תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

other. A little carelessness or ignorance in the pilot, a failure to move the helm at the right moment, and to exactly the right degree, would precipitate us either against the bank on one side, or upon the rocks on the other. Now what fits a man for such emergencies? Is it general education ? Would the doctors or lawyers on board be competent, by reason of their mental cultivation and extensive knowledge, to give advice? Surely not. Nothing but actual experience in piloting is of any avail. It would be considered the height of presumption for such men to attempt to give advice to the helmsman who knows every winding of the channel from having repeately passed through it. And yet, we see, of late, advice proffered constantly to teachers regarding methods of school management, by men who have never taught a day, and who, consequently, know nothing practically of the matter; and if they do not at once conform to such advice, they are assailed with the greatest fury. By the community at large, experience seems to be not enough respected. It is too much the custom, also, to reason from isolated cases. That the right to punish corporally is sometimes abused proves nothing. Nobody favors the abuse of it, and yet a single case in which it is abused, is made the occasion of fierce denunciation of all who use it. He once had a child who long lay at the point of death. Every means was tried in vain, till the physician resolved to try calomel. When young, he had himself had his health nearly ruined by the use of calomel. He had therefore a strong aversion to it, and at first hesitated about allowing it to be tried. He reflected however, that the wrong use of it in his own case was no indication that the proper use of it might not do good in another. He accordingly gave bis consent, and the child was cured. Why not find fault with the Creator for occasionally killing people with lightning? In his opinion, people were oftener injured by lightning than by corporal punishment. He believed there were modes of punishment far worse than whipping. He thought that the strenuous opponents of flogging often used methods far more objectionable When teaching in the city of Washington, he was once talking with a teacher who was a professed moral suasionist, and asked him what substitute he used. He for a long time evaded the question, but on being pressed, stated that he tied pupils by their hands to a hook in the wall, and there kept them till they were subdued. He also related another instance in which a little girl, only five years old, who had been at school but a few days, and was required by the teacher to name a letter which she persisted in saying she did not know. The teacher did not whip her, but shut ber up in a dark closet till school closed. She commenced screaming, and, after she was taken out, continued to scream during four days and nights, when she died. These are, it is true, extreme cases, but they show first, that there are worse punishments than whipping, and secondly that those who do not practise corporal punishment are likely to resort to means that are far worse. He would say, let us use the means provided and sanctioned by Providence, and if we cannot use them without abusing them, let us resign. Let not this monster which we are now combating rear its head again among us.

Mr. Frost, of Waltham, stated that he had been a teacher for thirty-one years. He had, during all that time, been in the constant babit of observing carefully different modes of discipline and instruction. He began at a time when the teacher was a nobody, working for eight dollars a month, and "boarding round;" when the ferule reigned supreme, and when a matter of two or three broken ribs in a winter was no uncommon occurrence. All other professions have advanced. Teachers, however, judging by the fashionable outcry against them, are but the unimproved relics of a barbarous age. They have still some old-fashioned notions, and are, to some extent, governed by the precepts of a certain old-fashioned book now almost forgotten. He had noticed with prin the fierce strife lately waged against them. He did not hesitate to say that the doctrine lately promulgated at Cambridge would, if carried out, open the doors of every prison in the country. In fact, there must be authority in every organization ; and there must also, of necessity, be submission. Authority which cannot, in case of need, enforce itself, is utterly valueless. All admit that in society, law must be enforced, and this is surely no less true in school. The rules must be obeyed, and to say that those who cannot be persuaded into obedience must be suffered to disobey, is to strike at the foundation of all government. That he might not be accused of favoring the indiscriminate use of the rod, he would lay down the following as his theory: that “the minimum of punishment is the maximum of excellence,” other things being equal. So he would say that the fewer we can send to jail, consistently with good order, the better. This did not imply, however, that men should not be sent there when the public safety demands it, nor did the former rule imply that corporal punishment could not be rightfully resorted to when demanded by the good of the school. There seems to be in the community a strange jealousy of teachers. A lawyer loses many cases, and is still employed, and still considered a skilful practitioner. A doctor may lose many patients, and yet be considered, on the whole, successful. Let, however, a teacher make a single failure, or what is alleged to be such, and at once not only he but the whole body of teachers is set upon by the press and the public with curses and execrations.

