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faculties of observation and attention, without which, all attempts to confer a good education are futile. It may be said, that this is an extreme case ; and it is to be hoped that it is so ; but still, there can be no doubt, that there exists among teachers, a deplorable ignorance, (or, which amounts to the same thing, carelessness,) as to the extent of the vocabulary and capacity of their auditors : a remark, by the way, applicable to others, besides school teachers. This is a subject well worthy the attention of visiters and superintendents of Teacher's Seminaries.
Discipline is a subject of the first importance in schools. Without subordination and good government, no school can make any considerable progress. The principal errors, on this head, may be thus enumerated :
1. Discipline may be too lax, and the efficiency of the school destroyed by noise and confusion. Efforts are occasionally made to restrain disorder, but these are momentary only, and affairs quickly relapse into their usual state.
2. Discipline may be so strict, as, without intervals of relief at regular short intervals, may prove alike hurtful to the physical and mental powers of the pupil. The necessity for relaxation and exercise has been so fully shown, as to make it unnecessary, here, to add another word. But, although unreasonable confinement defeatsits object, that is no objection to good discipline. Let it be brief in its period, and it cannot be too strict in degree.
3. A still more grievous error, and by far the most common, is a want of firmness. The rules are strict, but they are seldom carried into effect ; and, when they are, relaxation immediately follows. We have been told of a teacher, who frequently relaxed discipline to such a degree, that the whole school was in an uproar. Awakened thus from his stupor, he would seize his cane, and belabor all round, till order was completely restored. This state of quiet, however, would last but a short time. The universal silence would soon be broken by a low whispering, which, remaining unnoticed, gradually increased in intensity, ending, finally, in loud talk, laughter, and jumping across the benches, which, of course, brought about the same round of general whipping, universal silence, &c. This picture is probably highly exaggerated; but there are few, who have not seen schools managed, more or less, on the same principles.
4. Some teachers resort to the rod, even on the most trifling occasion. It is always in their hands, and seldom long unemployed. Thus, both master and scholar are brutified and debased, the law of love becomes extinct in their bosoms, and nothing can produce the slightest effect on the pupil, but pure force.
5. Others have so little command of their temper, as to indulge in habitual scolding. They speak harshly to the pupils for the merest trifle, the natural consequence of which is, that their reproofs lose all their effect. Such a course operates injuriously on the temper, both of teacher and pupil. Fretfulness and irritability pervade the whole school.
6. The moral sense of the pupil is seldom, if ever, appealed to. Every regulation is grounded on mere authority ; no attempt being made to show, that nearly all the benefits, flowing from good discipline, result to the individual advantage of the pupil. So far is this occasionally lost sight of, that, sometimes, the children will learn to regard themselves and teacher as opposites to each other; as having two distinct interests; it being their master's object to lay on restrictions, and abridge their liberty, while it is their business, by all sorts of means, combination among themselves, concealment, trick, falsehood, or open disobedience, to baffle his watchfulness, and evade his severity.
7. Finally, there are some teachers, whose manners and habits are essentially vulgar. These will pinch the ears, and pull the hair of their pupils ; or, still worse, beat them about the head with a book, a cane, or whatever happens to be in the hand. Such punishments as these are altogether wrong. They are dangerous ; and seldom fail to excite resentment in place of contrition, the main legitimate object of punishment.
INTELLECTUAL EDUCATION, CONTINUED.
Is there, then, nothing good in our system of
public instruction? Is it, throughout, a mass of blunders ? By
It contains much that is good, though, as has been seen, there is mingled with it much that is evil. But, as the present question is, how shall it be purified of its errors, and rendered as efficient as possible, it would be altogether out of place to speak, here, of its advantages, or its beauties. Let us continue, then, our searching inquiry into its errors and deficiencies, so that, when we come to prepare our improved system, we may know how to avoid every thing that may have the slightest tendency to impede our progress, or, in any manner, lessen its efficiency.
Although many of the remarks, which follow, will be applicable to the higher branches of learning, yet our chief attention will be devoted, at present, to the initiatory steps. The proper management of these is of the very first importance, and, unfortunately, this is the very part of education that has attracted least attention. The teaching of reading, spelling, and the alphabet, has been considered a task that any one might execute.
