« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
on this extended scale, is more important to one who receives no other education beside that of the common school, than to the student who acquires a higher academical, or a collegiate education. The latter, in the course of his studies, will meet, in different connections, with more or less of that information, which is usually collected in an extensive geographical work. It is, therefore, less necessary for him to read it in such a work, than for one who, unless he finds it there, will never enjoy opportunity for acquiring it elsewhere. In my judgment, geography ought to constitute one of the earliest and one of the latest studies of common schools. What relates to the description of the earth itself, including what is usually called natural or physical geography, may be very advantageously learned by young children, to whoin the tracing of boundaries, of the courses of rivers, and of chains of mountains, and the determination of the situation of various places on the earth, in fact, the entire study of maps, is an employment very suitable, one well fitted to fix their attention and interest their feelings. I would, therefore, place in the hands of the younger pupils of our common schools, a small geography, merely as a companion to maps, and to be used merely in connection with maps. The knowledge thus acquired in the earlier years of the pupil should be kept fresh in the memory, by revising it at suitable intervals, until the last year or two of his attending school. I would then place in his hands another distinct work on geography, to which the preceding acquisitions should furnish merely the grammar.
This second work, should be no meagre sketch or barren outline, or useless catalogue of the names of places, but a thorough account of the subject on which it, treats ; not a picture book — not a scanty abridgment, but a full octavo of three or four hundred pages, rich in information respecting the different nations of the earth — their civil and political institutions, and their resources. I would have the pupil store bis memory with statistical facts, well arranged in tables, exhibiting a comparative estimate of different countries. These should be reiterated until they were thoroughly engraven on the memory, to remain there as standards of reference through life.
When geography is learned according to the foregoing plan, - namely, what relates to the study of maps in the earlier, and what relates to civil and political geography in the later periods of attending school, the pupil will go forth with that
kind of information which makes the man of common sense. He will be furnished with that kind of knowledge which is best suited to enable him to read with interest and intelligence, the current publications; and he will have in his mind standards of comparison, to which he will continually refer such facts as he meets with in his daily readings. Indeed, among men who have enjoyed no farther opportunity for the cultivation of their minds than what, by their own efforts, they may have secured, in addition to those of the common schools, nothing, I think, marks so clearly, the distinction between the ignorant and the sensible man, as their relative knowledge of geography, political and historical, as well as physical or natural.
In the second place, it is, indeed, desirable that all the youth educated at our common schools, should be well acquainted with English grammar, although I would claim less for this and more for geography, if both could not be mastered; esteeming it more important to be a man of sense, than to be critically skilled in the niceties of language. Nor do I hold the grammatical construction of the English language to be all that is included in the study of grammar. The practice of composition is fully as important. The rules of good writing appended to Murray's Grammar, exemplified as they were by appropriate exercises, constituted in my school-boy days, our first introduction to the art of fine writing. Brief as they were, they gave to the learner who had no other opportunity of studying the art of fine writing, far higher notions of correct and elegant composition, than he would otherwise have ever acquired ; and they made a great impression on his taste, in regard both to the power of composing and of judging. Even the books used as reading lessons in our common schools, have much influence on the taste of the pupil. I grant that the young child requires lessons of a style so simple as to be fully intelligible to him ; but let these be confined to the period of early childhood, and as the mind improves, let it be fed with stronger aliment; and finally, let the reading lessons constitute a volunie of elegant extracts, in prose and verse, exhibiting choice specimens of the standard masters of the English tongue. Such a reading book was Scott's Lessons, a book to which more than one eminent scholar was indebted for his first acquaintance with the classic writers of the English language.
In the third place, in regard to the mathematics, a good knowledge of arithmetic should be acquired by all the pupils
of our common schools. This is, perhaps, all that can be hoped for from the scholars in general; but there are always in our schools, individuals who show a peculiar aptitude for studies of this kind, and would advance much farther than arithmetic, if they could have the requisite instruction. For such, I would have the way open to algebra, geometry, and trigonometry, and the various practical branches of mathematics, as mensuration, measuring heights and distances, and surveying. It may be thought that studies of this kind are more appropriate to the academies than to the common schools; but I think we ought to rest satisfied with nothing short of making all our common schools equal, in respect to a mere English education, to what our best academies are now ; while the academies shall be devoted exclusively to preparing candidates for the colleges and universities.
At an advanced period of common school education, when the mind of the pupil has attained some maturity, I would introduce the study of Natural Philosophy, including Astronomy, and Chemistry. The great laws of these sciences may be comprised within a moderate compass, in works judiciously prepared for this purpose; and the same remark applies to the outlines of moral, political, and legal science.
