Page images

what age

when the threshold of the public school must be crossed; the elementary branches must needs be mastered. Is it the part of wisdom for the teacher to ignore the information which the new-fledged pupil had previously acquired, or the methods which had been profitably utilized for that purpose ? Unquestionably, no; and the true primary teacher whose heart and mind are in full sympathy with the times brings the fragrance of the flowers and the incense of the fire-side into the presence of those happy up-turned faces.

Yet after all that has been said and written upon this department of our work, causing a flood of light to pour into the minds of those who would but open their eyes, in spite of the progressive spirit of the nineteenth century, you who act in a visitorial capacity know full well that many primary schools are famishing through the blindness and stupidity of the teachers. You frequently find these intellectual extinguishers seeking to convince the children by their method, or their language, or both, that the mental husks upon which they had been starved will now be replaced by something of a more solid nature. The trifling sports of former days must now give way to earrest labor. The question naturally rises to the lips of the thoughtful mind, at

does the pupil arrive when concrete illustrative teaching should be abandoned? The speaker has a strong suspicion, nay, an abiding conviction, that when such marked proficiency has been attained as to render all further aid of the senses useless, God at once lets down the ladder and graduates that individual. This world is merely a great kindergarten for its many peoples; with what unutterable munificence has the Originator of the system strewed appropriate and beautiful apparatus wherever the eye may turn.

We are all familiar with the life and labors of the Messiah whose great mission on earth was to teach religious truth and redeem mankind. We recall the rich abundance of his illustrations while imparting those transcendan: 'moral principles to the inhabitants of Palestine. The modest lily of the field more beautifully arrayed than the mighty king in all his glory, the pure life of the faithful disciple like a city set on a hill that cannot be hid, the true heir to the kingdom of heaven like the little child whom he called into the midst of that group and took in his loving arms. Think of Nicodemus who came to Him by night asking for instruction. Jesus, anxious for his salvation and desirous of being understood, compared the working of the Spirit to the blowing of the wind:-" Thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it come in, and whither it goeth.” “ Nicodemus said unto him, how can these things be? Jesus answered, art thou a master (or teacher) of Israel and knowest not these things? If I have told you earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things ?” That is—if I have explained this truth by a familiar similitude taken from earth without convincing you, what if I had mentioned it as they do in heaven, by pure abstraction? I am of Paul; and I of Apollos. I am of the Oswego Training School; and I of the Winona Normal. Why keep your register thus, why pass your classes to recitation in that order, why present a subject to your pupils as you do? Because it is authorized by my alma mater. Is such the boast of any teacher in this chamber ? Then, God pity you! Your car of progress has the “ brakes all down.'

Rather let thoughts similar to these take full possession of our breasts.

We are of the Father, that nearest, dearest, aud wisest of instructors. With bent knee and bowed head, we encircle His feet and learn of Him. We seek by patient investigation, year after year, to familiarize.ourselves with that wonderful piece of his mechanism, the human mind. We observe His method of introducing Arithmetic; and, ever afterward, unexpected numerical combinations meet our gaze, from the leaflets of the compound blade over-head to the facets of the powdered dust under-foot." We study His plan for teaching Geography, and, henceforth, that artificial skeleton map is not considered the summum bonum of implements; but the living landscape receives careful attention. Are we troubled to bring the definitions of the grand divisions of land and water within the comprehension of our pupils? Those cumuli floating calmly across heaven's blue arch, in connection with their fantastic indentations, furnish us an abundance of illustration. We apply His system of Reading by arousing the emotions to be expressed; that scaffolding of Babel (or better babble) consisting of one thousand and one rules at once totters and falis.

Consider His method of government: Are all earth's inhabitants treated precisely alike; or is the individuality of every member of society clearly recognized by a life experience peculiar to itself? Has the Perfect One such a horror against rules as some of our modern educators? Does He rest satisfied with the request, “Do right;" which being interpreted by different persons may be made to mean anything or nothing? Turn to the decalogue and read: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me?” 'Tis equally specific throughout. Cast the eye briefly over that wonderful Sermon on the Mount, which contains an intensely spiritualized explanation and application of the ancient Sinaic law: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say unto you that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment."

