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floor, or black-board; and thus, to show how a town, its streets, or roads, and its prominent features, natural, or artificial, may be represented. As their ideas expand, the scale may be reduced, and distant towns, counties, rivers, and mountains, with which the children are acquainted, or of which they may have heard, may be introduced, correct ideas of space and number being gradually acquired. Pupils should be taught, by reference to objects around them, what is the length of a mile, and by questions put to them in relation to places to which they have traveled, they should be enabled to form a correct idea of what the distance, fifty, one hundred, or one thousand, miles, actually are. Point out in which direction North, South, East, and West, are, and state why a certain direction is fixed upon for the North. Call attention to the pictorial representations of lakes, rivers, etc. (like. those introduced into the San Francisco schools) and having already become acquainted with the thing, notice how quickly they will learn and how easily they will remember the name. Geography ought not to be studied without continual reference to a globe; it should be looked at during every lesson, and it would gradually stamp upon the minds of the scholars such a lively image of the sphericity of the earth, and of the relative positions and sizes of continents, islands, oceans, etc. as would never be effaced.
I find in most geographies, lists of questions directing pupils to learn the situations of small towns, or villages, or insignificant rivers, or lakes, as : Where is Toudou, Tzentzin, Sewah, etc. etc. ? Such places are of no consequence; the scholar has no assistance from the association of ideas in mastering what may be truly called his task ; and in ascertaining the position of places which might as well be called by the letters of the alphabet as by the names used in the book. I should reqnest the scholar to find out the localities only of the more important places, and which these are can be easily known from the book. Why should he be called upon to burden his memory with a mass of useless details forgotten as soon as acquired? You do not wish to make of him a Geographical Gazetteer. You cannot expect him to know the locality of every place upon the earth from Borioboloo Gha to London. You must draw the line somewhere; draw it then between those places which are of importance and those which are not. After leaving school, the scholar can easily ascertain the position of any place in which he may happen to be interested.
I make these remarks because pupils, at exhibitions, have been called upon to run through long catalogues of names of rivers, lakes, seas, oceans, capes, islands, mountains, states, cities, towns, etc. It is well that children should know these, to a certain extent, but this is by no means the important part of geography. They should also become familiar with the grand facts and the leading principles; the real and comparative sizes of countries, using their own State as a unit; the comparative population of different countries and large cities, taking the population of California and San Francisco as the units of measure; the grand features of countries, such as the mountain and river systems; the climate of different parts of the world, and the causes affecting it; the various productions of the globe; the extraordinary natural curiosities found upon the earth; the great ocean surrounding the land, and inviting the nations to commerce; the kind of people that ļive in any land, their religion, their peculiarities, their social and political condition, and many other subjects which will suggest themselves to the competent Instructor.
If geography were taught in this manner, should you think it possible for children to consider the top of a map to be up, and the bottom down, and that, consequently, all rivers which flow into the Arctic Ocean must run up hill? Or to state that Cuba and Massachusetts are of about the same size ? Answers which have actually been given in schools of considerable reputation.
The elements of composition are almost invariably a stumbling-block to the young-and, strange as the statement may appear, I think the principal reasons for this fact are that it is not commenced early enough, but is put off until the pupil is considerably advanced in his other studies, and that he is then usually told to write
a composition upon some subject-perhaps an abstract one—about which he knows nothing, and in which he cannot, of course, feel the slightest interest. Who does not remember the vacuity of mind and vexation of spirit with which, in his youthful days, he addressed himself to the set task of writing an essay upon such a theme
– Virtue, its own Reward; The Study of History, etc. ? Of what frightful dimensions, and how supernaturally white, looked the blank sheet (blauk as our own minds) of foolscap, which we were to fill with our own thoughts, (so the master directed) without receiving any assistance from our friends! How frequently we thrust the pen into the inkstand in the vain hope to hook up some idea which might be concealed in that Stygian abyss! How despairingly we scratched our heads, how closely we scrutinized the walls and the ceiling, as if we expected to catch by the tail some stray idea which might be lurking in some corner, or crevice, of the room! How firmly did we for the time believe in the non-existence of mind, and the existence of nothing but matter throughout the universe! And then, if after all this cudgeling of our brains something did come into our heads, whispered doubtless by the pitying spirit of some repentant pedagogue, did we not make the most of it? Did we not dilute it, and dilate it, and amplify it, and spread it out, in the largest hand, upon lines ruled at least two inches apart, being very careful to prevent any quarreling between the words, by placing them at such a distance as to make it impossible for them to cross swords with one another!
