Page images

ucation which fits the child for it must be largely artificial. The teacher, as a superior being, on a higher plane, must bring the child up to his level by a series of dead lifts. It recognizes the fact that education is a natural process, but it attempts to force it into certain grooves by unnatural means.

In its modified form, it admits that education is, and should be, a natural growth; but it also claims that this natural growth must be closely watched, and carefully trained; that certain habits of thought and action must be thoroughly eradicated and others induced to grow in their places. That nature is helpless to the extent that the child is born with certain inherited traits, the fruit of wrong training upon preceeding generations; that he comes to the teacher's hands confirmed in wrong habits by home training; in short, the old school claims that all which is artificially wrong, can only be corrected by that which is artificially right. In its radical form, the Old Education makes much of memory, and but little of the perceptive power. The child has certain knowledge of anything, because he has the word of his teacher, or the statement of his text-books. The teacher requires attention on the part of the pupil, and attempts to en force it. Failing in this he makes continual corrections and reproves often and sharply.

The new attempts to secure attention through the skillful presentation of choice material, suited to the child's mind. As far as art is an attempt to realize, in a particular case, some idea, the Old Education is

As far as science is developing an idea in a general sense, applicable to all cases, the New Education is a science.

The two schools differ still more in æsthetical and moral training. The old makes little of the beautiful. It does not seek to train the eye

to see, nor the hand to form, nor the ear to hear; and where these powers exist, a little germ, planted by nature with some good intent, it carefully obscures them by a mass of hard, dry facts. But in the new, the pupil is taught to interpret the trees, the waters, the flowers of summer, and the crystal forms of winter, into a living though unwritten language.

Our ears may be too gross to hear the voice of nature; her song may seem to us all tuneless, or we may think her dumb, because we are deaf; but the child, once charmed by her music, knows thenceforth no sweeter strains; once taught to worship in her language, he knows henceforth no higher form of speech; and nature, in her turn, desires no sweeter singer in her courts, no purer worshiper at her altars than a little child.

an art.


In moral training, under the old education wrong is always punished, if detected; right seldom rewarded. Unconditional obedience is required as a means of escaping punishment. Love of self-approbation is appealed to, but self-respect is neglected. Conscience, love of truth, virtue,—these are left to be developed by chance. The pupil is constantly confronted by the terrible words, “He who has a bad character, must create for himself a better one."

Under the new the words of Peztalozzi are full of hope to the teacher and pupil, " Faith must be cultivated by an act of believing, not reasoning about faith. Love by an act of loving, not by fine words about love." "God is the nearest resource of humanity."

“ What influence should the new education exert upon our schools ? In the first place, it will demand a different preparation on the part of teachers.

The Pestalozzian principles are defective. The methods are not all suited to our wants, but the Pestalozzian spirit, through which education becomes nurture, is universal and of universal application.

Not only is it necessary to care for the child's body, but to teach him to care for his own body,--the laws of healthful being. The teacher is not only to correct bad habits, but to correct them by aiding in the formation of better ones. But few children need to be stimulated by artificial means; they all need to be encouraged in every right effort, but few need positive punishment; they all need restraint.

The new education, in theory, would govern the school by teaching the child through natural means, to distinguish right from wrong, truth from error, honor from shame, kindness from cruelty, virtue from vice. The skillful teacher may so far approach this ideal as to form a strong public opinion in the school on the side of law and order, while he still retains the coercion of the old school for the poor, unfortunate ones who, through some faulty home training, or some defect of nature, cannot be otherwise reached. The new education teaches us that that teacher will best govern his school who can enter most heartily into the every day life of his pupils. The disciples knew that the master had been walking with them, because their hearts burned within them as he talked.

I do not say that we have pushed too far our requirements for teachers in book knowledge, but we have pushed too steadily in one direction. We demand that they shall know what and how to teach, -the next and more important step is that they shall know why they do thus. It is not the art of the old school, it is not the science of the new, it is art joined with science; it is the culture derived from books, the skill of a trained mind knit to the gentle yet irresistible power of nature, which characterizes the best teaching. Some one has said that Jefferson, the great actor, has entered so entirely into Rip Van Winkle, that as he walks the streets he is not quite sure that "mine dog Schneider " is not at his heels.

If I am not mistaken, the greatest want of our schools is not alone better primary instruction, but better instruction in all grades. The superintendent of the Boston schools says that“ instruction in the primary grades has an almost awful grasp upon the future.” It is very true, but that grasp is strengthened until it takes hold


all the after life of the child, by every year's instruction beyond the primary grades. We need in the primary grades, not teachers of superior knowledge, but rather those of a wide rånge of information, not only those who are especially fitted for primary work, but those who have made that grade their special study, and are not willing to attempt to teach in any other. We need in the grammar grade teachers who know how to build upon the foundations the primary teacher has laid, who have had a peculiar training for that building work. The positions in our high schools and colleges should be filled with men and women of broad practical views, as well as scholarly habits, and who therefore are best fitted to direct the youth just before he enters his chosen vocation for life.

