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III. THE DIGNITY OF THE SCHOOLMASTER'S WORK.*
BY SENOR D. P. SARMIENTO,
Director of Primary Instruction in Chili, now Minister from the Argentine Republic to U. S. Gov't.
INANIMATE nature and human society present to us at every step examples of immense effects produced by obscure and sometimes infinitely small causes. The sea polypi- living beings which scarcely have a form—have raised from the fathomless depths to the surface of the waters one-half of the islands now flourishing and inhabited by thousands of men in Oceanica. The gothic cathedrals of Europe, the wonder of architecture, with their multiplicity of columns, statues, pinnacles, and wealth of ornament sculptured in stone, have been the work of obscure artists, of thousands of masons, members of a confraternity who wrought without wages in fulfillment of a duty, a vow, or a creed, one generation succeeding another, the apprentices after the masters, until they left upon the earth a monument of the intelligence, the beauty, the daring, and the sublimity of man's genius. The schoolmasters are, in modern society, those obscure artificers to whom is confided the greatest work that man can execute, viz. : the perfection of the civilization of the human race, begun from time immemorial in a few favored portions of the earth, transmitted from century to century from one nation to another, continued from generation to generation in one class of society, but only in the present century, and in some enlightened nations, extended to all classes and to every individual. The fact of an entire people-men and women, adults and children, rich and poor-educated and possessing the means of education, is a new thing in the world's history; and although even as yet but imperfectly effected, it is nevertheless on the eve of consummation in some of the Christian nations of Europe and America, not alone in countries which have been for a long time inhabited, but in territories whose culture dates as from yesterday, showing that the universal diffusion of culture is not so much the result of time as it is the work of the will, and the natural outgrowth of a nation's necessities.
• Prepared to be read before the American Institute of Instruction in 1865.
The mass of knowledge at present possessed by man, the result of centuries of observation, of comparison, and of study, is the labor of wise men; and the results of this eternal, multiplex, endless labor, are within the reach of every individual of the entire species. The press presents this knowledge in the form of a book, and whoever reads the book with all the precedents for understanding it, knows as much as they who wrote it. The humble country schoolmaster places, therefore, the whole science of our epoch within the reach of the farmer's son whom he teaches to read. The master does not invent the science, nor does he teach it; he may be ignorant of it in its entire magnitude; perchance he does not understand it beyond its most simple rudiments; yet he opens the closed doors to the new-born man and shows him the way; he introduces him, who receives his lessons, to the whole universe, to all past centuries, to all nations, to the whole mass of knowledge which humanity has treasured up.
When the clergyman spills the water of baptism on the head of the infant, he makes him a member of a congregation which perpetuates centuries through generations, and unites him to God, the origin of all things, the Father and Creator of the human race. The schoolmaster, when he puts the spelling-book into the child's hands, separates him irrevocably from the mass of animal creation, constitutes him an integral member of the civilized nations of the world, and unites him to the written tradition of humanity, which forms the fund of knowledge that has been increasing from generation to generation. The clergyman takes away that original sin with which the child was born; the master, the stain of that barbarism which is the original state of man; for to learn to read is to possess the key to that immense legacy of labors, of studies, of experiments, of discoveries, of truths, which form the soul, the mind, of humanity. For the savage there is no history, no arts, no science. His individual memory does not reach beyond the times of his father and grandfather within the limited sphere of his tribe, as transmitted by oral tradition. But the book is the memory of the human species during thousands of centuries. With the book in our hands we remember Moses, Homer, Socrates, Plato, Cæsar, Confucius; we know word by word, fact by fact, what they said or did; we have lived, then, in all times, in all countries, and have known all the men who were great, either by their deeds, or by their thoughts, or by their discoveries. And as if God wished to show man the importance of the written word, the most ancient book in the world, the model book, the Bible, has come down to us through nearly
four thousand years, has been translated into one hundred languages, is now read by all the nations of the world, and is uniting in its way all the nations in one common civilization; and when, after centuries of barbarism, the new birth of science widened the sphere of action and of intelligence upon the globe, the publication of the Bible was the first essay of printing, and the reading of the Bible became the foundation of that popular education, which has changed the character of the countries which possessed it; and finally, with the Bible in their hand, and in consequence of the Bible, the English emigrants went to America to found there the most powerful States in the world—the most powerful because the most free, and because there every one, without distinction of age,
sex, of class or condition, knows how to read all that has been deposited in books by the science, the talent, the genius, the experience, and the observation of all men, of all nations, and all times.
An entire course of education may be reduced to this simple expression: to read what is written, to be acquainted with what is known, and to extend the work of civilization with one's own fund of observation.
