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youth, committed to their care and instruction, the principles of piety, justice and a sacred regard to truth, love to their country, humanity, and universal benevolence, sobriety, industry and frugality, chastity, moderation and temperance, and those other virtues which are the ornament of human society, and the basis upon which a republican constitution is founded; and it shall be the duty of such instructors to endeavor to lead their pupils, as their ages and capacities will admit, into a clear understanding of the tendency of the above-mentioned virtues to preserve and perfect a republican constitution, and secure the blessings of liberty, as well as to promote their future happiness, and also to point out to them the evil tendency of the opposite vices.” — Rules and Regulations, p. 29, Rev. Stat. ch.23, $ 7.
Every one believes that school education should above all things be practical. From the popular language of the day, one would infer that to be practical, education should embrace such information in history, geography, grammar, arithmetic, etc., as to enable the pupil to appear intelligent, to be able to understand what he reads, to be quick and capable in worldly employment.
The acquisition of such an education will certainly exercise memory and calculation; cultivate with vigor the cardinal virtues, ambition and “go-a-head-a-tive-ness," and prepare the pupil to “ make his mark in the world,” perhaps to be President, the acme of excellence to which our scholars are so often urged to attain.
But is it after all practical ? Does it answer the purposes of life? If all that places us above the animal, whose senses, appetites and passions we share, were the power of so arranging and governing the circumstances about us, as to insure for ourselves the greatest bodily ease, or mental pleasure arising from gratified desires of fame, reputation or superiority to others, it would be ample. Or, could we divest ourselves of the revelation so strangely granted to us, while withheld from the ancient, cultivated, and refined, though heathen nations, it might suit the purposes of a life, satisfactory, only in being the best in our experience.
But since we are so far above the mere animal creation, that our true being is entirely spiritual, consecrated to union with the Eternal Truth; since the passions and appetites which we share
with those so infinitely beneath us are too apt to make us forget the dignity of our creation; and since we cannot ignore the manifestation which we have had of the True Humanity, — an education which prepares for success in the mere business transactions of life, or even secures the gratification of the social instincts alone, must be defective, even as the first man, before “ God breathed into him the breath of life.”
Although our end is so noble, we know that it is to be attained, not solely by meditation upon the Perfect and Infinite, but as well through the faithful performance of all the duties small or great, menial or mental, that fall to us in the world; hence, it is well that the child should be taught such studies as will increase his capability in the world, as will prepare him for the stern necessity of earning a livelihood, and for the punctual and discreet fulfilment of the social and civil duties which society imposes upon him. But above all and in all, should he be so impressed that every event of his life is to him but a means and no end, that his actions will be rooted in his belief that he must rise to God.
Some will say that such teaching is no part of the public teacher's duty; that it belongs to home or Sunday instruction. A moment's reflection upon the nature of childhood, will, I think, answer the objection. A child never acquires his manner of reasoning and of acting at stated times, or by precept, but unconsciously imbibes them from those by whom he is surrounded, or with whom he is accustomed to converse; hence, by his very nature, his spiritual, moral and secular nature cannot be separated.
What then, must be the teacher's preparation for such duty ? Nothing less than a worthy reverence for the True Manhood, which is to become by union True God; a due appreciation of her own vocation which is to aid in accomplishing this union, through her example and earnestness, as well as through the holy charity which must be hers; and also, a knowledge of the human heart — of its weakness, of its hidden strength — derived through constant examination of her own and sympathy with others.
If the teacher is thus prepared, her instructions, though to outward appearance simply secular, will be most truly practical.
Few moral dissertations, so detested by children, will be needed
by her. She will tell her pupils that they must be holy, as the temples of the Most High; they will learn the truth by seeing through her personal bearing and her conduct towards them, that she respects not only herself, but the weakest of their number, as though each were indeed the dwelling-place of God.
By the eye of charity, which alone can discern through the folds of the human heart, she will see many an earnest endeavor overcome by the too strong temptations of childhood to wilfulness, anger, impatience, or idleness, and by making evident her knowledge of, and respect for the inward struggle, and her sympathy with its difficulties, she will entice the discouraged ones to renewed effort and perseverance.
When a child is dull and stupid, she will not dare despise him, for she will remember that God may sometimes blind the intellect that He may bestow richer graces upon the heart.
