« PreviousContinue »
means established by nature for approaching the minds of children, for forming in these minds, for molding their operations, for procuring the healthy development of their faculties, and in fine for character building, these means are fixed and clearly defined. They should be thoroughly understood by our teachers, and thousands of them will have no idea of these means if they are not taught them in our institutes.
But the chief product of our institute work is to quicken the enthusiasm of our teachers. The impartation of knowledge gives intellectual activity. The conscious fitting of oneself for a special sphere or calling, arouses mental energy. The possession of power to be employed for useful ends impels the soul to take up earnest and continuous labor. The leaders of the institutes, full of this so-called divine impulse, do exert a magnetic influence over those under their instruction. This condition of their minds becomes to these teachers the standard which they endeavor to reach in their work. A master in the school room, full of life, bright thoughts, cheerful feelings, ardent love for his pupils, and conscious that he is making real impressions on their minds, will accomplish acceptable work, though he may not be well versed in his studies and he may be guilty of some blunders. This enthusiasm is sometimes repressed by the lack of sympathy with even the bashful and backward teacher in our institutes, by the too critical and exacting methods occasionally employed by conductors, and by the lecturing style, the pouring-in process, which places the hearer in a receptive and idle mood. Enthusiasm depends on the free, self-active, and vigorous movements of one's mind.
How many of our schools have these inspired and energetic teachers? Visit some of them and discover what listlessness, what drowsiness, and what actual laziness need to be removed from the minds of their pupils. I have this year been in a few such schools, when I felt that it would be a relief for some one to scream out or make a hubbub of some sort to break up the dullness. A teacher who has attended our institutes a single session, should be so taught and impelled that he has the faculty to enkindle a fervent interest in his classes, and to stir the members of these classes to enjoy the intense activity of their own thoughts and feelings.
As our institutes are open for the admission of all who desire to be taught in them, we find that their members have a great variety of attainments. Our system does not allow us to classify these members
into sections and furnish each section with separate instruction, as is done in the school room. So each institute presents a single class, with members having different degrees of preparation and different degrees of interest in the instruction. These can be divided into three groups: Those who are well informed, have active minds, and are desirous of attaining the best success in teaching; those who have a fair knowledge of the common school studies and the school methods, and are really anxious to make some improvement in their work; and those without much preparation, and those sometimes with considerable preparation in their studies, but having no wish to take an active part in the exercises of the institute. The members of this last division have been called the mere observers. What to do with them presents the difficulties in this portion of our work. The bright and ambitious teachers can be restrained so that they shall not monopolize most of the attention of the conductors in the institutes. We can prepare our instruction specially for those with average qualifications, and seeking honestly to improve; and we can exert ourselves with all our power in the institutes to encourage and teach them.
But the indifferent teachers, who form quite a large number in our institutes, cannot be reached by such management. They annoy frequently both the conductors and the other members of the institutes by their inattention, their disorderly conduct, and their failures to perform the parts assigned to them. They often leave the institutes before the final sessions are closed. Their main purpose is to become acquainted with each other and have a social time. To dismiss them from the institutes when their indifference is discovered, is not exactly proper, as they be benefited in some degree by their retention. In some cases it might be advisable to organize them into a section by themselves, and require them to maintain good order and listen to the exercises of the others without participating in them. The presence of the county superintendent should be required, so that he may note their idleness and their incapacity, and thereby be aided in the formation of his judgment of their ability to take the charge of his schools. In this way he can, in all probability, induce some of this class to become really interested in the institute exercises. It is without doubt too early to suggest the introduction of some plan for the examination of the teachers before they are admitted to the institutes. But a requisite of this kind has some merits and may be adopted in time. The conductors should employ such
arrangements as will secure better attention on the part of these teachers and enable them to feel the necessity of exerting themselves to understand and use the information presented; and they should make special and continued exertions to lead these teachers, by the spirit exhibited toward them, by the nature of their instructions, to regret sincerely their indifference, ignorance, and unfitness to perform successful work in the schools.
THE NEW EDUCATION.
[Paper read before the State Teachers' Association, at La Crosse, July 11, 1879, by Prof. HENRY
SABIN, Clinton, Iowa.) No individual wears always the same face. A photograph, which appears natural to one, seems to another wanting in some essential point, though it may be the face of a mutual friend. So educational questions, while having many things in common, must be discussed with great allowance for the various circumstances of place, time, and race with which they are entangled. The ideas of certain thinkers gave rise to a new system of education in the old world. An attempt to transfer it to the new, unmodified by the strange conditions of American society, must prove a failure. It does not follow, however, that the ideas upon which this system is based are not worth considering. Indeed, they are so full of material for thought, they come so near the life of true learning, they are so akin to nature, that our system of schools can only hope to approach perfection, as teachers learn the precepts and imitate the example of these men. And this, not to awaken a transient enthusiasm for something new, not to reject anything which experience has taught us is of value in American life, not to pull down for the pleasure there is in building up; but to kindle a warmer glow of thought, to rouse an irresistible impulse towards a nearer approach to humanity, to compel an unlifting of the whole being into the purer, holier atmosphere of unselfish love.
