Зображення сторінки

the life of the most faithful teacher will be only a succession of well-intentioned errors. The growth or decline of all our powers depends upon a steadfast law. There is no more chance in the processes of their growth or decay than there is in the Multiplication Table. They grow by exercise, and they lose tone and vigor by inaction. All the faculties have their related objects, and they grow by being excited to action through the stimulus or instrumentality of those objects. Each faculty, too, has its own set or class of related objects; and the classes of related objects differ as much from each other as do the corresponding faculties which they naturally excite. If any one power or faculty, therefore, is to be strengthened, so as to perform its office with facility, precision, and dispatch, that identical faculty, -not any other one,-must be exercised. It does not strengthen my left arm to exercise iny right; and this is just as true of the powers of the mind as of the organs of the body. The whole pith of that saying of Solomon, " Train up a child in the way he should go," consists in this principle, because "to train” means to drill, to repeat, to do the same thing over and over again,--that is, to exercise. Solomon does not say, “ Tell a child the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Had he said this, we could refute him daily by ten thousand facts. Unfortunately, education among us, at present, consists too much in telling, not in training, on the part of parents and teachers; and, of course, in hearing, not in doing, on the part of children and pupils. The blacksmith's right arm, the philosopher's intellect, the philanthropist's benevolence, all grow and strengthen according to this law of exercise. "The farmer works solid flesh upon his cattle; the pugilist strikes vigor into his arms and breast; the foot-soldier marches strength into his limbs; the practical man thinks quickness and judgment into his mind; and the true Chris. tian lives his prayers of love and his thoughts of mercy, until every man becomes his brother. Our own experience and observation furnish us with a life-full of evidence attesting this principle. How did our feet learn to walk, our fingers to write, our organs of speech to utter an innumerable variety of sounds | By what means does the musician pass from coarse discords to perfect music from hobbling and shambling in his measure, to keeping time like a chronometer,--from a slow and timid touch of keys or chords, to such celerity of movement, that, though his will sends out a thousand commands in a minute, his nimble fingers obey them all? It is this exercise, this repetition, which gives to jugglers their marvelous dexterity. By dint of practice, their motions become quicker than our eyesight, and thus elude inspection. A knowledge of this principle solves many of the riddles of life, by showing us whence comes the domineering strength of human appetites and passions. It comes from exercise, from a long indulgence of them in thought and act,-until the offspring of sinful desire turn back, and feast upon the vitals of the wretch who nurtured them. It is this which makes the miser pant and raven for gain, more and more, just in proportion to the shortness of the life during which he can enjoy it. It is this which sends the drunkard to pay daily tribute to his own executioner. It is this which scourges back the gambler to the hell he dreads.

It is by this law of exercise that the perceptive and reflective intellect,-I mean the powers of observing and judging,—are strengthened. If, therefore, in the education of the child, the action of these powers is early arrested; if his whole time is engrossed and his whole energy drawn away, by other things; or, if he is not supplied with the proper objects or apparatus on which these faculties can exert themselves, then the after-life of such a child will be crowded with practical errors and misjudgments. As a man, his impressions of things will be faint and fleeting; he will never be able to describe an object as he saw it, nor to tell a story as he heard it. No handcraftsman or mechanic ever becomes what we call a first-rate workman, until after innumerable experiments and judgments,—that is, repetitions, or exercises. And the rule is the same even with genius ;-artisan or artist, he must practice long and sedulously upon lines, proportions, reliefs, before he can become the first sculptor of the age, or the first bootmaker in the city. The teacher, then, must continue to exercise the powers of his pupils, until he secures accuracy even in the minutest things he teaches. Every child can and should learn to judge, almost with mathematical exactness, how long an inch is ;-no matter if he does not guess within a foot of it the first time. Whether the story of Casper Hauser be true or not, it has verisimilitude, and is therefore instructive. It warns us what the general result must be, if, by a non-presentation of their related objects, the faculties of a child are not brought into exercise. We meet with persons every day who, in regard to some one or more of the faculties, are Casper Hausers. This happens, almost universally, not through any natural defect, but because parents and teachers have been ignorant, either of the powers to be exercised, or of the related objects through whose instrumentality they can be excited to action.

But here arises a demand for great skill, aptitude, and resources, on the part of the teacher; for, by continuing to exercise the same faculty, I do not mean a monotonous repetition of the same action, nor a perpetual presentation of the same object or idea. Such a course would soon cloy and disgust, and thus terminate all effort in that direction. Would a child ever learn to dance, if there were but one figure; or to sing, if there were but one tune? Nature, science, art, offer a boundless variety of objects and processes, adapted to quicken and employ each of the faculties. These resources the teacher should have at his command, and should make use of them, in the order, and for the period, that each particular case may require. Look into the shops of our ingenious artisans and mechanics, and see their shining rows of tools,-hundreds in number,-- but each adapted to some particular process in their curious art. Look into the shop or hut of a savage, an Indian mechanic, and you will find his chest of tools composed of a single jack-knife! So with our teachers. Some of them have apparatus, diagram, chart, model; they have anecdote, epigram, narrative history, by which to illustrate every branch of study, and to fit every variety of disposi. tion; while the main resource of others, for all studies, for all ages, and for all dispositions, is—the rod!

Again: a child must not only be exercised into correctness of observation, comparison, and judgment, but into accuracy in the narration or description of what he has seen, heard, thought, or felt, so that, whatever thoughts, emotions, memories, are within him, he can present them all to others in exact and luminous words. Dr. Johnson said, " Accustom your children constantly to this: if a thing happened at one window, and they, when relating it, say that it happened at another, do not let it pass, but instantly check them. You do not know where deviation from the truth will end." Every man who sees effects in causes, will fully concur with the Doctor in regard to the value of such a habit of accuracy as is here implied. If, in the narration of an event, or in the recitation of a lesson, a child is permitted to begin at the last end of it, and to scatter the middle about promiscuously, depend upon it, if that child, after growing up, is called into court as a witness, somebody will suffer in fortune, in reputation, or perhaps in life. When practicing at the bar, I was once engaged in an important case of slander, where the whole question of the innocence or guilt of the defendant turned upon the point whether, at a certain time, he was seen out of one window or out of another; and the stupid witness first swore that it was one window, then another window, and at last, thought it might be a door; and doubtless, he could have been made to swear that he saw him through the skylight. Would you appreciate the importance of accuracy, in observation and statement, take one of those cases which so frequently occur in our courts of law, where a dozen witnesses, -all honest, -swear one way, and another dozen, equally honest,-counter-swear; and contrast it with a case, which so rarely occurs, where a witness, whose mind, like a copying machine, having taken an exact impression of whatever it has seen or heard, attests to complicated facts, in a manner so orderly, luminous, natural,-giving to each, time, locality, proportion, that when he has finished, every auditor,-bench, bar, spectators, -all feel as though they had been personally present and witnessed the whole transaction. Now, although something of this depends, unquestionably, upon soundness in physical and mental organization, yet å vast portion of it is referable to the early observation or neglect, on the part of teacher or parent, of the law we are considering.

There is another point, too, which the teacher should regard, especially where only a small portion of non-age is appropriated to school attendance. In exercising the faculties for the purpose of strengthening them, the greatest amount of useful knowledge should be communicated. The faculties may be exercised and strengthened in acquiring useful or useless knowledge. A farmer or a stonemason may exercise and strengthen the muscles of his body, by pitching or rolling timbers or stones backward and forward; but, by converting the same materials into a house or a fence, he may at once gain strength and do good. Every teacher, at the same time that he exercises the faculties of his pupils, ought to impart the greatest amount of valuable knowledge; and he should always be above the temptation of keeping a pupil in a lower department of study, because he himself does not understand the higher; or, on the other hand, of prematurely carrying his pupil into a higher department, because of his own ignorance of the lower. Suppose a bright boy, for instance, to be studying arithmetic and geography, at school. Now, arithmetic cannot be taught unless it is understood; but, with the help of an atlas, and a text-book whose margin is all covered with questions, the business of teaching geography may be set up on a very slender capital of knowledge. And here a teacher who is obliged to be very economical of his arithmetic, would be tempted to keep his pupil upon all the small towns, and tiny rivers, and dots of islands in the geography, in order to delay him, and gain time,-like the officers of those banks whose specie runs low, who seek to pay off their creditors in cents, because it takes so long to count the copper. Every teacher ought to know vastly more than he is required to teach, so that he may be furnished, on every subject, with copious illustration and instructive anecdote; and so that the pupils may be disabused of the notion, they are so apt to acquire, that they carry all knowledge in their satchels. Every teacher should be possessed of a faculty at explanation,-a tact in discerning and solving difficulties,-not to be used too often, for then it would supersede the effort it should encourage,-but when it is used, to be quick and sure as a telescope, bringing distant objects near, and making obscure ones distinct. In the important, but grossly neglected and abused exercise of reading, for instance, every new fact, every new idea, is news to the child; and, did he fully understand it, he would be as eager to learn it, as we are to learn what is news to us. But how, think you, should we be vexed, if our news-bringer spoke every third word in a foreign language; or gave us only a Pennsylvania newspaper printed in German, when we wanted to know how their votes stood in an election for President? Whatever words a child does not understand, in his reading lesson, are, to him, words in a foreign language; and they must be translated into his own language before he can take any interest in them. But if, instead of being translated into his language, they are left unnoticed, or are translated into another foreign language still, -that is, into other words or phrases of which he is ignorant,--then, the child, instead of delightful and instructive ideas, gets empty words, mere sounds, atmospheric vibrations only. In Dr. Johnson's Dictionary, the word “ Net-work" is defined to be “any thing reticulated or decussated, with interstices between the intersections." Now who, ignorant of the meaning of the word "net-work” before, would understand it any better by being told, that it is “any thing reticulated or decussated, with interstices between the intersections ?" Nor would he be much enlightened if, on looking further, he found that the same author had given the following definitions of the defining words :—"reticulated," " formed with interstitial vacuities ;" _“decussated,” “ intersected at acute angles;"_“interstice," "space between one thing and another;"_" intersection," " point where lines cross each other.If this is not, as Milton says, “ dark with excess of bright," it is, at least, “ darkness visible.” A few years since, a geography was published in this State,-the preface of which boasted of its adaptation to the capacities of children,--and, on the second page, there was this definition of the words “zenith and padir :"_" zenith and nadir, two Arabic words importing their own signification." A few years since, an English traveler and book-maker, who called himself Thomas Ashe, Esq., visited the Big Bone Licks, in Kentucky, where he found the remains of the mammoth, in great abundance, and whence he carried away several wagon-loads of bones. In describing the size of one of the shoulder-blades of that animal, he says, it "was about as large as a breakfast-table !" A child's mind may be dark and ignorant before, but, under such explanations as these, darkness will coagulate, and ignorance be sealed in hermetically. Let a school be so conducted but for one season, and all life will be abstracted from it; and it will become the painful duty of the school committee, at its close to attend a post-mortem ex. amination of the children,-without even the melancholy satisfaction of believing that science will be benefited by the horrors of the dissection.

