Imágenes de página




** I call, therefore, a complete and generous education, that which fits a man to perform, justly, skilfully, and magnanimously, all the offices, both private and public, of peace and war.” — Milton.

In the following pages, it is proposed to inquire, what are the requisites for a good education for the whole people, and what are the best means of attaining them ; in other words, to present the picture of a good district and town school ; or, as they are sometimes called, a primary and high school. It is also proposed to inquire into the best means of equalizing the benefits of education; or, more properly speaking, of bringing the means of a thorough education within the reach of every child in the community. As having an important bearing on these subjects, the local situation and internal arrangement of schoolhouses will also be taken into consideration. The Normal School, or Seminary for Teachers, will also claim its due share of attention.

All this, however, will not be sufficient for the attainment of the great object, which at present occupies so much of the attention of many modern philanthropists, the physical, intellectual, and moral, improvement of the community, through the medium of schools. body of society, particularly in New England, are perfectly satisfied with their present system. It is generally

The great Ten years

supposed, that the people owe all that shrewdness and intelligence for which they are so remarkable, and all their industrious and moral habits, to the District School. Hence, it is a very natural inference, that the system cannot be so faulty and imperfect, as is frequently represented; and that, in fact, it would be rather a hazardous experiment, in any way to meddle with it. Before, therefore, we can expect to succeed in producing any beneficial changes, especially where these changes are of a radical nature, it is necessary, clearly and explicitly to show the fallacy of these views. One of the most important objects of this treatise, then, will be, an exposition of the deficiencies and defects of the system now in use, and a demonstration of the fallacy, which would refer all, or even most, of our moral and intellectual worth to School Education.

Let it, however, be distinctly understood, that all the deficiencies, defects, and evils, which will be pointed out, do not exist in every public school. Our system of instruction is at present in a state of transition. ago, the primary schools were conducted in a uniform routine. In discipline, books, arrangement of studies, and mode of tuition, all were alike. But, so far is this from being the case now, that it would probably be difficult to find two schools conducted on exactly similar principles, on any one of these points. Hence, no description can possibly suit every case.

The only practicable method of tracing out and eradicating all the defects of our present system of education, then, is to present a complete and correct picture of the schools in their worst state, and to call upon each teacher or parent to apply such features only, as are strictly applicable to his mode of tuition.

For instance, if there be any school in which reading is taught intellectually rather than mechanically; where the child has learnt to read in an easy, unaffected manner; his tones all natural, and his delivery exactly as if he were talking on the same subject with his brothers and sisters ; if, from first to last, he has understood every word he has uttered, before his lesson was finished ; if he has never read any thing, without being able to close his book, and give a clear, intelligible statement of it ; then, the remarks on reading, in this treatise, have no reference whatever to that school. But, let them not, therefore, be condemned, as inapplicable. There are schools, where the pupils are not so favored; where they have been taught to read in a stiff, unnatural manner, without any attention to the sense ; to utter, like parrots, mere sounds, without bestowing a thought on the ideas they are intended to convey. It is only to such schools, that all the remarks on reading are meant to apply.

Between these two kinds of schools, there are various grades. And it is to be hoped, that no teacher, because every remark on any one subject is not applicable to him, will, therefore, reject the whole. As was remarked in speaking of the more perfect school, if the whole be not applicable, let that only be used, which will suit the case. Nothing more was meant to be applied to that school.

Similar remarks apply to all the branches treated of, whether they relate to physical, intellectual, or moral culture. In the case of morals, for instance, if the pupils have been trained to feel, distinctly, the happiness of virtue, the misery of vice; the delights arising from general sympathy and the social affections, and the sordid nature of selfishness; to see, clearly, the beauty of placability, forbearance, kindness, and good temper; the hatefulness of moroseness, malevolence, and cruelty ; the advantages of industry, perseverance, economy, and temperance; the disadvantages of indolence, instability, extravagance, and intemperance; the complacency arising from love to God, obedience to his commands, and resignation to his will ; it is probable, that the teacher of such a school may not derive much personal advantage from the remarks on the deficiencies of the moral department of the schools. Such a teacher, however, will not think them unnecessary. He will know, that, however happy may be the exceptions, the field of morality generally lies almost wholly untilled"; full of little else than poisonous plants and foul weeds ; and he will prize them, even though they may not apply to his own highly-favored school.



It is very important, especially at the present moment, that we should have a clear, distinct idea of the real value of our primary schools. Let us, then, carefully and candidly inquire, what knowledge they do impart to the mass of the people, to those who have no further advantages of school education, leaving, of course, entirely out of view those gifted minds which are scattered sparsely over every country, who rise, in spite of every impediment, and to whom, in fact, mankind are chiefly indebted, for their steady progress from barbarism to civilization.

1st. They teach Reading. This art may be considered in two points of view : 1. Reading for others, or reading aloud. Many years are commonly spent in the attempt to gain this accomplishment; and very few make any progress, worthy of the name. For where shall we find a reader, who can keep up an interest in an audience for half an hour ? It would appear, then, that the time, labor, and money, expended in learning to read aloud, is little better than thrown away. 2. Reading for ourselves, or silent reading. Have the pupils of the district school acquired this, to any good purpose ? Has it opened to them the door of science? Do they make any practical use of it? Are we a reading people ? Alas! I fear these questions must be answered in the negative. The boundless stores of knowledge, instead of being at the command of every member of the community, remain as completely a sealed book, as if still shut up in the learned languagesSome, it is true, do contrive to spell out a little in the newspaper, and others regularly read their Bible. But is it to any good purpose ?

Is their reading more than a form ? Have we not reason to fear, thạt an accurate examination would show, that it is little else than a muttering or enunciation of mere sounds, and that, under the heavy labor of bringing them forth, the sense generally escapes :


2d. They teach Orthography. Spelling has nothing to do with our present purpose, which relates only to the heart and intellect. It will be fully noticed, in another chapter.

3d. They teach Arithmetic. The form of this science is taught in our schools, but its true principles, buried under a multiplicity of mechanical rules, escape the search of the scholar. He generally forgets the rules a short time after leaving school, though a sufficient knowledge is generally retained for the common business-transactions of the farmer and mechanic. Should more than this be necessary,

it must be learned elsewhere. What wonderful returns for the labor of years ! more might be acquired in three months, under an intelligent instructer who should pursue a rational course. The great advantage, also, which might be derived from the study of this science, the acquisition of habits of reasoning and patient investigation, is entirely lost.

4th. They teach Geography. But for what purpose ? A knowledge of geography is of exceedingly little use to any but readers, to whom, indeed, it is indispensable. Those who do not read will forget almost the whole in a very short time.

5th. They teach English Grammar, which claims the high merit of enabling its students to speak and write the English language with purity and propriety. But do those who have studied it speak with propriety? Is their language, in any respect, different from that of those around them, who have never opened a book on grammar ? As to writing, the critical eye of a grammarian may, it is true, detect an error of syntax; but other sources must be resorted to, for the art of composition. For this, the structure of sentences, not the mere relations of words, must be understood, and the mind must be stored with ideas. Neither of these can be derived from grammar. Such are the studies that occupy the chief part of the time in the primary schools, with, sometimes, in addition, a little writing, and a smattering of natural history. And can it be possible, that the intelligence and sterling worth, for which the community are distinguished, are derived

« AnteriorContinuar »