« НазадПродовжити »
cal business of life, there is nothing better than the modern daily newspaper. It any teacher doubts this, let him give such a topic as mining in the United States to a class of students having free access to newspapers. He will be astonished at the amount of information that is brought, and will doubtless be himself instructed on many points.
If the foundations for this study were well laid in the preparatory course, and economy has been used throughout the elementary, minor and unimportant details. left unnoticed, while great principles and the relations of important facts have been brought constantly forward, it is probable this whole work, so far as treated, might have been well done by an average pupil at the age of fourteen. If he should go to school within four walls no more, he is prepared by this well directed, careful, practical training, to go on learning and desiring to learn in the school of life.
But if through better fortune, the years he may devote to direct preparation for the work that is to come are lengthened out, then a collegiate course in geography should follow the study of the sciences, to show their relations to each other and combine them into a perfect whole. This higher geography is to the sciences, what the ocean is to its arms, it embraces them all. When Humboldt would find a name for it, he called it " Cosmos.” A science is but a part. Geography is the great total, the sum and application of all science. Mathematical geography is astronomy and geometry brought home. Botany treats of plants and zoology of animals ; geography of the distribution of plants and animals, and their usefulness to man. Chemistry treats of the elements, and physics of the properties of water. Geography of its distribution in seas, lakes, and rivers, the great highways of commerce, and of the laws that govern the lifegiving rain. Geology treats of the formation and material of the earth's crust ; geography of the products that ripen in abundant harvests upon its surface, that man may be fed and clothed, or are wrested by the saddest labor from deep, dark mines, that he may be richer aad more powerful. Physiology treats of man as an animal organism, ethnology of his place among the tribes and nations of the globe; but geography mounts superior to both, and studies man as a power upon the earth, tunneling its mountains, leveling its forests, redeeming its deserts, fertilizing its plains, damming its rivers, improving its harbors, changing its climates, forcing the fikcle wind and falling water to save labor, annihiliating time and space with
electricity and steam, and making the big, treacherous sea, the common highway by which he brings to his own home the richest treasures of far-off lands.
HOW MAY TEACHERS KEEP OUT OF “RUTS?"
[Paper read before the State Teachers' Association, Dec. 26, 1878, by Prof. ALEX. KERR, of the
The erect form and the capacious brain of man would seem to indicate a natural fitness for a wide range of observation and thought. The Homeric man, that undisguised, always fascinating product of nature, is ever on the alert, eager to visit new lands or to distinguish himself in council or in war. "Homer's ferocious old boy," when he begins to feel the vigor of manhood pulsing in his veins, disdains to be in leading-strings, and is off like a pirate roving the seas, or he crosses the border to seek adventure by land, and returns to show with pride the scar left by a wild boar's tusk, or an enemy's lance.
The passion for adventure had ample scope when the world was young, and society was unrestricted by complicated conventionalties. The same passion now exists, but it finds vent in a different way. The primitive boy was undisturbed by long division, or the tables of reduction; his natural strength was not abated by deep thinking on the development theory, or his eye dimmed by the intricacies of the Gothic letter. The modern boy is put through the educational mill and ground. Nature is driven out of him with a fork, and often so effectually expelled, that notwithstanding the authority of the poet. Horace to the contrary, she never more returns. For him, travel is generally an expensive luxury not to be seriously thought of. He must see the world, if at all, through the eyes of other people. Books of travel and adventure are his principal means of transportation, and serve to relieve the tedium and monotony of his lessons. If he cannot see snakes fifteen feet long, sliding amid tropical foliage, or the king of the Cannibal Islands enjoying his evening meal of roasted missionary, the next best thing is to read about them.
It is a wise provision of nature which makes the boy chafe under arbitrary restraint, and demand his freedom for a portion of the time at least. The man who cannot look back to a childhood in which certain hours and days were sacredly his own for amusement and recreation, has been defrauded of a boy's inalienable rights. Such a per
son is apt to be bloodless and unsympathetic, and sadly lacking in the amenities of life, which make a man agreeable and influential. If he tries to enjoy himself outside of his daily routine, the attempt is constrained and unnatural. When he is under the open sky, and might drink in the peace and tranquility of nature amid the forest, on the lake or the river, enjoyment for him is a lost art. The drudgery of his business has become his natural element in which he lives, and moves, and has his being; his thoughts are with his treadmill, and in imagination he is plodding along like a hack of the marketplace, just as men with tired brains go over again in their dreams the labors of the day. He is unwittingly a victim of the old delusion that play was meant for children and not for men.
