Paradigm, No. 15 (December, 1994)
P. W. Musgrave
School of Graduate Studies,
Faculty of Education,
Clayton, Victoria, Australia 3168.
The aim of this and the succeeding paper [in Paradigm No. 16) is to present an outline of the history and contents of the prescribed reading materials at the elementary/primary level in all State and the majority of independent schools in Victoria, Autralia, from just before Federation in 1901 until the 1960s when mass migration began to change the nature of the Australian population.
From 1896 until 1930 the prescribed material for reading in these schools in Victoria was The School Paper, a monthly newspaper published by the State Education Department. It was also used in many independent schools, Catholic and otherwise, and played a continuing, though decreasingly important, role in all schools until publication ceased in 1968. As a result of this centralised control of what was read in schools, as the Minister for Public Instruction noted in 1909, the Department possess[ed] a powerful means of producing educative effect in any desired direction. 1 The Childrens Hour had been the first such paper in Australia, introduced by the South Australian Department in March 1889. The School Paper was started in February 1896 for Grade III, in June 1897 for Grade IV and in September 1898 for Grades V and VI. Eventually it was published at three levels: for Grades III and IV, V and VI, and VII and VIII. During the next two decades similar papers were started commercially and by Education Departments in both New South Wales and Queensland.
The then-Minister for Education in Victoria, Alexander Peacock, had seen the South Australian paper and ordered the Board of Examiners to start a similar venture. An inspector, C. R. Long (1860-1944) was responsible initially and became the editor, remaining in charge of this paper and the Education Gazette and Teachers Aid, begun in 1900, until he retired at the end of 1925. 2 Despite the huge task of editing these two papers Long continued to act as a district inspector until 1921, though this work undoubtedly helped him to know what reading material the schools needed. He himself was very critical of the books he had used at school, largely imported and hardly relevant to Australian childhood. 3 Long himself also wrote several texts, almost all in the field of history; these were used in Departmental schools.
Long was in a crucial position for some thirty years as editor of the main reading material prescribed for state schools. He had been a friend of Frank Tate, Director of Education from 1902 to 1928, since they met as students. Their paths had frequently crossed as they rose professionally within the Department. 4 Tate trusted Long to produce material to match what he perceived to be the schools needs and also not to offend political or religious sensibilities. Tate and Long seem to have had only one major disagreement throughout their relationship. This was in 1913, when Long, a strong Anglican, tried unsuccessfully to reintroduce moral instruction into the schools. In 1915 Tate told the Minister of Education that much was already being done in this direction and that more could be done through the medium of The School Paper.
He gave Long appropriate instructions. 5 The files reveal few signs of such control by Tate, though a letter, dated 6 May 1907, whilst Tate was overseas, shows some signs of a willingness to set close limits to Longs actions; no alterations were to be made to spelling in either The School Paper or the Education Gazette until Tate returned from Britain.
The aims of The School Paper as given in the History of State Education in Victoria, published in 1922 6 to mark the anniversary of fifty years of state provision, of which Long was a co-author, were threefold: to introduce children to our heritage of prose and poetry; to acquaint them with the classic stories of the ages; and to develop in them an understanding love of Victoria, of Australia, of the British Empire. In the second part of this paper we shall see that there seems to be an important and odd omission from this list of aims. A fourth one, that of teaching an accepted code of morality through reading, might have been added.
When Long retired in 1925 Peacock (now Sir Alexander) was again Minister and at Longs retirement gathering he said of him: he has done much to activate a healthy Australian sentiment in our people by embodying in the reading material of our school children so much of the best of Australian literature and by emphasising the study of Australian literature 7 This judgement, influenced by the nature of the occasion upon which it was delivered, was not far from the truth, Longs influence over the growth of national identity in Victoria was great. (He was succeeded by Gilbert Wallace who had been his assistant since 1913; Wallace in his turn was succeeded by W. Lloyd Williams who remained editor until 1966, when The School Paper had almost run its course.) 8
Though there were initially some problems in hitting the right level in the material provided, The School Paper was almost at once a great success. It affected teaching methods in that, as one inspector put it, the numbers contain so much that is fresh, that the teachers do not take for granted that the children comprehend, as they used to do in regard to the books with which they have been saturated for many years 9 Another inspector felt that not only did the pupils read them with interest, and eagerly look forward to the coming of the next months, but the parents, too, are pleased with them, and in the "back blocks" they are welcomed by those whose literature is generally limited to the weekly papers. 10 The musical items included also provided tunes for piano-playing and songs for singing for many who had scant access to shops where music could be bought.
