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BOSTON. (1844–5.) SELECTIONS FROM REPORT. * * The introduction of music into our schools, whether we consider its intellectual, moral, social, or domestic influence, is an important event in the history of public instruction. Your committee, therefore, hope that it will be greatly encouraged, and that our teachers, scholars, and examining committees will continue to be refreshed and cheered by it. *
It is worthy of note, that in schools where there was apparently something of an equality in the actual progress of the pupils in knowledge, there was great inequality in the manner of reciting,—so that some schools appeared better than others, where the scholars may have been in fact equally well versed in the branches taught.
But the committee regard the ability to recite well as an important branch of education; and they take occasion to commend those masters, who have taken pains to exercise their pupils carefully in this particular.
It is also worthy of remark, that the ground gone over differs very much in the several schools; and your committee are under the impression that some of the masters indulge a feeble ambition on this point,-erroneously supposing that their success will be estimated by the number of pages which the pupils have studied, rather than the actual mental discipline which they have received. The result of such a course must be, that the pupils will exhibit a superficial knowledge of the elementary principles, relating to the subjects investigated, in place of a thorough knowledge.
Your committee are forcibly impressed with the belief, that, in many of the schools, there is room for improvement in the manner of teaching Arithmetic and Algebra.
They were glad to find that some of the masters make great use of the blackboard, and give oral instruction in connection with it. The fault of a former method of instruction in mathematics seems to have been, that the pupil was obliged to commit to memory a multitude of rules, involving abstract principles, without any just idea of their application, or the reasons upon which they were founded. In the system of Colburn, the tendency was, perhaps, to the opposite extreme; but your committee have been led to doubt, whether the course now pursued is not too nearly similar to that inculcated in the systems of Walsh and Adams, and that host of worthies, the recollection of whose works is associated with so many dreary remembrances. Your committee certainly would regret to see the masters confine themselves to the precise course pointed out in the schoolbooks; but, taking that as their general plan, they may improve their pupils vastly by oral explanations and lessons on the black-board, and a thorough examination, to make it sure that the subject is understood.
School COMMITTEE.—Martin Brimmer, Peleg W. Chandler, Sebastian Streeter, John Woart, James H. Barnes, Erastus O. Phinney, Andrew Geyer, Ezra Palmer, Jr., Aurelius D. Parker, David Morgan, Frederick Emerson, William J. Dale, William J. Hubbard, George S. Hillard, Charles Gordon, Thomas M. Brewer, William Hague, Samuel F. Holbrook, Edward Wigglesworth, Daniel M. Lord, Winslow Lewis, Jr., Nehemiah Adams, Otis A. Skinner, John T. Sargent, Alvan Simonds, Lemuel Capen.
(1845–6.). SELECTIONS FROM (PRINTED] REPORT. * * Grammar Department. It has long been the custom to appoint an annual committee to visit and examine the writing department in all these schools, and another to visit and examine the grammar department, and for each to make a separate report. It was, however, found to be impossible to do any thing like justice on the examination, for committee men could not be found who could give the time necessary to examine over 7,000 children. A few years ago it was ordered, that the annual committee might limit their examination to the first class in each school; and it was under this order that your committee was appointed.
Your comunittee, anxious to do all that could possibly be done towards a thorough and satisfactory examination of the schools, resolved to adopt, in addition to the usual mode of oral examination, the plan of submitting to the scholars a series of printed questions on all the subjects studied in the schools. These questions were so graduated that the simpler could be understood and answered by any children of common sense and ordinary attainments, while the more difficult would tax the powers of the best of our scholars without being quite beyond them.
Most of these questions might answered by chil en who are familiar with the text books used in our schools; all of them by children to whom those text books had been fully and familiarly explained by good teachers.
It was our wish to have as fair an examination as possible; to give the same advantages to all; to prevent leading questions; to carry away, not loose notes, or vague remembrances of the examination, but positive information, in black and white; to ascertain with certainty, what the scholars did not know, as well as what they did know; to test their readiness at expressing their ideas' upon paper; to have positive and undeniable evidence of their ability or inability to construct sentences grammatically, to punctuate them, and to spell the words. One of the papers prepared was a list of words to be defined, all of them taken from the reading book 'used in the class; another was a set of questions upon Geography; another upon Grammar; one upon Civil History; one npon Natural Philosophy; one upon Astronomy; one upon Whately's Rhetoric, and one upon Smellie's Philosophy.
