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At this very point lie the greatest deficiencies in the ordinary teaching of our schools. It may be reasonably supposed that children at the proper age to enter school have substantially correct conceptions of the limited number of objects which fall under their daily observation. Of this, however, we must not be too certain, especially if we have occasion to refer to marks or qualities which lie beyond the most common observation. We may use an appropriate term applied to some familiar object, some aspect of a tree, as in case of Dr. Hill's little girl; the object may be a familiar one, the term may have been heard a thousand times, and yet the child may never have dreamed that the one applies to the other. What conception will the use of such a term occasion ? Because the term and its application are familiar to the teacher, he makes the fatal mistake of supposing them so to the child. His teaching, in consequence, is so far powerless. Words have no mysterious power of creating conceptions. True it is that the mind, at length, acquires the power of divining the application of words from their connection. But we must not presume this in children.
Again, there is to every child the region of the clearly known, and the region of the faintly known, lying just beyond. All terms which apply to objects in this region have but a misty significance, and are often misapplied. Yet in the school-room they are liable to be used as if well understood.
All terms relating to what is unknown to the child, whether scientific terms pertaining to latent properties of familiar things, or familiar and popular terms pertaining to unknown things, are valueless when used by teacher or pupil.
Again, the abstract definitions at the commencement of the reading lesson, or taken from the dictionary, are usually deceptive and unreliable; they merely exchange an unknown term for another equally unknown. In other words, they do not create conceptions.
The usual process of teaching children to read, or indeed any process, unless great pains are taken, tends to make the direct object of reading the mére utterance of words, and not the awakening of conceptions. And hence arises that kind of chronic stupidity which so often marks all school exercises. Let any teacher first fill his own mind with a vivid picture of the objects which the words of a single lesson should call up, and then call upon his best class to repeat the language, carefully searching for their ideas, and he will find the deficiency in actual conception most astonishing.
Again, the theory of teaching with many, if we may infer their theory from their practice, is to require the pupil to commit to from every family that “barbarism as would allow in its midst a single child unable to read the Holy Word of God and the good iaws of the Colony,” those of Philadelphia and New York originated in voluntary associations of benevolent and patriotic individuals.
Nearly all professional schools for law, theology, and medicine, and every institution intended to provide for the exceptional classes —such as orphans, infants, juvenile offenders, deaf mutes, blind, imbecile children, or to introduce new methods, such as the monitorial, manual labor, and infant-originated in societies.
All of those educational enterprises, in which the religious element constitutes the leading object, such as the Sunday-School, the publication and dissemination of the Bible and religious books, have been carried on through voluntary associations.
The earliest movement for the advancement of education generally in the United States, through an association, originated in Boston in 1826, but did not take shape till some years later, although the object was partially attained through the agency of Lyceums, which were established for other purposes as well, in the same year. In the lectures and other exercises of the Lyceum, wherever established, the condition and improvement of schools—the school-house, studies, books, apparatus, methods of instruction and discipline, the professional training of teachers, and the whole field of school legis. lation and administration, were fully and widely discussed.
Out of the popular agitation already begun, but fostered by the Lyceum movement, originated, about the year 1830, many special school conventions and associations for the advancement of education, especially in the public schools. Most of these associations, having accomplished their purposes as a sort of scaffolding for the building up of a better public opinion, and of a better system of school legislation, have given way to new organizations founded on the same principle of the assent of many individuals to a common method of accomplishing special purposes. The history and condition of these various associations, both those which have accomplished their purpose, and those which are still in operation, having for their field the Nation or the State, will be herein briefly set forth.
To understand the condition of the schools, and of the popular estimate of education as it was about the beginning of this century, we introduce a series of articles which appeared in the Journal of Education, composed mainly of letters descriptive of the schools as they were sixty and seventy years ago, by individuals who were pupils and teachers in the same.
from different authors, and having the peculiar merit of sounding well. It is that which makes the school a place where the child comes in contact with realities just such as appeal to his common sense, as when he roamed at pleasure in the fields,—and not a place for irksome idleness,—not a place where the most delightful word uttered by the teacher is “ dismissed.” It is that which relieves the child's task only by making it intelligible and possible, not by taking the burden from him. It bids him examine for himself, discriminate for himself, and express for himself,—the teacher, the while, standing by to give hints and suggestions,—not to relieve the labor. In short, it is that which addresses itself directly to the eye external or internal, which summons to its aid things present or things absent, things past or things to come, and bids them yield the lessons which they infold,—which deals with actual existence, and not with empty dreams-a living realism and not a fossil dogmatism. It is to be introduced in a systematic way, if it can be done,—without much form where system is impracticable; but introduced it should be in some way every where. It will aid any teacher in correcting dogmatic tendencies, by enlivening his lessons, and giving zest to his instructions. He will draw from the heavens above, and from the earth beneath, or from the waters under the earth, from the world without, and from the world within. He will not measure his lessons by pages, nor progress by fluency of utterance. He will dwell in living thought, surrounded by living thinkers,-leaving at every point the impress of an objective and a subjective reality. Thoughtful himself, he will be thought-stirring in all his teaching. In fact, his very presence, with his thoughtinspiring methods, gives tone to his whole school. Virtue issues unconsciously from his every look and every act. He himself becomes a model of what his pupils should be. To him an exercise in geography will not be a stupid verbatim recitation of descriptive paragraphs, but a stretching out of the mental vision to see in living picture ocean and continent, mountain and valley, river and lake, not on a level plane, but rounded up to conform to the curvature of a vast globe. The description of a prairie on fire, by the aid of the imagination, will be wrought up into a brilliant object lesson. A reading lesson descriptive of a thunder storm on Mount Washington will be something more than a mere comformity to the rules of the elocutionist. It will be accompanied with a conception wrought into the child's mind, outstripped in grandeur only by the scene itself. The mind's eye will see the old mountain itself, with its surroundings of gorge and cliff, of woodland and barren rock, of
deep ravine and craggy peak. It will see the majestic thundercloud moving up, with its snow-white summits resting on walls as black as midnight darkness. The ear will almost hear the peals of muttering thunder as they reverberate from hill to hill.
