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can we believe that children, with their more simple, more impressible natures, are less moved, less refined, by this sweet influence ?
True politeness can only come from a true character. “It is the moral grace of life.” Let teachers try to possess and impart that grace. Let them teach the American people to be courteous as well as brave, gentle as well as strong. Consider for a moment how much must depend upon the influence of a teacher. Some teachers have with them, several hours a day, children whose mobile natures are influenced by every one who approaches them. Children are more strongly, permanently influenced by indirect than by direct means; and the atmosphere of the school-room, which a teacher must make by his own real self and true character, will have more effect than any direct appeal, however eloquent.
Others are in daily contact with the youth of the nation, just at the time when their minds are beginning to feel the power of science, when their hearts are swelling with the new knowledge of love, and their souls growing grand in their realization of life. A teacher stands to them as their example. What he does, what he is, mingles with their crescent natures, and may leave its mark forever. If he stunts their perceptions of truth and beauty, dwarfs their love for the real and the strong, crushes their earnest longings for the noble, by his rudeness and his coarseness, the sin must be heavy at his door.
But if he helps them, strengthens them in all their holy aspirations, and fosters in them all their yearnings for purity and strength, shows them by every deed and word and gesture the loveliness of true dignity and grtice, then he fulfils the highest duty of life, and his mission is as grand, as boundless, as the universe.
E. A. c.
To the Editor of the Teacher.
To elevate the standard of education, we must either induce scholars to attend school longer, or so change our system of instruction that they make greater advancement while they attend.
The latter I believe to be entirely practicable, and that we may not only teach much more in the ten to sixteen years that our boys and girls attend the common school, but we may have them graduate with a burning desire for knowledge that will lead them to read and investigate, as they travel the walks of life, until they rise much higher, and become much wiser and better men and women, than the present generation. And beside, many more will essay to cultivate their powers in the higher schools and colleges.
To do this we must introduce into our schools a system of instruction that will tend to encourage — instead of following the old system which tends to discourage — the spirit of inquiry and vivacity of mind that teachers find so common in children commencing school, and so seldom after a few years' attendance.
This is the first fruits of the word-method. The tyro begins to lose interest with the taxing of his memory to call the letters by name, and often loses all interest before he is able to pronounce words and read intelligently, by having tried to remember the great variety of different names these same letters take in the pronunciation of words. Many persons are, however, ignorant of the fact that not twenty of the twenty thousand words of our language are pronounced exactly as they are spelled ; i.e., by calling the letters in the pronunciation of the words the same as learned in the alphabet. But the tyro will not lose, but will progress with increased interest, if he be taught objectively, and not required to remember arbitrarily that for which he sees no reason. He remembers the names of his associates, acquaintances and objects, without an effort; because he associates, perhaps unconsciously, something of the form and expression of each with the name. And, if children are required to learn the orthography of words as the ripe scholar spells and pronounces, — by the form of words, — he will be more likely to retain the activity of mind he possessed prior to having his mind cramped by trying to remember arbitrarily that C-o-w spells cow, and t-0-w spells tow, &c.; .where, if his inexperience leads him not to notice the total want of analogy, he sees no chance for association, and is dependent wholly upon memory for the spelling of every word.
I have thought that, if we taught writing with the foot, holding
the pen with the toes, — while attending school, — knowing that after we left school we must write with the hand, holding the pen with the fingers, we should be but little more inconsistent than we are to teach children, that the word originates from the spelling, — that certain letters make certain words, — and to build words, using letters as a material, as the builder builds houses, using bricks mortar, &c.; and compel every child to spend years of the best time in life for receiving truth and lasting impressions, in trying to remember that such and such letters make such and such words, when we know that in practice the form of the word dictates the spelling, which is to be performed entirely with the pen.
Again, if we never taught spelling except incidentally; i.e., if we expected the pupil to know nothing of spelling except from observing words in reading, — they would be much more observing than they are now. The ancients had no written science of Astronomy, but how much better astronomers were the common people than now!
