generally taught. I would not be understood to discuss, much less to approve this arrangement of studies, for those destined to be scholars by profession. Such arrangements exist, and I avail myself of the fact for my present purpose. But besides ensuring better teachers for the common branches, there are always some, who would attend to the languages, as preparatory to a public education, if they had opportunity. And if affording the opportunity to all of every town, should be the means of drawing out but few of superior talents, even those few are worthy of the highest consideration and regard from the public, who possess them. These and similar considerations, which 1 cannot here state, have convinced me, (I know not whether they will convince anyone else,) that the repeal of the grammar school law, even if we could never hope it would be executed upon a more liberal construction, than it has been for the last ten years, will have a direct tendency to sink the condition and prospects of the primary schools. As the Academics arc not entirely free schools, we cannot calculate upon litem to supply instruction to the mass of the people. These arc most respectable establishments, and some of them are hardly inferior in the advantages, they afford for acquiring a thorough education, to some institutions, which are dignified with the name of colleges. It is not desirable, that their condition should be impaired. Nor need any fears be entertained, that their condition will be impaired. There are enough in the community, who duly estimate the advantages of a good education, and who are able to sustain the expense of these schools, to ensure their permanent support. And as the other classes of schools, which are free, are annihilated or decline in their character and condition, the academies will be encouraged by those, who can better appreciate the advantages of good schools, and better afford the necessary expense. So far as it regards the accommodation and pecuniary interest of the rich, and those of moderate property, it is matter of indifference, whether the legislature or the public make any appropriations or provisions for schools or not. They can and will take care for themselves. These are not the classes of the community to suffer, when government withhold encouragement from the schools. It is the poor, who are to suffer. They must educate their children in free schools, and in their own neighborhood, or not educate them at all. The expense of tuition, of books, and of board at the academies are so appalling, as to put the advantages of those schools quite beyond the power of a vast proportion of the community. In the towns where academies happen to be fixed, the poor will of course derive some increased advantages; but these towns are so few compared with the whole, and the incident expenses for books and tuition are so considerable, that for all purposes of directly and efficiently educating the whole mass of the people, the academies may be left out of calculation. For not one in twenty, if one in fifty, throughout the state, will ever find their way to any of i! icin.

Qualifications of Teachers. Much as all are disposed to attribute to the free schools, and zealously as some, and probably a majority of the community, would advocate a more liberal provision for them, it is very far from certain, that they produce all the good of which they are capable, even with their present means. Nay, it is certain they do not. And it is much to be lamented, that means comparatively ample, and afforded by a community so deeply interested in their appropriation, should be misapplied, or fail of their happiest effect. The sketch thus far given, relates merely to the provisions of government, and the external organisation of the system. And here, almost all notices of the subject, if it has been noticed at all, have rested. But, the internal organisation, including the government and instruction, will present quite as interesting a view of the subject. A few remarks, therefore, upon the defects of the schools, and suggestions for improvement, will appropriately follow. Two principal causes have operated from the first establishment of the free schools, to impair and pervert their influence: Incompetent instructers, and bad school books. It is not a little surprising, that a public so deeply impressed with the importance of the system of schools, and so resolved to carry it into full operation, by liberal appropriations, should stop short of their purpose, and stop precisely at that point, where the greatest attention and vigilance were essential, to give efficacy to the whole. I do not mean that much good has not been realised; on the contrary, as has been repeatedly remarked, the success of the free school system is just cause of congratulation; but I mean, that their influence has not been the greatest and the best, which the same means, under better management, might produce. The employment of incompetent and inexperienced instructers has probably arisen more from the peculiar situation of the country, than from any negligence or indifference on the subject. So many opportunities are open for industrious enterprise, that it has always been difficult to induce men to become permanent teachers. This evil, although a serious one, is one, which cannot at present be removed; but its bad effects may be more qualified, by raising the character and acquirements of instructers to a higher standard. The whole business of instruction, with very few exceptions, has hitherto been performed by those, who have felt little interest in the subject, beyond the immediate pecuniary compensation stipulated for their services. And even that has been too inconsidcrable, to render a want of success in the employment, a subject of much regret. This remark applies to almost all instructers from the primary schools up to the higher schools; and it has no very remote bearing even upon some of the instructers in our colleges. Three classes of men have furnished the whole body of instructers. 1st. Those who have undertaken to teach, who had no better reason for it, than that the employment is easier, and perhaps a little more profitable, than labor. No doubt many excellent instructers belong to this class. A college education is by no means essential to a good teacher of a primary school. But it must be confessed, that many of this class have been most lamentably deficient in those literary qualifications, which are essential to any instructer; and perhaps, still more deficient in their notions of decency and propriety, which never approach to refinement in manners. In the same degree, the schools may be made a most efficient instrument for improving and elevating the state of society when under the direction of men, who have themselves been properly taught, they may be the means of disseminating or perpetuating grossness in manners, and vulgarity, when under the direction of different characters. 2. A second class are those who are acquiring, or have attained a public education; and who assume the business of instruction as a temporary employment, either to afford a pecuniary emolument for the relief of immediate necessities, or to give themselves time to deliberate and choose some more agreeable and profitable profession. This is, probably, the most useful class of instructers; although their usefulness is much impaired by a want of experience and engagedness in the business. The thought that the «mployment is temporary, and that their ultimate success in life is not much affected by their success as teachers, cannot fail to weaken the motives to exertion, and discourage the sacrifices necessary to the successful teacher. The duties of the instructer are so arduous, under the most favorable circumstances, that he needs all the motives to perseverance, which exclusive devotion to the business, or self-interest can suggest. His prospects of happiness, and respectability in life, therefore, should be more identified with his success as a teacher. 3. The third class is composed of those, who from conscious weakness, despair of success in any other profession, or who have been more thoroughly convinced by unfortunate experiment, that they cannot attain distinction, perhaps even subsistence, by any other means. There may no doubt be found individuals among this class, who are respectable and useful instructers. But as a class, they are the most exceptionable of the three. To develope the powers of the human mind, in the most successful manner, requires a discrimination and judgement, which, it seldom falls to the lot of men of indifferent talents, to possess. In the science of instruction, there is full scope for the best talents, and the largest acquirements. All the elevated qualities, either of mind or heart, which are necessary to ensure success in any of the professions, are essential to the accomplished instructer. And some qualities are required, which are not so important in any other profession. How can he hope to arrange and adapt the studies of a child, so as to call forth and strengthen the different powers of the mind, in their natural order, and in the most successful manner, who is not capable of enumerating those powers; much less of analysing them and understanding their mutual relations, and dependencies. Such, however, is the present condition of our country, so numerous are the demands for instructers in the primary and higher schools, and so various are the private interests, which will be felt in the selection of them, that it is, probably, too much to expect all to have the discrimination necessary, in order to become accurate and original observers of the phenomena of the youthful mind. But we have much to hope from those, who can better appreciate the importance of a correct system of instruction,—for the encouragement of individuals,—and the patronage of those large towns, which carry education to its greatest perfection. It is to these sources, we must look for the first examples in improvement. There is no science, which is so difficult to be reduced to general principles, as that of education,—none where the faithful and patient induction of large experience is so essential. Although there undoubtedly are some general rules, to which the inexperienced instructer may be referred for direction, yet these are much fewer than is generally imagined. Every mind, especially in its early developement, presents exceptions and qualifications to almost every general rule, which can be adopted. So various and multiform are the phenomena of the youthful mind, so intimate the connexion, and so strong the mutual influence, of the powers of the mind, and the affections of the heart, and so fleeting and evanescent is the nature of the evidence, by which all these must be detected and classified, that he must be skilful, indeed, who presumes to offer any thing like a complete analysis. This is not now to be attempted. But from this view of the subject, it would seem, the skill of the instructer is evinced, much more in his ability to detect minute differences, and to call forth those tender and feeble powers, the evidence of which is so faint, as to admit a doubt of their very existence, than in his force to drive on the 'system of things,' which has been established for ages. It is as preposterous to reduce the infinite variety of young minds to precisely the same discipline, calculating upon the same result, as it would be, to hope to

