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Yet this is a free country, and it is competent to every man to write and publish his bad little school-book, — to print it upside down, if he thinks that an improvement; or as Timothy Dexter published his book, with all the punctuation-marks at the end, telling his readers that there were differences of opinion in regard to punctuation, and they might pepper their dish to their taste. Without freedom there would be no chance for improvement, and the minority of really good school-books which competition produces outweigh, probably, in their good results all the mischief which the bad ones do. No one would wish his child to go on studying a poor, disjointed, confused, erroneous book, when there lies a first-rate one by its side, although there is a theory that a bad school-book, if only well taught, is just as good as a good one, - a very false theory, I think.
I have made these remarks, in consequence of hearing that a good deal of complaint has arisen on account of a recent change in the geography used in our grammar-schools — a change which, in common with a large majority of the present School Committee, I advocated, and which, in spite of my previous remarks, I am ready to stand by, even though the new book is a little larger and more expensive than the old one. I am ready to stand by it, because, though nothing of man's make is perfect, I consider the book a real and great advance on any and all its predecessors, one which is likely to work a much-needed revolution in our method of studying geography. It is not a scissors-and-paste affair, a confused heap of miscellaneous information about geography, but a carefullyprepared systematic treatise on geography, a treatise which Prof. Agassiz (and whatever we may think of his opinion on whipping, we all know its authority on such a subject as this) pronounces “ incomparably superior to anything ever published ” — prepared by a real man of science, whom Prof. Dana, of Yale College, calls “one of the ablest physical geographers in the world," and with the help of a lady who is teacher of geography in what is probably the best training-school in America.
Now we all know that when we go to buy some article, we are often offered two qualities, not differing very greatly in price, and of which the seller would really prefer to have us purchase the cheaper, because, though it is cheaper, it is so bad that he makes a larger profit on it than he does upon the dear one; which latter, for the sake of keeping up its reputation, he is obliged to make well. The dear one is really much the cheaper of the two, if I may be allowed such a statement. I am not prepared to say that the displaced geography is not a meritorious performance of its kind; but, I believe the new one to be of a very superior kind; and so I advocate it, just as I should no longer ride into Boston in the very best stage-coach, because now I can have a (doubtless imperfect) horse-car. I believe there is that certainly unusual sort of improvement in this school-book, to be had at a very small advance in price; and if my readers doubt it, I wish they would study it with their children this winter, as I mean to do; for I have forgotten a good deal of the geography I learned from good Father Worcester's old book, except “Kidderminster for carpets," and that a surprising number of countries were “level or moderately uneven." If they will do this, they will find it a book which grown people can read with pleasure; and it will show those who are no longer young, what advances science has been making since their school days. It will perhaps, introduce them to a delightful book by the same author, Professor Guyot's “Earth and Man,” a course of lectures originally delivered in French, at the Lowell Institute, and admirably translated by the late President Felton, of Harvard College.
I advocated a change in the Primary Spelling Book; and I did it because it was smaller, and if there had been nothing of it at all, I am not sure that I should not have liked it still better. I lately saw in a most excellent New York primary school (they are not all excellent) reading, writing and spelling admirably taught together from the little reading-book alone. They have no spelling-books in their primary schools. Which should we remember the spelling of longest, Mr. Editor, if we were little children, a word in a column whose meaning we did not know, or a word in a story carefully explained by the teacher ?
I saw a new school history* the other day for forty or fifty cents which looked to me better than the poor large one we use which costs much more. President Hill says (and he knows), that our Arithmetics need not be half as large as they are. The chief objection I felt to the new Geography was that it seemed to me too large; but as the study of it is to extend over a good deal of the child's school-time, I may in this be wrong. It is not so much larger than the other as it seems. Great books are great evils. As our school-books grow bigger our children grow smaller, till by and by it will be a question which is the larger, the child or its satchel. I wish we could leave these things more to the teachers, and allow them to teach more by word of mouth and less by book, as good teachers always know how to do. We should have more thought and less cramming.
* Anderson's Introductory School History of the United States.
I also advocated the adoption, or rather the vote permitting the use of what is called the Boston School Slate, with letters and pictures at its top for the children to copy. I did it because I have been so pained at seeing rows of little urchins in our primary schools obliged to sit still with nothing to do, contrary to all the instincts of nature, which tend to keep a child in constant activity. This foolish attempt to go contrary to nature is what leads to the whipping our friends so much complain of. Give a child something to do, and it will not need whipping.
I don't know whether the slates will do us much more good than the moral pocket-handkerchiefs which were to go to Boriobooloo-gah. The little barbarians have begun to pull the pictures off already. In Boston, each child, even the smallest, has its own little desk, with a rack for its slate, which is provided along with desk and rack, at the city's expense, and is only taken out for proper exercises. But they do many things differently in Boston Primary Schools.
W. P. A.
A CHINESE PHILOSOPHER. The master [i. e. Confucius] said, “ If a man keep cherishing his old knowledge, so as continually to be acquiring new, he may be a teacher of others.”
The master said, “The superior man is catholic and no partisan. The mean man is a partisan and not catholic.”
The master said, “Now, shall I teach you what knowledge is ? When you know a thing to hold that you know it; and when you do not know a thing to allow that you do not know it; this is knowledge."
The master said, “ A man should say I am not concerned that I have no places — I am concerned how I may fit myself for one. I am not concerned that I am not known - I seek to be worthy to be known.”
The master said, “The mind of the superior man is conversant with righteousness; the mind of the mean man is conversant with
Tsze-kung said, “What I do not wish men to do to me, I also wish not to do to men." The master said, “ Tsze, you have not attained to that."
The master said, “ Those who know the Truth are not equal to those who love it.”
The master said, “ When I walk along with two others, they may serve me as my teachers. I will select their good qualites, and follow them, their bad qualities, and avoid them.”
Tsang, the Philosopher said, “ The scholar may not be without breadth of mind and vigorous endurance. His burden is heavy and his course is long. Perfect virtue is the burden which he considers it his to sustain ; is it not heavy? Only with death does his course stop; is it not long ?".
The master said, “ Learn as if you could not reach your object, and were always fearing lest you should lose it.”
The master said, “ The superior man is affable, but not adulatory; the mean man is adulatory, but not affable. The superior man is easy to serve and difficult to please. If you try to please him in any way that is not accordant with right, he will not be pleased. But in his employment of men he uses them according to their capacity. The mean man is difficult to serve and easy to please. If you try to please him, though it be in a way which is not accordant with right, he may be pleased. But in his employment of men he wishes them to be equal to everything. The superior man has a dignified ease without pride. The mean man has pride without dignity.”—Legge's Life and Teachings of Confucius.
A GOOD TEACHER. Perhaps it may be permitted to me to recall the time when I daily took my seat on the same benches which, throughout the bygone session, I have seen thronged with eager and intelligent faces, and when I listened to the prelections of my now venerable colleague. I had already been engaged in studying the mechanism of the Latin language, but of the literature itself, its extent, range and value, I knew comparatively little; I could, indeed, construct sentences with tolerable accuracy, convert a few lines of English into Latin, by aid of the dictionary, without more than the usual share of blunders, and with the assistance of the Gradus ad Parnassum, fabricate hexameters, which, if not harmonious, were, at least, in reasonable accordance with the laws of quantity and metre. But I had been kept so long working at the wards of the lock, that I took little thought of the treasure contained in the chamber. Perpetual repetition of conjugations and derivations had dulled my pereeption of beauty, and instead of admiring the thought that glowed within an ode of Horace, I had been taught only to study the words and regard them as a grammatical exercise. It was as if a marble statue, by Praxiteles, had been given to a roadside laborer to hammer down into fragments. Had I tarried at that point, as I have reason to think is unfortunately the case with many, I am afraid that in later years my literary instincts would have decayed. But presently I found, under the teaching of Prof. Pillans,* that the scales were falling from my eyes; I began to see in their real beauty and majesty the glorious creations of the past. Not the letter only, but the spirit, was revealed to us; the intellect was stirred, the imagination excited, and what had once been dreary task-work now became an occupation of transcendent interest and delight. . . . Such tuition was of exceeding value, not only for the information it conveyed, but for the keen desire of further knowledge which it inspired, and the literary ambition which it roused. — Life of Aytoun.
CHIEF JUSTICE MARSHALL. I again met Judge Marshall in Richmond whither I went during the sitting of the convention for
* [The veteran Head Master of the High School of Edinburgh, afterwards Professor in the University. He died in 1864, aged 86.]