the Catalogue of the Association might be enriched and enlarged with advantage, and to express a strong opinion that it ought to be so. Some members of the Committee have thought so too.”—Second Letter, p. 8.

We cannot leave the matter in a better position than this.




Seventh Annual Report of the Board of Education, to the Senate

and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Boston : 1844.

Last year, Mr. Horace Mann, the distinguished Secretary of the Board of Education for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, visited Europe, with the view of personally examining the nature and workings of the various systems of Public Instruction in the Old World. He “visited England, Ireland, and Scotland, crossed the German Ocean to Hamburgh, thence went to Magdeburgh, Berlin, Potsdam, Halle, and Weissenfels, in the Kingdom of Prussia; to Leipsic and Dresden, the two great cities in the Kingdom of Saxony; thence to Erfurt, Weimar, Eisenach, &c., on the great route from the Middle of Germany to Frankfort on the Maine; thence to the Grand Duchy of Nassau, of Hesse Darmstadt and of Baden, and after visiting all the principal cities in the Rhenish provinces of Prussia, passed through Holland and Belgium to Paris.” We propose to follow, in his own words where we can, the course of so accomplished an observer. Few men could be found more fully qualified by knowledge and experience to report instructively the results of such an extensive inquiry.

Among the nations of Europe, Prussia and Saxony stand first, both for the quantity and the quality of the Instruction provided for their people, whilst England is the only one of the highly civilized European kingdoms which has never had any system of National Education. Yet in no country are social

Vol. VI. No. 25.-New Series.


inequalities so appalling-in no country has the munificence of individuals in educational bequests been so large,—whilst in no country are the intellectual and moral interests of the People so selfishly regarded, and so unscrupulously sacrificed to the class jealousies of different sections of the Nation.

The annual income from the Endowments of England for school education may be estimated at £500,000. Some examples are given, taken from the parliamentary reports, of the wasteful expenditure of such enormous revenues.

At Dunstable, £330. 10s. annual income supports forty boys.
In Reading, £1043. 158. 9d. teaches twenty-two boys.
At Manchester, £2,608. 38. 11d. teaches eighty boys.

Mr. Mann bitterly complains of the character of the textbooks introduced into the common schools of England, and considers the impossibility of obtaining by any other means a thorough revision of these, as one of the most serious evils attending the absence of a National System. We know well that many of these text-books are as bad and as stupid as they well can be: but we confess we have no experience of such books to which the following description could with any justice be applied :

“In some of the book-shops in England I saw text-books for schools, on no single page of which should a child ever be allowed to look, books for the young, filled with vile caricatures and low ribaldry, at once degrading to the taste and fatal to the moral sensibilities.”—p. 45.

In contrast with the evils of neglect and irresponsible provision for such purposes as witnessed in England, we find this lively acknowledgment of the blessings and obligations which Massachusetts derives from the system of Public Instruction founded by the Fathers of the Commonwealth.

• We can never fully estimate the debt of gratitude we owe to our ancestors for establishing our system of Common Schools. In consequence

of their wisdom and foresight, we have all grown up in the midst of these institutions; and we have been conformed to them in all our habits and associations from our earliest childhood. A feeling of strangeness, of the loss of something customary and valuable, would come over us, were they to be taken away or abolished. How different it would be if these institutions were strangers to us,-if every time we were called to do any thing in their behalf, we should violate a habit of thought and action instead of fulfilling one. How different, if every appropriation for their support were a new burden ; if every meeting for their administration were an unaccustomed tax upon our time, and we were obliged to await the slow progress of an idea in the common mind, for the adoption of any improvement. Emphatically how different, if the wealthy and

[ocr errors]

leading men of the community had gathered themselves into sects and cabals, each one with his hand against all the rest, unless when they should temporarily unite to resist the establishment of a system for the equal benefit of all. It is in consequence of what was done for us, two hundred years ago, that we are now carrying on a work with comparative ease, which in many of our sister States, as well as in some foreign countries, must be accomplished, if accomplished at all, with great labour and difficulty. Can there be a man amongst us so recreant to duty, that he does not think it incumbent upon him to transmit that system, in an improved condition, to posterity, which his ancestors originated for him ?”

