Sunday School Pedagogy a Hundred Years Ago

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Sunday, May 5, 1912: Went to Sunday School this afternoon. Two classes had completed a course they had taken up. They held the commencement before church. It was real interesting. I expect my trial to come off tomorrow.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

It sounds as if the Baptist Church in McEwensville purchased curriculum that the classes used.

A hundred years ago there was interest in “modernizing” the way instruction was provided in Sunday Schools—though it was controversial.

According to a 1911 book called Practical Pedagogy in the Sunday School:

The function of the Sunday-school is to impart instruction for the purpose of leading to definite results. Since, then, the prime object of the Sunday-school is to impart instruction, pedagogy should have a very important place in the thought of the leaders therein, for, to put it concisely, it is the science and art of teaching.

While this is true, some fears that have been expressed by consecrated Sunday-school teachers must be labeled as groundless. “The introduction of pedagogy into our Sunday-school work will interfere with the position that the Bible now holds.” This is the thought of many. It is, however, entirely erroneous, for the true teaching of the Bible must be in harmony with the principles of pedagogy.

Further, than this, the Bible itself abounds with illustrations of pedagogical principles. It is acknowledged by all thoughtful persons that Jesus of Nazareth was the greatest teacher that ever lived. He was the master of pedagogy, and that He put into operation many of the pedagogical principles which have, in recent years, been advocated by advanced teachers.

Abridged from Practical Pedagogy in the Sunday School

4 Responses

  1. Her trial? did I miss something?

    • It will be apparent tomorrow what she means, but she was referring to some of the school-related things she’s been discussing for the last week or so. She was using the term to mean difficulties like “my trials and tribulations.” One thing I find hard when working on posts is trying to decide whether to use any information from forthcoming diary entries to provide background information. In general I try not to. I read the entire diary a long time ago, but now only look a couple days ahead.

  2. As a teacher, I have studied the history of teaching and find that, too, continues to have many of the same issues under discussion. In fact, we are having a similar discussion in my church right now, about what should be taught and how it should be taught.

    • It’s interesting that it is so difficult to decide, both in schools and Sunday schools, what the curriculum should be and how it should be taught.

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