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Arrangement of Mr Sullivan.
phy, natural history, and manners and customs-might be able to present to a group of children, from time to time, during the progress of their studies and recitations, such vivid pictures of human life, as it was at the periods to which their lessons refer, as would invest with charms their whole course. А child is reciting, for example, the march of some Roman army to attack a foreign enemy. Now let the instructer, whether in the school room or the parlor, be able to draw out, in • living characters,' as it were, the armor and dress of the Roman soldiers ; the hour and manner of taking their meals; the character of the roads-built, perhaps, by themselves-over which they had to pass; the appearance of the country through which they travelled, and of its inhabitants; the rivers, seas, bridges, &c. they crossed; and how they were crossed ;-let him be able to do this we say, and let both bim and all those around the pupil, be prepared to encourage rather than repress every rising inquiry, and to satisfy it, as far as in their power; and what an astonishing interest would surround this hitherto uninviting and often uninteresting subject !
We have been led, almost unconsciously, into this train of remark, by the examination of the volume whose title we have placed at the head of this article. Mr Sullivan's Political, Moral, and Historical Class Books are well known; and have been the means of doing, in many of our schools, immense good. The · Historical Causes and Effects,' appears to be regarded as the second volume of a series, of which-if we understand the matter correctly—the Historical Class Book is the first, and comes down to the year 476, the period at which the present volume commenced. There remains, to be published, one more volume, comprising 'causes and effects' among European nations and their colonies, during the last three centuries.
• There are,' says Mr Sullivan, in his preface to the volume before us, ' certain causes and effects which may be discussed among all the varieties of conflicting accounts (in history.) These are the sources of historical instruction. They disclose the course of events by which the world has been brought to its present condition. They are the facts, however variously stated, from which its future condition is to be inferred.
· From a review of these, ten centuries (from 500 to 1500,) it appears
* * * * * that the beneficent gift of the Deity, is the capacity to improve. To know what can be done, it must be known, first, how this capacity has been used, neglected, or perverted.'
• This volume,' he adds, is intended as a contribution to that object.'
True Object of Studying History.
The following is the arrangement of its subjects.
"]. The state of society is examined at the close of the fifth century, when a new condition arose among nations on the fall of the Roman Empire of the West.
• 2. Events which had permanent effects on moral, social and political condition, are treated of separately and continuously, as to each nation.
63. International events are treated of in the territories in which they principally occurred.
• 4 The order of treatment is to begin with the most westwardly of European nations, and proceed thence through each nation to the eastern end of Asia.
65. To preserve the connection of events, it has been necessary, sometimes to transcend the limits of these ten centuries.'
We are exceedingly glad to see history treated in this manner; and whether its author intended the work before us, as a school-book or not, we wish most heartily to see history studied by the more advanced pupils of our academies and other high schools, and by the students of our colleges, on his principles, and in his spirit; and we shall look with much anxiety for the appearance of the remaining volume of the series.
If the study of history in our schools were intended, in the first place, to repress the native curiosity of the young, to diminish their thirst for improvement, and to extinguish that true philosophy, whose germs are discoverable in a greater or less degree, in every opening mind; and in the second place, to produce, as the results, parrots instead of men, we would advise to continue the course at present usually adopted, and almost rendered venerable by its antiquity. But if there be higher and nobler intentions in the parent, teacher, or professor, then let history be studied with a view to make the student, not a parrot or a monkey, but a philosopher and a Christian; and as such, a worthy and valuable republican citizen.
Hitherto we have spoken of the method of pursuing the study of history by advanced scholars. With the tyro, especially at a very tender age, our course would be somewhat different. It is true, that in teaching the merest infant, either in history or any thing else, we would never wholly lose sight of the great principle of connecting cause and effect, and of continually deriving theretrom valuable moral lessons. But there is a work of preparation for the study of history which we deem indispensable, which is, so far as we are acquainted, almost universally overlooked. This work may be performed either in the family or the school room ; but, like the groundwork of
An Improved Writing Desk.
every other science, may be best done in the parlor or the nursery.
On this preparatory course, we mean to treat, in a separate article, hereafter. Meanwhile we must be permitted to repeat our commendation of the work of Mr Sullivan, not only as adapted to the wants of the general reader, but as a school book ; and if half the time devoted to the perusal of such works as those of Bulwer and Maryatt were devoted to the study of man as he truly is and as he has been, we should find the state of society and the public taste as rapidly improving as it now seems to us deteriorating. There is enough of romance in real life to interest the juvenile mind, and urge forward up the hill of science, were not our taste perverted by improper society or books, in the absence of what is judicious and appropriate; just as there is enough of sapidity in plain, wholesome food to ensure a full amount of gustatory pleasure, were we not early perverted by that which is too heating, too stimulating, or too savory.
LUTHER'S ALLEVIATING WRITING DESK.