When the great teacher set a little child in the midst of his friends, and said, "Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven," his words had a wider application than is generally given to them. We are taught to believe in these days that the Kingdom of Heaven is within us. Our wise men tell us to covet peace as the best gift of God. While peace is largely dependent upon our spiritual state, there are conditions other than religious tending to promote peace, and these are worthy of attention. Here let the child be our teacher. He demands variety of experience and entertainment, and if the demand is denied, as Emerson says, " the little Pharisee fails not to sound his trumpet before him." From his toys which he dissects when they become monotonous, from all sights and sounds of art and nature, from everything that appeals to his senses, the young iconoclast gains intelligence and happiness at the same time; and when the tired head is laid on the pillow, he, the picture of innocence, sleeps the sleep of the just and takes no note of time till morning.
Put the little man under unnatural and artificial restraints, like those of the old-fashioned Puritan or Scotch Sunday, and unless he succeeds in outwitting and outfianking his tormentors, the healthy boy-life is crushed out of him, he soon has a care-worn look by day, and is scared by ugly dreams at night.
In reference to the present discussion, men may be fitly considered as children of a larger growth, who have merely made a change of tools and playthings. The perpetual grind of a business like teaching will prematurely exhaust the vital, intellectual and spiritual energies of the average man. Unless he is constantly watchful to repair damages, unless in accordance with the laws of nature he is careful to take a new lease of life, he will soon settle down so deep into his
rut, that the long arm of Resurrection will never reach him. He will become a bundle of nerves, as sensitive as Mr. Jarndyce when the wind is in the east; his brain will have the activity of a dried apple, and spiritually he will become a confirmed and hopeless pessimist. It is an old delusion that there is any logical connection between the occupation of a teacher and a one-sided or imperfect mental development. If this were other than a delusion, the business should be resorted to only by martyrs or persons under the pressure of necessity. Professor Blackie makes a friend of the Milesian Thales talk to the Philosopher in this way:
“My first schoolmaster was
It is sometimes assumed that the brain which cannot master the details of business, or grapple with the difficulties of law and theology, is perfectly competent to organize and control a school. The assumption may be right, but I doubt it. On the other hand, it would be
easy to find instances in which men, meeting with indifferent success in teaching, gave up the business in disgust, and gained reputation and even renown in literature and politics, or acquired wealth and influence in commercial pursuits.
The doctrine so largely prevailing in the world at present, that education must be made universal, has of late greatly increased in ability and numbers the instructional force of this country. Many who annually recruit this force are teachers from necessity, not because they have any real fitness or love for the work; and it seems proper merely to say to them that they should replenish their pockets as speedily as possible, and make way for those who teach from better motives.
Those who enter upon the work for a term of years, or for life, are subject to peculiar dangers. Can a man lose himself in per cents of attendance, the average of the averages, the best method of preventing whispering in school, - can he make these the burden of his thought by day, and the spectre of his dream by night, and still retain a firm grasp upon the things of the mind and soul? Such a man
would be a miracle. Constant dealing with minute details is a cause of weakness, for it robs the mind of its natural strength, and unfits it for the higher processes of thought. The man may have cherished some generous ambitions in his youth; he would be a power in his generation, he would make himself felt and recognized in society, he certainly would! But he wakes up some fine morning on the verge of middle life, feeling like an old man, and finds that the companions of his boyhood have passed on and left him, while he has been only moving in a circle. Thoughts enlarged and enriched by study are not his; a few elementary facts and principles, made barren and wearisome by repetition, are his stock in trade.
Let me not be understood as disparaging by a word, the teacher's scrupulous attention to matters of routine. No business can succeed in which the minor interests are neglected. Thomas Jefferson was as conscientions in keeping a correct book of accounts, as he was in finishing a state paper; Bayard Taylor was as painstaking in the preparation of a paragraph for a daily newspaper, as he was in the composition of a poem or a romance; but the one did not lose himself in the balance sheets of his farm at Monticello, nor the other in the accomplishment of his daily task for the New York Tribune.
Teachers can keep out of ruts by the exercise of the energy and courage which have been the making of other people. When, my friend, you feel like settling down satisfied with a poor and mean achievement, satisfied with knowing nothing but your trade, then, to prick the sides of your intent, read such books as Parton's Life of Jefferson, or the Autobiography of Harriet Martineau.
I would suggest Recreation as the first means for attaining the end which we are now considering. This is, of course, the moral of my fable about the Homeric man, and the meaning of my reference to the modern boy's Declaration of Independence. Herbert Spencer's epigram is worth a sermon on this topic: “ One secret in education is to know how wisely to lose time.”
My second suggestion is a comprehensive Programme of Reading and Study, upon subjects which lie beyond and above the requirements of the recitation room. Many thinkers, from Cicero to Matthew Arnold, testify to the influence of liberal studies and wide reading in keeping the mind fresh and vigorous as the years of life pass on. Let the teacher, as at evening he leaves the school-room for the society of his books, say to the perplexities of the day: "Abide ye here; and I will go yonder and worship and come again to you.” The