Page images
PDF
EPUB

generally, to its own and other people's annoyance, in its vain endeavor to satisfy the instinct to alter, (that is the characteristic of human will,) until it is educated to recognize and obey the laws of God expressed in nature. For a time the young senses are not adequate to accurate perception of outward objects, and far less is the power of abstracting the laws of order developed in a young child. A certain evil is therefore originated, which seems so inevitable, that it has tasked the human intellect to reconcile it with Divine benevolence and driven men into various theories, more or less unsatisfactory to all, upon the nature of evil, and its place in the economy of creation. Now Froebel undertakes to give a practical solution of this terrible problem by his art; for he seizes this very activity in the earliest infancy and gently guides it into the production of effects that gratify the intense desires of the soul and cause it actually to produce the beauty and use at wbich it has blindly aimed. He looks upon the child as a doer, primarily, and a knower, subsequently; that is, as an artist before he is a scientist, entering with genial sympathy into that primal activity which we call childish play, he guides the child first to embody and then carefully observe eternal laws, even on this humble plane, by which he surprises and delights bimself with the beauty or use that grow under his hands, and therefore absorb his attention. For what meets a child's internal sense of fitness and beauty, especially if it is his own work, he is delighted to examine; and he loves to analyze the process by which the delightful result has been obtained.' While it is a hard thing to make a child copy the work of another, he will repeat his own process over and over again, seeming to wish to convince himself that like antecedents involve like consequences. These repetitions sharpen his senses as well as develop his understanding; they also give skillfulness to his hands, and inake him practically realize individuality, form, size, number, direction, position, also connection and organization, which last call forth his reflective powers. Hence Kindergarten-teaching is just the careful superintendence and direction of the blind activity of little children into self-intelligence and productive work by making it artistic and morally elevated. For it carefully regards the ennobling of the soul by developing the love of good and beauty which keeps the temper sweet and the heart disinterested, occupying the productive powers in making things not to hoard—not to show how much they can do, which might foster selfishness, vanity, and jealousy, but for the specific pleasure of chosen friends and companions. Thus, without taking the child out of his childish spontaneity and innocence, Froebel would make him a kind, intelligent, artistic, moral being, harmonizing the play of will, heart, and mind from the very beginning of life into a veritable image of the creativeness of God. The mother gave Froebel the model for this education, in the instinctive nursery play by which she helps her little one to consciousness of his body in its organs of sense and motion. She teaches him that he has hands and feet, and their uses, by inspiring and guiding him to use them; playing with him at “pat-a-cake," and "this little pig goes to market and this stays at home," &c. I wish I had room to give a review of Froebel's book of mother songs, nursery plays, pictures, and mother's prattle, which is the root of the whole tree; but I can merely refer to it in passing. He shows in it that what he learnt from the mother he could return to her tenfold, bettering the instruction; and that the body being the first world of which the child takes possession by knowledge, though not without aid, we must play with the child. If we do not ho ceases to play. Charles Lamb has given a most atfecting picture of the effects of this in his pathetic paper on the neglected children of the poor; and the statistics of public cribs and foundling hospitals prove that when children are deprived of the instinctive materpal nursery play, almost all of them die, and the survivors become feeble-minded or absolute idiots. Dr. Howe says much idiocy is not organic but functional only, and to be referred to coarse or harsh dealing with infants, paralyzing their nerves of perception with pain and terror; even a merely inadequate nursing may have this effect; and he and other teachers of idiots have inversely proved this to be true, by the restoring effects of their genial methods. And what produces idiocy in these extreme cases produces chronic dullness, discouragement, and destruction of all elasticity of mind, in the majority of children. It is appalling to think of what immense injury is done, and what wasto made of human faculty, by those defective methods of educatiou which undertake to reverse the order of nature, and make children passive to receive impressions, instead of keeping them actire, and letting them learn by their own or a suggested experimenting. Some people having seen that the former was wrong, let their children

run wild,' as they call it, for several years; but this is nearly an equal error. Not to be attaining habits of order is even for the body unhealthy, and leaves them to become disorderly and perverse. The very ignorance and helplessness of children imperatively challenge human intervention and help. They would dio out of their mere animal existence in the first hour of their mortal life, did not the mother or nurse come to their rescue. Most insects and other low forms of animal life know no care of parents. They are endowed with certain absolute knowledge, enabling them to fill their small sphere of relation unerringly as the needle points to the pole. Wo call it instinct. But as the scale of being rises, relations multiply, which, though dependencies at first, become, by the fulfillment of the duties they involve, sources of happiness and beneficent power ever widening in scope. Man, who is to fill the unlimited sphere of an immortal existence, knows nothing at all of the outward universe at his birth. The wisdom that is to guide his will, is in the already developed and cultivated human beings that surround him; and he depends on that intercommunion with his kind which begins in the first smile of recognition that passes between mother and child, and is to continue until it becomes the communion of the just made perfect, which is highest heaven both here and hereafter.

