Morality and Citizenship in English Schools: Secular by Susannah Wright

By Susannah Wright

This ebook sheds new mild on early twentieth-century secularism through reading campaigns to problem dominant Christian methods to the educating of morality and citizenship in English faculties, and to supply improved choices. It brings jointly, for the 1st time, the actions of alternative educators and strain teams, working in the neighborhood, nationally and the world over, over a interval of forty seven years. Who have been those activists? What ideological and organisational assets did they draw on? What proposals did they make? and the way did others reply to their perspectives? Secularist activists represented a minority, yet provided a recurrent problem to majority perspectives and formed ongoing academic debates. They accomplished a few, albeit constrained, impact on coverage and perform. They have been divided between themselves and by way of 1944 had did not supplant majority perspectives. yet, with where of non secular and secular beliefs in faculties final a subject matter of discussion, this research has resonance this day.

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62 In these different ways, secularist groups intervened in questions of social import, aiming to attain an influence beyond the confines of their membership. An editorial comment in Ethical World, which could have applied to all the main freethought groups, noted ‘almost endless opportunities . . 63 Yet these other commitments could work to secularists’ advantage, providing alternative channels of influence. As well as the secularist-shaped pressure groups like the Moral Instruction League (MIL), secularists worked with and through existing political institutions, as, for example, in the case of Gould with the Leicester School Board and Town Council discussed in Chapter 3.

Secularists attempted to do much the same, drawing on the educational repertoires of their own organisations, and on opportunities to influence policy and practice through municipal activism and pressure group activity. Their educational endeavours form an immediate context for what follows. The case studies outlined in the following chapters can now be situated within a landscape of the religious and secular, which informed individual thought and activities, associational life within and outside organised Christianity, and broad scripts of ‘English’ culture and identity.

They offered educational provision for their own adult members, comprising lectures, classes, discussion groups, and libraries for self-directed reading. 98 For children, the freethought organisations recognised the potential instructional and moral benefits of the Sunday School, utilised by Christians for such purposes on a massive scale from the late 1700s. Secularist Sunday Schools were derived from their Owenite predecessors. They combined the development of ‘useful knowledge’ (hence the scientific veneer of the curriculum) with an emphasis on morality; in fact, there was tension at times over the proper balance to be attained between these elements.

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