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Webster's. In such cases, an exchange of the differing books between the two would obviously be mutually beneficial. The superintendents might assist in the execution of such an arrangement, by noting the proportions of the various books in the different schools."
IMPROVEMENT OF COMMON SCHOOLS.
"All the provisions hitherto described would be of none effect, it we took no pains to procure for the public school thus constituted an able master, and worthy of the high vocation of instructing the people. It cannot be too often repeated, that it is the master that makes the school."-GUIZOT.
VI. INCOMPETENCY OF TEACHERS.-That a large proportion of common school teachers are not well qualified for their duties, is so generally admitted, that proof of it would be superfluous. I proceed, therefore, to inquire how the evil can be corrected.
It is quite evident, that such an evil can be thoroughly cured only by removing its cause. What, then, is the cause of this prevailing incompetency of teachers? It w. be found, if I mistake not, in the single fact, that the public, including more especially parents and employers, have had no proper notion of the nature, difficulty, and importance of the office which the teacher discharges. The state of public opinion on this subject, in our country, has not been greatly in advance of that which prevailed in Prussia sixty years since. "Public instruction," says a late Prussian writer (Wittich*),
See a paper on the Former and Present Condition of Elementary Schools in Prussia, by N. Wittich, native of Tilsit, Prussia, in the first volume of the publications of the Central Education Society.
referring to the state of common schools in his country at that period," public instruction was then a mechanic art, not unlike that of a cobbler; for teaching was synonymous with filling the memory of a child; reading was imparted by the most simple method of syllabication, and arithmetic without the least indication of the natural relations existing between numbers. At this time any man was deemed fit to hold the office of schoolmaster in an elementary school. If he was uninstructed in some branch of the requisite knowledge, the study of a few days or weeks was considered sufficient to supply the deficiency. Hence it happened that most of these teachers were persons who had previously tried their fortune in some other business, and had not succeeded. They commonly continued to practise their art, as mending old clothes, &c., either after schooltime, or even, sometimes, during the attendance of the children. The discipline was as simple and as ineffective as the method of teaching, consisting of a continual use of the stick."
With this portrait, which would serve to represent the character of primary instruction throughout Europe at the time referred to, and which, in its essential features, is but too much like the teaching now prevalent in our own common schools, contrast the following description of a good schoolmaster, by one of the first statesmen and philosophers of the age. Says Guizot, in the speech with which he introduced "the law of primary instruction" to the French Chamber of Deputies: "What a well-assorted union of qualities is required to constitute a good schoolmaster? A good schoolmaster ought to be a man who knows much more than he is called upon to teach, that he may teach with intelligence and with taste; who is to live in an humble sphere, and yet have a noble and elevated mind, that he may preserve that dignity of mind and of deportment, without which he will never obtain the respect and confidence of families; who possesses a rare mixture of gentleness and
firmness; for, inferior though he be, in station, to many individuals in the commune, he ought to be the obsequious servant of none; a man not ignorant of his rights, but thinking much more of his duties; showing to all a good example, and serving to all as a counsellor; not given to change his condition, but satisfied with his situation, because it gives him the power of doing good; and who has made up his mind to live and to die in the service of primary instruction, which to him is the service of God and his fellow-creatures. To rear masters approaching to such a model is a difficult task, and yet we must succeed in it, or we have done nothing for elementary instruction. A bad schoolmaster, like a bad parish priest, is a scourge to a commune; and though we are often obliged to be contented with indifferent ones, we must do our best to improve the average quality."*
The first step towards rearing teachers of this lofty spirit
* In the same spirit he addresses teachers in a circular: "No sectarian or party spirit," he exclaims, "in your schools; the teacher must rise above the fleeting quarrels which agitate society. Faith in Providence, the sanctity of duty, submission to parental authority, respect for the laws, the prince, the rights of all, such are the sentiments he must seek to develop." So in the following picture of the painful duties of the teacher, and of the consolations which he must find within himself. "There is no fortune to be made; there is little renown to be gained in the obligations which the teacher fulfils. Destined to see his life pass away in a monot onous occupation, sometimes even to experience the injustice or ingratitude of ignorance, he would often be saddened, and perhaps would succumb, if he did not derive courage and strength from other sources than the prospect of immediate or personal reward. He must be sustained and animated by a profound sense of the moral importance of his labours; the austere pleasure of having served his fellow-creatures, and secretly contributed to the public welfare, must be his compensation, and that his conscience alone can give. It is his glory not to aspire to aught beyond his obscure and laborious condition; to exhaust himself in sacrifices scarcely noticed by those whom they benefit; to toil, in short, for man, and to expect his recompense only from God."
in our own country, is to satisfy the people of its necessity. In France and Prussia, it was sufficient if the government appreciated this necessity. But with us, where schools are placed under the immediate control of the inhabitants, nothing will answer but a profound conviction, on their part, that a reform is needed, and that that reform must be their own work. To desire better teachers is but the first step. With that desire, must be combined a readiness to provide the means for supporting them, and a disposition to assign them the rank, and consideration, to which they are entitled by their services. It is idle to talk of there being a real and general demand for the best teachers, so long as employers expect to procure an instructer for their children, at the same price, that they pay to labourers on the farm, or in the kitchen. When properly-qualified teachers are called for, in a distinct and emphatic manner, and when the people show that they are capable of distinguishing between real merit and noisy pretension, then, and not till then, there will be a demand indeed, and that demand will be supplied. The conscientious will feel urged to qualify themselves for a duty so high and important, and the enterprising will be incited, by the hope of a return, proportioned to the magnitude and responsibility of their labours.
It must not be forgotten, that in this country, broad avenues to success seem to open before every young man as he enters life, and that but few, who are properly qualified to teach, will consent to confine themselves, for life, to common schools. It is partly on this account, that I have already urged, so strenuously, the permanent employment of female teachers. But I would still more strenuously urge that, whether we employ males or females, we can never hope, in such a country, to have good permanent teachers, unless the prevailing method of hiring and treating them is changed. We not only offer them a pitifully small remuneration; we also engage them but for short periods of time; we subject
them to no effective supervision; we provide them with but a small number of scholars, and those of all ages and degrees of attainment; and we finally dismiss them at the expiration of a few months-perhaps after subjecting them to studied indignities-without an expression of gratitude or interest. Is it in man, to labour perseveringly and faithfully under such a system, except it be on the single ground of benevolence? and to the benevolent, be it remembered, there are more inviting fields, since there are those, which promise an ampler and a quicker return.
We are told, that we must regenerate our schools by training up teachers specially qualified, and we are pointed to Prussia and Holland, where this measure has been the great instrument of reform. We forget, however, that to train up teachers is useless, unless they can be induced to devote themselves to their profession, and that, in this country, such will not be the case, unless schools are so organized and conducted, as to present the prospect of fixed and agreeable employment. Suppose a Prussian or Dutch teacher, after having been trained to his duties, were to be placed in a schoolhouse by the roadside, unpainted, and perhaps half unglazed; standing directly on the highway; without play-ground, or shade, or retreat for the performance of nature's most private and necessary offices; where he can collect but about thirty scholars, comprising those of both sexes and all ages; pursuing their studies in textbooks whose name is legion; giving, perhaps, but half the days of each week to the school, and showing, too many of them, by their manners, that they are unaccustomed to restraint at home, and impatient of it when applied abroad. Then proclaim to him, as he enters on his duties, that his compensation shall, at the most, not exceed one dollar for every working-day, and, in many cases, be less than half that sum; that even this pittance can be extended to him only for three or four months at a time, when he must give