A proper care on the part of the teacher may make such a scene an all-absorbing lesson. It is an object lesson—at least, a quasiobject lesson-just such as should be daily mingled with those on external realities. To give such lessons requires, on the part of the teacher, a quickened spirit—a kind of intellectual regeneration. Let him but try it faithfully and honestly, and he will soon find himself emerging froin the dark forms of Judaism into the clear light of a new dispensation. Indeed, this allusion contains more than a resemblance. The founder of the new dispensation was called, by way of eminence, “The Master.” In him was embodied and set forth the art of teaching. He was the “teacher come from God” to reveal in his own person and practice God's ideal of teaching. And did he not invariably descend to the concrete even with his adult disciples? Hence it was that the common people heard him gladly. Whoever will study the lessons given by him will see with what unparalleled skill' he passed from concrete forms up to abstract truths. He seldom commenced with the abstract. “A sower went forth to sow;" "A certain inan had two sons;" “I am the vine, ye are the branches,” are specimens of the way he would open a lesson to unfold some important abstract truth. The best treatise on object teaching extant is the four Gospels. Commencing as if he discovered an interior fitness in the object itself, he would lay under contribution the wheat, the tares, the grass, the lilies, the water, the bread, the harvest, the cloud, or the passing event, and that to give some important lesson to bis disciples.
The abstract we must teach, but our teaching need not be abstract. We may approach the abstract through the concrete. We must do it in many cases. And the methods of our Saviour are the divine methods informally expressed in his life. Let us reverently study them, and enter into the spirit with which they were employed. Such, in brief, are the fundamental uses of objects; such the adaptation of the human mind in its development to external Nature; such its growth and ever increasing capacity to interpret the revelations of her myriad forms; and such the wonderful power of language.
Let us now commence at the period when it is proper for a child to enter school. What is to engross his attention now? In any system of teaching, all concede that one of his first employments should be to learn the new language-the language of printed sym
bols addressed, not to the ear, but to the eye. And here commence the most divergent paths. The more common method is to drop entirely all that has hitherto occupied the child's attention, present him with the alphabet, point out the several letters, and bid him echo their names in response to the teacher's voice. By far the greatest portion of his time is passed in a species of confinement and inactivity, which ill comports with his former restless habits. Usually occupied in his school work but twice--and then for a few moments only-during each session, he advances from necessity slowly, and this imprisonment becomes irksome and offensive. To one who is not blinded by this custom, which has the sanction of a remote antiquity, the inquiry naturally forces itself upon his attention,- Is all this necessary! Must the child, because he is learning a new language, forget the old! May he not be allowed to speak at times, even in school, and utter the vital thonghts that once filled his mind with delight! May he not have some occupation that shall not only satisfy the restless activities of his nature, but also shalt gratify his earnest desire for knowledge ? Must he be made to feel that the new language of printed letters has no relation to the old ? Does he reach the goal of his school work, as too often seems the case, when he can pronounce words by looking at their printed forms! Why not recognize in the printed word the same vital connection between the word and the thought as before ? Why not follow the dictates of a sound philosophy—the simple suggestions of common sense- -and recognize the faet that the child comes fresh from the school of Nature, where actual scenes and real objects have engrossed his whole attention, and have been the source of all that has made his life so happy? If so, then why not let him draw freely from this source while learning to read; nay, as far as possible, make the very act of learning to read tributary to the same end, and, at the earliest possible time, make it appear
that the new acquisition is but a delightful ally of his present power to speak? The transition from his free and happy life at home to the confinement of the school-room will be less painful to him, and at the same time it will be apparent that the school is not a place to check but to encourage investigation.
Such inquiries as these have occupied the minds of intelligent educators who have ventured to question the wisdom of past methods. And they have led to the introduction of methods designed to occupy the time, and give interesting employment to the children. They have led to the introduction of objects familiar and interesting. Lessons are drawn from them which give the same im