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and money spent in attaining it. Term after term, these pupils endure the tedious confinement of the school room, and the hated drudgery of committing to memory incomprehensible lessons, and finally leave school, able to read, but without ease or correctness,-to write, in a stiff and almost illegible chirography, a few blundering sentences of bad grammer and worse orthography,—to solve the simple problems in some text book on arithmetic so as to get the author's answers to the same,and perhaps to answer a part of the questions in some school geography. A year or two of active life serves to drive out of the memory the scraps of knowledge learned at school, and, save the ability to read and write a little, and to make some simple computations with figures, naught remains but the dreary recollection of hard benches and irksome restraint, and perchance some dim and unreliable notions of nearly forgotten studies. No love of learning prompting to life-long study, no taste for literature making books a ready and perpetual solace, no cultivated power of logical thought enabling to grasp and solve the daily problems of life, no cultivated refinement of manners and feeling fitting for the enjoyment of home and social circles, no power of correct and elegant speech as an instrument of power among men, no fund of sound and well digested learning to enrich the mind and illumine its path-not one of all these, the proper fruits of right education, remains to repay them for the years spent in school.
How to remedy these defects, found in so large a number of our schools, and make all the schools as productive of good as some are already, demands the serious consideration of all school officers. Doubtless the most comprehensive and efficient remedy of the evil will be found in the employment of well qualified and earnest teachers—men and women who thor oughly understand their work, and will, with good sense and patience, perform it.
But until the school officers and people come to understand more clearly what are the characteristics and requirements of a good school, they are not prepared to select competent teachers, nor to judge their work intelligently when obtained. The good teacher is not unfrequently hindered and thwarted, not only by the lack of earnest co-operation of the district officers and parents, but, still worse, by the positive opposition to his plans and methods, prompted by a misunderstanding of their real utility.
There are, however, radical defects and errors in the organization and work of common schools,– in the selection and succession of studies, and in the modes of instruction,—which greatly impair their usefulness, and prevent their success. I know not how I can better promote the true welfare of these schools, than by pointing out the proper branches and order of study, and the true principles of teaching, in them.
PRIMARY,* OR COMMON SCHOOL STUDIES. I do not remember to have seen any regular course of studies proposed for the common district schools. Nor am I certain that any such regular course will be generally received as feasible or desirable. But it must be evident to all reflecting minds, that all true education must proceed by some regular steps, and in some natural and rational order. It cannot be, therefore, either a useless or unimportant service to offer some discussion of the real and relative usefulness of studies, and to suggest some hints for the arrangement of these studies in a proper and natural course of study.
The introduction of the so called common school studies, seems to have been mainly accidental, though springing, doubtless, in part, from some dimly recognized wants of the people. The earliest common school studies were orthography, reading and writing ; and in many of the earlier schools, no other studies were permitted. Arithmetic, if taught at all, was confined to evening schools. In time, however, the importance of learn. ing “to cipher" came to be generally admitted and arithmetio
* The common district schools of this state are denominated, in the laws, “ Primary Schools,” but as the term “primary school” has come to have a restricted use as the deBignation of the lower or primary departments in the union schools, I shall, to avoid confu. sion, use the older term "common schools."
assumed its place among common school studies, though often confined to boys and to the older classes. Many will recall the qualifications of Goldsmith's Schoolmaster in “ The Deserted Village.”
“ The village all declared how much he knew,
'Twas certain he could write and cipher too." Later still, it occasionally happened, that some ambitious pedagogue, who had spent a term at the “ Academy," and who was ambitious to show his " learning," and anxious to enhance his reputation as a teacher-or who advanced in thought beyond his age, was willing to do his pupils a greater service, organized a class in English grammar. Geography followed in due time; though no reason can well be given for its introduction, except the ambitious desire for a new and unusual study. The first geography introduced, was without maps, and was used simply as a reading book. Even now, grammar and geography are not taught universally to the pupils of the common Schools, but are counted as optional studies; reading writing and ciphering, being still considered by many as of old, the only ones absolutely essential to a common school education.
Other branches, such as book-keeping, algebra, natural philosophy, physiology, and history, are often taught in the better class of common schools; but they have not yet come to be generally accepted as common school studies.
Such, in brief, is the history of the introduction of the several branches of instruction now recognized as belonging properly to that great class of schools in which the great body of the people are to be educated. How evident it is, that chance and caprice, rather than a careful consideration of the capacities of childhood, and of the intrinsic character and value of tuese several studies, have controlled in their selection and use.
The questions seem never to have been asked, what can children best learn ? and what studies will best educate their minds and fit them for the duties of life? "Milk for babes and strong meat for men," has been easily accepted as
nature's own law for physical nurture; but no natural and necessary order of mental feeding has been dreamed of, as giving law to the culture of the mind. The art of reading was seen to be essential to the study of books. Writing and ciphering are useful in daily business. Beyond these, it mat tered but little what was studied, or in what order.
To sit down to a patient observation of the natural inclinar tions and tastes of the childish intellect; to watch carefully its modes of reaching truth; to test by repeated experiments its native power of thought and attention; to measure and weigh thoroughly its natural necessities of knowledge; and then to select wisely from the realms of science, and arrange, in a course of easy and natural successions, the branches and forms of learning, which will delight its tastes, and meet and nourish its powers—to do all this has never been thought necessary in choosing the studies for the schools. Whatever & grown up teacher knew, and could explain, that a child could be compelled to study, and forced finally to understand.
In every high school and academy, it has been thought necessary to have a regular course of study; the pupils must ascend the hill of science by nicely graded paths; but, in the common school, it matters not in what order the studies come; the education is not an advance along some certain road, but a mere aimless ramble in the fields; not a conquering march, but a foraging raid into the territories of knowledge.
The folly of all this is too obvious to need serious refutation. Nothing is plainer in human experience, than that the mind is interested in different subjects at different ages in life ; and that it works by different processes, and with widely varying powers, at the different periods of its growth. Even a child's pleasures and griefs differ from those of manhood, by a whole hemisphere; the work of the one being but the recreation of the other. How illogical, then, is it to count a study proper and valuable for children, because it chances to be interesting and perhaps useful to grown up men. The celebrated reply of the old Greek philosopher, that children "ought to learn the things they will need to know when they become men,” involves a cer. tain absurdity; for children cannot learn, in any full and adequate sense, the things they need to know as men. A child can no more think a man's thoughts than do a man's work. His knowledge should embrace the elements and beginnings merely of the man's knowledge. Better by far and more profoundly philosophical is the saying of Solomon, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Educate him in a right course of knowing, and in proper methods and habits of thought and feeling, and then his manhood will be the ripened fruit—the advanced stages of the same course which he entered in childhood.
To the conclusion to which all this argument points,-that there should be established a regular course of studies in our common schools,-it will be objected that the frequent changes in teachers, and the uncertain and variable length of school terms, together with the irregular attendance of the pupils, will effectually prevent any steady adherence to a fixed course of instruction.
It is readily admitted that great difficulties lie in the way; not the least of which is the claim, on the part of parents, to choose what their children shall study, without any reference to a fixed and regular course. But if the necessity for such a course exists, this necessity must be met, or we must consent to see our schools still fail of their highest success in the education of our children. And on a more careful consideration, it will be found that the difficulties are not so great as they, at first appear ; while some of the seeming objections against the plan, are really strong arguments in its favor. Thus the fre quent changes of teachers and the uncertain length of terms, are vital reasons for a fixed course, since by means of such course alone can each teacher and each term continue and carry forward the work of previous teachers and terms. The irregular attendance of pupils may hinder their going forward