus took control of New Lanark. Owen was an idealist inspired by the Enlightenment. He was particularly taken with the idea of individual self-improvement and education. Owen believed that the education of individuals would benefit the larger soiciety. Owen decided to administer New Lanark as a social experiment. Owen sought to show the social benefits that resulted when employees were treated fairly and he sought to demostrate that employers could still make profirs. Owen cut back on working hours and upgraded worker housing. He established a creche (day care) for working mothers. He also provided workers free medical care as well as sick pay--virtually unheard of at the time. He used mill profits to build a village school. He even saw recreation as important and organized dances and socials. He offered self improvement through adult education evening classes. Owen founded the Institute for the Formation of Character (1816). Owen sold his share of New Lanark to Quaker partners (1824). Owen is especially well known to Americans. He brought his family to America and founded a utopian community there--New Harmony, Indiana. Owen eventually returned to Britain, but his son Robert Dale Owen stayed behind at New Harmony. He was a teacher and an important spokesman for the abolition of slavery. His father persued the campaign for industrial and social reform after his return to Britain until he died (1858). Owen's experiment at Lanark had an important but difficult to quantify impact on social policy in Britain and the British labour movement. It also influenced the co-operative movement. Social legislation, the trade union movement , garden cities, as well as education were also impacted.

Robert Owen (1771-1858)

Robert Owen came from humble origins. He is one of the most notable figures of the Industrial Revolution, in fact better known that the inventors that made the Industrial Revolution possible. Owen is known for his social and educational reforms and thus is rather surprising that he is better known than the inventors. Robert's father was a Welsh saddler and ironmonger. Robert was a clever boy and did well in school, but his father did not allow him to continue his education beyound age 10 years. His father found him a job working with a drapers in Stamford, Lincolnshire. He worked there for 3 years and at age 13 found employment workin with a London draper. At age 16 he moved again this time to Manchester where he worked with a wholesale and retail drapery (1787). Robert as a boy thus learned a great deal about textiles. He thus was very impressed when he learned about Richard Arkwright textile factory in Cromford. Owen at only 19 years of age borrowed £100 and in parnership with engineer John Jones began manufacturing spinning "mules" to supply the new mills. This partnership ended (1792) and Owen began working as manager of Peter Drinkwater's Manchesterv spinning factory. As manager of a factory in Manchester, Owen met many of the key ehntrepreneurs at the hear of Britain's industrial Revolution. One of those was David Dale, who had set up the Chorton Twist Company in New Lanark, Scotland. At the time, this was the largest cotton-spinning business in Britain. Owen and Dales became friendly and Owen eventually married his daughter Caroline (1799). Dale's death this left Owen in control of the New Lanarl mill. Owen and Quaker partners thus took control of New Lanark. By this time Owen had made substantial amounts of money and with Caroline's inheritance he was a wealthy man. At this point in his life, his priorities changed. Rather than making even more money, he shifted his focus on how to address the social problems that had accompanied the Industrial Revolution. Owen began thinking about how to change the environment of workers and how to imprive their situation through education, improvements in the factory sustem, and changes in the poor law as well as legisislation to protect workers--especiall child and women workers. Owen was an idealist who was strongly influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment, but his experiences as a manager and entrprenuer gave him a practical outlook. He was particularly taken with the idea of individual self-improvement and education. Owen believed that the education of individuals would benefit the larger soiciety. His controlling in terest in New Lanark gave him a mill ahd community that he could use as a laboratory for his Village Svheme ideas. At New Lanark profit was not the major objective, but rather mutual co-operation. Owen after New Lanark came to the United States where he founded a Community of Equality at New Harmony, Indiana (1824-28) in Indiana. He then tried a to establish a colony in Mexico based on communitarian principles, but failed. His son remained at New Harmony, but Owen returned to Britain to campaign for social reform. He promoted labour exchanges, consumer co-operatives, trade unions and various other Owenite organisations. Owen by thr 1830s was in effect the keader of a social reform a movement. Owen's ideas and approaches varied over time, but the central facet in his approach was always education--the education that he had been denied as a boy.

