網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

been discarded. This course has diminished the real value of the public schools, which have thus been made subservient to the wants of a few, while the essential interests of the many are disregarded.

The attempt has been made to accomplish too high things in what are called high schools. Not only is it proposed to fit boys for "ye universitie" without regard to the question whether they wish to be fitted or not, but to teach the outlines of nearly all the branches for each one of which a professorship is deemed a necessity in a decent college. But this is an impossibility, even in the best high schools of our largest cities and towns, without ignoring the grand idea of what ought to be, if it is not, the policy of the local high schools every where, that they are supplementary to the common schools, and are high in relation to them and not in relation to the Universities; and that they should not therefore be considered, except in rare instances, as taking the place which middle schools must occupy as intermediate between the highest local schools and the colleges, which is the proper sphere and function of the academical system.

The progress of popular education, so-called, does not consist (as it is so often falsely assumed to consist) in introducing high studies, and a great many of them, into a school having only one or two teachers, and thus make it high. For no progress is so sure as this to make a school the lowest of the low, in all the essential uses and qualities of education. The old staples of instruction, reading, writing, and arithmetic and grammar, can not be dispensed with in the popular schools; for their uses are grounded in the absolutely necessary wants of the youthful mind. Any system, then, which substitutes other studies for these, is one whose whole tendency is to deteriorate not to elevate the quality of education. We are not sure but that Latin may take the place of English grammar to some extent in the public schools, but it must be solely as a disciplinary study to teach general grammar, and not with a view to a full classical course in the local schools of any grade of excellence. Indeed, we are not sure but that English grammar had better be discarded entirely, if in the course of common school instruction it must be limited to only one or two terms, and then set aside as finished. And yet the text-books in that branch are as

Thick as autumnal leaves that strew the brooks in Valombrosa; though they were all unwritten until late in the eighteenth century, when the countless progeny began to be.

How the literature of the Elizabethan age and Queen Anne's time, when Addison and his peers wrote the Spectator, could have existed, when such a branch as English grammar was unknown in any

English or grammar school, is a mystery for some modern common school superintendent to solve. In this country arithmetic was taught in all the common schools without a text-book till after the Revolution, and geography was a study high enough to be a branch of college education; and yet these were the schools in which Washington and Franklin received all their elementary training. They were taught in school-houses not decent enough for an Irish shanty now, and yet Franklin, thus " fitted" for his calling, became such a master in philosophy and civil affairs as that he held the lightnings in his grasp and hurled tyrants from their thrones. How could he do all this, when in no grammar school on earth had the merest elements of the natural sciences even been heard of! And yet he did not underrate the grammar schools of his native city, or decry, as modern sciolists do, the value of classical learning, or establish Franklin medals for some school of practical and naturalistic studies, to the detriment and discouragement of so-called dead languages and dry and “uninteresting" branches of study.

But the grand argument against the academical system of middle schools and against colleges as well is, that pupils must not be domiciliated away from the supervision of parents and placed under the entire supervision of tutorial governors and teachers. It is assumed that there is “ no place like home” for the higher gradations of mental culture as well as the lower. If all homes were places for intellectual development as good as we might conceive them to be, where the parents were themselves qualified in the best manner for the work of instruction and moral discipline, then it were well that home influences should predominate in every stage of intellectual growth. But the homes of the best and most learned men are not found to be thus adapted to the purposes of education. They lack both the power to advise and direct in respect to the best methods, especially in all the higher departments of learning. Even if welleducated parents understand the value of learning, they may yet be ignorant of its processes and best methods even while they enjoy

Hence it is that liberally educated men, more than others, seek the best seats of learning for the education of their own children. They understand, as others do not, how that the local influences of home often tend to neutralize the best benefits which the formative or transformative power of a college or Academy exerts on a young and wayward mind. Nor does the argument hold any better, though often urged, that the public school system is any more in sympathy with the genius of our democratic institutions than the academical system in its middle or higher grades.

its uses.

We do not deny that the public school tends strongly to modify and remove those social distinctions which it is the direct aim of home training, in many instances, to create and intensify. The boy of Beacon street may recite his lesson in the Boston Latin School on the same seat with the boy of Ann street; but the good influences of the morning session of each day, in obliterating factitious distinctions and creating good fellowship, may not last longer than the dinner-hour, when all the power of home associations resumes its undiminished sway. It is not so in those schools where the pupils come together from localities remote from each other, and from under the influence of social customs and notions most unlike. Here nothing is more common than to see the rich and the poor domiciliate together on grounds of perfect reciprocity, and forming the strongest fellowships in spite of antecedents of birth and position most diverse. If there can be found on earth a realization of that dream of politicians, a republic where there is a perfect equality of rights and privileges, and a perfect reciprocity of sympathy and social fellowship independent absolutely of the distinctions of the outside world, that realization is a community of students in an American Academy or college.

