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Power of Associated Effort.
fluence throughout the community. Let professional men, and others who feel peculiarly the benefits of education, commence such endeavors in their respective vicinities, and a full and noble result will be ensured.
An association composed and organized as a society for promoting improvement in education, can produce effect only by acting on public opinion. It has no power entrusted to it, and will cominand funds only to a very limited extent. It can neither establish nor regulate places for teaching; and neither appoint, remove, nor control instructors. It can do nothing but offer information and opinions to the community; and induce those who have authority to act on them. Before we proceed further, therefore, it may be well to inquire, why such a society should wish to affect public opinion, and in what ways it can best do it.
To affect public opinion on the subject of education is desirable, because the modes of instruction, the means used, and even the teachers themselves in many or most of our places of education, from the humblest primary schools up to the best of our colleges, are very imperfect. Associated effort is desirable, because it is not possible for any one to point out, at once, where are the greatest deficiences, what are the best remedies, how the work of improvement may be most wisely and effectually begun, for no individual, probably, has knowledge enough and facts enough on the subject to draw general conclusions that may be safely trusted and used. Union would furnish knowledge and means. One person, perhaps, is acquainted with one school, and another is acquainted with another; one knows much about the books used, and another is acquainted, perhaps, with many teachers; and though none can have a view of the whole ground, or even of any considerable portion of it, yet, perhaps, by well concerted, vigorous, and persevering efforts, these advantages might be gained.
The first question which naturally arises on this subject, is, why, spending as we do in Massachusetts, for instance, more money for education, than is spent by the same amount of population in the world, feeling more anxiety about it, and making greater exertions for it, we yet fall, in many respects, so much below other countries—and in all respects, so much below what we have a fair right to obtain. This is a question in which ev. ery member of the community has a deep interest; but, before we attempt to answer it, we must have much information which has never yet been collected.
The first thing, then, that such a society as we propose to form, can well undertake, is, perhaps, to obtain a knowledge of Objects of the Society.
487 as many places of education as possible, the books used in them, the systems of icaching pursued, and the character of their instructers, beginning with the city of Boston, for example, and extending our inquiries gradually, as the means of such a society might be enlarged, and as it might feel itself safer and stronger.
There are different ways of effecting this. The society might employ an agent, who could be assisted by committees or by individual members of the society, who should visit schools in person, learn their chiaracter and condition by careful inquiry, and spread before the society afterwards, in detail, an account of their respective advantages and defects. Correspondence might also be held on the same or similar subjects, with persons at a distance, especially such as might be elected into the body of the society, and so made more effective associates, than they could be in any other way.
The society might purchase books on education, and school books, and so make a library to which all instructers and all interested in teaching might resort ; to which the society might go themselves, and send their committees, and learn how education is carried on, and what books and means are used for it in those parts of the world where it has been brought to its best state. And finally, special committees might be charged with special subjects, such as the education of teachers, the best modes of instruction, or any similar subject, and receive from them a more distinct and useful view of ii, than could otherwise be obtained.
There are, no doubt, other modes of operation, which might be adopted, but which experience will discover. Through those already mentioned, however, much information may be easily acquired, we mean minute, detailed, practical information, such as does not now exist, and such as can hardly be collected in any other way. Such information as this, must be the basis of all efforts and operations; and until it is obtained, and so obtained that it can be confidently relied on, nothing can be done.
When, however, a society shall have obtained the needful facts and details respecting the present state of education among us, it can then, by its committees and in other ways, begin to discuss the means of improveinent, and how far it may be expedient to act, even when improvement is most obviously needed. Such a society might consider for instance, such subjects as are now much discussed-infant schools, monitorial instruction, physical education, and others of the same sort; and determine whether our influence should be used to promote either of them, and how it ought to be used. In short, according to its vero 483
Family and Infant Education.
name, the society might consider at large, how education, in all its branches, may be raised and quickened ; and thus, in some measure, perform a part of the great duty every man owes to the generation that has assisted to educate him, and to the generation he is to assist in educating.
But in professing these as some of the objects that might claim the attention, and be found within the influence of a society such as we propose, we should, at the same time be desirous to begin its operations in the most unobtri:sive manner, and on a small or even humble scale. We should be desirous to begin at home, where improvement and reform must always be begun, if begun effectually ; and until something is really hazarded and done there, we should be very unwilling to venture abroad with suggestions of change. But when this is done, the circle might be extended, taking care, however, to go no faster and no farther, than led by knowledge and experience, and accompanied by a salutary influence and general good will.
We will now proceed to mention, more in detail, some of the objects which might be promoted by a society formed for the purpose of improving education.
The diffusion of useful suggestions on domestic education and parental management,-with special reference to early and effective measures for securing health and moral improvement, in conjunction with the first stages of intellectual culture.
