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ancestors were right in thinking that the common schools were altogether inadequate as a means of public instruction.” “The elementary school is the cradle, and the intellectual food furnished is fit for the infant occupant, but to claim that the State has done its whole duty in providing those only for its children, is establishing a very limited sphere indeed.
If it be the duty of the State, or if it be wise for it to provide education for the community, it is its duty, and it is wise for it to furnish as much as is needed for the preparation of that community for all the duties and occupations of life.”
EDWARD EVERETT, in his famous plea for State aid for Harvard College says, “I will thank any person to show why it is expedient and beneficial in a community to make public provision for teaching the elements of learning and not expedient nor beneficial to make similar provision to aid the learner's progress toward the mastery of the most difficult branches of science and the choicest refinements of literature.”
“No system of public education,” says HUXLEY, “is worthy the name of State, unless it creates a great educational ladder with one end in the gutter and the other in the university.” And these are opinions of the profoundest thinkers of modern times.
Our High Schools are the objects of severe criticisms. But only let it be granted that the State is bound by its civil and moral obligations to establish and maintain these Schools;—that they form a necessary part of a whole in every common-school system ;- that they stimulate the elementary schools into more enthusiasm and efficiency, and furnish a medium of communication between the elementary schools below and the superior above, and that they establish the means by which that equality of social rank may be maintained which renders Republican institutions possible, and then we are prepared with great amiability of spirit to admit that our High Schools are not perfect.
They are charged with attempting too much and accomplishing too little. That is, too many branches of learning are introduced into their courses of studies, and they are too superficially pursued. The criticism is only partially just, for while the variety of subjects introduced is not too great, still the learner may be required to master too many independent facts in connection with each one of them. The young pupil should be taught facts enough in connection with every subject pursued to furnish the occasion to his mind for a knowledge of those general principles upon which the science of the subject depends. This will enable hiin when he comes into the scientific schools to master the science itself. In addition to this, every student of facts or of science should be taught a method of study, and he should be trained to use the method. After this has been done, the subject may be dropped, in so far as school work is concerned, and the pupil left to pursne it to any extent he pleases alone.
Pupils should be made acquainted with methods of study and of acting, and should be trained to use the methods, then they may leave the guides of their youth and go on their way alone.
Such training will prepare one for citizenship in a self-governed State.
It is agreed that we must teach the rudiments of learning to all the children of the State, that they may have the elements of that preparation which will fit them to perform well their duties as citizens and christian men; but it should never be forgotten that if the schools do no more than teach facts, they will never produce intelligent conscientious supporters of either the State or of the faith.
We must add to our elementary instruction that which has for its end a knowledge of general principles, and a right training of the faculties.
The institutions best adapted in our system of public instruction to teach this knowledge and give this training, are the Secondary Schools.
It is said also that we must omit from these schools the study of the classic languages, and all ornamental branches of learning.
But GLADSTONE and John Stuart Mill say that the study of the Latin and Greek should hold a prominent place in all secondary courses of instruction as they furnish a most important object of knowledge, and a most important means of mental culture. Language, in the better sense of the term, is that faculty of the mind by whose activity ideas and thoughts are associated with their established signs.
In a secondary sense it may be considered to be any system of signs by which ideas and thoughts are expressed. Keeping in mind the two senses in which the term language may be employed, we can see how it is that the use of language considered to be the signs of knowledge, will cultivate language considered to be a faculty of the mind.
The proper study of language considered to be a means of expression, leads the student first to study and know the thing to be named and described; then, it requires him to obtain a practical knowledge of the language by which expressions are made; then he is led to study the thoughts expressed by the language employed ; then, finally, he is led back to the mind which produced the thoughts.