make all men look alike by law; and it is as cruel as it would be to break their bodies, at once, to the bed of Procrustes. 'It is one thing to learn, and another to teach. It is very possible to possess vast stores of knowledge, and not be able to impart them, even to the willing and anxious pupil. To fix the volatile, to stimulate the sluggish, and overcome the obstinate, demand an acquaintance with the human mind not quite innate, nor likely to be acquired without some experience.'

IMPROVEMENT OF COMMON EDUCATION. [The following paragraphs are extracted from Mr. Burnside's Address, from which an article was taken in our last number.] The spirit of the age seems to me to call for an entire change in the manner of imparting knowledge to the infant mind; a change, better adapted to the order of nature, and more suited to the gradual expansion of the mental faculties. The method formerly adopted in all our literary institutions has been what is technically denominated the analytic.* It consists in requiring learners, first to acquire, artificially, abstract principles; and afterwards, in teaching them the particulars from which those principles were deduced. In the study of language, for instance, so soon as chil

* It is a matter of regret that the terms analytic and synthetic are so often incorrectly, or at least vaguely, used. Some writers on education make use of these terms with reference to the business of the teacher, and some with reference to that of the pupil; whilst others apply it exclusively to the method of teaching or of learning. Much confusion and misapprehension accordingly result from this want of well defined phraseology. The method which has hitherto been most extensively adopted in instruction, employs both synthesis and analysis. Take the subject of English grammar, for example. In the department of etymology, the book and the teacher set out with the synthetic proposition. 'There are in English nine sorts of words ;' and directly afterwards comes the analysts of this proposition, in the form of a succession of paragraphs, one of which is devoted to each of these nine sorts of words. The advocates of the inductive method would—and, we think, justly—invert this order, by first laying down each of the nine parts of speech, and then summing up the whole number in a general remark: they would, in a word, proceed from analysis to synthesis, and not from synthesis to analysis. As teachers, they would set out with analysis: hence their proneness to apply the term analytic to their own method of teaching, and synthetic to the opposite method. Again, persons, who in this affair occupy the place of spectators watching the develnpement of a process, rather than of active performers in the management of the business, naturally and properly incline to call this method synthetic; because it issues in a synthetic result, towards which it seemed gradually tending. Here then arises conl'u

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsett »