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Errors in Studying History.
compends, however excellent. Even the Universal History' of Mrs Willard -what is it but mere statistics, chilled by the continual details of vice and crime? Do these compends often impart the love of study, to those in whose bosoms it had not been already enkindled? On the contrary, do they not, by their perpetual detail of dry facts-dead, wintery trees, without foliage or fruits, scathed by the wind-do they not often leave the student disgusted-sick-of every thing in the shape of a history? And if this is the usual, not to say inevitable result, is not their object-their legitimate object, we mean-in a good measure defeated ?
No one will pretend that it is of much service to study such compends, as even those of Whelpley and Willard, if that is to be, to the student, the beginning and end of the whole matter. How is it to improve his mind, warm his heart, and fit him for action, to recite lessons a few weeks or a few months from a work which consists chiefly of the births and deaths, the intrigues and wars, and the horrid assassinations of a few male and female tyrants, in every age? And yet is not this, too often, the sum and substance of the study of history in our schools ? Does the teacher, in one instance in ten, find the time or the disposition to fill out, from his own mind, or draw out from the mind of his pupils, those collateral facts and incidents, or trace those moral causes and effects, or make those natural and appropriate reflections, without which the study of history is of little practical value?
It is in vain, or nearly in vain, to pursue a course of study which begins and ends at the school room. True, there may be something gained in mental discipline by a plan so circumscribed, and a course so injudicious. But mental discipline, though a highly important part of the business of every school of every grade, is not the whole. The facts and details of all science, the elementary facts at least, are indeed worth something ; but beyond and above this, it is highly desirable, we might say indispensable, to acquire, in study, the love of study. While a pupil is reciting to his teacher from history, for example, the teacher should be ever on the alert to awake his interest and excite his inquiry, by explanation, illustration, detail, cross-questioning and review. If this is not done, if the pupil is not so much interested in the study, for the time, as to be disposed to lay every one with whom he meets under contribution for the accomplishment of his object; if he is not predisposed and inclined to make his favorite topic the main subject of conversation among his companions, and especially in the domestic circle ; and if he is not met, on every hand, at least half way, and cheered, and
Defects in our Class Books.
encouraged, and instructed by those he meets ; if all this is not done, we say, in the case supposed, nothing, comparatively, is done. Now we appeal to those who are acquainted with the usual method of studying history—or indeed, any other branches -in our schools, whether any such effects are often produced ?
True, the teacher, and the parent, and the brother, and the sister cannot, by friendly co-operation for the benefit of the young, teach that which they do not know themselves; and as they are supposed to have studied history, if they have studied it at all, in the current fashion, they are but poorly prepared for a more rational task. Besides, we have no history of man, extending much beyond our own age. The newspapers and journals of the day, imperfect enough though they may be, are yet the only true living history of man, short of the Bible, we have ever had. What are called histories contain little or nothing, as we have already intimated, of manners, customs, domestic happiness or unhappiness. Bad as kings, and princes, and tyrants have been, and bad as they and the world still are, neither kings, princes, nor tyrants have been the world, after all. They have been the mere scum of the world. Below their range-as it is usually called, though we should rather say above it—very different scenes have been acted over. There has been, even here, enough of ignorance, and vice, and crime, but there has also been much of virtue-negative virtue, at least. Could the biography of every individual and family, in every age and nation, be seen as on a map, in the way in which we may suppose higher existences actually do see it, along with much to pain us, how many things should we see to give us pleasure ? How many acts should we see, evincing sympathy and kindness, friendship and love! How many gladsome hearts and joyous bosoms, nay, and even happy cottages and comparatively happy neighborhoods should we discover, scattered, though they were, like oases in some vast desert, yet forming an aggregate of human felicity which cannot be estimated ; and doing much to soften the severity of our judgments, and strengthen the weakness of our faith in the dignity of human nature !
We say, therefore, that were the proper method of studying history well understood, in theory, by parents and teachers, and were there to be a simultaneous and truly benevolent movement on their behalf, there would be many difficulties to encounter. Still, something might be done. Many a teacher and many a parent, by studying carefully what is preserved or really known of men, ancient and modern-by studying, in particular, geogra
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. A 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, Nioral, 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 inore 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
'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.
79 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 anong 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.
5. 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 therefrom 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 ? Are they