Mr. Mann reports that with the exception of the magnificent private establishments in England and France, he has scarcely seen a school-house in Europe worthy to be compared even with the second-rate class of Massachusetts; and tha

even these princely exceptions are far inferior in fittings-up and internal arrangements. In attention to the laws of health and life he reports the same inferiority, though before leaving Massachusetts he had supposed that in no part of the civilized world were those laws so much neglected. He gives some amusing instances of the absurd practices of Germany in these respects. The boys are perched on stools so high that their feet cannot touch the ground,—whilst the rooms are so low that their heads nearly reach the ceiling. At night each child is supplied with two feather beds, 6 one for himself to lie on, the other to lie on him.” And with the teachers and assistants, the feather beds increase in proportion to their dignity. Mr. Mann thinks that much of German phlegm and inertia are attributable to the circumstance, that “every respectable man and child sleeps between two feather beds, summer and winter.”

When speaking of school apparatus, Mr. Mann mentions an excellent practice which prevails in Holland alone,—that of having in the school the weights and measures of the country, so that a ready and accurate knowledge is obtained of them by familiar handling and use. This is a

This is a very different matter from learning dry measures, from dry tables in a book. He very pertinently observes, that not many men could name the weights and measures of their own country, if actually set before them. The tables learned by rote have vanished from the mind,-and the ideas never were in it. Also in Holland large cards are hung upon the walls of the school-rooms, containing fac similes of all the current coins of the kingdom. The gold, silver, and copper coins are represented in their respective colours.

Another peculiarity in the fitting-up of the school rooms, in Holland and Germany, is the adorning of the walls with the portraits of distinguished men. How true is the following remark in relation to England,—though we do not know that our national preference of glory to goodness is made conspicuous in our charity schools.

Almost without exception, they were likenesses of good men rather than of great ones,-frequently of distinguished educationists and benefactors of the young, whose countenances were radiant with the light of benevolence, and the very sight of which was a moral lesson to the sus. ceptible hearts of children. In this respect, they contrasted most strongly with England, where the great always takes precedence of the good, and there are fifty monuments and memorials for Nelson and Wellington, to one for Howard or Wilberforce."

Mr. Mann reports very unfavourably of the Monitorial system, and thinks the emphasis of the name should be in a perpetual admonition to have nothing to do with the system. He says very justly, that “one must see the difference between the pampering, blinding, misleading instruction given by an inexperienced child, and the developing, transforming, and almost creative power of an accomplished teacher ;-one must rise to some comprehension of the vast import and significance of the phrase 'to educate '-before he can regard with a sufficiently energetic contempt that boast of Dr. Bell, Give me twentyfour pupils to-day, and I will give you back twenty-four teachers to-morrow.'»

The palm is given in this report to the Scotch Schools for the mental activity with which the exercises are conducted, both on the part of the teachers and pupils. The Schools in the United States are described as dormitories when compared with the fervid life of the Scotch Schools. About six times as many questions were put, and answers given, as our Author, in the same space of time, ever heard put and given in any school of his own country. He gives a very animated picture of the intellectual excitement kept up by an examination conducted with electrical rapidity, and with every goad to emulation. He states that he never saw a teacher in Scotland sitting in a school-room.

“ To an unaccustomed spectator, on entering one of these rooms, all seems uproar, turbulence and the contention of angry voices,—the teacher traversing the space before his class, in a state of high excitement, the pupils springing from their seats, darting to the middle of the floor, and sometimes, with extended arms, forming a circle around him, two, three, or four deep,-every finger quivering from the intensity of their emotions, until some more sagacious mind, outstripping its rivals, solves the difficulty,--when all are in their seats again, as though by magic, and ready for another encounter of wits.

« ForrigeFortsett »