The instinct, therefore, that makes a mother play with her baby, is a revelation of a first principle giving the key-note of human education; and upon it Froebel has modulated his whole system, which he calls Kindergarten, not that he meant education to be given out of doors, as some have imagined; but because he would suggest that children are living organisms like plants, which must blossom and flower before they can mature fruit; and consequently require a care analogous to that which the gardener gives to his plants, removing obstructions, and heightening the favoring circumstances of development.

The seed of every plant has in miniature the form of its individual organization, enveloped in a case which is burst by the life force within it, so that the germ may come into communication with those elements, whose assimilation enables it to unfold, in one case a tree, in other cases other vegetable forms. In like manner the infant soul is a life force wrapped up in a material case, which is not, however, immediately deciduous; for, unlike the envelope of the seed, the human body is also an apparatus of communication with the pature around it, and especially with other souls, similarly limited and endowed, who shall meet its outburst of life, and help it to accomplish its destiny-or hinder! I beg attention to this point. We either educate or hinder. The help to be given by education is an essential part of the Eternal Providence, and wo must accept our duty of embodying the divine love in our human providence, which we denominate education, on the penalty of injuring, which is the supreme evil.'“Woe unto him who shall offend one of these little ones. It were better for bim that a millstone were hung about his neck, and he were cast into the uttermost depths of the sea."

As the child gets knowledge and takes possession of his own body, by the exercise of his several organs of sense and the movement of his limbs, so he must gradually take possession of the universe, which is his larger body on the same principle; by learning to use its vast magazine of materials, to embody his fancies, attain his desires, and by and by accomplish his duties, education being the mother to help him to examine these materials and dispose them in order, keeping him steady in his aims, and giving him timely suggestions, a clew to the laws of organization, by following which all his action will become artistic. For art is to man what the created universe is to God. I here use the word art in the most general sense, as manifestation of the human spirit on every plan of expression, material, intellectual, and moral.

Froebel, therefore, instead of beginning the educating process by paralyzing play (keeping the child still, as the phrase is,) and superinducing the adult mind upon tho childish one, accepts him as he is. But he organizes the play in the order of nature's evolutions, making the first playthings, after the child's own hands and feet, the ground forms of nature. He has invented a series of playthings beginning with solids—the ball, the cube, and other forms--going on to planes, which embody the surfaces of solids, (squares and the various triangles) and thence to sticks of different lengths, embodying the lines which make the edges of the solids and planes; and, finally, to points, embodied in peas or balls of wax, into which can be inserted sharpened sticks, by means of which frames of things and symmetrical forms of beauty may be made, thus bringing the child to the very borders of abstraction without going over into it, which little children should never do, for abstract objects of thought strain the brain, as sensuous objects do not, however minately they are considered. In building and laying forms of symmetrical beauty with these blocks, planes, sticks, and peas, not only is the intellect developed in order, but skillful manipulation, delicate neatness, and orderly process become babits, as well as realized ideas. The tables that the children sit at as they work are painted in inch squares, and the blocks, planes, and sticks are not to be laid about in confused heaps, but taken one by one from the boxes and carefully adjusted to these inch squares. In going from one form to another the changes are made gradually and in order. No patterns are allowed. The teachers suggest low to lay tho blocks, planes, sticks, also wire circles and arcs, in relation to each other severally, and to the squares of the table. For symmetrical forms they suggest to lay opposites till the pupils have learned the fundamental law-union of opposites for all production and beauty. A constant questioning, calling attention to every point of resemblance and contrast in all the objects within the range of sensuous observation, as well as to their obvious connections, keeps the mind awake and in agreeable activity. Margin for spon. taneous invention is always left, which the law of opposites conducts to beauty inevitably. In acting from suggested thoughts, instead of from imitation, they act from within outward, and soon will begiu to originate thoughts, for Kindergarten has shown that invention is universal talent.