Chronology

When New Lanark was established (1785), the labor force was primarily children, especially orphan children who were very inexpensive to obtain. An estimated 800 of his 1,100 employees were children. Unlike many such employers, the founders provided 2 hours of education. Rgis means there must have been some kind of facility for teaching. JuOwn married Caroline Dale (1799). I am not sure precisely when Owen took control of New Lanark and what provision was made for children and their education in the early years. Owen prepared a prospectus to attract new investors titled "A Statement Regarding the New Lanark Establishment" (1812). Education as always featured prominentkly in Owen's plan. Owen appears to have been the director of New Lanark and then replaced for a time. He was then reinstated (1814). Owen began making major changes to implement his theories on social reform. Owen had partners in London who were in sympathy with his economic and social ideas. They were less interested, however in having their names publicized. As they were located far to the south in London, Owen was essential in full control at New Lanark. Own published his ideas in A New View of Society (1816), perhaps his most well known work and clearest statement of his social philosophy. As in his other works, education was at the center of his proposed new society.

Scottish Education in the 19th Century

Some authors report that by the early 19th century, in part because of the Industrial revolution, many Scottish towns and villages were without schools. Children from wealthy families were instructed by tutors in their homes. There were some charity schools for poor children. Unlike England there was no prestigious private (called Public) schools. Some new schools were founded using the Bell and Lancaster systems. Here older children acted as ‘monitors’ to instruct the younger children. This kept the cost of running the schools low. Most working-class children received only the most basic reading, writing and religious instruction. As in England, few in Scotland attached any importance to educating poor children. Given the importance attached to teaching children to read in the 17th and 18th century, this prevailing early 19th century attitude is interesting. During the 19th century the Church of Scotland became almost entirely disassociated from the schools. Voluntary associations and by the late 19th century the Government became the major factors in public education. The Secretary of State for Scotland was made responsible for Scottish education in 1885, in effect becoming the equivalent of the British Minister of Education. The Education Act (Scotland) of 1872 was the counterpart of the English Education Act of 1870 which had placed public schools under the authority of locally elected school boards. Scotland carried out its own educational reforms in the late 19th century and by the turn of the 20th centurt every locality maintained free primary schools. Many localities also maintained free secondary schools which was not ye the case in England. Scottish schools maintained by charitable groups were never as widespread as in England. We have not yet been able to develop information on Scottish schoolwear and uniforms during the 19th century. We have little information at this time, but we do know that Scotland tended to lead England in terms of free public education. We do not believe that uniforms were worn by Scottish school children, except in the private schools.

The School

I am not sure what facility was built or used for a school in the early years of New Lanark. The centerpiece of the community eventually would be the school. It is unclear precisely when the school was built. Owen in his autobiography reports that they began to clear the foundation for the "infant and other schools" in 1809. Some authors believe that he may have been wrong about the date and this may have occurred several years later. A newspaper advertisement attempting to sell New Lanark described , a building 145 ft long by 45 ft broad 'at present unoccupied' and 'planned to admit of an extensive Store Cellar, a Public Kitchen, Eating and Exercise Room, a School, Lecture Room and Church gives a rather confused description of the actual status of the facilities. [Glasgow Herald, December 24, 1813.] The building eventually cost £3,000 to build. Some documents decribe what is beleved to be the school as a "public kitchen" . It is unclear just what the building was used for at any given time. The later construction of the Institute provide further confusion as educational activities were also conducted there. William Davidson described dancing being taught in the school. There were also lectures as well as 'historical maps and paintings' in addition to world globe 19ft in circumference (1828). The print here is probably a depiction of the dancing (1828). I'm not sure if it depicted precisely the same time, but it looks luke the 1820s to us.

