Page images
PDF
EPUB

66

have higher ceilings; and that much more scrupulous attention should be paid, to the cleanliness of both the room and its inmates. "An evil," say the visiters of one of the towns, greater than the variety of schoolbooks or the want of necessary apparatus, is having schoolrooms so unskilfully made and arranged. Of our 13 schoolrooms, only 3 are ten feet high, and of the residue only one is over eight feet. The stupidity arising from foul, oft-breathed air, is set down as a grave charge against the capacity of the scholars or the energy of the teacher. A room for 30 children, allowing 12 square feet for each child, is low at 10 feet, and for every additional ten children an extra foot in elevation is absolutely necessary, to enable the occupants of the room to breathe freely."-Report (1841), p. 38.

II. Are common schools so conducted, as to promote habits of neatness and order, and cultivate good manners and refined feelings? These are important to all children, but all have not, at home, the same facilities for acquiring them. Hence, unless cultivated at school, they can never reach many children at all, especially at that period in life, when impressions are made most easily and deeply. Even where this is not the case, and home affords, in these respects, the most salutary influence, children still need attention, at school, to counteract the pernicious example of coarse companions, as well as their own strong propensity to carelessness and irregularity. What are our schools, then, in this respect?

From the quotations already made from the reports of visiters, it appears that the schoolrooms, in many cases, were not clean; and the same thing is often alleged of the children. I will add but one other passage, to which I happen to open on p. 39 of the Report (1840). It relates to a town containing 24 school districts, of which 16 were visited. these 16, one quarter are represented to have been almost entirely regardless of neatness and order, viz.: No. 4 "has

Of

a dirty schoolroom, and the appearance of the children was dirty and sickly." No. 2 " has a dirty schoolroom, inconveniently arranged, and ventilated all over;" the children "rather dirty," and no means of supplying fresh water except from the neighbour's pails and cups. No. 3 has "an extremely dirty schoolroom, without ventilation, the children not clean, and no convenience for water." No. 24 "has a schoolhouse out of repair, dirty, and inconvenient in its arrangements."

It is also a subject of almost universal complaint, that the schoolhouses are without privies. On an average, probably not more than one in twenty, of the schoolhouses throughout the state, has this appendage; and in these, it was almost invariably found, by the visiters, to be in a bad state. This fact speaks volumes, of the attention, which is paid at these schools, to delicacy of manners, and refinement of feeling. None but the very poorest families think of living without such a convenience at home; and a man, who should build a good dwelling-house, but provide no place for retirement when performing the most private offices of nature, would be thought to give the clearest evidence, of a coarse and brutal mind. Yet respectable parents allow their children to go to a school where this is the case; and where the evil is greatly aggravated by the fact, that numbers of both sexes are collected, and that, too, at an age of extreme levity, and when the youthful mind is prone to the indulgence of a prurient imagination. Says one of the visiters (Report, 1840, p. 77), "In most cases in this town, the scholars, male and female, are turned promiscuously and simultaneously into the public highway, without the shelter of so much (in the old districts) as a stump' for a covert to the calls of nature. The baneful tendency, on the young and pliant sensibilities, of this barbarous custom, are truly lamentable." So the visiters of one of the largest and oldest counties: "We regret to perceive that many of the districts have neglected to erect priv

[ocr errors]

ies for the use of the children at school.

This is a lamentable error. The injury to the taste and morals of the children which will naturally result from this neglect, is of a character much more serious than the discomfort which is obviously produced by it."—(Report, 1840, p. 131.)