The point I make here is, that to teach children to think is more valuable than to try, by cramming the memory, to make them scholars by storing the brain with isolated facts: the spelling of every word, by our system, has to be learned separately, to be called for afterwards, as the husbandman stores his grain in his granary, and makes drafts thereon afterward for every grist. For, in this matter of spelling, experience teaches that the memory of the student, filled at his graduation as full as the granary after harvest, becomes exhausted by forgetting, about as soon as the granary, by the drafts upon it; while, if, in place of memorizing the spelling of words, the student had always learned to reproduce with his pen the words he wished to use, he could not now forget the form of those words more than he would forget the countenances of his acquaintances.
The saving of time by stepping over the spelling lessons, and the advantage of always being able to produce the right form of the word you wish to use, — i.e., to spell correctly, ---- are less valuable to the man than the qualities of mind resulting from the habits of ever advancing, and constantly drinking in ideas, during that period of life in which he now spends weeks, months, and
sometimes years, with little perceptible advancement, and no thought, except to determine how far he can transgress his teacher's rules, and not get a dose from Doctor Birch.
By this system, we should in a majority of cases have no dull scholars; and thousands who are now content to study only the three R's would become thorough scholars.
I do not contend simply for the word-method; but for anything that will produce a sensitiveness to impression, sufficient to make thinking, reasoning, acting men and women. As it is now, men develop almost by chance, while, if during all their lives they were more sensitive, they would oftener receive the impression teachers, preachers, parents, etc., design they should receive; and, consequently, become wiser and better during all coming generations.
T. H. ITHACA, N.Y.
DISCIPLINE IN SCHOOLS.
[The following article from the “Universalist” newspaper is inserted at the request of the Boston schoolmasters — the vote having been passed at a meeting at which about two-thirds of the whole number were present. In the exercise of our editorial discretion we have stricken out names and an unwarrantable fling at Harvard College.]
In most of the walks of life, it is customary to presume that every man best understands his own trade. The farmer does not presume to tell his blacksmith how to shoe his horse. In the matter of pills, the lawyer gives up to the physician. If the case is a suit at law, the physician lets the lawyer manage it.
This is the rule; but there are two classes in regard to whom there is an unwillingness to apply the rule, - ministers and teachers. We have seen many burly, coarse, profane “ brethren" who know what “Gospel preaching ” is better than the educated and the experienced preacher. There are thousands of men and women who, though unable to govern their own children at home, know how to keep school better than the master who has made teaching his trade. A singular exhibition of this species of presumption has just been exhibited in the city of Cambridge. A scholar was punished for misdemeanor. Complaint was made. The School Committee gave the matter a candid investigation. It was their business to dispose of the case. It was their trade to know how to judge of the merits of the case. They are intelligent men. They are selected from the cultivated ranks, from humane circles : they have had much experience, for many of the Board have served a long series of years. Outside of that Committee, there are not ten men in Cambridge so competent to pronounce a just judgment on the case of discipline brought before them. Understand, these gentlemen were chosen, not by a New York “Ring,” but by the intelligent citizens of Cambridge, when calm and clothed in their right minds. If not competent to make a just disposal of a case of discipline in their schools, who is competent for the task? These gentlemen, guided by years of experience, and acting upon the knowledge of all the facts carefully verified, sustain the teacher. That simple fact is enough. We do not even want the verdict of the Court to sustain the Committee, though twelve jurymen under oath sustain the teacher. We fall back on the obvious rule, that the Committee know their own business best. They are not fools; they are not brutes: they are gentlemen. Some of them we know personally; and those we thus know are morally incapable of justifying a cruel act. The Natural History Professor knows how to tame a rattle-snake, how to coax a snapping-turtle; but let him try his fascination — wonderful as it is— on an incorrigibly bad boy, or, what is tenfold worse, an incorrigibly bad girl; and he will soon find out that snapping-turtles are not to be thought of in the same connection. Another speaker talks about the power of love, so much in the style of our own speeches in the late Reform Association, that we half suspect he has been reading the reports in the files of the Trumpet and Freeman. The war of rebellion took that nonsense out of us: it ought to have done so much for the law-lecturer at Harvard. Now, in regard to discipline in schools, experienced committee-men and teachers know how to judge. In case of a fever, we should go to an eminent physician with great confidence; but, in the matter of school discipline, he does not know a tenth part so much as any one of the experienced