The Institute

Owen's Institute for the Formation of Character was opened New Year's Day 1816. The occassion included a musical recital, presumably provided by the more accomplished children learning musical instruments. Owen spoke at great length to the 1,200 villagers on his view of education. In particular Owen described his belief in a material determinism 'that the character of man is without a single exception, always formed for him'. Many who visited the Institute considered it to be a wonder. Owen enjoyed showing visitors the Institute and his educational program.

Educational Approach

The provision of the new partnership agreement involved the establishment of a school administered on Lancasterian lines. The school was to use teaching aids from the British and Foreign School Society. Owen's partners were involved in the creation of the Society. Religious instruction was part of the problem, but was non-sectarian. The Bible was used to help teach reading. Owen's son Robert Dale Owen studied progressive educational methods in Switzerland and when he returned to New Lanark he taught there. He wrote a book about the educational program which is the best description of education at New Lanark (1824). He described the school layout, "The principal school-room is fitted up with desks and forms on the Lancastrian plan, having a free passage down the centre of the room. It is surrounded, except at one end where a pulpit stands, with galleries, which are convenient when this room is used, as it frequently is, either as a lecture-room or place of worship. The other and smaller apartment on the second floor has the walls hung round with representations of the most striking zoological and mineralogical specimens, including quadrupeds, birds, fishes, reptiles, insects, shells, minerals etc. [HBC note: This appears to be the room depicted here (figure 1). At one end there is a gallery, adapted for the purpose of an orchestra, and at the other end are hung very large representations of the two hemispheres; each separate country, as well as the various seas, islands etc. being differently coloured, but without any names attached to them. This room is used as a lecture- and ball-room, and it is here that the dancing and singing lessons are daily given. It is likewise occasionally used as a reading-room for some of the classes. The lower storey is divided into three apartments, of nearly equal dimensions, 12 ft high, and supported by hollow iron pillars, serving at the same time as conductors in winter for heated air, which issues through the floor of the upper storey, and by which means the whole building may, with care, be kept at any required temperature. It is in these three apartments that the younger classes are taught reading, natural history, and geography."

Owen stressed reason and observation over memory. Thus he emphasized learning activities which involved using the senses for the younger children. Own did not want children to just learn thir lessons mechanically. He wanted to be sure that they fully understood the msterial. When the older children began to learn to read, he strssed comprehension. When the weather turned nice in the Summer, he liked to take the children out of the classroom. He like to have classes taught in the ooen air or during walks in the countryside. He also promoted nature study duringbthese open air sessions. He also saw important lessons to be learned in play and a time many adults looked askance at play as idele activity. Owen wrote: “Where are these rational practices to be taught and acquired? Not within the four walls of a bare building in which formality predominates. But in the nursery, playground, fields, gardens, workshops, manufactures, museums and classrooms”. [Owen, Book.] There were visual aids in the classrooms, including maps, charts, and illustrsated drawings. His hoal was to create a productive learning environment. This meant a happy, friendkly atmosphere favorable for the free exchange if ideas and avoiding problems that would require discipline and punishment.

Children developing by being "free in mind and body" was an important thene for Owen. It was reflected both in the educational program and the school uniform--a loose white tunic. Here he appears to have been influenced both by the Frenchb author Rosseau and the Seiss author Pestalozzi. We notice, however, that Owen believed in military drill--a seemingly strange attitude for someone devoted to freedom and personal expression.

The Children

The children at the Institure were primarily those at New Lanark. They were not limited, however, to those children. Parents from the surrounding communities that could not afford to send their children to school, could send them to the Institute. At the Institute, the children were educated without any destinction as sho their parents were.

Age

Owen was convinced that education must start at a very early age. Owen claimed that at New Lanark that 'every child above one year old' attended school. This is disputed by some observers who visited New Lanark. Historians who gave studied Owen often come to the conclusion that in his writing there are errors. Sometimes the dates are off. In other occassions he confuses what he wanted to do with what he was able to do. Some reports suggest, for example, that children began school at 2-3 years of age. This was perhaps not as young as Owen claimed, but still a very early academic beginning. Owen wrote that during the first few months he 'daily watched and superintended ... knowing that if the foundation were not truly laid, it would be in vain to expect a satisfactory structure'.