This is what a teacher teaches in the school; this is his occupation in society. The judge punishes the convicted crime without correcting the delinquent; the clergyman corrects moral error without touching the cause which gave it birth; the military officer represses public disorder without improving the confused ideas which excited it, or the incapacities which stimulated it. The schoolmaster alone, of the functionaries who act upon society, is placed in an adequate position to cure radically the evils of society. The adult is beyond the sphere of his watchfulness. He is placed on the threshhold of life to guide those who are about to enter it. The example of the father, the ignorant affection of the mother, the poverty of the family, social inequalitics, determine the character, vices, virtues, diverse, and opposite habits in each child that comes to his school. He has but a single morality for all, one rule for all, one ex
a ample only for all. He rules them, molds and equalizes them, impressing them with the same spirit and the same ideas, teaching them the same things, showing them the same examples; and the day when all the children of the same country shall pass through this preparation for entrance into social life, and when all the teachers sball knowingly and conscientiously fulfill their mission, in that happy day a nation will be a family with the same spirit, with the same morality, with the same instruction, with the same fitness for work, without any other gradation than that which rests upon genius, talent, activity, or patience.
The schoolmaster in Europe and in the United States perpetuates the moral, intelligent, and civilized traditions of his predecessors. But the school is followed by the workshop, which is but another school of labor and art, perpetuating acquired knowledge and developing the manufacturing resources of the country; or by the halls of learning, where the past sciences are perpetuated and elaborated to greater perfection. The arts and trades, practical results of the sciences educate the people, giving them the means of helping themselves and providing for their own wants. The fine arts in Italy, the monuments of ancient and modern genius, the masterworks in painting, sculpture, and architecture which are seen every where educate the multitudes who behold them, raising them to a knowledge, though confused, of the history of the human greatness of which they never believe themselves disinherited. In France, besides these causes, the demands of that exquisite taste which is manifested in all its manufactured products educate the people, inspiring them with indescribable but certain notions of the beautiful, and enabling them to reproduce them in their daily labor. The people then, too, are educated by the army, to which all belong by the conscription; and the French army, in its traditions and in its perfection, is modern history, the genius of the nation's great men, the embodiment of its aspirations for its glory, and the test of science in its capacity to increase the power of man. Finally, the nation is educated by its discoveries in the sciences, and by the splendor which surrounds the names of its scientific and literary men; by the cheapness of books and engravings; by the fashion, and by its public feasts and spectacles. In England the people are educated by the activity of their immense manufactories, by their ingenious machinery, by their harbors covered with thousands of vessels, by the productions of all the world accumulated in their markets. They are educated by the jury, by Parliament, by the mariner who communicates with all the world, by commerce which makes all nations her tributaries, by the postal system which makes of the world an English department. Finally, they are educated by the spectacle of the most rational, most scientific and finished agriculture known, by the railroads and canals which cross the entire country, by the comfort and well-being observable in the generality of the inhabitants, by the activity which reigns in all the transactions of life, the respect and efficiency of the laws, and by the liberty of following out a purpose, petitioning for a reform, and consummating it by the united and repeated action of a majority of wills.
In the United States to all these causes united there is added, to complete the education of the people, all those blessings produced by civilization in Europe reproduced in the United States in a larger scale and without the inconveniences and opposition which mar them there; the growing wealth without the despairing poverty; the feeling of want, but with the means of gratifying it; land at low prices; education, the church, social rights, the railroad cars, the newspaper and the ballot-box, common to all classes and to all conditions; no king nor populace, no rich class nor poor, no learned class nor ignorant, but all ordering and obeying, possessing and knowing, upon an apparent level;—where, though there are great differences, yet all feel that the acquisitions which they might envy in others may be reproduced in their own persons. The good results of their liberty and industry, the unexampled course of their prosperity, are means of popular education as complete and more efficacious than any presented by the history of the world. What effects
upon the country must the imitation of its heroes and great men produce, when these are Washington, the upright; Franklin, who by morality, industry, and self-education, attained glory and eminence in scientific attainment; and as forefathers, Penn, Winthrop and the Pilgrim Fathers, Williams, and so many others, without a conqueror among them, nor a successful villain, nor a tyrant, nor a glorious criminal ?
But the people of South America move in another sphere, and to show the importance of the schoolmaster in the bosom of our society, we desire to depict its principal lineaments. We are thrown between two opposite elements, and are united to them at each extreme. On some of the frontiers occupied by our Christian population, the tent of the savage appears, under whose unfinished roof nature is seen in its rudest state. The man, ferocious in his instincts; improvident of his means of existence; suspicious because ignoring causes and their effects; made inhuman by the consciousness of inferiority and impotency; rough in his tastes; immoral on account of his imperfect consciousness of right; violent in his appetites, from the difficulty of satisfying them; poor, because he does not know how to govern nature, or subject matter, or understand its laws; finally, stationary, because having no past he does not foresee a future. He lives because he was born, and he dies without leaving to his relatives either acquired property or a legacy of science, of glory, or of power. In the tribe to which he belongs, his existence is born in his person, in his person all his being expires. Such a spectacle the civilized world has not known for centuries back; and if in North America there are savages, civilization is so enlightened that their presence is rather an antagonism than an ob