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will be no end to its after achievements. If we leave it to be bafiled and disappointed, it will slowly grow dull and blunted, its first freshness will be lost, or it will be turned by the influences that surround it upon frivolous or unworthy objects.
In a child then we have not the heavy task of creating or awakening curiosity and interest. Nature does that to our hand. We have only the easier task of guiding that curiosity into right channels, by giving healthy exercise and training to all the child's senses. They are incessantly at work — we cannot help that gathering food, good or bad, for the higher faculties to work on. It would seem to be our task to guide them to employment in right ways and upon right objects.
Now in what schools is this done? “I am going to take my boy away from school;” said a very intelligent woman to us the other day, “it is ruining his mind. He went into it bright, intelligent active-minded, curious about everything, eager to learn. He is growing every day more and more dull and indifferent, and it is the direct effect of the deadening school-routine he is subjected to. I must either find a teacher who understands education, or run the risks of his growing up uneducated, rather than encounter the cer. tainty of his being miseducated." The criticism is not too severe for much of the dead routine-work that goes on in our schools, and it is this that makes the public so often indifferent or hostile to them.
We believe that what is really accomplished by the great majority of primary and grammar schools, namely, the acquisition of a certain amount — often a small one — of skill in the mechanical attainments of reading, writing and ciphering, could be done better by wise arrangements and good teaching in two or three hours a day than in six; better, because the children's faculties would be brighter. Rather than keep them idle the other three, or what is even worse, rather than spread over six hours the doing of what can just as well be done in three, we would turn them all into a good, large play-ground, under proper supervision, and then let them educate each other, or let nature (who never miseducates) teach them.
There is a profound truth at the bottom of the new-fashioned “Kindergarten,” “Children's garden," system, though some of its German details may seem to us fantastic. It is based on the fundamental truths of primary education, that the children's senses must be educated, their natural activities provided for, their curiosity kept alive. Our ordinary school routine ignores all this. It substitutes abstract symbols for real objects; it suppresses the child's healthy activity, often to his lasting bodily injury; it deadens and blunts his curiosity. A child comes out of a bad primary school in a far worse plight than he went into it. He will never be half the man that another child may become who has run wild, gathering flowers and watching the birds in the fields and lanes, and whose best instructors have been the chickens round the doorstep, and the cattle in the barnyard. Such a child will not be content till he has picked up his reading and his ciphering. They are not such dreadful matters. But the other child has been deprived of what can never be restored to him, the fresh, active, vigorous life of the senses, the development which nature gives the opening mind through a world full of wonder and beauty.
We teachers will continue to be held in small esteem, and the great public will have many doubts about our doings till we learn these lessons. There never was a time when people were so eager for instruction for their children, but there never was a time when they were so critical in regard to its quality. And rightly we think. Our methods of school teaching lag far behind the wants and the intelligence of the age, and the public sense of the fact is indicated in many ways. Such an uproar could not be so easily created about school discipline if people were satisfied with and interested in their schools. The proprietor of a great private academy could never have gone so far towards persuading the people of a New England State that a system of private was better than a system of public schools if the public schools of that State were what they ought to be. Children would not be withdrawn from public and sent to private schools, if the public schools were, as they should and might be, better than any private ones that could be brought into competition.
What is the remedy? We suppose it is that we should learn our business better. Not that we should all go to school again. Some of us are too old for that, and we do not believe that is necessary; but that we should resolutely hold to common sense, in spite of senseless routine and stereotyped tradition. “If I could only have my way!” said an intelligent primary teacher once, not long ago. She had her way, and her school slowly changed from one of the worst to a very good school, and has not done changing yet. The truth is, it is not so much methods and learning as character that is wanting. Let a resolute teacher say, I will be guided by instinct and common sense: these little creatures are not wooden automatons, but beings to be loved: teaching them right should be the most pleasurable kind of work;—and with such feelings the right ways will never be far to seek.
There is to be sure an obstacle — the want of a good system of superintendence. School committees, as a general rule, know far less of educational matters than the teachers they are appointed to superintend. The system and course of study at this moment embodied in their various by-laws and regulations is, as a whole, behind the wants and spirit of the times. The remedy will come when the opinion of teachers themselves shall carry more weight with the public.
The evils that characterize our primary schools infect also our grammar school system. That also is dry, dead, mechanical, and produces poor starveling results because it does not follow nature's laws. Why should active-minded boys and girls be kept at work so long over mere dead words and numbers ? Why should not the future farmer, the future mechanic, the future wife and mother learn more of nature's laws in the grammar school, train their senses and exercise their minds in that practical study of things about them which it does not take profound learning to teach, nor anything but a child's native curiosity to make interesting ? Why are boys and girls so slow in learning to read ? Because nothing is given them to read that they care about reading. What does a real boy care about “The Destiny of the Republic," “ The True Greatness of the Country,” “ The Responsibility of Americans,” etc., etc. He will learn to read fast enough if you will give him Robinson Crusoe or Wilson's Ornithology. He will love to come to school, and won't need whipping, if you will show him an air-pump; and will learn to write and spell if you will make him write an account of it. He will learn color, shape, hardness, elasticity, and all the rest, without ever seeing a dry, school philosophy if you will make a set of drawers, call it a museum, and set him to filling it. It does not require vast scientific learning on a grammar teacher's part to manage all this,- it can all be done in the time that is now wasted. It would make the grammar teacher's work a pleasant mental occupation, instead of dry drudgery if grammar teachers could only be allowed to have their own way, and had only the courage to trust their own instincts.
It must come to that. The profession of teacher cannot forever lag behind the wants of the age. The community are not always going to be satisfied with schools that bear so little fruit. Much of the work now done by grammar schools could, if rightly done, be done in the primary schools; half the work of what are called High Schools could and should be done by good grammar schools; all the work of at least the freshman class of our Colleges, if not much more, might be done in High Schools, if only the lower schools were more efficient.
And the community are looking for more efficiency. Public sentiment is fast educating itself up to the point of paying well for good teaching, and of feeling very little respect for bad; and the occupation is fast becoming a tempting field to real talent. Especially is the talent of women getting developed in this direction; for the public have got so far as to perceive that a first-rate woman is at least better than a second-rate man. The question of comparison with first-rate men may well be left in abeyance till women are permitted to receive a first-rate education.
We do not wish to cast reproach upon teachers. Teachers, as a rule, and especially the younger generation of teachers, are very superior to the system that hampers them. If, for example, school committees and school regulations were to be abolished to-morrow, and the teachers of Massachusetts could elect a congress of representatives, of the ablest and best of their number, — women and men, — to reconstruct the Massachusetts school system and its course of study, we believe we should have a better one than we have now; and some such emancipation of teachers from the control of persons of other callings and professions, who know
nothing of the business, is a change sure to come in the future, and one quité indispensable if teaching is ever to claim the respect which properly belongs to it as a liberal art and profession. We do not suppose it will come in a day or a generation, but come it certainly will, whenever it is once clearly perceived that there is a science and a philosophy of education which properly ranks among the liberal studies. — [ED.
A WORD TO THE FEMALE TEACHERS OF OUR
COMMON SCHOOLS. . We have all, doubtless, been glad to observe the growing interest in the study of natural science in our colleges and all higher institutions of learning, and sympathize with the views occasionally presented by the editor and others in our journal, encouraging a still wider pursuit of those themes, which bring us at once into the great realm of nature.
We hail this, as a mark of real progress in the theory of education, but a great work is to be done before we shall see its legitimate results in the enlarged intelligence of the masses; and the question comes to us, what is our responsibility, as educators, in reference to it? Our men of science, upon whose names we dwell with pride and gratitude, are everywhere kindling an enthusiasm in those who come under their influence, but the greater part of those who graduate from the grammar school never enter any higher school, and unless something is done for them there to awaken inquiry and direct taste, there is little hope of soon seeing a wide-spread and intelligent interest in scientific research.
Are we doing all that we can now ? Are we fitting ourselves for all that the advancing demands of the age will require ?
It is true that the plan of study now marked out for our schools requires all the time both of teacher and pupil. Till the standard is changed — not lowered, rather raised, but radically changed, we cannot hope, nor even desire, the introduction of any additional elementary work on science. Indeed, most teachers find it necessary to give the least possible attention to those studies which are recommended, but not prescribed, and spend all their strength with