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brace,-disorder and confusion, when it will be too late to take the alarm,and impending ruin when it will be too late to escape it. But let this foundation be laid deep and firm, not only in the constitution and the laws of our country; but also in the heads and the hearts of our countrymen. The care of the higher seminaries of learning, the ornaments of our system of popular education, will more appropriately follow.
Before we attempt, however, to take a single step towards reform let us see what we have to amend. Unless faults can be shown to exist in the organization of our system of popular education, and great ones ; it will do but little good to recommend improvements. For it is with communities as with individuals; and " no one,” says Fisher Ames, “ is less likely to improve, than the coxcomb, who fancies he has already learned out.” The pride, which we of New England have been accustomed to feel and, perhaps, to manifest, in our free schools, as the best in the country, and in the world, has not improved their condition. But, on the contrary, the great complacency with which we contemplate this institution is a most effectual bar to all improvements in it. The time has come, when we owe it to our country and ourselves to speak the whole truth in this matter, even though it disturb our self-satisfaction a little.
It will be convenient to point out the faults of the public provisions for popular education under the two following heads ; first, the “ Summer Free Schools,” which are, generally, taught in the country towns for a few months in the warm season of the year by females; and second, the “ Winter Free Schools,” which are taught by men, commonly, for a shorter period, during the cold season. Children of both sexes of from four to ten or twelve years, usually attend these primary summer schools, and females often to a much later age.* This is a very interesting period of human life. No one, who has reflected much upon the subject of early discipline; no one, I trust, who has even followed me through the preceding essays, can doubt, that it is one of the most important parts, if not the very most important part of our lives, as it regards the influence of education in its widest sense. It is important as it re
* See Letters on the Free Schools of New England, pp. 29–32.
gards the developement of the powers of the body, or physical education. Because the parts of the body, the limbs, the muscles, the organs, or whatever are the technical names for them, now assume a firmness and consistency in discharging their proper functions, or they become distorted and enfeebled ; and these habits, thus early contracted, become a part of ourselves and are as abiding as our lives. Yet what has been done in this branch of education ? Nothing at all, absolutely nothing at all, even in our best schools. This period is vitally important as it regards the cultivation of the heart and its affections. What has been done here ? Chance and ill-directed efforts make up all the education, which we have received or are giving to our children in the schools in this department. Finally, it is important to us, as it regards the discipline of the head, the developement of the understanding and its faculties. What have we done in this department ? We have done something, indeed, and think that we have done much. We have done, and we continue to do, more than we do well. We resort to many expedients and apply many means, without distinctly understanding, either what we wish to attain, whether it be possible to attain it, or if so, the adaptation of our means to its attainment. Success here, therefore, if the best possible results have ever been gained in any instance, has been more the result of chance than of skill.
To whom do we assign the business of governing and instructing our children from four to twelve years of age ? Who take upon themselves the trust of forming those principles and habits, which are to be strengthened and confirmed in manhood, and make our innocent little ones through life, happy or miserable in themselves, and the blessings or the curses of society? To analyze, in detail, the habits, which are formed and confirmed in these first schools, to trace the abiding influence of good ones, or to describe the inveteracy of bad ones, would lead me from my present purpose. But are these interesting years of life and these important branches of education committed to those, who understand their importance or their influence upon the future character? Are they committed to those, who would know what to do, to discharge their high trust successfully if they did, indeed, understand their importance? I think not. And I am persuaded, that all,
who have reflected but for a moment upon the age, the . acquirements, and the experience of those who assume to conduct this branch of education, must have come to the same conclusion.
* The teachers of the primary summer schools have rarely had any education beyond what they have acquired in the very schools where they begin to teach. Their attainments, therefore, to say the least, are usually very moderate. But this is not the worst of it. They are often very young, they are constantly changing their employment, and consequently can have but little experience; and what is worse than all, they never have had any direct preparation for their profession. This is the only service, in which we venture to employ young, and often, ignorant persons, without some previous instruction in their appropriate duties. We require experience in all those, whom we employ to perform the slightest mechanicattabour for us. We would not buy a coat or a hat of one, who should undertake to make them without a previous apprenticeship. Nor would any one have the hardihood to offer to us the result of his first essay in manufacturing either of these articles. We do not even send an old shoe to be mended, except it be to a workman of whose skill we have had ample proof. Yet we commit our children to be educated to those, who know nothing, absolutely nothing, of the complicated and difficult duties assigned to them. Shall we trust the developement of the delicate bodies,'the susceptible hearts, and the tender minds of our little children to those who have no knowledge of their nature ? Can they, can these rude hands finish the workmanship of the Almighty ? No language can express the astonishment, which a moments reflection on this subject excites in me.