The teachings of the new education lead directly to special training for special work. So in our country schools; teachers to merit success should be required to spend much time upon elementary instruction, endeavoring to give an impulse to the self activity of the child, rather to push him rapidly forward to undertake a higher branch. The preparation which the new education demands is that the teacher shall recognize the fact that child nature is only human nature in its purest form. A preparation not so much mental or intellectual as spiritual, if I may use the term, reaching the personal consciousness, the inner sense; not forming a lofty ideal of something or some one without, but making him that ideal to himself, a type of that perfect man which is

_"the one immortal thing

Beneath time's changeful sky." The new education should influence us to adopt different ends and aims as well as different methods. Knowledge is of little value except as it is of use to its possessor. I do not underrate knowledge, but

knowledge alone is not power. It is the province of education to give children an idea of the methods by which knowledge may be obtained; and it is equally its province to teach them how to use that knowledge for their own advancement, and for the good of society. We must have less to do with percentage and so called results, and more with capacity, power to acquire, ability to retain.

This is a practical age, and for that reason the question is not only can you get the answer to this sum, but can you do the next one. Are you prepared to solve any sum that can be given you in the book of this life, through which each one is ciphering, day by day. Is it not true that some of us have been too intent upon getting the answer? If we had been better instructed in principles, we should have less failures charged against us, and take a better rank when we pass into the greater school beyond.

Any system which makes the promotion of children from grade to grade, during the first four or five years of school life, depend upon a certain per cent. as determined by written examinations, is extremely faulty in its construction, and will be equally injurious in its results.

It is not only that the flushed cheeks, the excited eye, the trembling nerve tell that the brain is being forced to do unwonted work; the wrong aim placed before the pupil as a stimulus, is a far greater evil. The child should not be made to feel that honor or disgrace are hanging on the result of his effort. In all grades there is too much stress placed upon examinations which are competitive in their nature. Good enough in themselves, when judiciously conducted, they can be made to eat the very life out of the school. They are too often made the center around which gather all the hopes of the month or the term,-a weariness to the teacher, and a continual source of wrong to the scholar.

I do not say discard them entirely, but let them have only their legitimate weight. To pass the examination should not be held up to the pupil as the end of study. In determining the advancement of the pupil, his age, his habits of study, his ability and willingness to study, his ability to acquire, his evident progress as evinced by his daily recitations, and in case of dull pupils, the question whether they have not extracted all the nutriment they ever can from the studies of that year — all of these should be taken into account. Nor should the

– teacher suffer himself to regard the results of such examination as a test or criterion of his professional skill.

A lady applicant for a position recently sent me two specimens of


scholar's work as an evidence of her ability as a teacher. They were good specimens of their kind, but what did they show? It is difficult to say. Of her ability to control, of her judgment, of her power to awaken thought, of her good influence over her pupils, of that teaching which sets the seal of the teacher's personal character upon the scholar, literally nothing. What did they show regarding her pupils ? That they were able to produce a neat orderly paper which I grant is a power worth having, but they told little of their every day habits of study, of their moral culture, of their physical training, of their reverence for sacred things; nothing of the gradual growth of those powers which make the child sensitive to truth, the youth sensitive to honor; and the perfect man sensitive alike to truth, honor, and duty. In object lessons and oral instruction a mistaken view of the new education has carried us beyond the point designed by its founders. The mass of crude instruction, which under their names has been given to our scholars, during the last decade, is simply astonishing.

As Americans we are too impulsive. We fancy we have made a new discovery every time a turn of the kaleidescope reveals a new figure. Between the object lessons and the oral instruction as usually given in our schools, and the new education, there is no possible relation. The form may be there, but the spirit is wanting. The very fact that most teachers dread to give an object lesson, shirk it when they can, is positive proof that they are wholly unfit to give it.

The next step for us as teachers to take is not to form a more extensive system of object lessons, or to insist upon oral instruction as a remedy for existing evils. We cannot take for granted that teaching is correct or even an improvement, because it is apparently independent of the text book.

A recent reviewer in the Atlantic says " that we must recognize the power of personality, and liberate both children and teachers from the bondage of text books." This sounds well, and is only one of the hundred changes rung upon " text book bondage." Let us not be hasty. Text books have their use. The need is that we know how to use them and not be in bondage to them. The power of personality will not be increased by discarding them, nor be decreased by using them. Freedom in teaching sometimes means something very different from personality in teaching. Personality like character is a thing of growth. Like the hid treasure in the field, we may well sell many possessions that we may purchase that one.

The teacher must rise superior to the text book, not in knowledge

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »