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DABIT is second nature. This axiom is freely admitted in words
by teachers of all classes, but, unfortunately, is not always made to bear upon their actions; and yet it is one of the most important
branches of education to inculcate good habits, and eradicate bad a ones. Can we give a reason for this difference between words and
deeds? We think we may supply a twofold answer.
The first is, that habits cannot be taught by precept only, but must be exhibited in practice. A child has sufficient of the imitative character of the monkey about him to prefer copying what he sees, rather than what he is merely told; besides, in the dry, formally delivered precept, the pupil is apt to consider himself “ talked at;" his self-pride is awakened, and the teacher has raised a most powerful barrier against the success of his own teaching: whereas, if he does himself what he enjoins on him or them, his pupils feel that he is not merely trying to form them on a certain model, because it is his duty so to do, and because he thereby earns a stipulated salary, but that he is endeavouring to lead them with himself in the path of duty and of right.
An anecdote of the celebrated North American Chief, Tecumseh, exemplifies our meaning. The Chief was invited to witness the embarkation of a detachment of British troops on active service. Their orderly movements, soldierly appearance, and noble bearing, as they marched past their commander-in-chief, who remained behind with the rest of the troops, delighted the wild American, and he warmly expressed his admiration of the scene to the English General; adding, however, these remarkable words-" There is but one fault; you say go, I say come.” Now the teacher, like the American Chief, must also say come, not go, if he would be master of willing hearts. There is no use talking of honesty and truth; of order and regularity; of forming good habits and correcting bad oneswe shall never hit the mark at which we aim, unless we weight the arrow (our precept) with deeds, our doings. By them, under God's blessing, we may do much.
Another reason for neglecting the judicious formation of habits is, that it requires a careful study of the various physical and mental characteristics of the children committed to our care. The same course of education which is suitable for a child of nervous temperament, would be injudicious in one of phlegmatic nature. The habits we should most carefully instil into one to strengthen the weaker portion of his character, are less requisite in another whose very strength lies perhaps in the points where the other is deficient; but who has his own infirmities of character to be fortified and defended. All these niceties and varying shades of character, noting where to repress, and where to encourage, require a long period of anxious thought, not always consonant with the railway speed of some of our modern educators, who attempt to do the work of a year in a month, of a VOL. XI. NO. 128, N.s.
week in a few hours; who aim at forcing a child's intellect as we should cucumbers in a hot bed ; and then are disappointed themselves, and blamed by others for not achieving impossibilities.
Although the habits we should thus strive to inculcate assume a certain variety according to the characters with which we have to deal, there is one that cannot be too earnestly pressed upon all-not only on the pupil, but the teacher-on the parent as the child-on the old as the young,—the habit of attention and observation, leading to a course of reasoning from effects to causes. "A man of mere capacity undeveloped,” says Emerson, “ is only an organised clay dream, with a skin on it.” “Genius unexerted is no more genius than a bushel of acorns is a forest of oaks.”
This habit of observation and attention, while it has led to some of the noblest of man's discoveries, also guards us from leaping to conclusions without due investigation, and reveals to us even in the withered blade of grass, or the sea-worn pebble, the wisdom and goodness by which we are surrounded. We may select one or two instances.
The great Harvey was led to the discovery of the circulation of the blood, by observing that there were valves in the veins. This must have been seen by many an anatomist before him; but Harvey was not content with seeing, his habits led him to reason on what he saw. He knew that man constructs valves to allow fluids to pass in one direction, but to prevent them from flowing back in the opposite direction. He felt that the valves in the human veins must likewise have their allotted part to play; that they were there to serve a purpose; and by patient thought and observation was he led to the discovery which has immortalised his name: nevertheless, with a prudence and caution peculiarly characteristic of the sound philosopher, he withheld his opinions from the world until reiterated experiment had amply confirmed his doctrine, had enabled him to demonstrate it in detail, and to adduce every proof of its truth of which the subject is capable.
Another no less striking illustration of this subject is the discovery of printing by Gutemberg, of which M. de Lamartine gives us the following interesting account:
“Gutemberg had formed an intimacy with a man named Lawrence Koster, the verger of the cathedral at Haarlem, who one day showed him in the sacristy a Latin Grammar, curiously wrought in engraved letters on a wooden board, for the instruction of the seminarists. Chance, that gratuitous teacher, had produced this approach to printing. The poor and youthful sacristan was in love. He used to walk in the holidays in spring outside the town, and sit under the willows, to indulge his day dream, his heart full of the image of his bride, and would amuse himself in true love's fashion by engraving with his knife the initials of his mistress and himself interlaced, as an emblem of the union of their hearts and of their interwoven destinies. But instead of cutting these cyphers on the bark, and leaving them to grow with the tree, like the mysterious cyphers so often seen on the trees in the forests and by the brooks, he engraved them on little blocks of willow, stripped of their bark, and still reeking with the moisture of their sap, and would carry them as a remembrance of his dreams and pledges of his affection to his lady-love.