III. We have said, that schools should be so conducted as to strengthen the moral sentiments of children, and rear them to habits of virtue and purity. There is probably no one respect, in which they so generally, or so grievously fail of their object. In the reports of visiters already often referred to, there is scarcely an allusion to the subject; and though this silence may have been owing, in part, to the hasty manner in which the inspection, in that instance, was necessarily conducted, it must have been owing, still more to the fact, that the importance of moral culture is not appreciated. Common schools have been regarded, as nurseries of the intellect only. Parents and teachers have seemed to think, that there would be opportunities enough, at home, for the cultivation of the heart and conscience. They have forgotten that, while men sleep, the enemy comes and sows tares; that if the all-important work of moral training be suspended each day, for some hours, while the child is removed beyond the parental eye, and is mingling promiscuously with his schoolmates, he can hardly escape injury. Vicious influences will rain down upon his mind from various sources; and hence one, who is improving fast in knowledge, may be ripening yet faster in wickedness; and though he bears to his home the highest character as a scholar, he may be losing, meanwhile, all that makes scholarship a blessing, either to himself or to the world.

When we urge the importance of moral culture in schools, we do not mean that the teacher should deal only, or often, in long moral lectures. We would remind him, that example is the most impressive of all teachers; and that he can

not live and move, so constantly, in the presence of susceptible and watchful minds, without making, by his deportment, a deep impression on their characters. We would remind him, too, that there are various sources of temptation at school; such as the influence of one or more corrupt companions; the rivalries and contentions to which the young as well as old are liable; the absence of restraint during play-hours, and while children are passing to and fro, between the schoolhouse, and the home. All these are points, about which teachers, and all who take an interest in schools, or who feel for the safety and welfare of their own offspring, can hardly be too solicitous, or too vigilant.

There is one kind of moral training and instruction, little known in our schools, and too much neglected even in our families, which appears, to me, pre-eminently important. It is based on the principle, that the virtues are habits, and are to be acquired thoroughly, only by acting repeatedly, in the right manner, from the right motive. To cultivate virtue in this way requires, not so much formal precepts or lectures, as incidental but constant inculcation. Whenever a child does wrong, he should, in the kindest and most private manner, be taught to feel and own it; and opportunity should be given him, to act on the opposite principle. In all his relations, whether with teachers, parents, schoolfellows, or others, he should be accustomed to inquire, always, after the right, and to observe it. There should be a code of school-morals, to embrace thoughts and feelings as well as overt acts, and to be administered, under the jurisdiction of the child's own conscience, and sense of honour. With injunctions to virtuous effort, should be joined frequent mementoes of his own frailty and insufficiency, and of the necessity of Divine aid and illumination. In administering the discipline of the school, the teacher should be careful to carry with him the moral sense of his pupils, and to have it felt, that he will punish whenever the sanctity of law and the welfare of the school demand it, but never otherwise.

It is much to be deplored, that principles, so obvious and important as these, should have come to be so generally disregarded. No one imagines, that a young man can be trained to make a good shoe or a good coat, except by repeated trials, and persevering effort. Yet we do seem to expect, that he will be a calm and placable man who has been only irascible and vindictive as a boy. We do forget, that in one most important sense, the "boy is father of the man." We seem to think that, though his youthful mind has been allowed to revel without check amid images of shame, he may still be chaste at last; that a long series of evasive, or self-indulgent or criminal acts, may only end in honesty, temperance, and patience; and that, though he sow, through all his childhood and youth, to the flesh, still it need not follow that he must of the flesh reap corruption.

SECTION III.

PRESENT STATE OF COMMON SCHOOLS.

"In proportion as the discoveries in arts multiply, and as we make progress in improvement, in like proportion ought the moral and intellectual condition of the species to rise; the progress of civilization does not depend alone on the increase of wealth; it chiefly depends on the improved moral and intellectual condition of the population."-DE Gerando.

IV. We have to inquire, in the next place, whether our schools tend to cultivate good intellectual habits, among the rising generation; and to inspire them with a liberal taste for knowledge? If they fail, in too many cases, to inculcate high moral principles, and to cherish refinement of thought, feeling, and manner, they ought, at least, to fulfil the one end to which most of them profess to be devoted: this is the development, and cultivation, of intellect. During a period of ten or more years, most of our children are nomi

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »