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receive towards performing well and intelligently the duties which belong to those several relations ? Ought not every girl to obtain, before she leaves school, some knowledge of the laws of health, some of the great and all-important truths taught by the science of physiology?
Might not all be taught these great truths ? I say not by means of text-books, but by the incomparably more effectual means of good oral instruction ? Ought a girl to be allowed to leave one of the best schools in the world, without any special preparation for the highest and most important duties of her future life?
Ought we to consider these schools as what they ought to be, unless boys and girls are taught — what. every decently educated person ought to know — what air is, what its uses, properties and laws; what water is; what heat and light are, and how they act upon air and water, and upon all forms of animal and vegetable life ? Ought not every one to be taught what his own body is, and what it is made of ; what food is, and how it nourishes the body? Ought not these all-important elements of chemistry to be taught in every Grammar school ? I say not by text books, but by some better means. Ought not chemical lectures, with suitable experiments, to be given in all the Grammar schools ?
Childhood is the time of life during which the meaning of words is most easily learnt, and when all those words ought to be learnt which are essential to reading intelligently the best books. The names of the elementary substances are now an essential part of the language. Most books upon agriculture, upon the nourishment of plants and animals, upon mines and mining, upon volcanos, upon coal, upon rocks and soils, upon precious stones and building stones, upon geology and mineralogy, upon metals for roofing and for sheathing, upon working metals, upon alloying and coining, upon smoke and steam and clouds and gases, upon dyeing and tanning, upon brewing and distilling, making cider and vinegar, upon soapmaking and upon ventilation, and a multitude of other processes and arts, are unintelligible to a person ignorant of the meaning of these words.
Very many of the boys, whose highest and last education is to be given at these Grammar schools, are destined to the mechanic arts. Should they not, in these schools, make some preparation for their vocation in life? Ought they not to be taught the elements of mechanics, the mechanical powers; how the inclined plane, how wedges and levers and wheels and pulleys and ropes act? Ought they not to be shown what a steam engine is, what pumps are, what the hydraulic press is, and how they act ? Ought not these elements of the useful sciences to be taught ? Might there not be also taught the properties, the strength and hardness and uses of wood, of iron and the other metals, and of stones ?
How delightful would these studies be to teachers and pupils ! How incomparably more valuable as furnishing real knowledge, materials for thought, and power of observation, than so much of English grammar, of arithmetic, and of reading! How shall the time be found for these additional studies, - say, rather, for these delightful recreations ? The time is already found by the precious improvements in grading. Still more may be found by shortening that which is now given to arithmetic, to reading and spelling, and to English grammar. The arrangements made for teaching mental arithmetic and ready reckoning in the Primary schools, and the lower classes in the Grammar schools, are very valuable. But most of the time now given to arithmetic in the higher classes is time wasted. It does not prepare for the duties and offices of life. It does not exercise the judgment, nor improve the taste. As to the idea that difficult operations in arithmetic are a valuable exercise of the mind, the fact that Babbage's machine will perform some of the most difficult operations, and print the results, in less time than it will take the most skilful reckoner to go through them once, gives us somewhat of an answer. If the doing well what a machine will do better is a valuable exercise for the mind, then the working out of difficult operations in arithmetic is a valuable exercise.
No one can think more highly than I do of the value of the power to read, and the beauty of the art of reading. No one rejoices more at the improvements now making in our schools in the management and cultivation of the voice. No one can admire more the series of reading-books used in the schools. They are beautiful selections from the best prose and poetry of the language. But they are luxuries. They do not give the materials and the
preparation for the labors, the relations, the duties and exigencies of common every-day life, which ought to be given by schools which are, not only the schools, but the only academies and colleges that most of the hard-working men will ever have access to. These schools ought to enlarge the practical resources of the laboring man, to lighten and sweeten his daily work, so that he may make his work easier, and do it better and more cheerfully.
No doubt the art of reading well, so far as utterance and voice are concerned, is successfully taught in these schools. Is a love of reading cultivated ? Are children taught to read wisely, and made to rejoice in reading? Valuable libraries accessible to everybody are found. Do the schools prepare the children in the best manner to use and enjoy them? Are pains taken to form habits of reading good books; of properly studying subjects ?
[Mr. Emerson then speaks of the dull, mechanical method by which history is often taught, and of the interest which a right method of teaching gives, and continues :)
But it is superfluous to suggest subjects. Of several of the gentlemen to whom I refer, I should sooner ask counsel than give it.
The thought of having the condition of the public schools in any respect made the subject for discussion at these meetings was suggested by the sad appearance of the girls at the annual examinations for several of the last years. Girls of the age of those in the upper class at the Grammar schools ought to be so managed as to be kept in perfect health, with rosy cheeks and elastic step, and an expression of gayety and perfect cheerfulness upon the countenance. Instead of this, they have looked pale and thin, languid and anxious, wan and nervous. This indicated that something was entirely wrong. For at that critical age — the passage from girlhood to womanhood — it is of vast importance that the system should be treated wisely and tenderly; that it should be, as far as possible, free from all unnecessary burden and restraint, so that the exuberance of spirits natural to the age should exhibit itself in every shape of playfulness, joyousness and hilarity.
What was the cause of this unnatural and ominous gloom, these careworn faces in the very bloom and heyday of youth? I confess that I attributed it, in a high degree, to the influence of those horrid, unchristian medals, and the emulations which they excited. For I have for many years been regarding these emulations precisely as St. Paul seems to regard them when he says, “ The works of the flesh are ... hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strise.” I rejoice that one cause of these malignant passions is removed, so far as the girls are concerned. I rejoice that the medals for girls are given up. Most strange is it that in a Christian community they should have been allowed so long !
Is not the subject of motives very inadequately considered ? Is it possible to call out a strong feeling, and make it act in inducing a child to learn his lessons, and then cease in its influence for all future life?
The object of the school education ought to be to prepare the child in all respects for his work, his relations, his duties in life. Motives should be addressed which shall continue to act always, and always tend to make the child — the future man or woman — a higher and a nobler being. The motives excited to action in the bosom of a girl should be such as will tend continually to make her better as a daughter, a sister, a friend, a better wife, a more tender and devoted mother, a nobler woman, a more faithful servant of God.
Can a medal have any of these effects? It leads her to compare herself with others, and strive to surpass them. Can this desire, no matter how strong, have any tendency to make her a good sister, daughter, wife, mother, friend, or a noble child of God? The desire to surpass, strongly excited, will continue to act. It must act in things merely external. It will naturally make her desire to surpass her companions in fine clothes, in costly furniture, in a fashionable house, in the dress of her children. Does this passion need excitement ? Is it not strong enough already? Does it not now diminish the happiness and the virtue of the inhabitants of this city by making marriages more difficult and more rare ?
The last question I shall now ask, my friends, is, are the moral and spiritual elements in the nature of the child educated as they ought to be ?
But this is too broad and too important a subject to be now entered upon. Shall we not reserve it for future consideration ?
SALARIES OF FEMALE TEACHERS.
The subject of teachers' salaries seems just now to be much in the public mind, and very properly. We can never bring up the standard of public education to what it should be, so long as some of our ablest men and women are deterred from entering the ranks of the educational army by the reflection that they and their families must live, both now, and in the years to come, when age shall have crept upon them, and unfitted them for the performance of the hard work of life..
In this article I intend to speak, however, exclusively on the subject of the salaries paid to women, they having, with few exceptions, seemed most unwilling to say a word in their own behalf, waiting perhaps for each other to speak. It cannot truthfully be said that the sterner sex are open to the same criticism.
I believe the highest salary paid a female educator by the State of Massachusetts, or any municipal organization, is fifteen hundred dollars, that being the sum paid to the Principal of the State Normal School at Framingham. The former Principal was a gentleman, who received, if I am not mistaken, three thousand dollars. Let us compare these facts; what inference are we to draw from them? Has the work at Framingham grown so much less difficult since the withdrawal of the former Principal, as to sanction this decrease in the salary; or does the sex of the present Principal decide the case ? The latter solution of the problem is the true one, without doubt. Manifestly, it is a gross injustice; the laborer is worthy of his hire, and if the Principalship of the State Normal School is worth three thousand dollars, as without doubt it is, then pay that sum to the incumbent, be it man or woman. I take this instance of the Framingham Normal School, because it presents the case in a stronger light than any other coming under general knowledge, as the position in question is exactly the same in both cases.
Now take our Boston Grammar Schools : The work of the Master is worth at least three times as much as that of any assistant, male or female, except the Sub-master, and about twice that. Is the pay