Columbia Library columns (v.34(1984Nov-1985May))

(New York :  Friends of the Columbia Libraries.  )



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  v.34,no.3(1985:May): Page 10  

Rewards for Little Scholars


F^ ROAI the one room schoolhouse by the side of a country
lane to the largest city school, schoolmasters and mis¬
tresses in the nineteenth century handed out rewards of
merit in great numbers to deserving students for everything from
doing their mathematical sums to sweeping the floors. Their wide¬
spread popularity is made apparent by the more than 3,300 re¬
wards of merit presented by Frances Henne to the Rare Book
and Manuscript Library. These small slips and cards imprinred
"Reward of Alerit" were embellished with hand colored wood¬
cuts, steel engra\ings, and chromolithographs depicting flowers,
fruits, birds, children, adults, families, and scenes; some also bore
proverbs, scriptural quotations, or mottoes. Rewards of merit
were a nineteenth century phenomenon. AA'hat was the cause of
their great popidarity? And why did the practice of giving these
colorful and obviously cherished little tokens become extinct?
Some light can be shed on these questions by a backward glance
to the monitorial schools and to the important principle of emula¬

The monitorial s\stem of teaching was developed by Andrew
Bell, an Anglican clergyman, in the last decade of the eighteenth
century in an orphanage in Aladras, India. The system was further
developed and popularized by Joseph Lancaster, a Quaker school¬
master whose work won the support of George HI, James A'lill,
Jeremy Bentham, Dc Witt Clinton, and Thomas Jefferson, among
odiers. The system spread rapidly to America beginning in 1806
when the first Lancasterian school was opened by the New York
Free School Society. The most striking characteristic of the sys¬
tem, also known as The System of Mutual Instruction, was the
use of students as monitors to teach and regidate the activities of
the other students. In the Edinburgh Sessional School, for instance.
  v.34,no.3(1985:May): Page 10