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members of the Cambridge Committee. For his opinion on that matter, — out of his line, — we do not care a fig. We have for it, probably, the same sort of feeling that he would have, if the Cambridge teachers should get up an indignation meeting about the good doctor's “outrageous use of calomel.” Let the physician tell us about physic, the Natural History Professor about turtles and queer fishes (of course using the blackboard and chalk), let the Law Professor tell us the mysteries of Coke and Blackstone; but now we want to know about discipline in schools, and we go to men who know by experience what answer to give. We go to the class of teachers and the class of committee-men who have really done service. And what is their answer ?
These umpires remind us, that there are in schools two classes of children, — those who are governed at home; and those who have their own way at home, whether a right or wrong way. In regard to children who are governed by their parents, and who are sent to school with paternal instructions to obey the rules, the answer is, that there is seldom any occasion for discipline. For such, moral suasion is sufficient. Such children are a law unto themselves.
In regard to children who are under no paternal government, and who go to the school-room knowing that a disobedience of its rules will not be censured at home, the assurance coming from those who know, is, that the government of such children in schools will be very difficult; that force will frequently be necessary; and that, as a final resort, either the rod must come into requisition, or the refractory boy or girl be expelled. And the law of love, says: Never make a bad boy worse, by turning him out upon the street to learn how to steal, and to become a pest to the community and a curse to himself, if a use of the rod, within the limits of safety to his person, can bring him into subjection. This, we repeat, is the law of love. Where is the reader of this that can look us in the face, and say this is not the law of love ?
But is not the spectacle of a master striking a boy, and especially a girl, a humiliating spectacle? It is. It was an humiliating spectacle that we witnessed a few weeks since, when we saw a strong policeman leading through the streets, against her will, a woman in a state of intoxication. But the humiliation was in the conduct of the woman which made necessary the action of the officer. In the other case, the humiliation is in the thoroughly insubordinate spirit and conduct of the scholar, driving the teacher to the painful extremity.
In the case referred to in Cambridge, so far as the consequences are local, it is the business of the citizens, not ours. So far as the example and influence are considered, it concerns the whole community. The citizens have, by a decisive vote, virtually (though not formally) taken from their teachers the right to punish corporally under any circumstances. Let us simply add, if the new Committee do not find their hands full in the course of their year's duty, if they find the new policy working charmingly, we hope we shall not be so stubborn as to refuse to confess, that our own experience of ten years has misled our judgment.
We have devoted a considerable space in our present number to a single subject; because the public mind has been recently a good deal agitated by its discussion, and because we believe it to be the function of a periodical to take up and discuss live subjects, and to give the conflicting views on points upon which an interest is felt at the moment. We think, that, in spite of temporary excitement and extravagance on both sides, in such controversies as have recently occurred respecting the case of school punishment in Cambridge, nothing but good can result from the full and free discussion of the subject.
Of the particular case we do not propose to speak — for we are an entire stranger to all the parties concerned — any further than to say in behalf of the city of Cambridge, that we believe it has incurred a most unwarrantable amount of obloquy through an occurrence, the circumstances of which were shown in a court of justice to have been described in the papers with great exaggeration. We are sure that the Cambridge schools are not below their neighbors : we are sure that their teachers will compare favorably with those of any other city; and we are quite willing to wait till the noise of newspapers is over, confident that our good city will not be found that abode of tyranny and cruelty which some of our cotemporaries would be glad to have the public believe it to be.
But the temporary excitement has drawn attention — and certainly no one can regret it — to a most important subject; the subject of discipline in our public schools. We have printed the curious extracts from the article by Southey in our present number, in order to show where this superstitious regard for corporal punishment, which exists in a few good people's minds, came from, — how much it is a matter of tradition; and to show, further, what an immense progress has been made in the matter since the days of the monkish schools. We need not, to be sure, go back to mediæval times. There are few of us who have arrived at middle age but can feelingly remember the thrashing that used to go on in our boyish days, and the pitched battles the master of a district school used often to have to fight before he got control of his school. In England, brutal in this as in everything, the severe corporal punishment, not only of boys, but young men, continued in the great schools down to very recent times; and, though we presume it is virtually almost given up, it bas never been formally abolished. Queer stories are told of the floggings administered by diminutive Head-master Wool (“Great cry and little Wool,” the boys used to say), at Rugby; and by Keate, at Eton, within the memory of living pupils.
But how changed is all this! The master of a public school, to bave any standing or possess any character in the community now, must be a firm and energetic man, but he must also be a kind man, and a gentleman; and, though there are all sorts of men in every profession, such, we do not hesitate to say, is the general character of the masters in our public schools. And we will add, that we do not believe a higher average of feminine excellence can be found anywhere in the community than can be found in the body of our female teachers. Their character is too well known and too firmly fixed to be injured by any outbreak of temporary excitement. That they are universally or generally persons who, clothed in a little brief authority, love tyranny, and delight in causing childish pain, is an idea too preposterous to be entertained for a single moment, by any one who knows anything of them.
We say this in justice to a profession which is almost everywhere overworked and underpaid; and which is exposed to trials of temper and patience, to a strain upon the nervous system, and a wear and tear of physical powers, beyond most others. But to say it, is not to say that our school discipline, any more than any other part of our system, is perfect; and teachers themselves would be the first to acknowledge its defects. We firmly believe, and are willing to stand as the representative of such a belief, in the possibility of its improvement; not by sudden revolution, or by virtue of the vote of any excited caucus, but by wise and judicious and well-considered measures. We believe corporal punishment to be in itself a bad thing, not in the sense that it violates any moral principle, – for it does not, — but that its necessity indicates sometbing wrong, either in the school system of which it forms a part, or of society which requires it, or of both. We believe that the corporal punishment of girls of fifteen and upwards is open to very grave physiological objections, and that the corporal punishment of all girls, and ultimately of boys too, may be abolished; but we are not clear that it can be done in a day. We are quite clear, on the contrary, that it can not; be
cause any such change carries with it logical consequences in the shape of other changes in the system which must be carefully matured. But, while we believe this, we believe in resolutely setting our faces in that direction. If we will once do that, we are confident that our progress will be faster than many good people imagine.
We must listen to the voice of experience in this matter. Some of the very best teachers, kindly, bumane and enlightened men, whose services the community cannot afford to dispense with, who never use the rod improperly, and do not wish to retain it through any love for it, yet object, under present arrangements, to its being taken away. Their opinion should certainly command respect. We believe, (though there are teachers of another sort, of whom we shall speak presently,) that it is perfectly safe to leave the rod in their hands, till by better arrangements, and the gradual improvement of our system, they themselves acknowledge it to be no longer necessary; for, that it will forever be a permanent part of the system, we cannot, in view of the wonderful progress already made, at all bring ourselves to believe.
Now for one case where the defects of the child, or the fault of temper in the teacher, cause a resort to the rod, we believe there are ten-ay, a hundred or a thousand — cases where it is caused by defects in our system. First, our school hours and school lessons are too long and too numerous; and next, our school studies are unsuitable, and arranged without proper reference to the child's capacity.
The science of mental philosophy we have hardly begun to apply to the arrangement of school studies, and the consequence is that the most preposterous mistakes are made. In the third place, the cultivation of the physical powers is neglected; and the child's craving for bodily activity, whether as exhibited in his capacity for work or bis capacity for play, is ignored. As sure as this happens, he may be expected to develop a capacity for mischief. These are defects relating to the child. Another class of defects belong to outward arrangements. Schools are not properly graded and classified; or, when they are, the schools or the classes may be too large. Means and appliances for assisting the teacher, and making teaching interesting, are not liberally provided. What duller-looking place in the world is there than an ordinary school-room ? Should it be so ? Then, again it would seem as if some good people believed themselves greatly aggrieved because they cannot find a sufficient supply of angels with perfect tempers who are willing to do the hardest of work for four hundred dollars per annum It should be a matter of wonder, considering the small encouragement that they receive, that our teachers are so good.
All this goes to show, that, if we want really to improve our schools, we must take into consideration a great many questions besides the use or the abolition of the rod; that its abolition brings with it a whole train of logical consequences which the community must be ready to meet. That it is ready to meet them, ready to do all that is needful to make the schools what they ought to be, we have no doubt. The sensitiveness on the subject, the storm of indignation aroused at any real or fancied cruelty on the part of teachers, is sufficient indication of the progress of public sentiment. We think we can promise on the part of teachers, that they will not be found backward in seconding any right effort in this direction.
We should do wrong not to add, that we have no doubt there are unworthy members in the teaching as in all other professions; teachers with no aptitude for their calling,—harsh, tyrannical, and severe; whose only object is to get along with the least trouble, and to keep their little flock in rigid subjection to the terrors of their frown. To them the rod affords a ready instrument for preserving what they call order, which is about as much like true order as a dried mummy is like a living man. Such teachers do incalculable mischief to the tender souls of the little creatures put in their charge; but we believe they are in a small minority. They linger, the representatives of a bygone state of thirgs. The great improvement made in elementary teaching by the establishment of our admirable normal schools, the introduction of new methods of teaching, - Kindergartens object-teaching, or by whatever name an approach to common sense is called, — are making them less and less common; and soon some rusty pedagogue or here and there some sour old maid will be the last remnants of a generation we shall look back upon as we now look back upon the monkish Orbilius, whose arm the good St. Adrian stiffened.
TWENTY-TWO BEAUTIFUL YEARS. Died, at Keene, N. H., Dec. 24, Ellen Gertrude French, in her twenty-third year.
It is exceedingly difficult for one who loved her to speak of Gertrude French without apparent exaggeration, yet love will not allow us to be silent: the teachers of the Commonwealth she served ought not to pass by her grave unheeding: there is more work for the rest of us to do, now she is gone.
In 1863, she graduated from the regular course, and in 1865 from the advanced course, of the Framingham Normal School. Previous to her last graduation, she bad been assistant pupil in the school, and immediately after it she was appointed teacher. Never was there a wiser choice. She loved the school, and she loved her work, and gave to them the whole strength of her earnest soul. She was not brilliant, but she had a remarkably clear and wellbalanced mind; her thoughts were always distinct and logical, and her explanation of any difficult point perfect. Her patience and cheerfulness were inexhaustible; her judgment was relied on by many older than herself; she was wise beyond her years, and yet simple and guileless as a child. Seldom are united in one person such strength and such sweetness, sucb wisdom and such innocence.
Yet it was not her strength and quickness of mind, nor her great success as a teacher, that makes her memory so sweet: it was that subtile and inexpressible thing which we call character; and the distinguishing trait of her character was uprightness, — truthfulness. She always spoke the truth, absolute and 'unvarnished; she always lived the truth ; and no persuasion, no persecution, could swerve her from it. Such a character had but to live to do good: her silent influence was mighty. But her industry, too, was untiring; she was always busy, either for her own improvement, or for the good and happiness of others. She never thought of self, but to make herself more useful.