Except for the early numbers of the version for junior grades the price throughout remained one penny for each of the (normally) ten issues yearly -- there was rarely an issue in January or February, the summer holiday months. The demand grew. In its tenth year (1906) circulation was between 145,000 and 150,000 copies monthly. The School Paper was used also in Western Australia, Tasmania and Fiji 11, Twenty years later, by which time the population had grown by about a fifth, the circulation was around 228,000 12 and even during the depression years and after the publication of The Victorian Readers, which became the prescribed reading material in 1930, circulation held at over 200,000. 13
From 1911 supplementary reading material was also recommended; one reason for this was to develop in children the power to maintain a longer train of thought than . . . was provided by the shortish articles in The School Paper. 14 Abridgements of such British standard works as Coral Island, Robinson Crusoe, Ivanhoe, The Pickwick Papers and Tom Browns School Days were included, although one Australian tale, Geoffrey Hamlyn (albeit by Henry Kingsley, an Englishman, who had spent five years in Australia in the 1850s) and a few American stories such as Tanglewood Tales were also recommended. In 1923 the system was changed. Teachers were given more choice, but had to tell inspectors what provision for additional reading they were making. Their attention was drawn to more than seventy titles available in the locally published Whitcombe and Tombs series and to other similar materials. 15
Each number of The School Paper provided a mixture of poems, stories, plays, pictures and articles on, for example, nature study, and on the final page a song with music, all chosen to suit the age level for which the issue was intended. Some administrative material was included initially, though after the Education Gazette, also edited by Long, was started in 1900 this decreased.
One of the main reasons for having monthly papers instead of a set of reading books [was] to bring young readers into touch with the events, the ideas, and the men of the present time. 16
Hence, articles about wars, peace, disasters or deaths of prominent persons were included at appropriate times. A full listing of the contents of one issue will serve as an example. The issue for Grades VII and VIII for August 1913 contained: a poem, Roman Girls Song; a story by Jack London, How a Dog Saved his Master; articles on Some Effects of Alcohol and The New President of the USA; a scene from As You Like It; a story, Mending the Pump; an abridged extract from The Old Curiosity Shop; two stanzas from G. E. Evans An Australian Symphony; and the words and music for a French song, The Exile.
The School Paper, Grades VII and VIII, October 1, 1945
Ring out the old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold,
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Tennyson -- "In Memoriam"
The pititful story of death and destruction is over, and the year 1945 ushers in a new era of peace and hope
The 1930s saw some changes. These were due to the introduction of The Victorian Readers and of a new and more child-centered curriculum in 1934. As a result more space was given to social studies, to Australian material and to puzzle-solving or such tasks as model-making that children might do themselves. 17 The format featured a more modern typographical style, and simple drawings were more often used. As an example the issue for Grades III and IV for May 1963 contained: a full-page drawing of two possums; an article about food, an Aboriginal legend about a possum, an article Helping Others; a full-page photograph of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh; a story about Tasmanian pet lambs, a poem; a story about a cake made for a nine-year-old; a playlet, The Road to the Rainbow, and the words and music for The Land of Nod.
Early on the lack of appropriate Australian material, particularly for older children, restricted its use. As more was written more was used. Poems by Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson and stories such as Lawsons The Drovers Wife were often used; but, particularly before the Readers became available, the classics of English prose and poetry formed a substantial part of the contents. In 1936, however, the Education Department declared an annual Australian Literature Week, to be held in the week in August nearest to Henry Lawsons birthday. For this The School Paper published at each level a half-page list of some six or eight Australian works with a brief description of each. These included stories, verse and anthologies, thereby helping to promote worthwhile Australian literature in schools and the community.
In 1928 a major innovation had been the inclusion of a monthly supplement, Made in Australia, provided by business sources in which contemporary industries of all types were described. This was to be treated as an integral part of the prescribed reading material at these levels. 18 In 1936 these supplements formed the basis of a textbook, presented somewhat nationalistically to show how great a country Australia had become. Thus, in December 1942, in The Strength of a Nation were these words: To-day we make -- not only grow, but make [original italic]) a large number of things for ourselves.
From the early years special numbers had been published. There grew to be a pattern of such numbers, corresponding to what was almost a patriotic calendar Anzac Day (April), Empire Day (May), Arbor Day (June). There were some changes over the years. For example, Air Force Day (September) was added after the Second World War and Remembrance Day (November) after the First World War. In addition, one-off special numbers were occasionally issued, especially in World War One, for example, on hygiene (January 1914); poetry (January 1915); songs (January 1916); thrift (July 1917), and France (September 1917). For these, notes appeared beforehand in the Education Gazette, indicating the content; such notes also appeared regularly to announce the topics for the Made in Australia supplements, thereby enabling teachers to prepare lessons in advance.
