Feeding the lambs : the influence of Sunday Schools in the socialization of children in Otago and Southland, 1848-1901
Keen, David Stuart
Nineteenth century Otago, an isolated, migrant society within a wider world of change, sought reliable coordinates against which to plot its course. The pioneer settlers were torn between recreation of the familiar and exploration and exploitation of a new environment, a dichotomy which is endemic to migration. Caught in a conflict of values, the settlement sought synthesis through its religious and educational institutions. Important among these were the Sunday schools, influential and effective because, as in Britain, they so often represented an autonomous rather than centrally planned response to local need and conditions; ironically it is this very autonomy which has contributed to the neglect of Sabbath schooling in interpretative commentary, both on the part of contemporary observers and later historians. Sunday schooling in Otago and Southland responded flexibly to the changing demands of pioneering and settlement. As viewed in 1848 by the predominantly Scottish Presbyterian pioneers of the Otago colony, Sunday schools formed a link with home, a means of perpetuating a culture; in the eyes of the settlement's leaders, such perpetuation was, in itself, an act of mission. Later, to a colony geographically dispersed and socially fragmented by the experience of the gold rushes, Sunday schools came to offer a community focus, extending an ecumenical welcome to child and parent. In the closing decades of the century, as pioneering shaded into settlement, denominationalism tried to reclaim the schools, keen to exploit their potential as recruiting grounds for church membership and nurseries of church leadership. Within the schools, at the same time, changing perceptions of the nature of childhood created an individualised pedagogy and lent an emphasis to childhood conversion. Meanwhile, through their publicising of and support for overseas missionary work, the schools helped to develop a broader context for New Zealand's nascent sense of national identity, indirectly reinforcing the cultural and political imperialism of the period. The schools' most consistent and important bequest to their scholars, however, not the less enduring for being intangible, was the nurturing of a sense of self-worth; this held true, not just for New Zealand or Otago, but worldwide. Such nurturing had significant implications wherever Sunday schooling touched the lives of the socially disadvantaged. In Britain the disadvantaged were the working classes, and British Sunday schools accordingly out-grew their Raikesian origins to accommodate working class aspirations. Products of the British Sunday school revolution brought with them, in migration to Otago, their agenda of upward social levelling. The Sabbath schools of the Otago colony failed to maintain their impetus as far as outreach to the children of unskilled labour was concerned. Their most enduring influence, in effect rather than by design, was among the settlement's girls and women. For these the province's Sunday schools helped pave the way for the growth of Otago feminism. By retaining the active loyalty of successive generations of wives and mothers Sunday schools shaped the mores of colonial society, and maintained a myth of Christian identity which endured after male church attendance had become tenuous and the formal rites of religion an echo in the national consciousness..
Advisor: Page, Dorothy; Lineham, Peter
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: History
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis
xiv, 250 leaves :ill. ; 30 cm. Includes bibliographical references.