Finally, the elements of Universal History should be taught on a scale sufficient to furnish a ground-work for the reading of particular histories. With this foundation, the student who had any taste for intellectual improvement, would be enabled to prosecute the study of history as opportunity should offer.
From the foregoing remarks, it will be inferred that I hold the opinion, that we ought to expect nothing less from our common schools, aided as they are by a munificent school fund, than a thorough English education, and that, in order to effect this, we must provide, in addition to the rudiments already taught, good instruction in Universal Geography, in English Grammar and Composition, and in Arithmetic ; that we must even aim to embrace in our ultimate plan, the outlines, at least, of Natural Philosophy, Astronomy, and Chemistry; and that provision must be made for such as desire to pursue mathematical studies into the higher branches of Algebra and Geometry.
But some who grant that it is desirable, that the tone of common school education should be so elevated as to embrace all the foregoing studies, yet despair of being able to effect so
much. How, say they, shall time be found for such a range of studies, from the alphabet to universal history, from the spelling-book to natural philosophy and astronomy; and, if time be not wanting, where shall we obtain teachers competent to give such a course of instruction ? This brings us to the last inquiry we proposed to make, namely, how the required changes are to be accomplished ?
First. Time is to be gained by a better method of instruction, than is now generally practised in our schools.
It has been wisely suggested, that, in cases where the school is large, a division of labor ought to be introduced by placing all the younger pupils in a separate room under the charge of a well educated female. It may also be remarked, that less time is necessary with greater skill; and that the mere rudiments of knowledge would require far less time than is usually devoted to them, provided a process were going forward at the same time, which should develop more fully the capacities of the mind, and enlarge its powers of comprehension.
Secondly. The improved instructers are to be obtained through the medium of a seminary for teachers, to be erected and supported either wholly or in part, out of the great school fund.
I would have ten thousand dollars out of the one hundred thousand dollars, now distributed annually among the schools, set apart for establishing and supporting a seminary for schoolmasters. This sumn would be sufficient to erect a suitable building, and to supply the necessary apparatus for instruction. The same sum might afterwards be appropriated yearly for the support of two instructers, a principal and an assistant, and to provide board and instruction for sixty pupils. As every thing would depend on the qualifications of the principal, the greatest effort should be made to secure the best services for this important office. I would have these sixty young men thoroughly drilled in all the studies they would be required to teach, and instructed in the best mode of teaching them, as well as in the organization and government of a school. At the close of one year, they should be subject to a thorough public examination on the whole course of studies, and the approval of the board of examiners should be their license to keep school.
These sixty candidates should be selected from the several counties in the State, by a Board commissioned to examine, at
a stated time and place, all applicants ; each county being entitled to a number corresponding to its relative population. The certificate of this Board should entitle the successful candidates to the privileges of the seminary for one year. They should be laid under bonds to refund the charges of their education at the seminary, unless they should actually follow the business of teaching in the State, for a specified period; extraordinary exceptions being provided for. There would indeed be no obligation on the part of the community to employ them; but the presumption is fair that, possessing as they would, superior qualifications, they would be sought for in preference to others, and would command higher wages; so much higher as to make the opportunity of spending a year at the seminary an object of great importance. Besides these gratuitous pupils, the seminary might admit others desirous of qualifying themselves for the profession of teachers, they paying their own expenses.
It is said that two thousand schoolmasters are needed to supply fully the exigencies of the State, and we here provide for the education of only sixty per annum.
But we cannot hope to supply the full number at once. If we can furnish in ten years six hundred well educated schoolmasters, we shall make a vast improvement in the state of common schools. The schools taught by such instructers would themselves, in the mean time, begin to furnish schoolmasters of the same elevated character; and those schools which should not, at first, enjoy the advantages of these educated teachers, would finally derive great improvement from the general elevation of the tone of instruction around them. It is a most encouraging consideration attending this whole subject, that if we can by any means once raise the tone of education in the schools, as these furnish the teachers for future years, there is an inherent tendency in the system to maintain itself.
I have said nothing about the improvement which may be made in regard to school-books, believing that the correction of the evils now felt from the diversity and imperfections of school-books would naturally result from the influence of the seminary for teachers. A higher motive would be presented to authors qualified to furnish good school-books, if they did not find, as is too much the case at present, inaccurate and superficial works preferred to such as are of solid merit.
While we fully admit the perversion of our ample means of