“One day having thus cut some letters on the green wood, probably with more care and perfection than usual, he wrapped up his little work in
a piece of parchment, and carried it to Haarlem. On opening it next day, he was astonished to see the cypher perfectly reproduced in brown on the parchment by the relieved portion of the letters, the sap having oozed out during the night, and imprinted its image on the envelope. This was a discovery. He engraved other letters on a large platter, replaced the sap by a black liquid, and thus obtained the first proof ever printed. But it would only print a single page. The moveable variety, and the endless combinations of characters infinitely multiplied, to meet the vast requirements of literature, were wanting. The invention of the poor sacristan would have covered the surface of the earth with plates engraved or sculptured in relief, but would not have been a substitute for a single case of moveable type. Nevertheless the principle of the art was developed in the sacristy of Haarlem, and we might hesitate whether to attribute the powers of it to Koster or Gutemberg, if its invention had not been with the one the mere accidental discovery of love and chance, and its application with the other the well-earned victory of patience and genius.
"At the sight of this coarse plank the lightning from heaven flashed before the eyes of Gutemberg. He worked at the plank, and in his imagination analysed it, decomposed it, put it together again, changed it, undid it, readjusted it, reversed it, smeared it with ink, placed the parchment on it, and pressed it with a screw. The sacristan, wondering at his long silence, was unwittingly present at this development of an idea, over which his visitors had brooded for the last ten years. When Gutemberg retired, he carried a new art with him.”
We can add nothing to such a description as this, and will only ask what has been the result of that hour's thought and observation in the Haarlem sacristy?
One further instance may be allowed before we conclude this subject; and as our two previous illustrations show what may be accomplished by attention and observation, we will now point out the mistakes we are liable to commit, if we fail in these two particulars.
The celebrated naturalist, Buffon, when speaking of the hump on the càmel's back, and the callous parts on this animal's legs, does not attempt to discover the reason of their existence, merely designating them as marks of degradation and servitude. A little patient investigation, however, suffices to show that these parts of their frame, like every other, fit these useful creatures for the purpose they serve in the regions which they inhabit. The callosities or parts on their legs permit them to lie down and repose on scorching surfaces, and their humps are supplies of superabundant nourishment provided for their long journeys, so that when deprived of other food their frames feed on this nutriment; and it has been observed, that at the close of a long journey their humps are much diminished in size.
Such facts as this must surely prove that it is our own ignorance and presumption which lead us to complain of the inconveniences of nature; and that a little more knowledge, and, better still, a little more humility and patience, would lead us to discover and acknowledge that there is admirable wisdom and benevolence even in those parts of God's works which may seem to be useless, or even injurious. This is the lesson taught; but the careful observer alone will learn to profit by it, the careless will pass it by unheeded.
WOMEN AS EDUCATORS.
VERY human being should work : no one should owe bread to any
but his or her parents, So says the authoress of “ Women and - Work.” It is a great truth, and will be a good text for a paper
on the way in which women may best become Educators. Nothing
is more absurdly wrong than the notion that the great mission of I women to educate can be furthered only by special tuition. A
Jo woman who has learned the great practical duties of life and does them, is by force thereof an educator: and she will well and wisely teach by her example, more forcibly even than by precept.
A practically christian woman who works hard in her vocation, be it what it may, and in some sphere of real usefulness (however humble) is pretty sure to train and teach well and wisely. Society suffers no wrong in her being a mother. Her children may not shine as great lights, but they will in the long run benefit their times, and contribute to the commonweal. The children of a vain, frivolous, or idle woman will, be her talents what they may, in most cases partake of their mother's faults, and society stands in peril of them.
The great bulk of English women are trained to be married; not to be mothers. Now the best training for a mother is useful work. It is well said by Barbara Leigh Smith
“How often dreary years of waiting for marriage might be saved by the woman doing just so much work as would keep her soul alive and her heart from stagnation, not to say corruption! We know an instance, a type of thousands. B, a young man, was engaged to M; they were both without fortunes. B worked for years to gain money enough to marry upon. M lived as young ladies usually do--doing nothing but reading novels and practising.' She became nervous, hysterically ill, and at last died of consumption. B, overworked and struck with grief, became mad. I could add a score of such cases. Ask medical men the effects of idleness in women. Look into lunatic asylums, then you will be convinced that something must be done for women.
