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ation of American teachers specially responsible, is a want of ability and efficiency on the part of our government to control several existing evils.
One of these evils is a prevalent radicalism. This is a grand leveler of every thing that exalteth itself above its own position. It wages war with old and venerated institutions. It loves no distinctions. It is a resolute agitator and disorganizer; feeds and fattens on discord and confusion ; engorges itself deliciously upon the elements of society which itself has dissolved and scattered abroad. It acknowledges no law, it would put down all rule. This spirit appears in church and in state, in all ranks and in all the relations of life; its hot breath is equally desolating every where.
Deeming the wholesome laws despotism, it raises a mob and tramples them in the dust; professing to believe the injunctions of the Bible ; usurpation, and the usages of society founded upon them superstitions, it sets them at defiance. It calls on the world to correct the mistakes of Paul; to attempt some reforms, which holy apostles were too feeble-hearted to undertake; to effect others by means which the Savior of the world was too short sighted to discover. This spirit at the present time presents a most threatening aspect. Many believe it may yet appear in forms powerful enough to sweep away all that we most love.
Another of these evils is a strong and constant tendency to dereliction of principle and corruption of morals. By opening to all, her sources of competence and wealth, this country has become a theatre of activities and enterprises, which have no parallel. Man, in no age and in no spot of the earth's surface, in so short a period, has projected and done so much and spread himself so widely abroad. But this unparalleled activity and enterprise after a period of brilliant successes, as the wise foresaw, is beginning to produce an opposite state of things; luxury, distaste for sober industry, dissatisfaction with moderate gains, extravagant expenditures and speculations. Whole villages and cities, in some paroxysms, have worn, to a transient on-looker, the aspect of grand gambling establishments, where the honest modes of living seemed about to be abandoned, and the people to be given up to overreaching and dishonesty; where justice and judgment seemed to be fleeing away, and general indulgence and dissipation to be taking their places. There is now felt to some degree in every part of the
country and in every department of society, a demoralizing influence of this description, corrupting deeply the principles and the morals of men.
The same unhappy effects are produced by the alluring opportunities to office and power which are here freely opened to all. At every
election there is witnessed in most parts of the country a general rush and scramble for the places of emolument and honor. Righteousness and truth to a fearful extent are set aside, and any thing adopted in their place which can minister to the ruling passion for personal aggrandizement. The associations of men, the institutions of society, and the government itself, are perverted to the accomplishment of private ends. Every thing seems crowded into the service of the god of power and the mammon of unrighteousness.
As the result of this state of things, a great waste of principle and of morals occurs throughout the country ; integrity and patriotism, benevolence and truth, are deeply outraged and left bleeding every where.
The same corrupting influences exist under other governments, but they are peculiarly strong and dangerous under ours. The arm of government is less vigorous here ; hitherto it has proved altogether too feeble to resist these evils which so seriously threaten us. The people, as has already been stated, bear rule, and, in consequence of the strength in human nature of the love of unrestrained independence, the people, in the capacity of a government, is exceedingly cautious in imposing checks upon its own desires and movements in the character of subjects ; hence liberty enough is reserved, to be always running into every form of licentiousness. Most men will gather their thoughts and hopes upon the power of religious faith, as the great preserver amid these evils so alarmingly rise in the land. No doubt our holy religion, teaching every man, and, by the strongest motives that can be made to bear upon a human being, urging every man to feel right and behave well, is the sovereign remedy, the last hope of nations, as well as of individuals. But it should not be forgotten that intelligence is a handmaid and essential auxiliary to this grand conservator. The education of the people gives the christian faith nearly all its power over them. It has, moreover, as has been already stated, good influences of its own. A well instructed community is less susceptible to the radicalism of the country, and to the corrupt sway of the cunning and
ambitious. Elevating to higher advantages, it inspires greater vigilance and resolution in preserving them against the destructive influences by which they are assailed. It opens the eyes of all more fully to the dangers which threaten them, and teaches them how to escape them. The evils which we have referred to, with others not named, make all the counteracting influences which can be gathered and employed, important and necessary, in order to save our institutions and government from destruction. Though education, therefore, contain not the highest antagonist power, yet, having valuable conservative principles, and exerting a valuable influence against the peculiar evils growing up in our state of society, all its aid should be contributed to the noble purpose. And American teachers should ever remember that in diffusing and improving general education, they perform essential service in preserving this nation from ruin, and, for this reason, hold the place and act the part of the highest responsibility.
Closing here what I have to say directly upon the literary responsibility of teachers, and especially of American teachers, it remains that I make a distinct appeal to them now in behalf of the education of the children of the United States, and also remind them of the high motives and encouragements to fidelity and zeal which are opened around them.
The discussion itself of the subject before me shall be the ground of my appeal.
If the general benefits arising from the improvement of the mass of mind, have been fairly represented here, as also the peculiar feasibility and value of it under our institutions, then should endeavors immediately be made to raise the standard of ordinary attainment in all our schools. Let what has been done heretofore be no pattern for the teachers of the
present generation, and no measure of their responsibility. There is a wider distance in the business of education between actual attainment and attainableness, between what is actually accomplished and what is easy as well as necessary to be done, than exists in reference to any other object of human pursuit and interest, except morals and religion. The actual amount of knowledge and the actual mental condition of the children of the country, when left by their teachers and thrown out upon society may be quickly stated. Their medium attainments will be found to include reading, writing, spelling of common words, geography, English gramınar, penmanship, arithmetic,
sometimes in addition, a slight smattering of rhetoric and natural philosophy. Their reading is far from being perfect. The unambitious sentences of Addison and the lofty diction of Johnson, the dry simplicity of Swift and the fervid strains of Patrick Henry, are uttered with nearly the same rapidity, and much in the same tone and spirit. Their orthography is often incorrect; their hand-writing is legible and decent; their geography consists mostly of mere topography and some soon forgotten statistics relating to population, square miles, latitude and longitude, exports and imports. Their English grammar is exceedingly defective, consisting of some parrot-taught facility in parsing, with very little idea of the construction and power of the English tongue; their arithmetic consists of a knowledge of the rules and practical operations in the common books, up to and through the “Rule of Three,” together with some acquaintance with book-keeping and the quickly lost processes of extracting the square and cube root. This is the ordinary sum of attainments at the age of twelve or fifteen years. If some pursue other branches and exceed these acquisitions, more, probably fall below them. Intellectual discipline and developement are scarcely thought of in our primary schools. The memory is chiefly tasked, the reasoning powers are but slightly exercised, and the habit of close application, and the patience of intense thought, so indispensable to mental improvement and power, but rarely acquired.
Let it not be inferred, however, that these attainments are of small consequence ; they are invaluable. They exert a vast influence upon all the dearest interests of the community and country. They form an important portion of those advantages and possessions which distinguish a civilized and refined, from a barbarous and degraded people. Let the fact, so confidently asserted, be heartily admitted, that elementary education is farther advanced in New England and some few other sections of the country, than in any other part of the world, not excepting Scotland and Prussia. This allusion to the attainments made in our primary schools is introduced here not to depreciate them, but to show their incompetency to the wants of a people performing such important duties and holding such high places of power and influence as do all American citi
The allusion is made for the purpose also of making an appeal to the teachers of our country to set up a higher standard of elementary education, and put forth their best en
deavors to push our children and youth much further forward in the studies already pursued, and to extend their inquiries in every direction. Certainly an alluring and accessible field may be opened to our children on every side. Besides advancing them in their present pursuits, let them be made more acquainted with the earth on which they live; with the materials of which it is composed, and the changes it has experienced; with its rocks, minerals, soils, and fossil races of plants and animals; with the different features of its several countries, and different character and modes of life of its various tribes and nations. Let them be taught something of the states, constituents and uses of the air which they breathe, as also something of the laws of light, and heat, and attraction, which are concerned in all their affairs and happiness. Let them be informed how latitude and longitude are ascertained, deserts traversed, seas and oceans sailed over, and the ends of the world brought together. Let them be led on into the plain, practical and valuable facts of christianity, natural philosophy and astronomy. Let them be made thoroughly acquainted with the history of their own country, its singular fortune, its great men, the spirit of its institutions, its enterprise, trade, growth, its sources of safety and duration. Let them study their own being, their outward structure and inward spirit. Let them be taught their various relations, their proper position, their indispensable duties, at home; at school, in the family, in the community, in the world, in the universe. All this, and more, is perfectly practicable. The works of Dr. Dick, if they are superficial, as has been alleged, most happily and conclusively shew how these important and interesting inquiries may be pursued suce cessfully by the children of common schools, if only aided and allured as they may be. The world owes him thanks that he has come down among juvenile and ignorant minds, and shown them how easily the boundaries which have limited their studies may be passed over, and what precious treasures may be gathered on the other side. The accessible field yet untrodden by our children is a broad and glorious one. I appeal to American teachers to lead them out and forth among its interesting objects, and to habituate them, in a world of wonders as they are, to question nature for themselves and listen intelligently to her responses.
It is more important than all, that the children of the country be disciplined and formed while at sbhool for a successful