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RESPONSE BY THE PRESIDENT.
The President responded as follows:
His Honor, the Mayor of Boston, and the Worthy Representatives of the School-Board:
On behalf of the members of the National Educational Association, I return thanks for this cordial welcome. We recognize in the earnest words you have spoken an appreciation not only of the great cause which we represent, but also of those who are engaged in its promotion. Massachusetts has honored teachers with something more real than words. She has given them a place of honor in her institutions and in her social life.
In coming to this city, we feel that we are on historic ground. The old Cómmonwealth is renowned not more for what she did in establishing our civil institutions than for the grander work of laying the foundations on which alone these institutions can stand. She was the first government in the world to recognize the principle that it is the duty of the state to educate its youth at the public expense. Massachusetts is entitled to the great honor of establishing the first free-school system. I am aware that this honor is claimed for Scotland, and also for Holland; but the system of Scotland, begun in 1494, was parochial, and that of Holland, founded in 1623, was ecclesiastical — neither being, in in any true sense, a public school system. In 1647, Massachusetts began the magnificent free-school system of America, soon to be successful and secure in every state and territory of the Union. Here its first foundation-stones were laid. Truly the fathers must have“ builded better than they knew.” They made education and liberty coëxtensive by making both universal. They joined them in a perpetual alliance; and what a grand civilization has been the result, and how widely it has spread its blessings.
The service rendered the cause of public education by New England is not limited to her example. An army of her teachers went into the other portions of the country, and every where they carried the New-England school. They have assisted in establishing those vigorous school systems which are the honor and glory of so many of our states. I am safe in saying that there are probably not twenty persons in this large audience who have not, at some time, sat at the feet of a New-England teacher. Many, if not most, received their education in New-England schools and colleges. They cheerfully and gratefully award to this city, to this commonwealth, and to New England generally, the honor due them for what they have so nobly done for public education.
We come here as the educational representatives of the entire country. The Atlantic States, the Central States, whose territory was dedicated to education and liberty by the ordinance of 1787, the States of the Great West, and the Pacific Coast, and the Southern States, are here represented. We specially welcome our brethren of the South, who are so earnestly laboring to establish efficient school systems. In this great warfare against ignorance, they stand shoulder to shoulder with the educators of the North. We trust that our meeting here may give this city a still higher appreciation of the Association, and that the bond that unites all sections of the country may be strengthened.
After a pause, the President resumed: Members of the Association, Ladies and Gentlemen:
It was formerly the custom for the presiding officer to present a somewhat formal opening or inaugural address; but at the St. Louis meeting, last year, our excellent President departed from this custom, and I think you will be pleased if I follow his example. But permit me to say a few words respecting the programme of exercises.
It seems best that the attention of this Association should be chiefly given to the consideration of those great educational questions which concern the future development and progress of American education, questions of national importance, and that other questions be left to state and other local associations. Those intrusted with the preparation of the programme also agreed that questions of interest to all classes of teachers and school officers should, as far as possible, be brought before the General Association, leaving questions of special interest to superintendents, normal teachers, etc., to be considered in the departments.
The programme of the General Association includes several of the most important educational questions of the day, and it is hoped that their discussion may elicit the best views and the ripest experience of the country. These fundamental questions are:
1. How can education be made universal? How shall the instruction of our schools be made to reach and bless every child of the republic? The discussion of this subject is to be opened by one who has given it careful and thorough consideration, and the views of others are solicited.
2. How can the schools be best supplied with trained and competent teachers? The American school is to be made more efficient chiefly by increasing . the qualifications of the teacher. Elaborate systems and costly school-houses are not enough. The essential agent in education is the teacher. We hope that this “Normal Problem” may be thoroughly discussed, and some definite conclusion reached.
3. How can the qualifications of teachers be best determined? This question touches the administration of school systems. In most of the states teaching has no legal recognition as a profession. There should be a large body of professional teachers in every state, known and honored as such.
