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For the method of teaching this important branch in the common schools, in that country from which the modern education was started by Father Pestalozzi, is simply the following:
1. No tyros are admitted as teachers. After an education in the high schools, the candidate for teacher is prepared four years for this work in their excellent normal schools, of which Switzerland, with two and a half million inhabitants, possesses 31. Every step, every difficulty he learns to observe and overcome. Theory is connected with practice. The general and special principles of education, which underlie each branch, the relation and bearing of the several branches to one another, the end to be accomplished by each and all, is clear before him. Thus prepared, he enters the school, generally for life.
2. While some American teachers profess that they would teach all the arithmetic a scholar needs, in a term or two, the Swiss teacher commences his instruction with the first school year, as a continuation of the scholar's education by his mother or comrades. Every operation in the elementary classes is connected with objects. Nothing is attempted which the scholar cannot understand. Notation in taught very gradually; first from 1 to 20; then to 50; later to 100. But all operations are carried through in one station, before the scholar's advance to the next. Although steady progress is made, the teacher hastens slowly. Nothing is told that the scholar can find out himself, and indeed, very little need be told in arithmetio. The less the teacher explains, the surer is the progress of the scholar. The teacher is requested to render all necessary assistance by a strictly catechetical method. Thus the child is forced to follow the teacher, who can easily see if he understands or not; and the pupil grows independent in thinking and reasoning.
3. Very little difference can be observed between the solutions in mental and in written arithmetic, except that in this, the figures are used to represent the numbers. Many of the best teachers discard written arithmetic, as a separate branch, entirely, and combine both, with the best results.
4. If books are used by scholars, which at present is often the case, they are merely well arranged collections of problems without solutions, rules or answers. And why should they not be in this form? Does not experience teach us, that what we understand and regard as correct and safe, we adopt as a rule of our actions in life as well as in arithmetic?
4. The great ends of arithmetic are regarded to be: 1. and most important, the development of sound, logical reasoning, by which the child will gain strength (not knowledge) to solve the most difficult problems that may occur in higher classes. 2. To prepare for business. This order may seem strange to many a practical American; but in the
land of “ Tell” they educate, first, men; second, business men. And is not this the
proper order? 5. Algebra and geometry, although well understood by the teachers, are not taught in the common schools; they belong the province of the high school; but certainly the construction of geometrical figures or forms is not neglected in their common schools, as it is here in our high schools. Another circumstance is, that the fundamental rules, fractons, compound numbers, etc., are learned but once; but so thoroughly that only reviews in the form of a few problems which cover the ground, are necessary. Every thing is so well and thoroughly understood and practiced, that a scholar might just as weil foget his head as his arithmetic.
Although they cannot say, "I have been twice through Robinson's Practical,” or through Adams' or Ray's Arithinetic, they understand fractions, percentage, etc., and solve any example, no matter how new, with such rapidity, self-reliance and clearness, that we cannot help thinking that the method of teaching arithmetic in that small republic has something to do with the independent spirit of her citizens.
Permit me to pass silently over the errors committed in the instruction of this branch in our glorious America; not only in the West, but as my observations lead me to believe, even in the enlightened East, bridges are sometimes built for the scholars, to lead them to the dizzy heights before they have gathered strength to remain there. Should we not lay solid foundations, before we build the superstructure?
A MINNESOTA MODEL SCHOOL,
AS SEEN BY A WISCONSIN VISITOR.
The model echool is that placs where teaching is done of such a character as to make good citizens. Such an organization challenges the respect of the professional age, and commands the patronage of those who have in view the full development of youth. The general impression made by such a school is confirmed by farther acquaintance with its students as citizens, as their excellent habits characterize all action in future life, and they constitute the silent powers which reach out through the entire circle of acquaintance and lift those less favored to higher moral, social and political levels. The building for the school must be a model, designed to accommodate; it is thoroughly ventilated, warmed and lighted, and is cheerful in all departments. Supplied with all the appurtenances which make the business of school progressive, the building becomes a powerful auxiliary to intelligent teachers, and the community feel a just pride in the excellent character of its
school, because it sees the youth taught all that makes the honest, intelligent, enterprising citizen.
The first State Normal School at Winona, Minnesota, is that school which nearly approximates this model. The devotional exercises in the Normal consist in vocal music, in which every student joins, reading from scripture, silent and oral prayer; all eliciting the thorough attention of teachers and students. The class movements and recitation are calculated to teach the student something deserving thought and talk, and teach him how to talk well; they teach him a creditable life aim, and how, rigorously, to prosecute it. Arithmetic is taught so as to insure accuracy, all methods being analytic; and to attain facility, all operations being shortened by means warranted by previous analysis. In geography, what is known as the “ construction line," “ topical method” is employed. This method consists in map-drawing according to precise methods on a given scale; the drawing accompanied by oral description of the section mapped, including outline, topography, distribution of mountains, water, animals, minerals and vegetables, and a summary of the industry of the inhabitants. English grammar is made a living subject by uniting constant practice and application of the science with the technical instruction. Penmanship is made almost a perfection, few pupils failing to acquire an elegant handwriting at an carly age. The course pursued is different from that practiced elsewhere. A master in this branch teaches the Spencerian “elements,” the pupil learning their form and how to describe and make them, thus insuring correct perception. Afterwards, practice upon these elements, not by looking at the "copy" and endeavoring to imitate i:, but by reproducing the “copy” from memory alone, as the artist in his studio may paint the landscape which is far away. In this way the perceptive faculties are trained, the pupil secures a thorough cor.ception of the image he wishes to produce, and is able to guide his hand with almost certain success. The writers in the school inentioned, are invariably artists with tha pen, if they are taught in this system before bad habits of the mind and hand are formed elsewhere.
