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The first is its wholesome and calming influence upon the minds engaged in it. We are living in such haste, in these latter days, that the preservation of social sanity seems to grow more difficult with every year. Societary circulation goes on with increasing rapidity, and the power to resist and to overcome its restless and morbid tendencies seems to be on the decline. Nobody except a few Quakers, a few poets, and a few naturalists, “studies to have a quiet mind.” Of the forces to which we might look for help in this matter, the chief is religion; but even religion is becoming a matter of high pressures, heated atmospheres, controversial bitterness, and restless impatience. The rise of a hearty and general interest in the patient and peaceful processes of nature-of a sympathy with her quiet moods of calm and sunshine, might help to cool our social fever, and to diffuse a scientit sabbath through the thought of the community. The actual increase of insanity in American society shows that we cannot go on as we have been going, unless we are prepared to reconstruct society inside the walls of the insane hospital,
My second reason is the elevation of the farming class through the retention of the best and brightest boys on the farm. At present, by a most unnatural selection, that class is drained of many of its most promising elements by a sort of emigration to other industries. The hard times have checked this, but it is, in America, the dominant tendency, and every census shows a larger ratio of city to country residents. Now the schools, as I believe, are rather helping than hindering this drain. They awake in the farmer's boy tastes and ambitions which he sees nothing on the farm to satisfy. Agriculture comes to mean, to him, distasteful and unintelligent toil, and all his aspirations go out toward city life.
And the very men who should be the life of this class, and the story of whose achievements should be the story of its advances are drafted into our countinghouses, and into the overcrowded ranks of our professions. A partial remedy at least, for this state of things might be found in awakening among our farmers' sons the taste for natural history. All the wonders which are connected with the lad's every-day life,-all the open secrets of the farmyard, the road-side, and the field,—the geology of the neighborhood in its relation to the kinds and qualities of the soils,—its native flora and fauna, and their places in the zoology and botany of his country,—the history of the domestic animals and plants, the meteorology of the district in relation to its agriculture, and whatever else may help him to feel that all around him lie objects worthy of study and observation, should be taught him sooner or later. He would then begin to think of his home, rather than the city, as agsociated with the escape from a narrow and sordid horizon which education offers. He would find the life of the farm become first tolerable and then interesting. He would look forward with delight to years spent in contact with objects, each of which had become a gate that opened at his touch, and led him into wide fields of intellectual effort and pleasure. The country would again become the darling of her brightest children, when they would not only see the outer, work-a-day garments she wears, but catch a glimpse into her mother-heart of forethought and wisdom.
Lastly, this neighborhood teaching should include instruction in the elements of Social Science. The politicai life of the nation and of the state touches the land at every point, and at every point their children should understand and welcome the touch. The American school that is to command the approval of our public opinion, must awaken in its pupils the love of that righteousness, which is, as PLATO says, of the essence of the state. It must develop in them the free consent to law, order, and authority, and the attachment to their native land, beyond all party ties or allegiance. And this great work could not be better begun than with the explanation of what goes on in every county-town of the land. The court, with its grand and petit juries, the election day and the solemn responsibilities of the voter, the town-meeting with its democratic modes of procedure, present a large portion of the machinery of government, to the very sight of the children. And in the school, if anywhere, those lessons must be taught which shall save the coming generations from the slavery of party and its half-truths, and secure their allegiance to their country and to the truth.
The school cannot afford to omit this teaching. If it does so, others will take up the task. Hon. EBENEZER BLATHERSKITE has gathered his class in the town-square, and is giving lessons free to all who will come.
The sum and substance of his teaching is, that the great contention which has divided the American people since the very first period of their united action, is simply a struggle between the pure patriots who have rallied to the support of BLATAERSKITE, and the knaves and rogues who dare to differ from him. In the lessons given by such men, this great war of principle between national authority and local interest, is reduced to a paltry squabble between the “ins" and the “outs,"
The first lessons of economic science form an equally needful branch of neighborhood education. I do not mean that the teacher is to clear up our ideas on hard and soft money, or on the comparative merits of treasury-notes and bank-notes. But, whichever side of the recent controversy any of my hearers may have taken, he must have been struck with the ignorance of first principles, which characterized those who took the other side. Their ideas, you observed, were never clear on the great primary questions which lay behind the current controversy; and this shows that there is a field for teaching, quite independent of the points on which we differ.
It is more than a century since there came to Philadelphia an Irish refugee, who became a prominent publisher in this city, and wrote on this subject of Social Science, as well as on others. As he used to walk the streets in those days, holding his little son by the hand, he would point out to him the lessons of Social Science which were to be seen on our streets. That little boy is now in his eighty-sixth year, and he is the most widely known of all our citizens. His books speak to the people of Europe in eight languages; his doctrines are taught in European universities, and his authority is alleged in the debates of European parliaments and legislative bodies. HENRY C. CAREY's studies in Social Science began on the streets about his home; and in the streets or farms around every American school-house lie all the materials needed for the study of eco
nomical science. I speak from experience as a disciple of Mr. CAREY, and a teacher of this branch of science, when I say that the dullest minds will be awakened to an interest in this subject, when they are shown that its principles are illustrated on every street and wharf of this city.