The first step to secure this end is to place the examination in the hands of the profession. The next is a system of professional certificates. This subject is to be presented by Hon. John Swett, of California, who inaugurated a system there more just to the profession than that of any other state.
4. How can the higher education of woman be best provided for? The higher institutions of the country are considering this question, and it is an important one. The question is not whether women shall receive as thorough and broad an education as men. This is conceded, and woman has demonstrated her capacity to acquire such an education. The simple question is this:
Shall women be educated in our present colleges with men, or shall equally well endowed institutions be established for their education? It was hoped that President WHITE, of Cornell University, would present this subject, but a letter just received from him states that he can not be present.
Another question, and one which I should have stated first, is this: What is the duty of the public school with respect to moral training?–a vital question.
I trust that the discussion of these, and other important questions included in our programme, will make this meeting felt in all the future of American education. This Association has the opportunity to assist in shaping the systems of instruction which, in the future, are to give character to the American people. May this opportunity be well improved.
In conclusion, permit me to return to you my thanks for the honor of presiding over your deliberations on this occasion.
E. P. Frost, of Illinois, was appointed. Assistant Secretary, and C. R. STUNTZ, of Ohio, and R. WOODBURY, of Maine, Assistant Treasurers.
Adjourned, to meet at 8 o'clock P.M., at the hall of the Lowell Institute.
The Association was called to order by the President, who announced Rev. Dr. A. D. Mayo, of Cincinnati, as the lecturer for the evening, who delivered the following address:
METHODS OF MORAL INSTRUCTION IN COMMON SCHOOLS.
By the command of the President of the National Education Association, an authority I have learned, amid the duties and emergencies of educational life in the West, to implicitly obey, I appear before this illustrious body of teachers and friends of schools, to introduce a theme that lies at the foundation of human culture and human character; on the decision of which the existence of the American common school depends. I ask the indulgence, especially of you who are teachers, to some thoughts of an educational layman on Methods of Moral Instruction in Common Schools.
THE ERA OF METHODS.— We have fallen upon the era of methods in American education. During the last twenty years, our system of public instruction has been groping over the perilous bridge that leads from empiric to scientific methods; groping often in a dense fog, in the face of all the foes that can be summoned by popular ignorance and prejudice, led by people whose sole interest is to keep things as they are. It was natural that this examination of methods should begin at the base of primary instruction, analyze the mind of the child, and learn to bring it face to face with knowledge. That examination has brought us upon the highway to great and successful changes in our mental school discipline. Now we approach the more complex and important question of Methods in Moral Instruction. It is to a careful study of methods and a strict adherence to practical and natural ways of shaping character in the school-room that we must look for a solution of this vexed theme. If the
American People can be kept away from the fierce sectarian conflicts precipitated by the ultra ecclesiastical and the ultra secular parties in school affairs long enough to get their eye on a few principles and mature a few methods, we may hope to achieve all that wise men can reasonably expect of moral training from the state, and reconcile to our common-school system all except that impracticable squad that is the chronic gad-fly of Republican society.
WHAT IS THE COMMON SCHOOL?.-- We can not understand the real nature of this problem of Methods of Moral Instruction until we rid our minds of a huge drift of vague idealism concerning the province of the common school. our American enthusiasm for popular culture, we are perpetually forgetting that the aim of our common system of state instruction is neither to develop a scholastic class nor to work up our young friend, Jonathan junior, into a seraph. The only ground on which we can take the people's money for public instruction is that the common school is the corner-stone of our national order of Republican society. The common school-house is not a manufactory of scholars or saints, but of good American citizens. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were not scholars; Ben. Franklin and Andrew Jackson never claimed to be saints; but they were all, in characteristic ways, excellent types of American citizenship. To make good American citizens of American boys and girls, we have the right to do every thing a wise Republican statemanship may dictate. To make scholars, in the university sense, or to develop proselytes to any church, we have no right to appropriate a dollar of the people's money. Scholarship and sanctity alike are to be dealt with in the people's school just in the degree and to the extent that they minister to a lofty and progressive ideal of American citizenship and American character.