But the time comes when children are no longer satisfied with making transient forms whose materials can be gathered back into boxes. They desire to do something which will remain fixed. Froebel's method meets this instinct with materials for making permanent forms by drawing, sewing, modeling, &c.

The stick-laying is the best possible preparation for drawing, for it trains the eye, leaving the children to learn the manipulation of the pencil only, and this is again made easy by having the slates and paper ruled in eighths or tenths of an inch, that the pencil of the child may be guided while the hand is yet unsteady, for Froebel would never have the child fail of doing perfectly whatever he undertakes, and this is effected by making him begin with something easy, and proceeding by a minute gradualism. He would also train the eye to symmetry by never allowing him to make a crooked line, just as the ear is trained in musical education by never making a false note. Beside the drawing, which is carried to quite a wonderful degree of beauty, invented even by children under seven years old, pricking of symmetrical forms may be done by means of the same squared paper; and again, pricked cardboard may be sewed with colored threads, teaching harmonies of color. Also another variety of work is made by weaving into slitted paper of one color strips of other colors, involving not only the harmonizing of colors, but the counting and arrangement for symmetrical effect, which gives a great deal of mental arithmetic, while the folding of paper with great exactness in geometrical forms, and unfolding it to make little boats, chairs, tables, and what the children call flowers, gives concrete geometry and the habit of calculation.

A lady who traveled in Europe to study Froebel's Kindergartens brought home from Dresden the whole series of work done by a class of children who began at three years old and continued till seven; and no one has seen it without being convinced that it must have educated the children that did it, not only to an exquisite artistic manipulation, which it is very much harder to attain later, but to habits of attention that would make it a thing of a short time to learn to read, write, and cipher, and enable them to enter into scientific education, and use books with the greatest advantage, as early as eight years old.

Callisthenics, ball-plays, and plays symbolizing the motions of birds, beasts, pretty human fancies, mechanical and other labors, and

exercising the whole body, are alternated with the quieter occupations, and give graco, agility, animal spirits, and health, with quickness of eye and touch, together with an effect on the mind, their significance taking the rudeness out, and putting intelligence into the plays, without destroying the fun. The songs and music which direct these exercises are learned by rote, and help to gratify that demand for rhythm which is one of the mysteries of buman nature, quickening causal power to its greatest energy, as has been prored, even in the education of idiots, by the almost miraculous effects upon them of the musical gymnastics, which are found to wake to some self-consciousness and enjoyment even the saddest of these poor victims of malorganization. All Froebel's exercises are characterized by rhythm; for the law of combining opposites for symmetrical beauty makes a rhythm to the eye, which perhaps has even more penetrative effect on the intellectual life than music.

If true education, as Froebel claims, is this conscious process of development, bodily and mental, corresponding point by point with the unconscious evolutions of matter, making the human life an image of the divine creativeness, every generation owes tó the next every opportunity for it. In this country, whose prodigious energies are running so wild into gambling, trade and politics, threatening us with evils yet unheard of in history, it may be our national salvation to employ them in legitimate, attractive work, for production of a beauty and benefit that also bas been yet unheard of in history; and this can best be done by preventing that early intellectual perversion and demoralization, with waste of genius and moral power, entailed on us by the inadequate arbitrary modes of primary discipline which now taint all subsequent education.

But the indispensable preliminary of this new primary discipline are competent teachers, who can be had only by special training. What is at once delightful play and earnest work to the children, requires, in those who are superintending it, not only a knowledge of the laws and processes of vital growth, which are analogous, if not identical, in nature and art, but the science of infaut psychology also. These things are not intrinsically difficult of attaininent; and it is easier, if the teacher has been trained to it, to keep a Kindergarten, according to the strict principle of Froebel, than to keep an ordinary primary school in the ordinary manner, because nature helps the former with all her instincts and powers, while the latter is a perpetual antagonism and struggle with nature for the repression of a more or less successful chronic rebellion.