Every teacher should be competent to some care of the health of his pupils, not merely for the purpose of regulating the temperature of the school-room, and, of course, the transition which the scholars must undergo, on entering or leaving it,-though this is of no small importance,-but so that, as occasion offers, he may inculcate a knowledge of some of the leading conditions upon which health and life depend. I saw, last year, in the public town school of Northampton, under the care of Mr. R. M. Hubbard, --more than a hundred boys, from ten or eleven to fiften or sixteen years of age, who pointed out the place and gave the name of all the principal bones in their bodies, as well as an anatomist would have done; who explained the physiological processes of the circulation of the blood and the alimentation of food, and described the putrefactive action of ardent spirits upon the delicate tissues of the stomach. Now such boys have a chance, nay, a certainty, of far longer life and far better health, than they would otherwise have; and as they grow up, they will be far less easily tempted to emulate either of the three cockney graces, -Gin, Swearing, and Tobacco.

But I must pass by other considerations, respecting the growth and invigoration of the intellectual faculties, and the classes of subjects upon which they should be employed. I hasten to the consideration of another topic, incalculably more important.

The moral faculties increase or decline, strengthen or languish, by the same law of exercise. In legislating for men, actions are mainly regarded; but in the education of children, motives are every thing, MOTIVES ARE EVERY THING. All, this side of the motive, is mere mechanism, and it matters not whether it be done by the hand, or by a crank. There was profound philosophy in the old theological notion, that whoever made a league with the devil, in order to gratify a passion through his help, became the devil's property afterward. And so, when a teacher stimulates a child to the performance of actions, externally right, by appealing to motives intrinsically wrong, he sells that child into bondage to the wrong motive. Some parents, finding a desire of luxurious food a stronger motive-power in their children than any other, accomplish every thing through its means. They hire them to go to school and learn, to go to church and remember the text, and to behave well before company, by a promise of dainties. Every repetition of this enfeebles the sentiment of duty, through its inaction, while it increases the desire for delicacies, by its exercise ; and as they successively come into competition afterward, the virtue will be found to have become weaker, and the appetite stronger. Such parents touch the wrong pair of nerves,-the sensual instead of the moral, the bestial instead of the divine, These springs of action lie at the very extremes of human nature,-one class down among the brutes, the other up among the seraphim. When a child, so educated, becomes a man, and circumstances make him the trustee or fiduciary of the friendless and unprotected, and he robs the widow and orphan to obtain the means of luxury or voluptuousness, we exclaim, “Poor human nature," and are ready to appoint a Fast; when the truth is, he was educated to be a knave under that very temptation. Were a surgeon to operate upon a human body with as little knowledge of his subject as this, and whip round his double-edged knife where the vital parts lie thickest, he would be tried for manslaughter at the next court, and deserve conviction.