We forget, that to this point can be traced nearly all our bad habits, habits which exert so prejudicial an effect on the whole future course of study, and which no after discipline can completely remove. Let us, then, in future, avoid this serious error. Let us no longer consider it as unworthy of our attention ; nor turn, with an eye of indifference, from the basis of knowledge, fully convinced, that on the solidity of the foundation, depends all the beauty and usefulness of the structure.
The first branch of knowledge, to which the attention of the child is directed on entering school, is Reading. Hitherto, as was shown in the second chapter, his studies have been altogether delightful. His progress has been constant and rapid ; for, as yet, he has dealt with nothing but real knowledge. No barren sounds, no unintelligible words have occurred, to embarrass and impede him. But now, very different becomes his situation. A book is placed in his hands, which he is told he must learn to read, that he may know how to become wise and good, and he is delighted with the prospect. But, alas ! how grievous the disappointment! For months, nay, sometimes for years, his studies consist of nothing but mere sounds, to which it is impossible he can annex any idea whatever. His school-hours are solely occupied with As and Bs, abs, ebs, and ibs. Now, what must be the effect of all this, upon an intelligent child ? Surely, it is sufficiently evident, that his active mind cannot be exclusively employed in such tiresome drudgery. For this is nothing but a mere affair of memory, in which the reason and judgment of the child is never called into action. The natural, the unavoidable, result of such a process is, that he acquires a habit of mechanically repeating those sounds, while his mind is occupied with objects of a totally different nature. He can repeat his A, B, C, his ab, eb, ib, &c.; and, all the while, his mind can be far distant, at play with his schoolmates, or at the family fireside. And thus, at the very outset, the child lays the foundation of the grand impediment to the easy attainment of knowledge, the impassable barrier to self-education, the habit of mental wandering.
This plan of education is the synthetic method, which, commencing with elements, joins them to form compounds, and, again compounding those, forms them into the substances with which we are acquainted. Thus, should we be taught mineralogy according to this system, we should first have to learn the names of all the elements of which stones were composed, and then, by joining them in the proper proportions, we should form stones. But such is not the method in which we are instructed by Nature. It is, in fact, doubtful, whether we are acquainted with any elementary substance. It is true, our chemical works give us a list of some fifty or more substances,
which are called elements ; but it is doubtful, whether any one of
them really is so. They should be considered only as elements, according to the present state of knowledge. Future discoveries will probably reduce the number, or totally change the whole list. But to return. Nature's mode of teaching is altogether analytic. She first presents us with a group, forming a perfect whole, and then instructs us how to analyse it, or divide it into its component parts. For instance : a child knows a tree, and can name it, long before he has ever heard or thought of leaves, twigs, branches, trunk, or root; a house, before he has become acquainted with shingles, boards, brick, stone, or lime; a man, before head, limbs, neck, or body. At a more advanced period of his education, he extends his knowledge by new analyses. For instance : he examines into the nature of leaves, &c., of trees; of stones and lime, which enter into the formation of a house ; of flesh and bones, which form the man. he to wait till he knew the A, B, C of Nature, before he made himself acquainted with the objects around him, he would never know them at all. Let not the above remarks be understood as objecting to the inductive method of philosophizing. Science can have no sure foundation, save on observation, experiment, and induction. But it by no means follows, that the knowledge of reading must be acquired by the same method, especially by young children, whose reasoning faculties are as yet undeveloped. Besides, it will be found, that even the sciences are taught, chiefly, by analysis. It is in the cultivation of science by the philosopher, not in its communication by the teacher, that induction is indispensable.
Having thus pointed out the serious evil, arising from the synthetic mode of teaching reading, namely, the habit of mental wandering, or thinking of one thing while reading another ; having shown, also, that Nature, in her teachings, follows the opposite course, that of analysis ; it would appear, that all that is necessary, to induce every reasonable mind to approve of the change, is, to show its practicability in the present case. This, however, can be correctly ascertained by experiment, only. And, al