Much of the material published was drawn from existing writing, but from the beginning contributions were invited. 19 By the 1930s The School Paper began to commission stories and poems. In addition, occasionally readers verses were published, 20 though this was not usually practical because of the quality of the material. 21 From the 1930s such commissions together with copyright fees and payments for illustrations raised costs. 22 However, what ultimately killed The School Paper was not so much the costs of modernity, but the growth of attractive competitors in other media, including after 1956 television. In December 1968 the Department ended The School Papers long life, replacing it with three magazines for the same three levels, named respectively Orbit, Meteor and Pursuit. These, too, soon died as new styles of material rendered them redundant.
During the period of its existence there were a number of external influences on the contents of The School Paper. The first source that may be considered is political. This was only of major importance during the early 1920s. In 1919 the Victorian Conference of the Australian Labor Party resolved That no articles relating to or extolling wars, battles or heroes of past wars be printed in the State school papers or books and [T]hat peace and internationalism be inculcated in the minds of all children attending schools. In 1924 the first Victorian Labor government briefly took office and John Lemmon, the Minister of Education, created a public uproar by ordering the Department to adopt this policy. 23 So soon after the birth of the Anzac legend this would have meant a considerable change to what Long, the author of Notable Deeds of Famous Men and Women (1912), a text full of military glory, could print in The School Paper. By the end of 1926 a more conservative government had returned and Peacock (as Minister) tried to ride simultaneously the horses of both peace and war. In his report 24 he wrote, School literature should be national in its fibre. Every British boy and girl should be familiar with the best thought and deeds of their race in peace and war.
During the period between mid-1924 and mid-1932 Lemmon was Minister for four and a half years and Peacock for two and a half. 25 The School Paper obeyed its masters, but it was Peacocks emphasis rather than Lemmons that eventually dominated Departmental publications. This meant that, without forgetting the Anzacs at appropriate times, more emphasis than before was put upon peace. Thus, for Remembrance Day 1924, there was an article for Grades V-VI, To Save the World from Another War. The next month Long wrote a two-page article, War, for the same level and there was a photograph of The Palace of Peace at The Hague. In November 1925 a Peace Number was published for Grades III-IV, a bound version of which, printed on art paper at 6d a copy was also issued.
A second influence was certain clauses in the various Education Acts passed by the Parliament. At a relatively unimportant level there was Clause 12 of the 1910 Act which legalised a position earlier secured by the regulations laying down the syllabus of the elementary schools. This enacted that children over nine should be taught the laws of health. Hence the item on the effects of alcohol mentioned above can be seen as another example of similar material regularly included.
More important was the area of religion. From its beginning in 1872 the Victorian State educational system had been secular. This situation remained until the Education Act of 1950 allowed a slight change, whereby approved external teachers could teach a syllabus vetted by an interdenominational committee, with a conscience clause for students whose parents did not wish them to participate. However in a basically Christian country omission of all mention of religion in The School Paper was impossible, particularly at such festivals as Christmas. The December number always carried relevant material. For example, in 1897 for Grade IV there was O. W. Holmes Address to the Deity; in 1911 for Grades V-VI Sir Walter Scotts poem, Christmas in the Motherland and E. S. Sorensons Christmas in the Bush; and in 1955 for Grades VII-VIII a cover picture, Peace on Earth, of a choirboy and the words and music of a carol, From the starry Heavens High. During the rest of the year anthems of various kinds tended to contain such lines as God bless our native land! and O Lord! preserve our Queen. 26 Moral poems allied their message to God. For example, What God gives a Boy started with the words, A body to keep clean and healthy as a dwelling for his mind and a temple for his soul. 27 Even Bible stories were included; for example, Joseph and his Brethren: A Bible Story of the Jews. 28
Long himself, as we have seen, a devout Anglican (and teetotaller), did once run into trouble in this sensitive area. In 1909 The Australian Catholic Truth Society published a pamphlet that was very critical of two well-known history texts used in Victorias State schools. These criticisms, based on religious criteria, were not upheld after examination. 29 Nor was one other criticism of Longs review of an encyclopaedia in the Education Gazette. But the Department did withdraw from use as a supplementary reader and prize book R. M. Ballantynes Martin Rattler because it contained, in the words of the Education Gazette, sectarian bias offensive to Catholics. What is remarkable is that over the years there were no other criticisms on religious grounds in view of the fact that The School Paper was so extensively used in Catholic schools.