I wish, first, to consider a few of the main ideas upon which the New Education is based, selecting those which are most practical.
Rousseau, who aspired to be the founder of the natural method of education, attempted to array nature against art. “ Childhood," he says, “ has methods of seeing, perceiving, and thinking peculiar to itself;" this is nature. He adds, "nothing is more absurd than our being anxious to adopt our own or foreign methods in its stead;" this is art. As the author of the New Education he defines it to be the art of
2- Vol. IX.-No. 8
guiding without precept, and by doing everything by doing nothing. He sums up the objects of his system when he says, “natural education must fit a man for all human relations."
We are not to infer, however, that this New Education would leave a child free to grow up as directed by chance. On the contrary it would carefully guard him against all adverse influences. All which is artificial is to be shunned, and that is artificial which weakens the body or degrades the intellect. The instructor must make himself a child, must study the child, must grow up with the child. He is not so much a teacher as a guide; not so much a governor as a playmate; but he is not to correct nature in anything, lest he destroy the personality of his pupil. To reach the age of discretion, possessed of a sound mind in a sound body; to be devoid of anger, malice, envy, hatred, and all kindred vices; to know few things, but to know them well; to possess the power of requiring knowledge, and a hungry desire to know all things, was the education Rousseau designed for his imaginary child. To achieve the realization of Rousseau's ideal education was a difficult task.
The man who could make the attempt with any prospect of success, must unite the simplicity of the child to the wisdom of a sage. He must be pure in heart, devoid of selfishness, full of lasting enthusiasm. Such a man was found in the person of Pestalozzi. One of his cotemporaries describes him as "that grand inappreciable man, whose ardor for the improvement of his fellow men, age has not been able to dampen, and whose heart ever burned with a sacred fire for the human race.”
With Pestalozzi the family was supreme and the mother was preme in the family. He said, “maternal love is the first agent in education.” The “starting point of the child's education was the cradle — what was most demanded of the mother was a thinking love." As the child progressed the senses were to be carefully trained, vigorous growth was to be encouraged, but in no way to be forced. The activity of the teaching mind was to be an aid, but not to supplant self-activity on the part of the child, which he considered the highest aim of education.
As the apostle of the New Education Pestalozzi taught that from the first dawning of consciousness, every incident in the child's life should be made to teach him some useful lesson, and to inculcate the habit of thinking upon what he sees, and of speaking after he has thought. To reduce the principal features of the Pestalozzian method
to a system expressed in concise yet intelligible language, is not possible within the limits of this paper. He attempted to find the exact time of life when instruction should begin, and to so conduct the tuition of the child that it should be subjected to a certain order of succession, and his progress be kept exactly parallel with his development. The elements of instruction with him were form, number, and language.
The perceptive faculty must be earliest developed, because, thus only can the child be made independent of his teacher. He originated, not so much the idea of " object lessons "as of " objective teaching," which aims chiefly at mental growth as a means to the acquisition of knowledge and skill. Under his system we look for a gradual enlargement of the child's sphere of knowledge, a clearer and more precise consciousness of perceptions, and a power of language sufficient to express clearly whatever has become an object of his consciousness.
Following Pestalozzi came Froebel with his kindergarten. Froebel was not an imitator, neither was he a philosopher. He was rather an inventor who succeeded in reducing to system and practice the crude theories of his associates and predecessors. The fundamental idea with him is that the child's education should be founded upon his innate love for activity. With him all occupations are plays, and all materials are gifts. He would attempt to satisfy all the demands of the child's nature, both physical and mental. He would awaken new desires, but in exact ratio with the teachers' power to them. The plays must be carefully adjusted to the capacity of the child that they may not retard those capable of more rapid advancement, nor crowd in the least degree those with less active minds. He would take complete possession of the realm of nature. Acting in and through this realm, the child is to be made to see that reason is the only law, and compliance with reason the only source of real pleasure.
In the kindergarten the greatest attention was to be paid to moral training, to personal habits of order, cleanliness, and to the amenities of polite life. In truth, the founders of the natural method insisted upon training the child as a rational and immortal being.
I have thus endeavored to state fairly and concisely some of the principles upon which the New Education was based. Let us now see how it differs from the old. We have seen that the New Education assumes that nature is always right and therefore always a safe guide. The old school assert that nature must be assisted by art; that civilization is itself an artificial state of society; and that the ed