In the home or local system of schools the aim is really private education; and for ends more or less personal, though it be obtained at the public expense. In the academical or collegiate system of schools, the aim is a true public education, though it may be ob- • tained by means legally private, that is, such as furnished by individuals or corporations.

The local system respects the parental will and dignity on the ground, that as parents, in their individual or social capacity, pay for the tuition of their children and appoint the teacher, they have a right to control all the methods and processes and influences of instruction; that is, they may say what shall and what shall not be taught. Such a policy as this, for the period of childhood during the time of rudimental training, is obviously the very best for the vast majority of pupils; since, during the earliest stages of education, the parents, who are the natural protectors of their children, are generally competent to act for them in respect to their intellectual as well as their physical wants. As the great majority of the young can never go much beyond the rudiments of all useful learning, the public school system is most obviously founded in the eternal verities of things. But the period of childhood and the training proper for that period has its natural range and limits, and these limits and the course proper for those limits can not be essentially changed so

as to substitute therefor the studies and the discipline of maturer years. This principle will not fail to be regarded if the idea of adolescence and full majority is admitted, which idea some educators seem to disregard, as do the Chinese and some parents nominally Christian also, since in their system of training the child is never of age till the parent dies, and not even then.

The recognition of the period of adolescence, in a system of education, demands a grade of schools in which the interest of the pupil in his own welfare is a consideration paramount to the parental will or dignity; and hence, although the parent may rightly control the course of the pupil so far as to direct the place of his education, yet, while in that place, the teacher stands in all respects in loco parentis, and the parent in all that pertains to the appropriate work of instruction and discipline never stands in loco docentis.

It is evident, therefore, that as the period of adolescence draws to its close, the aim of school training must more and more have a direct reference to the welfare of the pupil as the party mainly concerned; and less and less to that of the parent, except indeed so far as that, by sympathy and affection, he may regard the welfare of his child, at all es, as his own. But in the later stages of education, at the higher seminaries, the authority of home can not predominate in opposition to the teacher's labor and influence. The students must be held in subjection by a power stronger than that of any home influence can ordinarily be. Such a power a vigorous seat of learning affords, and it meets the wants of subjective training at the period when its force is most efficient and most needed

To curb the fiery heart of youth. Such a power was exerted by Arnold at Rugby, and by Dr. Whewell, the master of Trinity at Cambridge, recently deceased. Such a power have many teachers, both among the living and the dead, exercised in the academic schools of our own land—a

power

which must forever make our Academies and colleges indispensable, since they supply those forces of strength which no family, or hamlet, or town, or city can furnish without their aid.

Every college graduate can understand, as others can not, the peculiar advantages of mental development and of those executive qualities of the manly character, which come as the incidental results of a public education, and which the training of home or of any local school, however excellent it may be in other respects, rarely confers.

Hence the necessity of a public education for places of public service and for all kinds of civil and ecclesiastical duties, which

[ocr errors]

require unen of “large discourse" or liberal and comprehensive culture. Hence the necessity of colleges and universities, and hence, too, the need of having institutions which shall, in all their forces of moral and intellectual power, keep pace with the wants of our advancing American civilization, ultimately to be, in its maturity, the noblest in the world's history. We shall need universities as much better than Oxford and Cambridge, as the destiny of American society is to be better and more powerful than that of England or any of the continental kingdoms and empires.

But as preliminary to their ultimate enlargement, and as a condition of their efficiency even in their present form, we need a system of middle schools having the same great ends of social advancement in view, and tending to the same results, which it is the object of our highest seminaries to accomplish.

The Universities of England and the continent of Europe have for ages received all their annual accessions from the middle schools, in which the foundations of all sound education and training have been laid, the quality and degrees of which have been determined by the wisest of men, who have fully understood its uses as well as its processes and instruments. And the education obtained in the "great public schools" of England has exceeded, in the extent and value of classical training, that which the best American colleges have not furnished until within a recent period.

But the day has come when the colleges of this country must embrace within their curriculum other studies than the elemental studies of a classical or scientific course. Four years are too few to include the multitude of studies which a general course of liberal culture must embrace as the limit of graduation. And a great share of the classical and mathematical studies of the first two years of the college course, as now arranged, could be better attended to in middle schools, under good teachers and with proper endowments and accommodations. The temptations to dissipation would be far less and the standard of attainments far greater in studies, which, though pursued in the college, are really and altogether elemental, when the rank of scholarship in the English and European universities is considered.

So the middle schools are more desirable places than the college to lay the foundations of, not scholarship only, but of the highest qualities of manly character. Dr. Arnold's influence was such as to shield his pupils with a moral panoply of protection against the folly and dissoluteness of university life, the occasion of utter ruin to 80 many young men in all the high seats of learning.

« 上一頁繼續 »