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School of Wilderspin.
I once knew a boy, in the older days of Webster's Grammar, who found this definition in his book : “ A noun is the name of any thing, as horse, hair, justice.” But he chanced to misconceive it, and read it thus : A noun is the name of any thing, as horse-hair justice.
• He was of a reflecting turn, and long he pondered over the wonderful mysteries of a noun ; but in vain, he could not make it out. His father was a justice of the peace, and one day when the boy went home, the old gentleman was holding a justice's court. There he sat in state among a crowd of people, on an old fashioned horse-hair settee. A new light now broke in upon our hero's mind. My father, said he mentally, is a horse-hair justice, and therefore a noun.
'Such are some of the grotesque blunders to which children are exposed by negligent and stupid teachers.—Let me state a fact of a different kind, to show the power of a skilful instructor in the management of his pupils.
"A few years ago I visited the school of the celebrated Wilderspin, in London. It consisted of 200 children, all belonging to the poorest classes. They were accustomed to enter the school through an alley six feet wide. In the centre of this, , Wilderspin placed a mountain daisy, in a flower pot, and directed the scholars not to disturb it. For several months the little flower remained untouched by a careless foot, or a wanton hand !
· And how did this individual acquire such power in the government of children? By making his profession a study. He read the character of children with deep attention. He discovered, amid their diversities, certain principles common to all.Among these he marked the well known sympathy of child with child. Upon this he founded a system of mutual instruction, which produced the most surprising results.'
We have said that the work before us is far from satisfying us. There are only two things which strike us as very objectionable, and to these we must advert very briefly.
While we like exceedingly the writer's catholic and truly liberal views in morals and religion, we could never, with him, "commend it to every child to follow the faith of his parents till he has reached his majority;' nor would we 'commend it to every person, if he can conscientiously, to become a member of a church.' There is sometimes an indefiniteness, not to say looseness in speaking on this subject, which we did not expect from the author of Peter Parley's tales.
But we have another difficulty. Like most writers on a general subject involving so many particulars, Mr G. has found
Structure, &c. of Writing Desks.
457 himself under the necessity-as he doubtless supposed-of treating on a few topics with which it is obvious he is not very familiar. Among these is the subject of Health.
While the general truths inculcated even on this subject are unquestionably true, the author has, in matters of detail, made some obvious blunders. Walking,' he says, 'is the best exercise for men and women.' But is it so? Is it not very far inferior to agricultural and horticultural exercises, for both sexes ? Again ; can it be true that certain things are injurious to us till we are just ten or twenty years old, and harmless or even useful the moment we have passed that limit? In general, food and drink, which are pernicious-poisonous as we are told that pies, cakes and sweetmeats are—to children at ten or twenty, are more or less so for some time afterward-probably all their lives.
Nor can we join in the tremendous charge, that those who give pies, cakes and sweetmeats to children are conscious that they are purchasing the momentary smile of satisfaction at the risk of after sickness, and perhaps incurable disease.' Oh, no. Not one person in ten, we verily believe, is thus criminal. Let us not be misunderstood. We believe fully in the injury--that is, with our own definition of the word poison, but not otherwi ebut not in the conscious guilt.- If Mr G. had taken all the various opinions--sometimes discordant--which are current among medical men on this particular subject, shaken them all up together, and then selected at random, we should have expected just about such a result as we see. But we forbear. The work has numerous excellences, as well as these few defects; and both are now before the community.
LUTHER'S WRITING DESK.
In former numbers of this work, we have briefly mentioned Luther’s Alleviating Writing Desk; and in our number for Feb. ruary, have attempted a partial description of it. Since that time we have been solicited to give a farther account of this admirable invention, especially of the probable expense. We have recently examined one of these desks, and shall now be able, as we trust, to give the additional information required.
This desk-the one which we have examined —is a splendid specimen of a double or two sided countinghouse desk, containing twelve draws in a case five feet square, built of mahogany,
Price of this Desk.
of a costly kind. It is compact, well proportioned, and as strong as any piece of factory machinery we have seen ; and the whole structure probably weighs from 500 to 600 pounds. And yet it takes up much less room than the clumsy, uncouth, and murderous desks of the usual construction. It has, moreover, twelve draws where an ordinary desk of the same size, (referring to the case) has only four. Four of these draws are over two feet in length, and one foot ten inches in depth from front to rear.The other eight are about nine inches square, all locked by the leaf crank; with eight spaces under these eight draws, for storage, eight by eleven inches,—and four deep.
It is a matter of extreme difficulty to ascertain the marimum or minimum cost of these desks. The infinite variety of form, shape and size in which they are and may be made; the great difference in the cost of materials, such as mahogany, cherry, pine, rose wood, maple, birch, &c., will greatly vary the price. So will a thousand other circumstances. The desk, for example, may be constructed in part or in whole of each of these kinds of wood; it may be veneered or solid, in part or in whole ; there are also varieties in the quality of each sort of wood; different degrees of polish ; different kinds of painting, &c. The material for the scrolls, whether of brass, iron, bronze, or other metal; their shape; the locks, knobs and other trimmings; the form, shape, size, &c.,—whether square, oblong, triangular, octagonal, or circular; the purposes for which the desk is to be used-whether the changing leaves are to be required, or otherwise; the number of draws in a desk, their surface, depth, &c.; number of positions desirable-- whether fifty, one hundred, or one hundred thousand. All these things, and many more, come into the calculation in estimating the cost.