The charge is often urged against our profession, that it necessarily dwarfs the growth of the intellectual powers of its members. We are magnanimously compared to the constellation Ursa Major, which forever describes the circumference of its own small circle. But were we to enter and continue in God's normal class, faithfully performing our daily duties as teachers, we might with far more propriety be likened to the giant of the forest which sends down its roots into the deep, firm subsoil of practicality, and hangs out-high in air—its million leafy banners to be rustled by the spiritual play of speculation. You know how anxious you are, when the local superintendent is present, to demonstrate that you are following instructions, by doing the right work according to approved principles. What must the Great General Superintendent think of those high schools in educational palaces which cost tens of thousands, yet supplied with scarcely a dollar's worth of natural or artificial illustrative apparatus. What pity or contempt must we feel for those instructors who are surrounded with an abundance of such implements, but who use them as crown jewels are worn-only on rare occasions! It takes too much time and does not afford that vaunted discipline. Yes, we ignore God's plan, and He ignores our labor. With this insane haste to sow abstract principles broadcast, what wonder if some of our graduates can solve an ordinary mathematical problem only after they have learned the answer, or ana

lyze a plant only after they have been told its name and have referred to a botanical index? What wonder if they pass a highly creditable examination in astronoiny and still are unable to trace the ecliptic in the heavens, or to read the aspects of the planets as recorded in a common almanac? Let us awake to the pressing necessities of the hour. Let us not be so far in the rear of progress that a fitting representation of our life would be an old man in the dead of winter standing under the boughs of a leafless tree to protect himself from starlight!

The second object of this organization, as declared in its constitution, is the advancement of public education throughout the state. An earnest, intelligent and continuous agitation here and elsewhere is evidently necessary to produce the desired effect. By candidly discussing the great educational questions of general policy, we shall be lifted up into a more invigorating intellectual atmosphere, and the horizon which bounds our mental vision will rapidly expand. We shall be led to exclaim with the old Scotch lady who had spent all her years within her native vale, as she stood beside her friends upon the summit of the Grampian Hills, fondly imagining that then surely the whole earth came into the focus of her eye, " Wha wo'd hae believed that the world is sae large."

We cannot be too forcibly impressed with the thought that Truth is what we seek; if wooed and won, she is mighty and must prevail. Hence, while reasonable pains should be taken to secure the enactment of proper school laws, yet it is not necessary for any individual in this association to humiliate his self-respect and disgust the members of our state legislature by dancing a constant attendance upon its sessions.

Certain questions will necessarily be presented for our consideration which require to be studied with careful deliberation. Would it not be advisable in such cases to appoint committees whose duty it shall be to report a year hence? It may be said that they will fail to furnish the required information, by absenting themselves from the next meeting. I believe the objection is not well founded; for they will esteem it a privilege to be present, if the appointments are made not according to any high-sounding or low-sounding educational title, not according to the political basis of locality, but according to the ability, fidelity, and enthusiasm heretofore manifested. The Wisconsin Teachers' Association can illy afford to put the name of any person upon its programme of exercises simply for the sake of patronizing that individual. When your president has announced the report of one of these short-lived committees upon an important subject to be ready, and you are waiting upon the tip-toe of expectancy, is it not aggravating to hear the chairman read an empty flourish of glittering generalities, or an unqualified endorsement of some public institution, or a vain glorification of our educational achievements ? Verily, we all need to pray with fervor-"Save us from our friends."

In 1855, the sum of $150,502.80 was divided among 186,960 school children, affording 804 cents to each. According to the July number of Journal of Education, $163,268.43 has just been apportioned upon 418,637 children, giving a ratio of 39 cents per scholar. We all expect the population of Wisconsin to steadily increase. It becomes a question for our serious consideration, what can be done to swell the school fund so that its income, in a few years, when distributed per capita, shall not be merely nominal?

Of course, the old inquiry-how can the teaching forces be strengthened—is ever new. The state uses considerable machinery for the benefit of the profession. Is it properly utilized, is it of the right kind, is there enough?

I invite your special attention to the following subjects found among the regular exercises: “ Course of Study;" “How to Improve Mixed Schools.” These have been assigned to gentlemen of acknowledged ability, for discussion; but, on account of the vast importance of both topics, I would recommend that each be referred to a special committee, in order that the association may be better enabled to take definite action at this or some subsequent session.