These great points are by no means universally neglected. On the contrary, they have never been so successfully attended to as within the last twenty years. But nothing worthy of the nature or the destination of man has yet been effected. The parent has but little security that he shall not have to submit to the calamity of the premature death of his children, by some of those many forms of disease, which may all be traced to a want of seasonable attention to regular and adequate bodily exercise.
Another highly important and useful field of exertion would be opened, by the establishment of infant schools, with a view to aid the efforts of parents, and promote the happiness of children, at the age when even the best regulated nursery can hardly afford sufficient scope or sufficiently varied occupation and amusement, and while the child is yet too young to be pleasantly and profitably employed even in a primary school. Every day is bringing us fresh intelligence of the vast amount of good that is effected by such schools in England ; and public sentiment is daily becoming more favorably impressed towards them here.
The appointment of a committee to inquire into the expediency of establishing such schools in more of our larger cities than are now provided with them, would probably lead to useful results in the improvement of education.
Primary and Common Schools.
489 The condition of our primary schools would be much improved by the assistance derived from such a society as is proposed. These schools, it is believed, are on the whole, well inanaged. But several important improvements are urgently called for. The healthful activity, and in a great measure, the happiness of children, at the age of those in primary schools, require free access to the open air, and ample space for recreation without doors, as well as large, airy, well lighted school rooms. The aspect of every thing connected with education, should be rendered as pleasant as possible at all stages, but especially the earliest. Very opposite to this is the actual state of things in many of our primary schools. The children have no inviting play-ground when without; and low, dismal, close rooms when within school. Improvements, it is true, have recently been made in some schools, as to the accommodation of the scholars. But nothing yet is done, compared with what in this case are the actual demands of humanity, on behalf of the children.
The moral instruction given at the primary schools, is but occasional and slight, when regarded in its vast importance at this early period of life.
The intellectual discipline of the scholars, is, in some instances, very good; but in many it is imperfect: too little use is as yet made of the enlivening influence of mutual instruction. The result is, that taking the scholars singly, they are compelled to attend school, and sit motionless for five hours in the day, if not longer; while each receives actually but a few minutes personal attention or instruction. This branch of the subject, however, is too fruitful in details, to permit any thing like an adequate statement, at present. The aid of a society such as is proposed, would be very conducive to the immediate practical improvement of these schools-especially as the age of the scholars, and many other circumstances, afford peculiar facilities for whatever changes might seem likely to be beneficial.
The low condition of many of the common schools, throughout this as well as other States, is so often and so urgently brought forward by those whose attention has been particularly attracted to them, that it is unnecessary to enlarge on this subject. But if the actual state of most of our district schools were fully brought before the public mind, no deficiency of proper measures for improving them, it is believed, would long remain a subject of coinplaint. Perhaps one of the most effectual expedients for raising the condition of common schools, and particularly that much neglected branch of them, the schools taught in the summer months-would be the appointment of an individual, whose duty it should be to visit every district school in the State of 490
School Books and Teachers.
Massachusetts, for instance, and return a full and exact report of each, so as to present a correct view of the existing state of these schools, and thus prepare the way for a thorough reformation.
But it is not in what are called the lower departments of education, alone, that improvement is desirable. Even admitting that the various stages of preparatory and collegiate and professional education, were not chargeable with any serious defects, still, a society which might aid the gradual and silent progress of improvement in these departments, which might enable instruction with greater facility and success to meet the constantly enlarging demands arising from the progress of the human mind on other subjects, would be an object of earnest desire to every friend of improvement. In the several stages of education, however, which have just been mentioned, much remains to be done for the benefit of that portion of the community which enjoys the direct advantages of higher instruction, and at the same time for the collateral improvement of all. For in few of the schools where education of a superior kind is acquired, is there that full and happy adaptation to the wants of society, in its present form, which every enlightened mind must regard as indispensable to the great objects that are or ought to be aimed at in educating any class or portion of society.
The introduction of books properly adapted to the business of instruction, is another point of great importance to the improvement of education. Amidst the numerous works, in every department, which proffer their respective claims on public palronage, it is not always easy for a teacher, or even for a committee or other body, to make the best selection; and many improper influences are apt to interfere with that impartiality in selecting, which is so essential to right instruction in any branch; and indeed, to good education generally. It is not merely in selection from among existing works, however, that the benefit of a society for the improvement of education would be felt. Peculiar facilities would naturally be presented to such a society for composing or compiling books adapted to the improving state of education, and better suited than most of those now in use, to aid the labors of the teacher.
A society, such as is proposed, would probably facilitate a measure of great importance to the improvement of educationthe establishment of seminaries of instruction for teachers, where persons of that occupation might be qualified for the duties of their office. The vast chain of consequences connected with the formation of such institutions, will present itself to the minds of all who consider how much mental power is deposited in