Public MORALS.—So we are brought down, in the common school, from the stupendous obligation of training souls for eternity to the sufficiently arduous undertaking of keeping the United States of America out of hell by educating American children into a virtuous citizenship as that is practically estimated by the people of every Christian country. This implies, of course, the full recognition by the common school of the existence, sovereignty and providence of Almighty God and the duty of all men and of the nation to love, worship and obey God, in all ways within the province of a government that has for ever repudiated the union of state and church. But the great stress in the common school will necessarily come upon the domain of morality. How to make our children unselfish, just, kind, pure, honest, truthful, lovers of all men, able to live in our order of American society resisting its awful temptations and seizing its grand opportunities, becoming such men and women as the Republic can intrust with her future: - this is the task set for the teachers in the American school-room.
CHRISTIAN MORALITY THE FOUNDATION OF THE REPUBLIC. Of course, the morality taught and enforced in the discipline of the common school is the Christian morality as laid down in the four Gospels, according to its best public appreciation in Christian lands. Less than this we have no right to attempt; more than this we can not achieve. We can not teach an ancient Pagan, a Mohammedan or a Chinese ideal of morality in an American school.
not inculcate there the distinctive fatalistic morality of a materialistic science or an atheistic philosophy. All these types of morality are repugnant to the common sense and common life of the American people, whose whole order of society and ideas of living are the outgrowth of eighteen centuries of a progressive Christianity. The ideal public morality and religion of the people of the l'nited States is the best attainable resumé of the public religion and morality of all the past of Christendom plus the American right to go to the Bible at first hand, think freely and judge conscientiously on all human affairs. In this broad sense, the ideal morality of the American common school-room is not the creed of any sectary or the conceit of any pedant who may teach therein, but the ('hristian morality as best apprehended by the Nation that establishes the school. This may be called indefinite; but it is as definite as any publie ideal can be in a country where everything finally hinges, not on a scholastic logie, but on the Christianized common sense of a people which, of all races and nations, has shown the best faculty of walking along lizzy places with a "level head.”
So the problem before the common-school teacher in America is to hold before the child, by precept and example, in the most practical way, that Christian morality which is essential to high character in a true American man or woman and a good citizen of the United States.
THE TEACHER THE FUNDAMENTAL METHOD.-The fundamental method of moral instruction is to place in every school-room a teacher who is the incarnation of a profound, wise and inspiring Christian morality. Every method presupposes a living soul at the centre of operations, without which it is but a dead machine cut off from its motive power. The common-school certificates that were in use when I was a young pedagogue among the hills of old Massachusetts contained a clause asserting the “good moral character” of the candidate; and we suppose every code of American city school regulations to-lay contains a similar requirement. But is not this side of the teachers' qualifications, in some quarters, falling into a mere negative significance? For the last twenty years the great stir in school affairs has been the elaboration of methods for imparting knowledge. The teacher of to-day is reminded hourly, by a cloud of wit resses, that she must hnot fail in scientific requirements and must be up to the highest demand in imparting knowledge. The fate of our unfortunate great-grandfathers and grandmothers who were captured by the Indians and forced to run the gauntlet was a feeble type of the experience of the city schoolmistress of to-lay. First, she is coached for the Normal School; then ground through the “ gang” of a dozen special millstones for her training in methods; meanwhile persecuted by a roomful of sharp boys in the “practice department”; always in range of a masked battery of normal trustees; the superintendent of schools, like Mr. Huxley's chess-playing fate, calmly looking on; the terrible board of examiners reposing, like veiled Eumenides, at the end of the vista. Once actually at work, as a young teacher, she is followed, like a weary soul in a dream, by incessant advice and drill, till life is hardly worth the living. This may all be essential in its way, though it some times reminds us of the style in which we used to capture butterflies in the meadows of Tully brook; clutching the flitting loveliness so fiercely at the end of the chase that there was nothing