Now the remedy for this unfortunate state of things consists in asking children to write upon those subjects only which they understand, or which relate directly to, or spring out of, their studies, or in which they would naturally, as boys and girls, take an interest. A multitude of such questions, drawn from the everyday pursuits, amusements, and occupations, of the young, will suggest themselves to the qualified Teacher. It is highly important that the exercise of writing out their own thoughts should commence early. Very soon after children begin to think, and are capable of using and writing small words, a slate and pencil should be put into their hands, and they should be brought to express their thoughts in their own language, no matter how short the sentences, or the words. In most of the schools for the deaf and dumb, the pupils begin to write exercises of this character after two years' instruction-in some, sooner. And, certainly, if this can be done by those unfortunately deprived of speech and hearing, it can be accomplished by those possessing all their faculties. I have known scholars, in other respects excellent, who found great difficulty in expressing themselves either orally, or in writing. They were deficient in language. They ought to have been from an early period frequently practiced in the use of their mother tongue. The exercises should be made more difficult as the pupil becomes older; for beginners, they should, of course, be of the simplest character. As soon as a child can write legibly, he should be put to writing short phrases-original, or from dictation; and, as a part of this exercise, he should be taught spelling, the dividing of words into syllables, punctuation, the rules for the use of the capital letters, etc. Teachers complain that it is difficult for scholars to learn to spell correctly; and so it is, especially from the use of spelling-books alone. To become a very correct speller is the labor of years on the part of the pupil. It is continual practice in the writing of scntences, not isolated words, that makes the good speller; and pupils cannot learn to spell correctly without being more in the habit of writing than they now are. A man who writes only a letter, or two, a year, is likely to be a poor speller; but one who from his occupation writes every day, is rarely faulty in this respect. Consider, too, in practicing such simple lessons in composition as I recommend, how many valuable things they are at the same time acquiring. Besides punctuation, spelling, the use of capital letters, etc. they are, or should be, improving their handwriting; they are exercising their minds pleasantly by the invention of sentences, short, or long; they are learning the meanings and the right use of words; they are gradually becoming acquainted with their own language, and accustomed to express their thoughts appropriately. Think how desirable an acquisition this last
will be to every boy and girl upon entering into life, and how many have regretted the want of it.
I agree to the opinion, that it is a wicked waste of time to confine children, year after year, to copy-books in penmanship. After a certain stage has passed and that not a very late one-handwriting should be made the common and everyday means of acquiring and reducing to practice a knowledge of orthography, punctuation, the construction of sentences, etc. Children who have been kept in their copybooks until they could write a beautiful hand have, if required to write down sentences of their own composition, produced illegible and disgraceful scrawls, abounding in errors of punctuation and spelling. This statement proves the importance of early combining handwriting, punctuation, and spelling, in one exercise of the pupil's own composition; of departing from the beaten track, and of making as soon as possible, scholars do the whole work for themselves without pattern, or assistance.
Similar remarks to those which I have made are applicable to the subject of Declamations. Let the boys speak only pieces which they fully understand and appreciate, suitable to their age and expressive of such thoughts, feelings, and interests, as are natural to boys not men. I take no interest in seeing a stripling ascend the rostrum, and in tones intended to be very impressive, exclaim: “There stands Bunker Hill Monument,” with a gesture directed at the stove-pipe. I object to hearing a youthful prodigy shriek, in the shrillest treble, “My voice is still for war.” I refuse to lend my ears, although urgently requested to do so, in the well known line, begiuning
“Friends, Romans, countrymen.” I am not at all withered by the tone of contempt with which the embryo orator hurls back the base insinuation, with scorn and defiance, into the teeth of the contemptible and inefficient member of the opposite rty.” I have seen, in a California paper, a notice of an exhibition, in which it was stated that the Great Debate between Webster and Hayne was conducted with decorum by the youthful Senators. Well, I am glad it was; I am thankful that no violation of parliamentary propriety occurred, calling for the interference of the Sergeant-at-Arms. But why should boys personate Demosthenes, Cicero, Burke, Webster, Clay, or James Buchanan? Why not simply and naturally be themselves ? It has been said that there are no girls, or boys, in the United States; that the next stage to that of children is that of ladies and gentlemen. There is too much truth in this remark. I wish that period of true, unpretending, genuine, boyhood and girlhood, to be restored ; the happiest period in the lives of many, of which the poet has given so beautiful a description :
Gay hope is theirs, by fancy fed,
Less pleasing when possest,
The sunshine of the breast.
Theirs buxom health of rosy hue,
And lively cheer, of vigor born;
That fly the approach of morn."
Who would shorten this blissful period by introducing into it the passions, strifes, and ambition, of men ? Let boys be boys, in every sense of the word, while they are such in years, and neither on, nor off, the stage, ape the bearing, passions, or language, of men. I do not wish to be understood as saying that appeals to the highest and best feelings of our nature, that the noble and patriotic sentiments of our great orators, cannot be appreciated by boys. Far from it. But I wish particular pains to be taken by the Teacher to avoid pieces which do not lie within the comprehension, or the experience, of the pupil; and let those selected be as thoroughly studied and understood as the lessons in reading, to which I have alluded, or any other lessons, in the school.
I cannot condemn too strongly all dramatic exhibitions, conducted by schools, in which scenes from plays are represented with scenery, dresses, music, etc. I do not object to a good dialogue, or polylogue, such as is adapted to interest the youthful mind and touch to finer issues the youthful heart, spoken in the usual manner. But I am opposed to dramatic representations, accompanied, to use the technical word, with all the properties. I do not know that any exhibition of this kind has ever occurred, in connection with the Free Schools of America, and I hope none such ever will. There is no talent in spouting. Do not boys have too much inclination for the stage, already, without its being stimulated ? And what a waste of time there is in getting up such representations; precious time which might be, and ought to be, spent in familiarizing the pupil with all the fundamental branches of a good, sound, English, education, without which they cannot expect to be useful to themselves, or to society.