Fellow-Teachers :-Ours is indeed a noble mission. America has committed to our charge her beloved sons and daughters. She bends over us with the yearning solicitude of a mother's heart portrayed on every feature ; with earnest gaze, she observes our daily labor and carefully estimates its value ; with atteniive ear, she listens to these deliberations and ponders well their influence.

Oh! say--shall she yet become the mother of many nations, extending her benignant sway over both continents, severing with one blow the rude shackles of slavery and the worse fetters of ignorance

and perstition? Or shall her history be like the lightning flash in midnight darkness-brilliant but brief? 'Tis for us to answer. If the members our profession continue to rear her offspring as worthy brothers of Washington, Jackson, Lincoln, a glorious future awaits her.

But should the supply of such patriots cease through our incompetence or neglect; her days will soon be numbered.

[ocr errors]



(Essay read before the State Teachers' Association, July 10, 1872.) Presenting the claims of teachers to a teachers' association would seem a superfluous effort, like memorializing Congress in behalf of congressional privileges, or petitioning legislature to increase the perquisites of its members. But it may be said, with some show of justice, that many of the profession do not understand the relative position held by women among educators; and many more, for lack of hearty interest in their own work, do not properly regard the claims of the profession itself. Rightly to estimate the value of woman's labor in this department, it is necessary to compare teaching with other ways of solving the “ bread and butter problem;" and, if the treatment of the subject be somewhat general at first, it will be with the hope of thus gaining light on the particular phase of it which comes under our consideration.

If there were nothing to be improved in the present position of women as teachers, the time allotted to this subject on the programme might be otherwise profitably employed; yet we do not wish to offer only a grumble at existing circumstances, regardless of our own relation to the situation.

The self-satisfied whine of the unappreciated has been, long since,

voted out of good society by acclamation. It is now generally conceded thai the community values a man at what he is worth, and that, in some way, he fails to deserve a good name if he fails to receive one. It is equally true, however, that the encouragement of society helps a man to deserve its encomiums, and, in this way, the world at large becomes responsible for its own estimate of individuals.

In individualizing for a time the profession of teaching, while we grant that its representatives are not without blame for the light estimate which the world puts upon its value, we must claim that society bears the larger share of the responsibility: Society wrongs us, as a profession, by failing to appreciate the worth of an education as a preparation for the active duties of life.

From the hod-carrier to the millioraire, the business world is full of men, themselves successful with but limited early advantages, who look upon the years of childhood and youth as so much time to waste. The school census of every state bears witness to the multitudes of children who waste this time outside the school-room; worn out teachers, with expedients for gaining attention and securing work exhausted, can testify to the numbers who are wasting the time inside the school room. The teacher, then, being only a device, convenient if not too expensive, for assisting children to waste time, or kill it, in the least detrimental manner, is hardly entitled to much honor, or deserving of great reward. These unthinking parents do not see how the habits formed in these impressible years, are to make or mar the after life of their children; they cannot stop to reckon the hours of patient, thoughtful care given to the thoughtless boy, the frivolous girl; least of all can they enter into the secret heart of the teacher, and see there the earnest desire for good which goes out into the life, a mighty influence, whose effect can hardly be over-estimated.

The teacher's work often fails of its just valuation, because a false idea is entertained of the amount of work required. If the school-bell chimed in with the factory beils, calling us at early dawn to our labors, inost of us would hardly find the ten hours long enough to embrace the work which we must now daily accomplish. But the legal six hours is the maximum of time with which the profession is credited, and teachers are objects of envy on account of their easy life.

It is hardly possible to suggest a remedy for this false impression. If outsiders would value rightly our labors, they must enter the profession.

It needs only a at the business world, to assure any candid person that teaching is far from being placed on a level with other professions requiring an equal amount of preparation and no greater devotion in their exercises." Law, medicine, and even theology, may secure to their followers high social position, comfortable homes, and quiet old age. The unremitting labor of the teacher brings him only a precarious livelihood, placing him at the mercy of cvery personal pique, every party prejudice; and, worn out with his ill-appreciated labors, he falls early a victim to disease, or is driven to seek some easier and more lucrative means of support.

There is an idea, deeply rooted in communities, militating against the propriety of instructor's seeking recuniary advantage. Teaching is looked upon as a missionary enterprise, which should be unattended by hope or desire for earthly gain. Too many teachers from years of sad

« PreviousContinue »