After we have obtained our language by an experience in its use, we may study for a knowledge of those forms of words and for that arrangement of them, from which arises their grammar of language; or we may study the style of the language from which arises its Rhetoric. But we cannot study either the grammar or Rhetoric of a language intelligently, without referring what is discovered to the minds of those who constructed the language and gave it its style. BUFFON says that the study of an author's style is the study of the man himself. From this it will follow that a philosophical study of language belongs to the most important work of the schools. It also follows that the study of ancient forms and styles of expression is a study of the history of ancient men and of ancient times by which alone they can be revealed to us.
No modern student ever entered into the spirit of the past except through the medium of ancient forms of expression. Remove the Greek and Roman languages from our courses of study and we have removed from the consideration of our students the only reliable records of Grecian and Roman civilization, and at the same time we have removed from them the possibility of obtaining that knowledge and of receiving that training which alone will enable them to have a full use of that portion of their own language derived from the Greek and from the Latin tongue.
If we omit the so-called ornamental branches from our instruction, then the refinements of our culture will be lost, and taste, that sensibility upon whose proper training, skill in the arts as well as that love for the beautiful which creates a demand for the products of art, will remain an under veloped power.
Drawing should be introduced from the first into the schools, for it has for its object that training of the hand and eye which lays a foundation for skill in the arts; it leads the mind to make a more careful examination of objects of study; it furnishes the best method of describing those objects that have form and size, it has a refining influence, by cultivating the taste; and it improves the morals, by exciting a love for the beautiful.
The training which skill in drawing implies, is that which every student will be glad to possess when he comes to take up the work of practical life.
Singing is an important branch of instruction. Training in this art is good for the reader to receive. It furnishes one with the ability to express emotions which can be fully expressed only in song, it provides a source of refined and elevated enjoyment, and when rightly conducted it has a tendency to purify the heart.
Finally, it is said we are educating some of our children too much; that for the masses very much education is an unfortunate possession, as it makes its possessor unhappy and discontented and renders him either too proud or too lazy to work. A true and thorough culture of the mind will have a tendency to make a man proud of himself and unwilling to spend his time and strength in doing that which the forces of nature or which the lower animals can be made to do as well as he; but a true culture never made a man vain, or unhappy, or shiftless. Ignorance is the parent of sloth and poverty and vice everywhere, while knowledge constantly stimulates the mind to acquire more knowledge; and an ability to think increases the desire for all that activity which furnishes an opportunity or an occasion for thinking.
The false customs of society may render some forms of labor unpopular, but this must not be charged to the schools, nor is it to be changed by depriving the laborer of the advantages of developing his own mental and spiritual nature.
Rank in human society has nothing to do with the right or the importance of human culture. Wherever there is a human being there should be furnished an opportunity for the highest culture and in this country, at least, we should not for a moment admit that the advantages of birth have anything to do in determining what are our natural rights.
The laboring classes of the country should be especially interested in supporting the secondary schools, for unless higher instruction is free alike to all, their own children may be deprived of it, and with its loss will be taken away the possibility of their holding equal rank with the more fortunate, even in our American society. In this country education is the great leveller.
Give a boy a good education, and, though wanting in wealth or in ancestral renown, he will take his place among his fellows, the peer of the richest and the noblest.
Our secondary schools, or high schools, are among the noblest of our institutions.
I rejoice when I visit them to find in their halls the rich and the poor
sitting side by side on the same seats receiving their mental training the same in kind and from the same free source, for I know that a few years of such training under such circumstances, will beget in them that state of the mind and of the heart, which will lead them in their future lives to think alike, and to have for each other a mutual sympathy and respect.
Every influence that has a tendency to withdraw support from our high schools or weaken public confidence in their character or to confuse the public mind in regard to the justice of maintaining them at public expense is hostile to the best interests of all classes, but it is especially dangerous to the vital interests of that large class that must depend on free public schools for their education.
The opulent should be interested in these schools, for by their influence on the education of the masses, the civilization of the State is exalted, life and property are more secure, and all the good ends for which human society was instituted will be more fully secured.
