Nicholas Nickleby: Squeers’s Method
Narrator: The boys were sad and silent. There was none of the noise of a schoolroom; none of its boisterous play. The children sat crouching and shivering together, and seemed to lack the spirit to move about. After some half-hour’s delay, Mr Squeers appeared, and the boys took their places and their books, of which there might be about one to eight learners. Obedient, they sat in front of the schoolmaster’s desk, half-a-dozen scarecrows.
Squeers: This is the first class in English spelling and philosophy, Nickleby. Now, then, where’s the first boy?
Pupil 1: Please, sir, he’s cleaning the back-parlour window.
Squeers: Good. We go upon the practical mode of teaching, Nickleby; the modern education system. C-l-e-a-n, clean, verb active, to make bright, to scour. W-i-n, win, d-e-r, der – winder. When the boy knows this out of book, he goes and does it. Where’s the second boy?
Pupil 1: Please, sir, he’s weeding the garden
Squeers: To be sure. So he is. B-o-t, bot, t-i-n, tin, bottin, n-e-y, ney, bottinney, noun substantive, a knowledge of plants. When he has learned that bottinney means a knowledge of plants, he goes and does ’em. That’s our system, Nickleby: what do you think of it?’
Nickleby: It’s a very useful one.
Squeers: Third boy, what’s ‘horse’?
Rosa: A beast, sir.
Squeers: Correct. Now go and look after MY horse, and rub him down well, or I’ll rub you
down. The rest of the class gather round.
Narrator: The children were then arranged in a semicircle round the master, and he was soon listening as in a dull hesitating voice the boys repeated those stories which are to be found in the old spelling-books. With this exciting activity, the morning dragged heavily on.