You must perceive of what primary importance I consider it is, that children should know the meaning of every thing they attempt to learn. It is astonishing with what facility they will use words, or give an answer, to which they attach an erroneous meaning, or perhaps, no meaning whatever. This was much more the case formerly than at present, since our fathers did not, in many respects, pursue the natural course in the education of children.
How pleasantly and successfully nature teaches the infant! No sooner has it begun to exercise its senses, first, probably, the touch, in perceiving warmth, to open its eyes, to take food, to perceive odors, to hear sounds, than it begins to acquire knowledge. In the exercise of these powers the infant takes great delight. That during the first months of a child's life its progress is highly satisfactory, is evident to a very ordinary observer; its first lispings show how much interest it finds in the appearances of surrounding objects; its first observations are listened to and receive that degree of attention which they demand ; and it is not till the pressure of other domestic duties, or other inclinations, divide the mother's care, that the inquiries of the infant are neglected, and it is left, often discouraged and disheartened. A child obtains its notions as we do, by seeing, sounding, feeling, smelling, and tasting, objects. “Do not meddle,” puts a stop to these processes. In cases of doubt and uncertainty, it asks for information, and is, perhaps, told, “Little children should be seen, and not heard.” After a few years, the child is placed at school, where, instead of that natural course being pursued which should turn to account the observations and knowledge he has already stored up, he is often forced upon studies for which he shows no inclination; he is taught words, instead of things; and his memory is loaded with phrases and rules which he does not understand.
Thus his education commences, and thus a path which might be strewn with flowers, to allure, is choked with brambles to impede his progress. The thorny track is traveled over, and for a long time the pupil has only confused notions floating in his mind, to the exclusion of that precise and distinct knowledge which lies within the grasp of those faculties which nature courts him to exercise. We all know that in many schools, children have been taught, nay, are even now taught, as if they had to use only one, or two, of the senses. A child who possesses in perfection all the senses, should have them all exercised. We are, none of us, perhaps, more than half educated in this respect. The five senses are the means of communication between the outer world and the spirit within. It is through these media that the child for some time receives all its knowledge. A late writer says of the infant of two years old : “He has acquired more knowledge during this short period, than he generally does on the present plan of instruction through the eight, or ten, succeeding years of his life; and it is a striking instance of the benevolence of the Creator, and a prelude of the vast extent of knowledge the child is afterwards capable of acquiring, that all these acquisitions are made not only
without pain, but, in the greater number of instances, are accompanied with the highest enjoyment.”
In the school-room we should imitate as much as possible the method of nature. Young children are not reflecting, or reasoning, beings; they have no appreciation of abstractions; they are for the tangible, the real, the concrete. It is through their Benses that nature is acquainting them with the material world, and how fresh, active, and vigilant, their senses are, and what untiring pleasure they take in their exercise! This is well described by the poet Sprague, in speaking of the delight which children feel in the gratification of their curiosity. Referring to this principle, the poet says :
“In the pleased infant see its power expand,
When first the coral fills his little hand;
Children should be taught by things as much as possibl., by words as little as possible. The letter may kill any idea, but the reality maketh alive. On this account I consider object-teaching as a decided improvement in our schools. It is an excellent plan whenever practicable, to show the scholars whatever may be the subject of the lesson, or if that cannot be done, then a drawing, or picture, of it. Their interest is thus awakened; every eye is sure to be wide open; the information imparted is correct; there can be no mistake about it. How quickly, also, it is gathered ; how much time it takes to convey, by description, through the ear, a full and accurate idea of what may, perhaps, be understood at a glance of the eye, and so impressed upon the mind as never to be forgotten. There are some Teachers who should be informed that they do not have under their charge Institutions for the Blind, but that their pupils have eyes, and would rejoice in an opportunity to use them.
The importance of real objects, natural and artificial models, pictorial representations, experimental and other practical elucidations, cannot be too strongly urged on those who have the direction of the young mind. In most of the subjects which form the school business, such illustrations may be introduced. The schoolroom should be furnished with receptacles for works of art and nature; the pupils themselves would be the most valuable and active contributors to such collections; and those specimens which are apparently the most humble, will often be found to be the most useful. Visits to mines, manufactories, to the sea-shore, to fields and woods, would furnish great additions to such a store. Minerals, vegetables, woods, metals, animal substances, insects, shells, etc. are easily obtained. The arrangement and classification of these objects would call into exercise faculties which are now scarcely ever developed. One writer says that he has known boys of twelve years of age who could recognize and refer to their proper class almost every object around them in nature, and gives it as his opinion that a wide range of descriptive natural history may be imparted at that age.
Another means of correcting the evil of which I complain, is to introduce into our schools the study of the Natural Sciences. This ought to be done, and can be done, with children, as soon as they can read tolerably well. Books adapted to the capacity of young pupils have been written for this purpose by eminent men. “The Child's Book of Nature,” by Dr. Worthington Hooker, the eminent Profes