Neither private interest, nor political ambition, nor sectarian zeal, should move us to waver for an instant in the full and cordial support of those educational institutions established by the fathers, and which, in time of peace and of war, in times of plenty and of want, have been thus far so nobly maintained by their children.
It is the duty of the State to see to it that all the children of the State are thoroughly educated, no matter what opinions those who are opposed to our free schools may hold, for it is by the universal, free, and complete education of the people that all the problems of individual and social life are to be solved.
This paper elicited a spirited discussion in which the Hon. John Eaton, of the District of Columbia, Dr. E. E. WHITE, of Indiana, Dr. J. A. Paxson, President of the Permanent Exhibition, the Hon. J. P. WICKERSHAM, and EDWARD SHIPPEN took part.
It is regretted that the persons taking part in this discussion have not fuurnished abstracts of their remarks. Dr. WHITE contended for the right of the State to furnish higher education and that if the right of State education is admitted at all it is impossible to draw any invariable line beyond which the State cannot rightfully exercise its powers. Dr. Paxson spoke earnestly on the failure of the schools to provide an education suitable for those entering the ordinary vocations of life and alluded to the great number of High-School graduates in the Philadelphia prisons. This allusion called forth earnest protests from the Hon. J.P. WICKERSHAM and EDWARD SHIPPEN, Esq.
On motion of the Hon, John Eaton, it was resolved, That a committee of three of which J. A. Paxson and J. P. WICKERSHAM shall be two, be appointed to report at this meeting of the Association, the number of High-School graduates in the Eastern Penitentiary of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia City Prison.
The question was further discussed by J. C. GILCHRIST, of Iowa, J. R. Sypher, of Pennsylvania, and the Hon John Eaton, of the District of Columbia. Dr. Geo. P. Hays, of Pennsylvania, suggested that the committee should also inquire how many persons who ought to be in the penitentiary are not in it in consequence of possessing sufficient knowledge to enable them to evade the laws.
It was resolved on motion of EDWARD SHIPPEN, That J, L. PICKARD, of Iowa, J. P. WICKERSHAM, and J. A. Paxson be appointed to examine the inmates of Moyamensing Prison and the Penitentiary of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and to enquire and report the number who have entered into or graduated from Colleges, High Schools, Grammar Schools, or other Primary Schools.
This resolution was discussed by Dr. J. A. Paxson, Prof. S. S. HALDERMAN, of Pennsylvania, the Hon. J: D. PHILBRICK, of Massachusetts, and Miss Sarah A. HUNTER, M. D., of Pennsylvania.
The President announced a part of the Committee on the Nomination of Officers. Also the following on Resolutions:-J. ORMOND WILSON, of the District of Columbia, LEMUEL Moss, of Indiana, ELI T. TAPPAN, of Ohio, EDWARD Danforth, of New York, and Wm. E. SHELDON, of Massachusetts.
The General Association adjourned to meet at the Academy of Music at 8 P. M.
EVENING SESSION. The Association was called to order at 8:20. The first part of the evening was devoted to a Concert by Philadelphia Amateurs.
The Rev. ROBERT E. THOMPSON delivered the following address on
THE NEIGHBORHOOD AS A STARTING-POINT IN EDUCATION.
My subject is one which has been suggested by my own experience; first as a student, and then as a teacher. It is “The Neighborhood as a Starting-Point in Education.” I know it may be claimed, with some show of truth, that neighborhood and education have little to do with each other, and that the teacher's work is chiefly antagonistic to the narrowing influence of locality. It will be said that he has to lift his scholars to a larger and wider horizon in life, above the contractedness and the prejudices of town or village--or, as some would say, even of the nation itself-into the intellectual breadth and atmosphere of humanity. And it might be alleged that the very meaning, the chief purpose, of the National Association is to emphasize the fact that education should be freed from all local trammels and invested with the dignity of a national
With the feeling represented by such an objection, I am very heartily in sympathy; and yet I think the objection a mistaken one. We will all