The Victorian Reader, Book V,
1915 1 THE AUSTRALIAN He swings his axe in the golden
The blade bites clean and free;
The trees must fall ere the land be ploughed.,
And an axeman strong is he.
He drives his plough through the yellow mould;
The shares cuts clean and free; The soil must break ere the seed be sown,
And a ploughman strong is he.
The Victorian Reader, Book V, 1915 1
He swings his axe in the golden
Throughout these years the Catholic schools catered for between a fifth and a quarter of the population of Victoria. Though independent of the Education Department they had begun, against their original intention, to use its syllabuses. This occurred mainly after 1900, in part because of pressure by the Catholics to achieve upward social mobility. This aim necessitated their entry, then competitive, to the State secondary system, as there were then very few Catholic secondary schools. In 1914 the Inspector of Catholic Primary Schools reported, The Schools [sic] Paper was everywhere. 30 A little earlier in 1909 a Loretto nun from the town of Ballarat had suggested that a Catholic version of The School Paper should be published. 31
Though this idea did not die it was not put into effect until 1934. From that date until 1965 the Catholic Education Office (CEO) in Melbourne produced eight times each year at three levels -- Grades III-IV, V-VI and VII-VIII -- The Childrens World, at a penny per issue. This was published with ecclesiastical approval for use in Catholic schools by the Advocate Press in Melbourne. The format matched that of The School Paper, there were usually sixteen pages with a full-page frontispiece and each issue contained articles, stories and verse for school reading. The crucial difference was its Christian, indeed Catholic, focus; the frontispiece was often a picture of a saint. There were three other less important differences. There was no music on the last page; there was an editorial for most of the period, called Good Morning; and letters from readers, which received comment in the editorial, were encouraged. Good Morning in the first issue for Grade V introduced this journal in these words:
It is called The Childrens World, because it is your very own. It will tell you stories about people in different countries, and always you will have something from the older history of the world before Our Lords time, and of course of later days. 32
This remarkable effort by the under-staffed CEO was only possible with the help of various nuns and brothers in teaching orders, often reluctant volunteers. They were usually paid small honoraria; editors received £25 or £50 at intervals, which the correspondence in the CEOs archives shows they usually donated to their school libraries for the purchase of books.
One factor that was crucial in stimulating sales was that in 1934 the Education Department approved for its own examinations a history syllabus, proposed by the CEO, for Catholic primary schools. The Childrens World from its beginning was an important vehicle for providing materials in support of this syllabus to the poorly financed Catholic schools. These materials aimed to offset the omission claimed by the CEO to exist in the Departments syllabus. More attention was given to, and thus more material appeared in the Childrens World, on the lands of the Bible -- the Near East and Egypt -- the history of the early Christian church and the Catholic view of the Reformation; the growth of the Australian Catholic church and a view of Australian history as achieved by Australians rather than as emerging from a British background.
One example will give some flavour of the approach adopted. At the coronation of George V six of the sixteen pages of the May/June number of The Childrens World were given to an account of Westminster Abbey with emphasis on its pre-Reformation days and to a playlet on The First Consecration of Westminster Abbey -- this took place before Protestants existed. Yet the superior quality of The School Paper persuaded many schools either to use The School Paper alone or both journals together. 33
The CEO did exercise some control over the contents of The Childrens World. Thus, one editor was told to do a series . . . on some topic connected with the Royal visit 34 prior to publication she cleared the topics with the Director of the CEO, Fr. Conquest. On 6th July 1949 Fr. Conquest told editors that for 1950 the general theme of Holy Year should be used; he suggested topics, but left the details to the editors. There was some liaison with The School Paper. Thus, the Departmental spelling lists, published yearly in The School Paper, were also issued in The Childrens World. Over the thirty-one years of publication there were some changes in style, but little in content. Though Good Morning was dropped in 1958, it was replaced with some similar religious material on the second page of each issue, often tied to a saints day in the coming month.