« Think of the noble capacities of a human being. Look at your daughters, your sisters, and ask if they are what they might be if their faculties had been drawn forth; if they had liberty to grow, to expand, to become what God means them to be. When you see girls and women dawdling in shops, choosing finery and talking scandal, do you not think they might have been better with some serious training ?
"Do you think women are happy? Look at unmarried women of thirty-five--the prime of life. Do you know one who is healthy and happy? If you do, she is one who has found her work :-"Blessed is he who has found his work, let him ask no other blessedIness.” “My God; if I had anything to do I could bear this grief,” said a girl whose lover was just dead. Another living only in her lover who was a sailor, saw a false statement in a newspaper, that he was drowned-she lost her reason instantly and never recovered it. We do not say that if she had been a medical student or a watchmaker that the grief might not have turned her brain; but most certainly she would have had a stronger and a stouter reason, and some good cause to wish to live. It is a noble thing even to make good watches, and well worth living for.
“For our part, when we think of the lives of most women, how they are centred and bound up in human affection, living no life but that of love, we cannot wonder at reason going when love is lost. “Oh! that I had now what you men call the consolations of philosophy,” said a woman whose heart was sorely tried. The consolations of philosophy which men have, are indeed great when philosophy means a knowledge of God's works, but not enough unless some branch of the philosophy involves work. The man who works to discover the habits of an insect, or the woman who watches the growth and means of nourishment of a polype-whoever works is consoled. I have a great respect for
the young lady, who, being desperately in love, and having to give up her lover, wentthrough the first four books of Euclid 'that she might not think of him. But I think it's must have been heavy work, and that if she had been studying to be an architect, her purpose would have been better answered. It is surprising to see girls study so much as they do, considering how constantly the idea is put before them that they must give it up some day.”
There is a vast deal of practical wisdom in all this. But if so, how severely it condemns our practice. Where are the parents who would deter a daughter from learning stereotyped accomplishments deemed requisite in high life, because the time was needed for teaching them to be useful, and preparing them for the work of wives ? And yet this is what husbands would prefer. The time devoted to music-often too by girls who have no faculty or natural talents for music--would alone suffice to educate them in all the points which conduce to the essential comforts and welfare of married life. And yet the piano is preferred to it.
The way in which numberless girls, especially in middle and upper class life, are reared, is precisely such as to unfit them for the maternal offices of education. It is in every one's mouth that the character of children is moulded by mothers : and thus every mother is, more or less, an educator. It needs not that she try to be one; she cannot help it. She is the type of her offspring, the model of their virtues, or the pattern and involuntary promoter of their vices and follies. Their minds likewise are in most cases strong or feeble, well stored or sterile, as hers is cultivated or neglected.
How exceptional is the training of female minds, to reason rightly. How much oftener is fashion made the arbiter of folly! And how intensely vain and silly are our female fashions! And yet by these are mothers mainly reared. The adornment of the person occupies a vast portion of their thoughts. Even this is debased. Taste might be cultivated even in the study of dress. Symmetry in the outline of figure, neatness, simplicity, and the adjustment of colours, are all of them useful in the education and chastening of taste; and attention to such objects may be easily made auxiliary to the cultivation of the arts of which these are elements. But is it so? What is the result at this moment of the time and thought lavished on female dress? Why, that women walk about hideous spectacles of contortion and outrages to all the laws of beauty and proportion. Their bonnets so constructed as to denude them of all covering to the face and head, giving them the appearance of the brazen audacity of the lowest members of their sex; whilst the rest of their dress seems to be moulded after two separate designs-one to assimilate it in every thing, save convenience and comfort, to the apparel of men-the other to make them look like extinguishers. Such slavery to the atrocious follies of fashion is also in itself a proof of the need of education in the proper sense of the term. If women were moderately endowed with an educated judgment, they would resist the rapacious dictation of milliners, and refuse to be made mountebanks of, in order to fill the pockets of those who perpetually devise new absurdities, in order to compel new purchases. If women were employed this would not be so. With any kind of useful work to do, a stronger sense would infallibly grow up. There are instances of sensible, well educated women who do oppose this tide of folly, and having maturel judgments and rational tastes formed by the practical discipline of their minds and hands, for without some kind of useful work, no woman is doing her duty; and if she be a young woman, she is being reared in fatal idleness, alike disastrous to her soul and mind, and to the welfare of all who have to do with her.