Our plan of proceeding was as follows :-In order to prevent the children of one school from having an advantage over those of another, by ascertaining what the questions were to be, they were privately prepared and printed; then, withont any previous notice, each member of ihe committee commenced at eight o'clock in the morning with one school, and spread before the first division of the first class the printed questions in Geography. The maps and books were put out of the way; the scholars were placed at a distance from each other, so as to prevent communication by whispers; they were told that they would have one hour to answer the questions, and that they should not lose time in trying to write handsomely, as the chirography would not be taken into account. Then they were set to work. Notwithstanding all that was said about their being taken by surprise, about their being unused to such a mode of questioning, about their inability to express what they knew in so short a time, we found that in a few minutes they were all busily at work; all adapted themselves to their new circumstances with that readiness which characterizes our countrymen, without embarrassment, and, generally, they had exhausted their power to answer before the hour expired.
At the end of the hour, the committee man gathered up his papers, and went as quickly as possible to the next school, remained there an hour, and then proceeded to a third.
Now this is a case illus tive of that to which we shall often allude ;-the practice of teaching the name of the thing rather than the nature of the thing. It is worth positively nothing to know the date of an embargo, if one does not know what an embargo is. Nay, it may be worse than nothing, because some erroneons idea will be attached to it, as must be the case in the minds of those scholars who defined embargo to be “a duty.”
It is difficult for our scholars to learn to spell correctly, without being more in the habit of writing than they now are. Scores and hundreds of errors, of the most palpable kind, have been committed in their written answers, by children
who would spell the very same words correctly, if they were called up in the usual way, and had the words pronounced aloud to them. The principle is the same as that by which they are trained to read words correctly, which they do not understand. The visible form of the word suggests the idea of the audible sound by which it is to be expressed; in spelling aloud, the audible sound recalls the visible form, or the arrangement of the letters; but if called upon to arrange the letters, or to spell without the aid of the sound, or of the spoken word, that is, if called upon to write, they are very apt to go wrong;
The Boston schools, we think, would be rated very high in comparison with the best schools in the world, on the subject of technical parsing. It would seem impossible for a scholar to take up a stanza of Childe Harold and parse the words correctly, to perceive, that is, the connection and relations of the words, and yet fail to feel the force of the metaphors, or to understand the sense of the whole stanza; nevertheless, this is done sometimes. Such is the power of drilling ! Such is the effect of close attention to the mere ostcology of language; to the bones and articulations, in forgetfulness of the substance that covers, and the spirit that animates them.
Scholars may parse technically, and point out the relations of words, their mood, tense, case, person, number, and gender; and yet, in the very sentences which they make use of to express these relations, and in quoting rules in justification of what they write, be continually making blunders; and may parse their sentences grammatically, in the most ungrammatical language.
In some schools, the scholars seem to be conscientious, and do not answer questions about which they are ignorant; in others, they appear to be perfectly reckless, and put down answers quite at hazard, in the hope of hitting upon something that may pass for an answer. This shows an habitual carelessness in giving answers, or a want of that nicely-trained conscientiousness, which deters from trying to appear what one is not.
It will be noticed, that we find, in most of our school a narrow and merely technical instruction. It appeals to the memory quite too exclusively. And if it leaves the text books at all, it is only so far as is absolutely necessary for the purpose of explaining them. Assuredly this needs not to be. For instance, Geography, when taught as it should and may be taught, in connection with the simple principles of Climatology, and other kindred sciences, becomes one of the most important studies, even for children. They may be made to conceive the grand image of the globe, with its continents and islands, its oceans and lakes, swinging unsupported in space; spinning round upon its axis, while it rushes forward in its orbit, and ever preserving such exact, yet changing relations to the sun, as to receive light and heat in due proportion, in all its various parts; and working out, with daily and yearly precision, the changes of morning, noon and night, summer, autumn and winter. They may see, in the infinite variety of its surface, the wondrous wisdom of Him who made it for man's tenement; the great ocean surrounding the land, and pushing forward its kindly arms into the interior to invite the nations to commerce; the mountain ridges, connecting earth with sky, and drawing down the genial Auid, which, flowing in every direction, now leaps over the rocks and lends to man its tireless strength to do his work, now spreads out into mimic seas, and now bares its bosom to the cleaving keel as it slowly rolls through the valleys, and fertilizes the land on its way to the ocean.
Descending to particulars, the pupil should attend to the hydrography of the country and to the great subject of drainage; he should note the boldness of the promontories, the situation, breadth and volume of the rivers, the depth of the bays, the number of the harbors, and the facilities for anchorage, and protection from storms; the directions of the mountain ridges; the great features of the surface and the soil; the location of the great beds of coal, and other mineral treasures; he should have explained to him the immense effect which these and other similar circumstances have had, and ever must have, upon the climate and fortunes of nations, and even upon the physical and mental characteristics of our
If few of these things are in our text books, they should be in the teacher's mind, and he should direct attention to them at every recitation. But, compared with this, what do we usually find in most of our Boston schools ? A set of dry definitions, which convey no vivid idea; a long catalogue of names of rivers,