Mr. Walton, of Lawrence, said that before he commenced teaching he considered corporal punishment wholly unnecessary, and now that, after an experience of more than twenty years, he had left the profession, he began to feel so again. While he taught, however, he discovered that either he had not that consummate skill and tact which are so often talked about, or that in some way circumstances did not favor him, for he found bimself obliged, occasionally, to resort to it. He went once to Cape Cod to teach, with his head full of the idea of governing by moral suasion. He tried every means, and actually grew thin with his efforts, and went through the term without striking a blow. The scholars, be thought, liked him, and so did the parents; still he felt dissatisfied with the result. The next term he commenced again upon the same plan. Again he grew thin by his efforts to avoid the use of force. He succeeded as ill as before, and still felt that the session, so far as progress was concerned, was a failure. On one occasion he kept a boy after school for the purpose of " laboring” with him. He went through the stereotyped formula so familiar to teachers. He told the boy “how much better he would feel” if he did

well; how it would please his parents, etc. He then went on to say that " if it had been Smith or Jones he should not have been surprised, but that from

him'he expected better things;” when he was suddenly floored by the boy's blurting out, “ I ain't no better’n the rest on 'em.” After this he gave up his extreme ideas, and resolved to punish if the good of the school required it. The testimony of practical teachers seems to be uniform to the effect that force is sometimes necessary. Among the rules of his school was one that a boy who was tardy at recess was liable to be whipped; and, sometimes, by one blow of the ferule, judiciously given, the evil was checked for a whole year. He should be very sorry to see corporal pupishment abolished while the present system of instruction exists.

Mr. THOMPSON, of West Cambridge, being called for as one who was opposed to corporal punishment, said that he would correct that statement. He was not opposed to the judicious use of force. He thought it very liable to abuse, because it was such an easy method. It requires much self-control and sagacity to use it always properly. It is very commonly done to secure some immediate result. Sometimes, however, it might be well to consider whether an end better worth obtaining might not be secured by different means. He referred to the malignant manner in which teachers were frequently held up to public scorn. He recently heard a person state at an educational meeting, that if teachers had not mental and moral force enough to govern without physical force, they had better resign; that they were not engaged to “train menagerieș.” Such remarks are, of course, in themselves, unworthy of notice, but they show a state of feeling in the community which is to be deplored. He thought if a boy was persistently obstinate and unruly it was cruel not to punish bim. Expelling is foolish. Punishment may benefit, but expelling never can. If a scholar cannot be made to obey in school, he certainly would not do so in the world. He thought there should be a limit as to age. It was, however, difficult to fix any age, as the matter is controlled so much by circumstances. He would never punish in the presence of others. He had never punished in his own school. It was, however, a High School, where it was not generally supposed to be necessary.

Mr. Smith, of Dorchester, said that the question should be changed to " ought punishment to be abolished ?” This was the real matter now at issue in this vicinity. If it should be done away with in school, it certainly should be in the world at large, where men are more developed. It was easy to draw a picture of schools or communities governed entirely by moral suasion, but let it be tried. Let Boston do away with its police force, and when a drunken brawl occurs, let those who think themselves so well fitted to reform hy love, take the culprits and reform them. No one would be so insane as to propose this, and yet it is this same principle which it is proposed to establish in school. It is often said, even by those who do not believe in abolishing corporal punishment, that although sometimes necessary, it is the worst, and should always be the last resort. He thought this was not always so. If a boy is wilfully troublesome in school, he may, if the teacher will spend time enough, be brought to order without force. But is this the best way? Is it just or right that forty-nine other scholars should be deprived of the labor of the teacher, and that his whole time and attention should be given to one who maliciously disturbs the school. He believed it wholly wrong. The evil effects of whipping, too, are very much exaggerated by those who know nothing practically of the matter. Do we not all know that if it is properly and skilfully applied, the boy is in most cases bappier as well as better after it ?

Mr. Frost, of Waltham, did not believe in fixing the limit for the use of corporal punishment at different ages for boys and girls. We all know that some girls are younger at fifteen than some boys are at ten. We know, too, that some boys are far more refined — ladylike, if we may use the expression — than some girls. His own experience had taught bim that we find ten ugly boys where we find one ugly girl, but that the girl, when found, is worse than the whole ten boys. He then related an incident in illustration of this, in which he was obliged to use great severity with a girl, but where it was attended with the happiest effects. He received a present from the girl immediately after, in acknowledgment of the good she felt had been done her. Although the girl was poor, and the present of no intrinsic value, yet he had treasured it up as far more precious to him than all the costly testimonials which he had ever received.

