Robert Owen

Robert Owen
Robert Owen

Born: May 14, 1771
Birthplace: Newton, Montgomeryshire, Wales
Died: November 17, 1858

Robert Owen was the sixth child of seven, his mother came from a wealthy farming family in Newton. His father was a postmaster, he also made, repaired, and sold saddles and metal tools . Owen was very intelligent and had a passion for reading even with the little formal education he had. At the young age of 10 Owen joined the workforce when his father sent him to work in Stamford, Lincolnshire for a fabric factory. After working here for 3 years he then moved to London again to work at an fabric factory until 1787. Owen then found work at a large wholesale and retail fabric business in Manchester.

Robert Owen was a social and educational reformer. He was one of the founders of socialism and the cooperative movement. Owen believed that moral reform could only come through the reform of the environment. Once Owen gained ownership of New Lanark, he began to put his vision for its factories and schools into place.

At a time when workers in the mills of New Lanark needed saving, Owen came to the rescue. He provided his workers with decent housing, and banned children under 10 years old from working in his mills. He argued against physical punishment in schools and factories, as well he ensured that this was a standard upheld in his own facilities. Owen hoped that his treatment of children would influence other factory owners to do the same.

Robert Owen believed that education was the prime vehicle for social reform. As a result, Owen set up schools to educate the children of New Lanark. Robert Owen's schooling began at the age of 1 (Infant Schools) and continued until 12 years of age. Because most children were taken out of school by age 10, Owen offered evening classes, which allowed the children to continue their education while working. Considering the cost of books, paper, and ink, the schooling was nearly free.

Owens Institution :

According to Owen, instructors were to act in the following ways:
  • They were never to beat or threaten any of the children.
  • They were to always speak in a pleasant voice and kind in manner.
  • They were to tell the students that they were to make each other happy and take care of each other.
  • They were not to force the children to do anything.

According to Owen, the school in general was to be set up as follows:
  • The main school room was to be equipped with desks with a free walkway down the centre. There would be a place for worship at one end. This room would be used for lectures.
  • The other smaller room on the second floor would have stimulating representations of animals, insects, and minerals. There would be a place adapted for an orchestra at one end. In addition, large, brightly coloured globes and maps would be incorporated at the opposite end of the room. This room would be used for lectures, as well as a place for dancing, singing, and music.
  • The lower floor would be divided into 3 rooms of equivalent dimensions. These rooms would be used for reading, natural science, history, and geography lessons.
  • The rooms were furnished with paintings, animals, maps, and organic objects from nature. The rooms were intended to attract the attention of the children and excite their curiosity. Everything in the rooms were to be made relevant to a child's understanding and attention span.
  • The room for infants was made to occupy the play ground in front of the school.

Owen put much emphasis on observation and experience as a means of educating. Visual aids, diagrams, pictures, and models were incorporated into lessons and were thought to help facilitate learning. However, toys were never used. Owen believed that children could amuse themselves and if they became bored the teacher would provide something that would educate and interest them. Lectures, when they took place, were to be made short and stimulating, as to make the lesson memorable and compensate for the students' short attention spans. In addition, lessons on dancing and singing played a key role in the students' education, a vast contrast to the education of the present. Furthermore, military style exercises were a major feature of Owen's schools. School marches and uniforms were incorporated to reinforce conformity.

"Robert Owen's educational venture at New Lanark helped to pioneer infants schools and was an early example of what we now recognize as community schooling" -Ian Donnachie

On November 17, 1858 in the Bear Hotel which was next door to the house he was born, Robert Owen died.

[Sources: http://www.infed.org/thinkers/et-owen.htm

Page Compiled By: Kristal Stocki, Caitlan Schmidt, Seanna Puszkar, Candace Pepper