Nursery School

Owen took an innovative approach to the education of the younger children. This part od the school was called the infant or nursery school. The infant school was for children through age 6 years. This was a very significant innovation. In effect it was day care for working mothers. This was virtually unheard of at the time.

He rejected older experied teachers. Rather he wanted a kindly, patient soul who was willing to follow his instructions without question. He wrote 'it was in vain to look to any old teachers upon the old system of instruction by books'. He did not consider books to be important for the younger children. He chose James Buchanan, who was one of the countless hand weavers that had been displsced by the fctory system. Buchanan was barely literate, but he dutifully followed Owen's instructions. Owen chose Molly Young, a 17-year old girl from the village to assist Buvchanan. Owen instructed them. "They were on no account ever to beat any one of the children or to threaten them in any word or action or to use abusive terms; but were always to speak to them with a pleasant voice and in a kind manner. They should tell the infants and children (for they had all from 1 to 6 years old under their charge) that they must on all occasions do all they could to make their playfellows happy - and that the older ones, from 4 to 6 years of age, should take especial care of younger ones, and should assist to teach them to make each other happy." Owen's approach was significantly influenced by Pestalozzi, an educator who stressed kindness and common sense. Owen's approah also shows the influence of Bentham, one of his prtners. Owen in his writing often stressed the importance of "happy" children. One author suggests by this he meant "docile". [Donnachie]

The New Lanark nursery school used a play-ground located in front of the Institute when the weather was nice. When it rained, the children used the three main rooms on the ground floor of the Instotute. Owen's approach was yto use play. The children were not compeled to do anything they duid not want to do. There was a mid morning rest period, but it was not compulsory and likewise the children could take a nao whenever they wanted to do so. There were few toys because Owen thought the children could generally amuse themselves with so many playmates at hand and when needed the teachers could find something interesting to show and explain to the children. Owen wrote, "The children were not to be annoyed with books; but were to be taught the uses and nature or qualities of the common things around them, by familiar conversation when the children's curiosity was excited so as to induce them to ask questions respecting them. The schoolroom for the infants' instruction was furnished with paintings, chiefly of animals, with maps, and often supplied with natural objects from the gardens, fields and woods - the examination and explanation of which always excited their curiosity and created an animated conversation between the children and their instructors. The children at four and above that age showed an eager desire to understand the use of maps of the four quarters of the world upon a large scale purposely hung in the room to attract their attention. Buchanan their master, was first taught their use and then how to instruct the children for their amusement - for with these infants everything was made to be amusement. It was most encouraging and delightful to see the progress which these infants and children made in real knowledge, without the use of books. And when the best means of instruction or forming character shall be known I doubt whether books will be ever used before children attain their thirteenth year."

Upper School

Owen's son left an accout of the school for the older children as well. I'm not sure what the upper school was called. Children entered the upperschool at age 5-6 years. Presumably this depended on whether the child was assessed as ready rather than by any set chronological age. The children in the upper school mostly aged from 5-10 years. Many of the parents removed their children from school sat about age 10 so they could begin working full time in the mill. Some children stayed in school a few more years. Thus they were some children 11-12 years old, but few beyond that age.

Evening Classess

Even children who worked in the mill were able to continue their education by taking evening classes. This was made available to working children and adults an minimal cost--3d (pennies) a day. Attendance was relatively limited because of the long working hours at the mill. After the Institute was opened and working hours reduced to 10 3/4 hours (not including meal breaks), attendance invcreased very substabntially.

Enrichment

One author describes teacing in the village school. "In addition to this elementary instruction, those over two were given dancing lessons and those four and upwards taught singing." [Donnachie] I'm not sure what dances were taught, the image here suggests Scottish country dance.