A fuller appreciation of The Childrens World may be gained by a brief account of the contents of two issues for May-June, 1965. That for Grade III-IV had a holy picture on the front page; this was followed by three pages about St. Paul, three about blue wrens, two-page stories about Ancient Greece, about a rabbit and about a boy who went to see the Pope, and, finally, three pages containing a playlet. The issue for Grade VII-VIII began with a holy picture; this was followed by a two-page Sermon, two pages given to a poem by Henry Lawson, one page to an account of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, three about the Kings Jester, a page on the migration of birds, a page on outdoor games, four pages of Father Times Story and, finally, a page of poetry. In each case around one third of the content had a religious emphasis. Comparison shows this to be somewhat less than in the 1930s when on occasions half or more of the material was of this nature.
Until 1930 the one prescribed and major reading text in Departmental schools was The School Paper, despite its unusual format for that function. It was used also extensively in independent (including Catholic) schools and for some years in another State and overseas. Though its contents were governed by various Acts of Parliament, and on occasion by changes of political ideology, its editors, especially the first, Charles Long had great freedom over what to publish. (The content of The Childrens World was much more closely controlled.) The editors were trusted Departmental servants who reflected well the basically conservative political stance of the times. The School Paper supported various Departmental initiatives, for example, what may be called the patriotic calendar and the pressures to popularise Australian literature. The Childrens World, for its part, gave more support to the Catholic Churchs religious calendar. The School Paper came through these years, especially after 1945, to represent an Australian national identity less dependent upon the Mother Country. This position the mainly Irish Catholic Church never found difficult and it shaped the material in the Childrens World. Both publications were also influenced by changing views of the child and of pedagogy and, therefore, provide fine sources for studying many problems of educational and social history besides those highlighted here.
1. Ministry of Public Instruction (MPI), 1908-09. p. 11.
2. . Australian Dictionary of Biography (ADB).
3. Payne, Charles Richard Long 1989. p. 74.
4. Selleck, Frank Tate .1982.
5. Special Case Files [of the Victoria Education Department] (SCF). 1133.
6. Sweetman, Long and Smyth, 1922, p. 283.
7. Blake (ed.) Vision and Reality 1973. p. 1317.
8. Ibid, 1057.
9. MPI, 1896-97, p. 60.
10. MPI, 1897-98, p. 53.
11. MPI, 1904-05, p. 12.
12. MPI, 1926-25, p. 20.
13. MPI, 1930-31, p. 9.
14. MPI, 1911-12 p. 22.
15.Education Gazette and Teachers Aid (Educ. Gaz), 23/1/23, p. 14.
17. MPI, 1913-14, p. 23.
18. The Editor, 1949, pp. 289-90.
19. Educ. Gaz., 23/6/32, p. 142.
20.The School Paper (SP) III, February 1896 p. 16.
21. e.g., SP III-IV April, 1953.
22. Educ. Gaz., 21/9/55 p. 30.
23. MPI, 1938-39 p. 18.
24. Selleck, 1982, p. 247.
25. MPI, 1925-26 p. 45.
27. SP, III, July 1896, p. 81.
28. SP, III, November 1897, p. 157.
29. SP, III-IV, April 1939, p. 53.
30. SCF, 1114.
31.Murray, 1981 p. 137.
32. CW, V-VI February, 1934, p. 2.
33. Praetz, Building a School System,1980, p. 28.
34. On 24/11/48.
Australian Dictionary of Biography (ADB) Carlton, Vic: Melbourne University Press.
Blake, L. J. ed. Vision and Reality, Volume I (Melbourne: Education Department, 1973)
Childrens World (CW) (Melbourne: The Advocate Press)
The Editor, The School Paper through Fifty Years. The Educational Magazine (August 1949) pp. 289-92.
Education Gazette and Teachers Aid (Educ. Gaz.) (Melbourne: Government Printer)
Minister of Public Instruction (MPI)Annual Reports (Melbourne: Government Printer).
Murray, B. J. Citizenship and Schooling; A Study of the Citizenship Ethos and Schooling in Victorian State and Catholic Systems, 1910-1915 Unpublished M.A. thesis, Faculty of Arts, History Department, Monash University, 1981.
ODriscoll, C. X. Catholic Primary Schools, Archdiocese of Melbourne, Report for the Year ending 30th September, 1914, Tribune, 3rd December, 1914.
Payne, L. M. Charles Richard Long -- The Making of an Educationist, 1860-1882 Unpublished M. Ed. Studs. thesis, Faculty of Education, Monash University, 1989.
Praetz, H. M. Building a School System (Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1980).
The School Paper (SP), (Melbourne: Government Printer).
Selleck, R. J. W. Frank Tate (Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1982)
Special Case Files (SCF), Education Department, Victoria.
Sweetman, E., Long. C. R., Smyth, J. A History of State Education in Victoria (Melbourne Education Department, 1922).