Mr. Collar, of Roxbury, thought that the discussion was more for the public than for teachers. Among those who are obliged to do the work of training large bodies of children there is scarcely any difference of opinion upon the subject. There are certain sophistries with which the truth is obscured in the public mind, wbich should be cleared away. Much misapprehension exists by reason of the misapplication of terms. The word “inflict,” for instance, seems to carry with it a forbidding significance. He thought that if some other word were used it would deprive the opponents of corporal punishment of one great advantage. We all know how much is often gained for one side, by being able to fix upon the other an opprobrious epithet. A familiar illustration of this was seen in time of the “round-heads” in England, and.still later in the time of our own late war. We really did serious damage to the southern cause by simply affixing to its partisans the (proper) title of “rebels.” This advantage has been mercilessly used against teachers of late. We should strive to divest the subject of all {such false coloring. It is virtually assumed by our detractors that all who favor corporal punishment, favor the abuse of it, and all are condemned for the occasional indiscretions of a few. The fact is not sufficiently realized, that as a noted author'says, children are "semi-savages "; that is, are only partially developed, and cannot therefore, be appealed to in the same manner as adults. Dr. Arnold has well said that there can be no real degradation where there is no real sense of indignity as is the case with most children. People commonly talk as though the teacher were the enemy of his scholars, wbich is wholly contrary to the truth.

Mr. Hagar, of the Salem Normal School, said, that were the question put to him, “are you in favor of corporal punishment ?” he should uuhesitatiugly answer, yes. If, however, he were asked, if he favored the frequent resort to it, he should answer, as promptly, no. In whatever he might say, he wished to be understood as opposed to its common use. He was obliged, in the discharge of his official duty, to express his opinion upon the subject. His instruction amounted, generally, to this. It may be proper for you to use force. If, however, you find yourself obliged to resort to it frequently, you may well question your fitness for the profession. Use it only in extreme cases. If it comes to a question of obedience with the rod, or disobedience without it, choose the former. It is a common notion that corporal punishment is of necessity disgraceful. He did not consider it so. What is it? The infliction of bodily pain as the penalty of wrong doing. Let us take a lesson from the methods of Providence. If we eat twice as much as we should, we suffer physical pain — are corporally punished by Providence. So if we put our hand in the fire. No one, however, considers the punishment disgraceful. It is merely a warning to us not to commit the same indiscretion again. So with a child in school; by inflicting pain upon him, we simply warn him not to repeat the offence. The only difference seems to be that in one case we see who does it, and in the other we do not. The real degradation is in the sense of having done wrong, not in the fact of being punished. He remembered, when a boy, being punished wrongfully. He knew, however, that he experienced no feeling of disgrace. It is very easy, and very beautiful to theorize about managing entirely by love; but the real question is, Is it practicable? In the course of twenty-five years of teaching, he bad resorted to corporal punishment three times. He often doubted, however, whether he should not have done better if he had used it oftener. He should mention also, that he had taught mostly in High Schools, where the scholars were of advanced age, and required less forcing. In a school composed, as some schools were, mostly of boys of low character, he saw not how it was possible to do away with it. Mr. H. then reiterated his statement, that he did not believe the frequent use of it ever to be necessary. ;

Mr. Brown, of Boston (Bowdoin School), said, that he had recently listened to a discussion of this subject in the city of Boston, where every opponent of corporal punishment, and among them a member of the Cambridge School Committee, admitted that it was sometimes necessary. In imaginary schools, or in a theoretical world, it may be dispensed with, but in schools as they are, and in the world as it is, it must, he thought, be sometimes resorted to. Young teachers are generally obliged to resort to it frequently; older ones less often. While, however, we are obliged to manage so many dispositions, and accomplish so much in so short a time, it seems impossible, except in those rare cases where the teachers are almost angels, to maintain proper discipline without it. He formerly taught in Cambridge, and while there, was obliged to punish very often. He had a very large number of scholars all in one room, and when cases of disorder occurred, was obliged to take the quickest way of settling them. In his present school, he had had only five cases reported in the past three months, and those not inflicted by him. His best teacher had reported one case, but had remarked at the time, “ I ought to have reported six.'” She then explained, that she had several girls who had been badly brought up; who were alm

« הקודםהמשך »