The best Kindergarten normal school in the world is that founded by the Baroness Marenholtz-Bulow, in Berlin, where she lectures gratuitously herself on the philosophy of the method, and its relations to "the regeneration of mankind,” (to use her own phrase,) and the pupils have instruction from professors in inany branches of science and art, while they go to observe and practice several times a week in Madame Vogler's Kindergarten. But Americans, who have had our usual normal or high school education, or its equivalent, if they are fairly gifted and educated, genial, sweet-tempered, and candid, can obtain the special training in a six months' diligent course, and the more surely the more they have the grace of a wise humility. What it took Froebel, with all his heart and genius, a half century of study and experimenting to elaborate, it would seem at first could not be learned in so short a time. But it must be remembered that the more profound and complete the truth, the more easily can it be comprehended, when once fairly stated. It took a Newton to discover the principia naturæ; and á Copernicus to replace the complicated Ptolemean by nature's solar system; but any child of twelve years old can comprehend and learn them, now they are discovered. Froebel's authority inheres in his being a self-denying interpreter of nature, the only absolute authority, (nature being God's word.) As Edgar Quenet said in 1865, in a letter to the Baroness Marenboltz-Bulow, after remarking that Froebel

sees the tree ju the germ; the infinitely great in the infinitely small; the sage and great man in the cooing babe;" and "his method therefore is that of nature herself, which always has reference to the whole, and keeps the end in view in all the phases of development,” comparing him to "the three wise men from the East who placed the treasures of nature in the hands of the heavenly Child”—and the statement is worthy of all attention—"It is certain that the results of this method can only he attained if it is applied according to the principles of the discoverer. Without this, the best conceptions of Froebel must be falsified, and turned against his aim; mechanism alone would remain, and would bring back teacher and pupil into the old traces of routine.” As yet there is but one Kindergarten normal school in America, which is a private one in Boston, kept by Mrs. Kriege and her daughter, pupils and missionaries of the Baroness MarenholtzBulow, who is the chief apostle of Froebel in Europe. In another year these ladies will be connected with the public normal school of New York City, as I understand liberal offers are made to them by the public school authorities. Preparations are also making for model Kindergartens, and professorships therewith connected, at several of the normal institutions of the West. These are in place in every female college and high school for girls; the training not only insuring a delightful profession that must always be in demand, but making the best education for mothers, as all women are liable to becowe personally or virtually, Possibly the appreciation of Froebel's science and art may prove the true solution of what is called the woman question. Teaching is the primal function of humanity, and women now feel it to be repugnant toil only because the true art has never before been discovered. When it becomes a fine art it will become for the teacher, like any other fine art, self-development and the highest enjoyment; for it is nothing short of taking part in the creativeness of God.

There is in training at Mrs. Kriege's school in Boston a lady of great ability, who purposes to make a model Kindergarten at the normal school of Hampton, Virginia, as a basis for training the freedwomen for teachers of Kindergarten. The lyrical and artistic nature of the colored race will make them apt scholars and successful teachers, and this may become a place for training children's nurses in Froebel's nursery art. This great reformer founded a school for this purpose in Hamburg in 1850, which supplies (but not fully) a continual demand made upon it by the nurseries of England, as well as Germany; and a few American mothers have availed themselves of thé blessing of this educated help, which all mothers need who have other social duties.

But the immediate desideratum is a free national school to supply Kindergarten education to the schools of the District of Columbia, the Territories, and the South, to be located in the District, or perhaps in Richmond, Virginia, where some of the “ten thousand southern ladies," who signed the pathetic petition to Mr. Peabody to found for them an industrial school, might learn this beautiful art, and be made able to initiate in their beloved South a higher, more refined, and also more complete system of education than has ever obtained in any country. It has been ascertained that an eminent Kindergartner in Europe, now in full employ, but willing to leave all to do this thing in the United States, may be secured for five years, for $3,000 a year, finding all the apparatus and materials herself. Cannot this be had from some one of our innnificent public benefactors ?

ELIZABETH P. PEABODY.

HEBREW EDUCATION. It is safe to assert that, although the Israelites are of all nationalities, and scattered promiscuously over the face of the world, they are the only people who can be fairly classed as universally educated. There may be a few who cannot read or write, but this number is insignificant. Indeed, it is asserted by those who claim to know, that no Israelite can be found who cannot read or write, if not in their modern or domiciliary language, certainly in the Hebrew. If there are any thus in default, they may be found principally in London, or in other large cities of Great Britain, where, from degraded associations, they have been outcast from the society of their own people.