He who has been properly trained to writing can, for the moment, write almost any where, and under any circumstances. He can write with a poor pen, with bad ink, on inferior paper, or even on birch bark, if he cannot get paper. If he has no desk at hand, he can write by holding the paper in his hand, or on his knee. Indeed, if you have a place for your inkstand, and a thin book or a small piece of board to hold in your hand, and on which to lay your paper, the knee, especially when the legs are crossed, forms quite a comfortable writing desk; and habit would enable a person to write in this situation with considerable ease. Nor are we quite sure that this position, if the writer will lean back in his seat, and not acquire a habit of stooping, would not be the very best for all persons whose eyes have begun to flatten so as to see objects at a distance somewhat greater than in early life. For the young, however, especially the shortsighted, and for all, indeed, who are compelled to write much, and to keep not only ink, but sand, wafers, quills, knife, paper, &c. about them, a table or desk of some sort seems to be indispensable.
But what sort of a table or desk should be used ? Should it be level or inclined? Are the writing desks used in our common schools in this country what is desirable ?
The Need of such an Improvement.
the most economical, the most healthful, and the most useful?
In regard to the question, Should the writing desk be level or inclined, much may be said. We prefer the level desk. We do so because, if low enough, we find it quite as easy and convenient as if it were sloping, and because few persons in the hurry and business of life will be sure to find sloping writing desks, on all occasions; but if trained to their exclusive use, they will experience some difficulty in accommodating themselves to any other. We have heard of several foreign writing masters who preferred to have the desk slope in the opposite direction from what it usually does; that is, to have the part nearest the body highest; but the reasons assigned for this position seem to us fanciful.
The question, Are the writing desks in our common schools in this country what they ought to be,' will, we believe, admit cf but one reply. Nowhere are they adapted, at all, to the ever varying size, or height rather, of the pupils. In a school where twenty or thirty children write, there are seldom half a dozen who require a desk of exactly the same height. And yet it is usually the same for all. Occasionally there is a little difference in the height of the seats; that is, the seat for those who constitute the first class is a little lower than that which is intended for the second and third classes—the height of the desks themselves remaining the same, and being uniform. In this case, a whole class or · bench' must have the height of both the seats and the desk the same, however great the diversity of their size ; nor is there usually any difference in favor of different classes.
Now this is all wrong; and it is highly desirable that there should be a reform. It is no small matter to have fifteen pupils in every twenty-usually a much larger proportion-sit at writing desks, several hours a day, which are either too high for them, absolutely, or at least too far from their seats. The error of having them too low is, happily, not so injurious; but it is not very common. Desks are almost always too high. The arm and shoulder are placed in an unnatural, constrained position. The spine is twisted and distorted. The function of respiration is impeded, and sometimes that of digestion. Nay more, and worse if possible than all this, the compression on the spine, along with the pressure of the chest and its effects, injure the brain and nervous system, in the end, and perhaps at the moment. We are not sure that much of the inertiæ which we find in our school rooms-the indisposition to think-is not owing to the cause we have been mentioning. Be this as it may, however,
Points of Improvement Needed.
there can be but little doubt that these unnatural positions of the body at school, and especially while writing, besides being irksome and painful, lay the foundation of numerous diseases, some of them diseases of no ordinary severity. The punishment of our physical transgressions does not always follow immediately upon the heels of the transgression, especially when it is committed early. Children are exceedingly tenacious of life; and it not unfrequently happens that diseases, whose seeds are early sown, do not spring up till many years afterward. They injure the system, indeed, or parts of the system; but, belabored as it is, life urges on the machine till other causes come in. Then, when at last there is so much derangement as to cause what we commonly call disease, all other causes produced by early errors unite with them to aggravate the disease, and often to overthrow health entirely and destroy life. Many a time have consumption, scrofula, dyspepsia, hypochondria, mania, epilepsy, and numerous other diseases of middle or advanced life, been rendered more severe, if not absolutely incurable, by the errors of infancy, childhood, or youth.
Could parents who are truly conscientious, for once understand enough of anatomy, physiology and pathology, to see this matter, just as it is, there would be hope of reformation. Some, indeed, might desert the schools entirely ; and resolve to depend solely on what their time and means could do for their instruction in the family. The greater part, however, it is believed and hoped, would suffer their love for their neighbors to come so nearly up with their love for themselves, as not to withdraw their influence, and thus leave the children of their neighbors in a more perilous condition than before ; but, on the contrary, would labor to make things better. The advantages of common school instruction over all other instruction beyond the family circle—at least were the common school what it ought to be-should lead every thinking person to hesitate, at the least, before he ventures to take a single step, however advantageous it may seem to him, for the time, which shall render the school, in the district where he belongs, less efficient or less useful than it would be without his aid.
One important means, as we have already seen, of rendering the common school what it should be, is, to improve, if possible, the writing desks; and one of the great desiderata in this matter has long been, the adaptation of the seats and desks of the pupils to their varying height. The legs of the pupils should not hang pendulous; nor should they, on the contrary, be too much cramped. And the writing desks, as we have already