It may be objected that special advantages for such a study are presented by such a city as this-after London, the second manufacturing city of the world, and favored with a variety of interests and an interchange of services such as is to be seen nowhere else on this continent. But the objection is mistaken. The Philadelphia of that day, to which I have referred, was a straggling town of less than fifty thousand people, along the bank of the Delaware. It had few manufactures, and little European com merce, while it enjoyed a considerable trade with the West Indies. Yet on its streets this subject was studied with a success which has no parallel. And any other locality will serve the purpose as well. The story of the settlement of your neighborhood, the transition from the lands first occupied to those which were afterwards taken up, the local variations in prices and wages, the growth in variety of occupation, the starting the first bank and its effects on business, the effects of a manufacture begun in the vicinity, the growing rapidity of interchanges, and the increased division of labor—these are the elements out of which the whole science is built up, and these elements are present everywhere.
The children of our schools need these lessons in economic science. The industrial life of the community is continually presented them on its selfish side, as the story of individual gains and losses. The very "sums” in your school arithmetics keep that aspect before their minds, until they come to think of business as a huge scramble for money and money's worth. Economic science, when it is of the right sort, turns their minds from the thought of gain to the thoughts of use. It presents our industrial life more truthfully as an interchange of services—as a gain all round, through the friendly coöperation of each and all. Now, if ever the greedy and selfish spirit is to be banished out of our business life, it must be through the thoughts of men turning from gains to uses. “The Kingdom of Heaven is a Kingdom of Uses,” EMANUEL SWEDENBORG tells us. Although no disciple of that remarkable man, I feel every day the truth of that saying. The Kingdom of Heaven will have come indeed, when
every man toils in his place gladly and unselfishly, rejoicing in the uses which his work subserves, and doing it for the sake of those uses.
I claim, therefore, for the American school yet another lofty function, It is to combat the greedy, selfish, devouring spirit which threatens to take possession of the business life of America. It is to call men up to the level of thoughts at once truer and loftier, and to infuse a new motive into the industrial activities of the modern world.
Here we come upon the great social obstacle to sound and thorough scholarship--an obstacle encountered in this country more than in any other. The spirit of greed, of Mammon, of money-worship, is utterly antagonistic to the spirit which awakens in men the love of the truth, the search after truth for its own sake. Either the schools must kill that spirit, by coöperating with religion and all the other wholesome influences, or it will kill the schools. It has made its first attack upon them. It has demanded that they be, one and all, turned into workshops, where boys are to learn a trade. To-day it asks that the studies which fit men for their duties as men and citizens, shall give half the room to the training which fits them to become carpenters and bricklayers. To-morrow it will show itself to be the cuckoo in the thrush's nest, and will claim the whole curriculum as its own. You are face to face with your chief enemy, Ladies and Gentlemen; and I hope that the united strength of your Association will be employed to resist the general introduction of such a system. It has its proper place in houses of refuge and reform schools, not in the public schools of the land.
It is our higher institutions which have heretofore suffered the most from this money-worshiping spirit. They cannot raise the standard of age required for admission, because Young America must be making money by the time when Young Germany, though far poorer in this world's goods, is leaving the gymnasium to proceed to the university. For this reason, we have, as President Eliot of Harvard told us a few years ago, no true universities in America, for our best are but half-way between a gymnasium and a university. The Johns-Hopkins University in Baltimore, we hail as the omen of a brighter and more scholarly future for our whole country.
As I look back upon what I have written, Ladies and Gentlemen, I fear that many of my statements and criticisms must seem to you unduly sweeping and dogmatic, and even impertinent in the censure of long-established methods of instruction. I look to-night upon the faces of men who were in the harness before I was out of school, and who have given to this great work the energy of devoted and well-spent lives. Let me submit all that I have said to your more experienced judgments, while I assure you that I have not laid before you anything which has not been the outcome of prolonged thought and earnest feeling on the subject. I have confidence that you will welcome any well-meant effort to contribute to the perfection of that Public School System, of which you are the foremost representatives, and of which all Americans are justly proud.
After the rendering of four more pieces of music, the President announced in full the
COMMITTEE ON NOMINATION OF OFFICERS.
Alex. Hogg, Texas.
A vocal quartette closed the evening's exercises.
WEDNESDAY MORNING, JULY 30th, 1879.
EDUCATION OF THE BLIND.
To the President of the National Educational Association.
DEAR SIR :-As the vacation of our Institution deprives us of the opportunity and pleasure of exhibiting to your Association the methods of instructing the pupils, with the aid of their presence, permit me, should it be desirable, in the briefest possible way to state what is special in our educational work, and some of its important results.
The first systematic instruction of the Blind was commenced in Paris, by VALENTIN Hauy, in 1784; the first in England, in 1790; in the United States, in 1831. There are now 29 Institutions in this country.
The Pennsylvania Institution has over 200 inmates, some of them employed as teachers of others.
The great object of all such institutions is to enable the blind to become, as far as possible, self-supporting. In addition to the usual branches of the grammar and high schools, they are instructed in music and handicraft. Some of them are qualified for teachers ; many of them instructors on the pianoforte, organists in churches, vocalists, and piano tuners; and a still larger number acquire some useful handicraft. Whatever may be their success, with few exceptions they all become better fitted for the battle of life, for the duties of citizenship, and for rational enjoyment.
The loss of sight has important compensations. The touch is more sensitive, not naturally, but by habitual use; the hearing is better and the memory-more retentive. The special apparatus for instruction is adapted to the marvellous and exquisite touch of the finger. Books are printed in relief. Young pupils seldom fail to learn the raised print. A deaf and blind boy taught in this institution, read the entire Bible and