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III. THE DIGNITY OF THE SCHOOLMASTER'S WORK.*
BY SENOR D. F. 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, of 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 inequalities, 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 example 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 shall 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
cation. What has since been the effect I have no means of knowledge. The Academy still continues; but in a very different state of prosperity and influence from that in which it was in the first years of its existence; in 1825 I went to see the school-house which was built, as I have mentioned, in the section where my father resided. It would have served admirably for a figure in the great painting of the end of the world. Even yet, nothing seems so difficult as to inspire the popular mind with interest in the subject of popular education, so as to produce care and pains on the part of the people sufficient to make provision for the instruction and training of their children.
In 1803, April, I came to Delaware and settled at Dover. There was then no provision by law in the state for schools. Neighbors or small circles united and hired a teacher for their children. There were in some rare places schoolhouses. There was no school-house in Dover. The teacher there in 1803 was a foreigner who hired a room and admitted scholars at prices. The teachers frequently were intemperate, whose qualification seemed to be-inability to earn any thing in any other way. A clergyman who had some pretensions as a scholar, but had been silenced as a preacher for incorrigible drunkenness, stood very prominent as a teacher. In the best towns it depended upon accident what kind of school they had. In Wilmington at one time they had a very good teacher; he made teaching respectable, and interested parents in the instruction of their children. In Dover we sent to Harvard College in 1813 and procured a teacher who was with us several years. Afterward we were left to chance but fortunately generally had a good school. But even in the best neighborhoods, teachers of the young frequently were immoral and incapable; and in the country generally there was either a school of the worst character or no school at all.
In 1829 a system of schools was instituted for our state by the Legislature. The system was simple; dividing the counties into school districts of convenient size, and giving the school voters of the district power to elect a school committee of three and determine upon the sum to be raised in the district for school purposes, and investing the school committee with full power over the subject of a school for the district. In Newcastle county this system has worked well. In Kent and Sussex not so well. The difference may in some degree be attributed to there having been for years in Newcastle county a school convention annually assembled to discuss the condition of the schools, and no such convention in Kent or Sussex.
But I am going beyond the purpose of this communication-to show the condition of common schools before any legal provision for their support. I therefore close, having trespassed too long.