But I must return to the examination of the qualifications of the female teachers of the primary summer schools, from which purpose I have unconsciously a little departed to indulge in a general remark. They are a class of teachers unknown in our laws regulating the schools unless it be by psome latitude of construction. No standard of attainments 1 is fixed, at which they must arrive before they assume the business of instruction. So that any one keeps school, which is a very different thing from teaching school, who wishes to do it, and can persuade, by herself, or her friends, a small disItrict to employ her. And this is not a very difficult mat
ter, especially when the remuneration for the employment is so very trifling. The farce of an examination and a certificate from the minister of the town, for it is a perfect farce, amounts to no efficient check upon the obtrusions of ignorance and inexperience. As no standard is fixed by law, each minister makes a standard for himself, and alters it as often as the peculiar circumstances of the case require. And there will always be enough of peculiar circumstances to render a refusal inexpedient.
Let those, who are conversant with the manner in which these schools are managed, say, whether this description of them undervalues their character and efficacy. Let those, who conduct them, pause and consider whether all is well, and whether there are not abuses and perversions in them, which call loudly for attention and reformation. Compare the acquirements, the experience, the knowledge of teaching possessed by these instructers, not one with another, for the standard is much too low ; but with what they might be, under more favourable circumstances and with proper preparation. Compare the improvement made in these little nurseries of piety and religion, of knowledge and rational liberty, not one with another, for the progress in all of them is much too slow; but with what the infant mind and heart are capable of, at this early age, under the most favourable auspices. And there can be no doubt, that all will arrive at the same conclusions ; a dissatisfaction with the condition of these schools; and an astonishment, that the public have been so long contented with so small results from means, which all will acknowledge capable of doing so much.
The faults of the primary summer schools, then, are, á want of adequate acquirements, a want of experience, and a total want of any direct preparation of their teachers for their employment. These must be acknowledged to be great faults; and they have affected and will continue to affect, essentially, the usefulness of the schools. Neither reason, observation, nor experience leaves reflecting men any consoling probability, that these defects will be remedied, or the condition of the schools bę essentially improved, under their present organization. As to the acquirements of female teachers; there is no standard, to which they must be brought for decision, except on moral quali
fications. As to experience, they have usually none, and they can never have but little; because they are constantly leaving their employment and new teachers assuming it, without any system of their own, or any plan laid down for their direction. As to direct preparation for the business of teaching ; such a thing was never heard of. But cannot some system or arrangement be devised, by which the experience or the results of the experience of those, who have gone successfully over the ground, may be communicated to the younger teachers, without the necessity of their going over the same ground, and under precisely the same disadvantages, all at the expense of the pupils.
Many of the above remarks upon the character and qualifications of the teachers of the summer schools apply with equal force to the young men, who undertake the instruction of the primary winter schools, which now constitute the highest class of schools, to which the whole population of the state have free access. My remarks upon this class of instructers must also be general; and as all general rules have their exceptions, every individual will, of course, consider himself as particularly excused. What are the acquirements of these young men, who assume the delicate and responsible duty of governing and instructing a school of fifty or a hundred children. We have a catalogue, perhaps an ample one, of branches of knowledge, which the laws suppose the candidates for the place of teacher to be possessed of. But who knows that they come up to established standard ? And who knows that they are fully possessed of the knowledge, which the laws require ? And who knows, if they do possess it, that they will be able to communicate it to their pupils ? This is no trifling consideration in estimating the value and usefulness of an instructer ? The laws provide that the minister and the selectmen of each town shall assure themselves, that their teachers possess the prescribed qualifications. The minister. Which minister? There may be, and not unfrequently are, at the present day, half a dozen in the town. When the school-law was enacted, in 1789, our towns were not broken up as they now are, and are likely to be for the future, into small parishes.
Here, then, are six ministers in the same town, of different denominations, of different characters, of different discrimination, and of different qualifications, some of them,