Home  »  Volume XVII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II  »  § 21. The Lancastrian System

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XXIII. Education

§ 21. The Lancastrian System

The Lancasterian system had run its course before the death of Griscom. Its mechanical scheme of organization made it possible at least to attempt the education of children in large groups. Lancaster claimed that one teacher, by using the older pupils as monitors, could teach one thousand pupils. This ideal was beyond the reach of his followers, though he himself is said to have demonstrated its feasibility. The early New York schoolrooms were built for five hundred pupils. Economically the scheme claimed to educate the child at an expense of one dollar a year. Thus it put within the realm of possibility the education of all the children of a community on the basis of philanthropic and later of public support. To communities not yet accustomed to taxation for police or fire protection, for means of communication, care of streets, or sanitary provisions, experience with the Lancasterian plan was an essential factor in the evolution of schools. But the superficiality of the method and its meagre intellectual results, its repressive disciplinary measures, its false conception of child nature, its low moral plane resulting from dependence on motives of reward and punishment, and the formality of its religious instruction brought about its final rejection.