The education of the Hebrews is the growth of three thousand years, and is inculcated in their religion, based npon the Mosaic law. Hence it is hereditary, and to this inheritance of their forefathers they have been ever attached with unswerving fidelity, consecrating to education every sacrifice in their power, and placing its accomplishment first in their estimate of spiritual and worldly affairs. A treatise upon the education of the Hebrews necessarily involves a cursory review of their history prior to and since the conquest of Jerusalem by Titus, which latter event made them absolute wanderers upon the face of the earth.

The first Biblical mention of the Hebrew thirst for knowledge is when the Israelites, escaped from Egyptian bondage, sought instruction from Moses. This, attracting the attention of Jethro, his father-in-law, caused him to give to Moses the well known advice: “And thou shalt teach them ordinances, and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do.”(Exodus, c. xviii, v. 20.) Thereupon, Moses and the priesthood devoted themselves to the instruction of the Israelites in the decalogue, and in the numerous minor laws of theocratic educatiou and government; the moral lessons of which were then continually taught to children by their parents, and are still brought, in the same manner, to the notice of Hebrew youth to this very hour.

Though riven and broken piecemeal, and scattered in every clime, it is worthy of remark that, notwithstanding the Hebrews have domiciled as well in barbarous as in civilized countries, their habits, observances, language, and religion have remained intact and undisturbed, while their education in all the sciences and arts has constantly progressed and never retrograded. As chronicled by the encyclopedists, “ they began as nomads, migrating from nation to nation, from state to state; their law made them agriculturalists for fifteen centuries; their exile las transformed them into a mercantile people. They have struggled for national existence against the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Syrians, and Romans, have been conquered and nearly exterminated by all these powers, and have survived them all."

The education of the ancient Hebrews was entirely derived from the laws of Moses, which is, even now, with the exception of the national part, their general moral code. It is conceded by all writers that the aims of the Mosaic law “were the moral perfection of the individual and the welfare of society.” Reasoning

from this standpoint, it is only necessary to call attention to the books comprising the Old Testament to prove the advanced literary culture of the Hebrews, even in that remote age, which has never been excelled in modern times, or perhaps even equalled.

It is estimated that over one million Jews perished in defending Jerusalem from the Romans, and, according to Josephus, they continually rose in revolt during the reigns of Trajan and Hadrian, until their persecutions became so fearful that insurrections were forbidden by their leaders, simply on the score of religion and humanity. Whereupon Hadrian built the Ælia Capitolina upon the site of Jerusalem, and a decree was inade forbidding the Jows from entering its precincts.

Notwithstanding large numbers of Jews had been enslaved or exiled, and scattered on both sides of the Pyrenees, on the Rhine and the Danube, Palestine still continued to be a species of national center, and maintained schools of religious science under the leadership of most eminent teachers. But these schools were destroyed at different periods in the fourth and fifth centuries. The two talmuds, (studies,) Palestinian and Babylonian, were, however, preserved in a necessarily mutilated condition. Other literary productions of this era were also preserved, consisting of ethical treatises, historical, legendary, and cosmogonal writings, stories, prayers, and paraphases of Scriptural books.

In the seventh century, however, Mohammed conquered the independeut Arabian Jews, who were an extremely cultivated people, and Omar subsequently subdued Persia, Jerusalem, and the other Byzantine possessions, which placed the eastern Jews under the rule of a people of Semitic origin like themselves. The government of the Caliphs being comparatively mild, and favorable to science, (indeed the Koran itself commanding the study of its own precepts,) the literature of the Hebrews revived; and from the seventh to the tenth centuries, numbers of eminent scholars, theologians, poets, and linguists, were brought into public notice. Many works were composed, treating of every species of science, embracing law, medicine, astronomy, languages, and all the fine arts.

The standard authorities on education admit that the theocratic constitution of the Hebrews and the foundation of their politics and ethics on religion has produced a better culture, mental and moral, in literature, than that of any

other people. Their ancient education was far in advance of the Chinese and the Hindoos, for, in every lesson taught the Hebrew youth, is inculcated the sublimest virtues, among which may be enumerated charity, gratitude, obedience, and respect to the commands of parents, politeness and cleanliness, all coupled with extreme reverence for the Almighty. It will be remembered, also, that in contradistinction to other Oriental people, many female poets and learned women tigure in the history of the ancient Jews.

Tho instruction of the Jewish youth by the Rabbins, in the schools instituted after

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »