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II. MORAL EDUCATION.*
LECTURES ADDRESSED TO YOUNG TEACHERS.
BY WILLIAM RUSSELL,
Editor of the American Journal of Edacation (Boston) 1826–29.
INTRODUCTORY OBSERVATIONS. Importance of the Study of Man's Moral Constitution. The vital part of human culture is not that which makes man what he is intellectually, but that which makes him what he is in heart, life, and character. Intellectual cultivation, however, is a source of moral power to the individual, not merely in the mental aid which it enables him to render to others, but in that which it gives him for the understanding and government of himself. All intellectual training, therefore, is necessarily moral in its influence, so far as regards enlarged opportunity and power of intelligent, voluntary, and efficient action. It is only misguided ignorance, blinding prejudice, or perverted ingenuity, that would ignore or undo, in educational administration, the natural union of morality with intelligence.
A culture exclusively intellectual serves but to exhibit the skeleton of the mental frame, which moral influence is to furnish with the means and the power of action, and into which religious principle is to breathe the breath of life. But when moral culture assumes a separate and formal character, it ceases to be a living spiritual reality, and becomes but a mechanical routine of "the letter" which, we are told, " killeth.” No reliance for effective moral influence on disposition or character, can be safely placed on mere didactic inculcation or catechetical instruction. The oracles of Divine truth tell us, that the highest moral training—the spiritual—does not separate - admonition! from "nurture"—the life-giving influence—but combines the two in the educational process of “ bringing up." The true study of the human being, as a subject of meliorating culture, contemplates the child in the living unity of his whole nature. It regards him as an intelligent self-conscious, self-impelling, self-guiding, self-responsible agent, yet dependent on, and responsible to, the law of a higher power than his own, which has summed up and defined his individuality in a conscious will.
* At the suggestion of Hon. Henry Barnard, the following series of lectures has been transcribed from the author's general course on Human Culture, originally addressed to the students of the Merrimack, (N. 11.,) and New England, (Lancaster, Mass.,) Normal Institutes. A previous series on Intellectual Education, may be found by referring to Vols. II., III., and IV., of this Journal.
All careful investigation, however, in the mental, not less than in the physical world, implies an examination so close as to constitute a thorough analysis—not, in this instance, for the sake of a mere philosophic solution, but for the purpose of securing a true synthetic construction of life and character, by the better understanding, so obtained, of constituent elements and the influences which may best secure their living union and power. In every process of “instruction," (inward building,) the educator, whether parent or teacher, if he would work thoughtfully and successfully—if he would avoid laying upon the mental foundation of created capability a superstructure of “wood, hay, stubble," instead of the “gold, silver, and precious stones” of true worth and value-is in duty bound to see to it that he attentively observe, and carefully study, the nature and constitution of the being, whose fabric of character it is his office to aid in building up. The educator must, in a word, thoroughly understand and appreciate the elements of human character. These must be familiar to him in all their relations, and in all their varied workings, that he may understand more fully the means and sources of healthy action and healthful regimen, which it is his duty to prescribe.
True position of the Teacher as a Moral Educator.—Even to the youngest and least experienced of teachers, who wishes to acquit himself to the moral obligations under which he is professionally laid, equally to his pupils and himself, we would earnestly recommend not the practice of looking into some text-book of moral philosophy, for his own guidance, or for the instruction of his pupils, but-in the true spirit of an earnest, faithful, and intelligent instructor, who is aware that all he daily does or omits is a part of the effectual, living education of the subjects of bis influence—the careful study and watchful observation of the moral indications and tendencies of his pupils, as intimating their capabilities and suggesting his measures and resources. It is his part to carry on, in successive stages, the sacred offices of parental love and wisdom, daily transferred to his charge, to be fulfilled in the sphere of the schoolroom, according to the measure of his judgment, his skill, and his benignity. But the proper home influence, though so often missing, is the true ideal of purpose, plan, and work, for the teacher; and, so far as regards moral sults, in the schoolroom as at home, the appropriate influence must be that of an authoritative, affectionate, living, presence--not
an inanimate book or a deadening routine. life.
doubts that, to become a skillful cultivator of the intel
lectual capabilities of his pupils, the instructor must understand the character and action of the intellectual faculties—not merely as these exist in the enumeration of particulars in a text-book of mental philosophy, but as they actually reveal themselves in the personal action and relations of the living pupil, in whatever concerns the use and. exercise of his mind. The teacher must take the position not of a student of intellectual philosophy, ruminating in his study, but of a wakeful observer and inquirer into the phenomena of an actual, living specimen of the human mind, whose course is to be, in part, dependent on the fidelity of his observation, and the genial character of his influence. Our previous course of suggestions on the cultivation of the intellectual faculties, it will be recollected, assumed this ground as the appropriate and peculiar one of the teacher, and the only one on which he could justly be regarded as doing aright his professional work. The same ground we would claim for the teacher, when surreying the field of moral culture.
ARRANGEMENT OF Topics. Recapitulation of Method.—The plan which we propose to adopt in the following series of lectures, will still be, as in the former series, that which places the teacher as a responsible personal observer and reporter on phenomena and facts; watching and aiding the progress of human development. Our survey of the field of intellectual cultivation, as founded on the nature and constitution of the human being, presented, (1.) it will be recollected, a given class of the mental powers and faculties, themselves, as subjects of examination; (2.) the actuating principle, or moving spring, of these powers ; (3.) their perceptible natural tendency, or course of action; (4.) the results of their action; and, (5.) the educational processes designed for their appropriate development.