Drill

One observer reports, "Military-style exercises were also a major feature of both schools, and the sight of youthful marches led by fife and drum was frequently remarked upon by contemporaries, especially the upper class dignitaries who much approved of such discipline. ... both boys and girls were regularly drilled in the playground in front of the Institute 'with precision equal, as many officers stated, to some regiments of the line.' Contemporary accounts described these military exercises in glowing detail, though in the context of the time this was probably quite understandable and was less sinister than it might have appeared. Robert Owen nevertheless expounded on their value in several of his writings. [Donnachie]

Dance

One author writes, "... what most impressed the 20,000 odd visitors who came to gape at New Lanark between 1815 and 1825, was the importance of dancing, music and military exercise in the school curriculum. Dancing lessons were begun two years of age and visitors were astonished to see how 'these children, standing up 70 couples at a time in the dancing room, and often surrounded by many strangers, would with the uttermost ease and natural grace go through all the dances of Europe, with so little direction from their master, that the strangers would be unconscious that there was a dancing-master in the room'. Dancing lessons were also given in the evening and Griscom saw 50 or 60 young people thus engaged. 'Owen', he noted, ' has discovered that dancing is one means of reforming vicious habits. He thinks it effects this by promoting cheerfulness and contentment, and thus diverting attention from things that are vile and degrading'. The children were also taught to sing in harmony in choirs of 200 or more, performing settings of Scottish and other traditional songs, to the delight of Robert Owen and his visitors. Before the close of the evening school all the pupils would gather in one room and sing a hymn, presumably religious rather than secular. It is not without its interest that singing and music later featured prominently in the social life of New Harmony, and that much of the New Lanark repertoire was carried across the Atlantic by William Owen and others, including Joseph Applegarth, another ardent Owenite who taught at New Lanark and participated in the organisation of the schools at New Harmony and Orbiston Comunity." [Donnachie] Dancing in front of the visitors is depicted here (figure 1). The children here are doing a set dance, probably Scottish country dncing, but they were taught many other dances. It's interesting that poor kids from a new village in Scotland are learning dances from all over Europe no? More than many public schoolboys would. Again a reflection of Owen's outlook.

School Uniform

Uniforms were not common at schools in the early 19th century, with the exception of charilty schools like the hospital schools in England. I know of no Scottish schools at the time that had uniforms. Own was, however, a believer in teaching children to conform to societal values. Thus the New Lanark school had uniforms. One observer reports, "Conformity in the children was further reinforced by a 'beautiful dress of tartan cloth, fashioned in its make after the form of a Roman toga'. However, like the kilt and plaid worn by older boys this was thought by some of Robert Owen's partners to encourage sexual promiscuity. According to Captain Donald Macdonald of the Royal Engineers, who like the laird, Archibald Hamilton of Dalzell, had become a convert to the New System and who accompanied Robert Owen on the visit of inspection to Harmonie in 1824-25, the New Lanark dresses and plaids were part of the baggage. Owen showed them to fellow passengers and apparently had them copied in New York to be displayed there and in Washington along with his plans and models of the Village Scheme. The dress code for the new communities was another subject about which Robert Owen said little about unless pressed to do so." [Donnachie]

Student and Parental Assessment

The opinions of working class parents were not considered of any real importance in the early 19th century. Women could not vote at the time and male suferage was restructed to property holders. Thus workers for the most part could not vote. In many cases they were not literate. We know of no actual accounts from the parents themselves. Nor do we know of any account written by former students. Some may exist, but we are not familiar with them. Owen claims, however, that the parents at New Lanark were very pleased with the educatuinal results achieved. He writes that he 'acquired the most sincere affections of all the children'. He also clims to have gained the approval of the parents 'who were highly delighted with the improved conduct, extraordinary progress, and continually increasing happiness of their children.'

Sources

Donnachie, Ian. "Education in Robert Owen's new society: The new Lanark Institute and schools," the Encyclopedia of Informal Education (Infed) website, last updated: 14 February 2004, accessed June 20, 2004.

Owen, Rober. The New Moral World.






HBC




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Created: 4:58 PM 6/21/2004
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