The other subjects taught are presented in an effective manner, and the student has an intelligent comprehension of the facts. “Vocal gymnastics” and “calisthenics” receive attention regularly, and the pupil is taught to speak in a clear tone, well chosen language, and with such force as the subject demands. The training consists in general exercises in singing, declamation, in ordinary class reading, and in constant care in every utterance. The general gymnastics are taught as “calisthenics”-graceful motions, and receive daily attention.
In this school nothing is taken for granted. The student must give positive evidence of ability to do and to say any specific thing before
he leaves it, and to do or to say it in a vigorous, intelligent cheerful and successful manner.
The great success of the school results from the habit of individual attention, which characterizes erery act of every person about the premises. One thing at a time and, that suscessfully done is, the rule. This habit seems to regulate all others, and the results are honest, intelligent, robust men and women who have a thorough mastery over themselves, and are capable of directing their energy to any desireå end, the rewards for which are due only upon their successful attainment,
HOW LARGE SHOULD A SCHOOL-DISTRICT BE, AND DUR
ING WHAT MONTHS SH ULD SCHOOL BE TAUGHT?
BY W. H. HOLFORD, SUPERINTENDENT OF GRANT COUNTY.
There are few questions pertaining to our public common schools to which there is more need of calling the atteation of the people than to the one above. Unless people consider in all their bearings, questions of much importance to the well-being of themselves and their neighbors, they but partially understand the subject, and their views of it are almost sure to be wrong, and to lead them to decide and act contrary to the best interests of themselves, their neighbors and all concerned. So in school matters as well as in all things else, many come to hasty and inconsiderate decisions which oppose the best interests of all in that and the adjoining districts.
Upon either a very stormy or a very cold winter evening, at the return of small children from school two and a half miles distant, and wading in mud or snow and water, or suffering from intense cold, many a kind father has said, “Well, I declare, it is too bad to have little children go so far to school in winter, and I am going to try to have our district divided, so that we can have a school-house nearer home!” And “Do, father, do!” has been the exclamation of the wife and all the children. Thus, under the impulse of the moment, and after very slight consideration of only one or two points relating to the matter, he has decided upon it, proceeded to act, and continued his action until he has carried out his plan, divided the district, not too large before, and succeeded in having a school-house erected near his dwelling house. But as he had considered but few of the many bearings in the case, he had, of course, a very one-sided” view of the matter as a whole, and of its effect upon himself and his children, his neighbors in his district and their children, and his neighbors in the adjoining districts and their children, and his decision and action has proved injurious to the
school interests of all these. Because, in no district in which the amount of taxable property and the number of children between four and twenty years of age are both too small, can a good school be kept up (house built, teachers paid, fire kept up, out-houses built, charts, outline maps, etc., supplied), at so small an expense to tax-payers as in a a district in which there is from two to three or even four times the amount of taxable property and as many times the number of pupils to attend the school; for it costs far less than twice as much to build a school-house having but one room that will accommodate seventy pupils, as to build one that will accommodate thirty-five in one room; and less than twice as much to build one house having two rooms that will accommodate one hundred and fifty pupils (an average of seventy-five pupils to each room), as to build one having one room that will accommodate seventy-five pupils; and it requires no more charts, outline maps, etc., etc., to accommodate from fifty to eighty pupils in one room, than it does to accommodate from ten to twenty.
This decision and action has been injurious because it is impossible “ to secure in a small schvol, or in a small class, that healthful and proper stimulus which is almost an incident to a large school or the large class. One who has himself ever been an entire class, or one of two or three constituting a class, will remember how difficult it was to create in himself any such measure of interest as would make the labor of preparation other than a dreary task. And this evil extends to the teacher as well as the pupil. He too, needs stimulus."
Hence, a far better interest can be secured in a medium sized school having an attendance of from twenty-five to fifty pupils, than in a small school having an attendance of from five to twenty-five pupils ; and a still deeper interest may be secured in a large school of from fifty to eighty pupils in attendance than in the school of from twenty-five to fifty pupils; so it is better to have large districts, if not too large, than to have small ones.
Questions similar to the following have frequently been asked me: If we have a district with one hundred and fifty pupils in attendance, and which is so large that several have to come two miles to school and a few two miles and a half, which is better; to divide the district, build two school-houses--one in the center of each of the new districts-and hire two teachers; or to fit the house to accommodate all the pupils, divide the school into two departments, and employ two teachers in the ond district? To all such questions I would reply, that it is far better to render the house fit to accommodate the school divided into two departments, and employ two teachers for the one school. Because, in the one district before division there is the same number of pupils that there would be be in the two districts after division, and each district