Following this plan, we avoid all mere theoretic speculation, and stand on the sure ground of observed fact—the only point of view for the discovery and recognition of truth, or the direction and guidance of the teacher. We thus, moreover, place the work of education in the teacher's own hands, as a charge devolving on him, not merely professionally, but personally, and laying him under his just responsibility, as an agent for others, and as one intrusted, in the capacity of temporary guardian, with the dearest of all human interests, and the best of all hopes—hopes extending even to a neverdying life.
1. CLASSIFICATION OF THE MORAL CAPABILITIES. Unity of Man's Moral Constitution.-Adopting the above method for our course of suggestions on moral education, we should proceed
to enumerate, as a class, the most prominent of the peculiar powers and faculties which constitute man a moral being, capable of moral influence, instruction, and development. But as every moral act involves the whole man—not merely the executive organ of muscle or nerve, intellect, heart or will, but all, in their living unity and active coöperation, we can not, as when examining the intellectual faculties, select any class or group of powers as exclusively constituting the moral capabilities of the human being. We must take into view his whole nature, comprehending, as it does, the vast range of his physical, intellectual, emotional, and voluntary attributes, in the personal constitution and organization of the individual.
1. Health as an element of Moral Life.—Man's moral condition, and his capability of moral development, depend, in no slight degree, on that intimate connection which the Creator has ordained between soul and body. As a necessary condition of the unity of man's complex nature, wholeness of being is essential to whole and true, that is, normal action, whether of body, or of mind, or of both. Physical disorder, by its reactionary character, disintegrates its subject as a moral agent, by withdrawing the executive organism from coöperation and consentaneous action, in subordination whether to the dictates of reason and conscience, the solicitations of feeling, or the normal activity of the will. Physical suffering, and its attendant involuntary irritation, are sufficient to overcast the clear healthy action of the judgment, to stifle the monitions of conscience, to change the natural current of affection, to generate angry passion, and propagate moral evil, to any extent—from the petty ebullitions of peevish temper, to the outbreaks of the fiercest anger, or of raving and furious insanity. Health, then, the educator must ever be careful to enumerate among the conditions of morality, whether the healthy state of the agent be owing to the normal sanity of mere bodily condition, or to that health of the higher nature, conscience, which, in man's fallen state, must so often be invoked, to rule the turbulent and rebellious tendencies of a morbid physical organization, and which, when enlightened, and strengthened, and purified, by supernal aid, is a surer reliance than the happiest condition of the best normal animal life.—To this branch of our subject we shall have occasion to refer more distinctly, under other heads, in the discussion of parental and educational influences.
2. INTELLECT, and its culture, important elements of Moral Life.The vital fact of man's moral unity of constitution, involves the condition of his intellectual nature, as sound and true, or otherwise. The unhealthy condition of the bodily organism, is sufficient to subvert, as we have seen, the whole moral character of the human being, in seasons of excessive morbid reäction. Sanity and vigor of mind, not less than health of body, and conditions of moral life and action; as is sadly manifest when we advert to those unbapny cases in which there has been an overthrow or obscuration of the god-like power of reason itself. Insanity, whether in the form of mental aberration or delusion, is competent not only to impair, but to obliterate, the distinctive mental and moral attributes of man.
The enlightened humanity of our day mitigates by genial, and sometimes, successful treatment, the sufferings of our nature, when reduced to such deplorable conditions; and its kind offices are crowned with yet more marked success, in its endeavors to raise the idiotic and the feeble minded to a comparatively healthy intellectual and moral level. It is one of the highest tributes paid to moral culture—we may observe in passing—that such replacements of depressed human nature are generally recognized as owing their success to the purely moral measures adopted in effecting them, whether in cases of insanity or of idiocy.
Culture essential to Intelligence, and therefore, to Moral Elevation.Gross ignorance, and utter absence of mental culture, are proved to be, in general, fruitful sources of crime, and of moral evil in every shape. It is not enough that a sane mind and sound judgment be taken into the account, as, indispensable elements in the production of legitimate moral results in action and character. The intellect beclouded and darkened by ignorance and its attendant hosts of error and prejudice, or benumbed by neglect and disuse, is incapable of the clearness and activity which belong to the normal states and conditions of the human mind. A pure, intelligent, and loyal adherence to principle and to conscience, can not, in such circumstances, be expected to exist. The character indicated in sacred scripture, “ a brutish man" who “doth not know," may not have chosen his condition; but, while in it, he is disqualified for every proper exercise of man's reflective and moral nature. The density of ignorance to which some classes of the population of European cities, and the majority of the slave population of our own country, are sunk, shows, in its deplorable depression, and its nearly hopeless extinction or absence of conscience, how important the daylight of knowledge is to a pure atmosphere in the human soul.
Evils of excessive Cultivation.-Morality necessarily implies a certain degree of intelligence and of culture. But, unhappily, there is, as is too plainly apparent in the forms of civilized and city life, a condition in which a moral inefficiency of mind is attributable not to the absence, but to the injudicious excess of cultivation; and the pale and emaciated features of school children and students, too