Take another example ;—and I instance one of the motive-forces which, for the last fifty or a hundred years, has been mainly relied on, in our schools, academies, and colleges, as the stimulus to intellectual effort, and which has done more than every thing else to cause the madness and the profligacy of those political and social rivalries that now convulse the land. Let us take a child who has only a moderate love of learning, but an inordinate passion for praise and place; and we therefore allure him to study by the enticements of precedents and applause. If he will surpass all his fellows, we advance him to the post, and sig. nalize him with the badges of distinction, and never suffer the siren of flattery to cease the enchantments of her song, If he ever has any compassionate misgivings in regard to the cffect which his own promotion may have upon his less brilliant, though not less meritorious fellow-pupils, then we seek to withdraw his thoughts from this virtuous channel, and to turn them to the selfish contemplation of his own brilliant fortunes in future years;-if waking conscience ever whispers in his ear, that that pleasure is dishonorable which gives pain to the innocent; then we dazzle him with the gorgeous vision of triumphal honors and applauding multitudes ;-and when, in after-life, this victim of false influences deserts a righteous cause because it is declining, and joins an unrighteous one because it is prospering, and sets his name in history's pillory, to be scoffed and jeered at for ages, then we pour out lamentations, in prose and verse, over the moral suicide! And yet, by such a course of education, he was prepared beforehand, like a skillfully organized machine, to prove a traitor and an apostate at that very conjuncture. No doubt, a college-boy will learn more Greek and Latin if it is generally understood that college-honors are to be mainly awarded for proficiency in those languages; but what care we though a man can speak seven languages, or dreams in Hebrew or Sanscrit, because of their familiarity, if he has never learned the language of sympathy for human suffering, and is deaf when the voice of truth and duty utters their holy mandates! We want men who feel a sentiment, a consciousness, of brotherhood for the whole human race. We want men who will instruct the ignorant,—not delude them; who will succor the weak,-not prey upon them. We want men who will fly to the moral breach when the waters of desolation are pouring in, and who will stand there, and, if need be, die there,-applause or no applause. No doubt, every one is bound to take watchful care of that portion of his happiness which rightfully depends upon the good opinion of others; but before any teacher attempts to secure the proficiency of his pupils by inflaming their love of praise and place, ought he not to appeal, with earnest and prolonged entreaty, to every higher sentiment ? and even then, should he fail of arousing a desire for improvement, would it not be better to abandon a pupil to mediocrity, or even insignificance, than to insure him the highest eminence by awakening an unholy ambition in his bosom? It is infinitely better for any nation to support a hospital for fools, than to have a parliament or a congress of knaves.

And thus it is with all moral developments. Ignorance may appeal to a wrong motive, and thus give inordinate strength to an inferior sentiment, while honestly in quest of a right action. For a few times, perhaps even for a few years, the appeal may be successful; but, by-and-by, the inferior sentiment, or propensity, will gain predominance, and usurp the throne, and rule by virtue of its own might.

So, too, a train of circumstances may be prepared, or a system of government adopted, designed by their author for good, yet productive of a venomous brood of feelings. Suppose a teacher attempts to secure obedience by fear, instead of love, but still lacks the energy or the talent requisite for success. Forthwith, and from the necessity of the case, there are two hostile parties in that school, the teacher with his government to maintain, the pupils with their various and ever-springing desires to gratify, in defiance of that government. Not only will there be revolts and mutinies, revolutions and counter-revolutions in such a school, but, what is infinitely worse, because of its meanness and baseness, there will be generated a moral pestilence of deception and trickery. The boldest spirits,-those already too bold and fool-hardy, —will break out into open rebellion, and thus begin to qualify themselves to become, in after-life, violators and contemners of the laws of society; while those who are already prone to concealment and perfidy, will sharpen their wits for deception; they will pretend to be saying or doing one thing when saying or doing another; they will sever the connection between tongue and heart; they will make the eyes, the face, and all the organs that contribute to the natural language belie the thoughts; and, in fine, will turn the whole body into an instrument of dissimulation. Such children, under such management, are every day preparing to become,-not men of frankness, of ingenuousness, of a beautiful transparency of disposition - but sappers and miners of character,-men accomplishing all their ends by stratagem and ambush, and as full of guile as the first serpent. Who of us has not seen some individual so secretive and guileful as to be impervious to secondsight, or even to the boasted vision of animal magnetism? I cannot but believe that most of those hateful specimens of duplicity, -I might rather say, of tripli city, or multiplicity,—which we sometimes encounter in society, had their origin in the attempts made in early life to evade commands injudiciously given, or not

« НазадПродовжити »