The price of the desk we have seen is $300.* It will suit any individual, of any age, through all generations; and may be adapted to every desirable position of the body, from sitting at the lowest seat, to standing.
But as few schools would be likely to make use of desks of the above description, it is desirable to know something of the price of such as would be adapted to school houses, and especially to common schools. The minimum price, then, for a good school desk made on this principle-to be lowered or elevated at pleasure, and adapted to fifty different positions of the bodyand made wholly of cherry, will be about $40 or 50. If made of wood somewhat less valuable than the cherry, it would not probably exceed $40. Such a desk, however, with good,
* A common desk, on the old plan, of corresponding size, would indeed cost much less, but then it would not be of one fourth the value, if health is worth any thing.
Desks for Common Schools.
careful, and proper usage, would unquestionably last for several generations. A desk of this description, to seat two pupils will cost $50; one to seat three, $60; and so on; adding ten dollars for every pupil.
This calculation has reference to seating the pupils at · forms, such as are now used in the public schools of Boston-these forms to accommodate six scholars of about the same height. If, however, the desks are made double or two sided, like a double counting house desk, (that is, like the model which we have examined and described) but in other respects to suit the school room, the pupils might be seated cheaper on six formsmuch cheaper-in proportion to the number, than on one form. But in this case, it would be necessary to have a partition between the two sides of the desk, to prevent the communication of the occupants, as they would then sit facing each other.
We are aware that even forty dollars for a school desk, may be sufficient to deter many—perhaps the most—of our readers from thinking any farther on the subject. But it does seem to us that he who, in view of the accumulated evidence before, around, and under us, should hesitate a moment about the cost of school desks, provided it is all within the bounds of reason, must be affected with a species of monomania-money-mania, rather-prevailing over every consideration in regard to comfort, health and life. We have spoken of the evidence on this subject under us. We refer to the multitudes of clerks and students who die annually of pulmonary consumption, to say nothing of wasting diseases in various other forms, especially dyspepsia.
The cost of fisty of these desks, made singly, for a school room, at forty dollars each, would, indeed, be $2000. But if they last 50 years--and there is no reason why they should not last several centuries-it would be only 80 cents a year for each desk; especially as it would probably cost but little, if any thing, to keep them in repair. Whereas, we are assured from long study of the human structure, and from much observation derived both from teaching common schools and practising medicine, that the average loss incurred in society for want of better desks in our school houses—we mean not only loss of money for physicians' bills and drugs, but of time-is at least one dollar a year for each pupil; and we fear the loss, upon an accurate examination, would be found much greater. The seeds of disease sown in our common school rooms by means of bad desks and seats and consequent bad postures of body, are exceedingly productive of disease; and we hesitate not to repeat that we do not believe there is a school district in New England which would
Evils of Common Desks.
not save money by the expenditure of a sum-tomorrow—sufficient to purchase a set of writing desks for each pupil, even though they should cost $80 each, or double the sum mentioned by Mr Luther for his single desks.—We have made our remarks on the supposition that single desks would be demanded, -not, however, on the score of health, so much as of convenience, order and discipline. But if six pupils could be seated on a form together, the expense for fifty pupils would be reduced as we may have seen to $750.
We have spoken of the necessity of improvement. We have spoken as a teacher-one who has been for twenty years fatniliar with this subject. But we are not unwilling to introduce other authorities. Mr John Jenkins, Writing master, in his · Art of Writing,' published many years since in Cambridge, Mass., has the following remarks.
• As the position of the body is of considerable consequence, in order to write with facility and grace, it may be expected that some directions will be given therefor. Yet they will be of little or no use to the public, though they may be ever so proper, while the common mode of fixing writing tables continues to be practised.
• The seats are now generally placed at such a distance from the table, as to leave a space sufficient for the scholars to stand while reading, and to pass by one another, &c.
• This distance being, as is generally required, eight inches, necessarily carries the erect position of the body to the same distance from the front edge of the writing table ; the natural consequence of which is, children are obliged to lean forward a space equal to the distance at which the seats stand from the writing table. This position of leaning forward compresses the breast, and is not only painful, but very injurious to the whole human frame; * consequently this must prove a great obstacle to their progress in writing.'
These and other suggestions of Mr Jenkins, sufficiently show that he regarded the immovability of writing desks as an insuperable objection to his and all other plans for improvement in the art of writing hitherto adopted. Any form, shape, size, height or slope, not alterable at pleasure, will be of little use in preventing the terrible evils resulting from a violation of that imperative law of Nature, which governs all sensitive beings. That is, it is absolutely necessary that all such beings should
* The writer here confirms his views by introducing a note signed by Dr Rush of Philadelphia, and Drs Warren and Dauforth of Boston, for which, however, we have no room, at present.