In studying the heroes of history, she will temper the child's natural admiration for reputation, fame, glory, by keeping before his mind that from justice alone proceed valor, victory, and peace; and that the true greatness of every hero lay only in his virtue — his strength used to suppress wrong and uphold right; and because she is earnest in doing so herself, he will believe her.
Little will she value the power of making her scholars obey on the instant her every mandate, but of much more worth will she count their conscious growth in manliness and virtue, as, recognizing in her meekness and patience under the fatigue and irritations of school, a power higher than human, their unruly wills, neither smothered nor crushed, become truly and permanently submissive to their reason.
Not least of all will she shun too much talk upon the best way to teach, subduing the inclination often arising from a subtle slothfulness, and rather cultivating in herself true devotion to her work, trusting to its silent power to say what words might tarnish. The necessary occasions will find her the more truly prepared to speak, that she never seeks them.
But, in fine, the spirit of her vocation will permeate her every action, though unnoticed by herself; will permeate the spirit of her children, and in raising them, will react upon herself, for “charity prays in the heart of him who receives it, and a mighty virtue proceeds from it.”
Is this estimation of the teacher's duty too severe for any ? Do any say, it is theory, but what results can be obtained from it ? To the latter, we would say that in our working, God accomplishes the results; knowing this, we may rest in the quiet of his omnipotence, looking forward to the heavenly harvest, for which he will certainly ripen the fruit, which is now but green, or even scarcely discernible.
To the former we recommend the example of the Great Teacher, who for the love of his children endured every privation. As he has chosen us to follow him, we may not hesitate to offer the daily sacrifice, which is the price of the vocation. We would have them remember that once in sympathy with them, our children will open our hearts, and we will see in them those whom the Saviour bade us imitate; that, for every difficulty, there is strength and preparation in the sincere desire, which, though at first, an inspiration of the heart, becomes the prayer of the life.
If we are not prepared thus to teach, it seems to us that, in the light of Christianity, we fall far below those who taught in the light of heathen philosophy; for they endeavored to fit their pupils so to live, as to accomplish their idea of the end of life.
Our scholars will indeed believe in God, if not only on Sunday, and in their best habits, but on every day, in all their pursuits, they are taught by the example and precept of the teacher, to live in the light of truth. Instead of laying up in the precious storehouse of the memory a stock for vainglory, show, and pretence, they will garner there that wisdom which, in God's reckoning, is “venerable old age,” and that “understanding” which, in his sight, is “gray hairs."
CHANGE OF SCHOOL-BOOKS.
[From the Cambridge Chronicle.] Great complaint is made by parents, and often with justice, of frequent and careless changes made in the school-books used in our public schools, involving, as it does, expense and often loss to those who can ill afford it. Every one who has served on a School Committee is familiar with the visits of agents of new books, which are to surpass, if they can only be introduced, (the first time gratis) everything that ever went before them; every committee-man has a stack of such books piled away in a corner, and every one who has the time really to examine them finds that they are very apt to stand in the same relation to the old ones that six stand to half a dozen. The truth is that a great deal of school-book-making is very ignoble business. The chief implements required in the manufacture are scissors and a pot of paste, and the chief means of making the products succeed are puffery and advertising, — an energetic publisher and a long list of testimonials. There is in a library at Salem a collection of three hundred English grammars. I have myself about forty-nine, at least forty of which (including some in general use,) I should be very loth to introduce for the first time into any school I had to do with. The scissors and paste arithmetics and geographies, and the readers, put together by men who, one would think, had never seen a child, are equally numerous.
I do not know that there is any remedy for the difficulty, or that there will be any abatement of the nuisance till an entirely different class of writers turn their attention to the subject. The truth is, that to make a good school-book is a very difficult, instead of a very easy task. Just as it is much easier to say what one has to say in twelve pages than tersely and forcibly in three, so it is really much easier, so far as the writing goes, to write a long and learned treatise on a subject, for learned men to read, than it is to select just that amount of knowledge on the same subject which is proper to go into a child's head, and to say it in such a way as that it shall find entrance there. For one thing, it requires some knowl. edge of the interior of a child's head, and of that school-book makers are apt to be profoundly ignorant.
The consequence is that there are a great many bad schoolbooks and a great many changes, through the persistent boring of a certain class of agents and the wholesale puffing of a certain class of publishers, from one bad school-book to another equally bad or worse, involving an outlay of both money and temper on the part of fathers and mothers when they come to pay.