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True Object of Studying History.
The following is the arrangement of its subjects.
1. The state of society is examined at the close of the fifth century, when a new condition arose among 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.
13. International events are treated of in the territories in which they principally occurred.
64 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 are acquainted, alınost 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 prepuratory 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 ?
The Need of such an Improvement.
the most economnical, the most healthful, and the most useful ?
In regard to the question, Should the writing desk be level or inclined, much may be said. We prefer the level desk. We do so because, if low enough, we find it quite as easy and convenient as if it were sloping, and because few persons in the hurry and business of life will be sure to find sloping writing desks, on all occasions ; but if trained to their exclusive use, they will experience some difficulty in accommodating themselves to any other. We have heard of several foreign writing masters who preferred to have the desk slope in the opposite direction from what it usually does; that is, to have the part nearest the body highest; but the reasons assigned for this position seem to us fanciful.
The question, ' Are the writing desks in our common schools in this country what they ought to be,' will, we believe, admit cf but one reply. Nowhere are they adapted, at all, to the ever varying size, or height rather, of the pupils. In a school where twenty or thirty children write, there are seldom half a dozen who require a desk of exactly the same height. And yet it is usually the same for all. Occasionally there is a little difference in the height of the seats; that is, the seat for those who constitute the first class is a little lower than that which is intended for the second and third classes--the height of the desks themselves remaining the same, and being uniform. In this case, a whole class or 'bench' must have the height of both the seats and the desk the same, however great the diversity of their size ; nor is there usually any difference in favor of different classes.
Now this is all wrong; and it is highly desirable that there should be a reform. It is no small matter to have fifteen pupils in every twenty--usually a much larger proportion-sit at writing desks, several hours a day, which are either too high for them, absolutely, or at least too far from their seats. T'he error of having them too low is, happily, not so injurious; but it is not very common. Desks are almost always too high. The arm and shoulder are placed in an unnatural, constrained position. The spine is twisted and distorted. The function of respiration is impeded, and sometimes that of digestion. Nay more, and worse if possible than all this, the compression on the spine, along with the pressure of the chest and its effects, injure the brain and nervous system, in the end, and perhaps at the moment. We are not sure that much of the inertiæ which we find in our school rooms—the indisposition to think-is not owing to the cause we have been mentioning. Be this as it may, however,
Points of Improvement Needed.
there can be but little doubt that these unnatural positions of the body at school, and especially while writing, besides being irksome and painful, lay the foundation of numerous diseases, some of them diseases of no ordinary severity. The punishment of our physical transgressions does not always follow immediately upon the heels of the transgression, especially when it is committed early. Children are exceedingly tenacious of life; and it not unfrequently happens that diseases, whose seeds are early sown, do not spring up till many years afterward. They injure the system, indeed, or parts of the system; but, belabored as it is, life urges on the machine till other causes come in. Then, when at last there is so much derangement as to cause what we commonly call disease, all other causes produced by early errors unite with them to aggravate the disease, and often to overthrow health entirely and destroy life. Many a time have consumption, scrofula, dyspepsia, hypochondria, mania, epilepsy, and numerous other diseases of middle or advanced life, been rendered more severe, if not absolutely incurable, by the errors of infancy, childhood, or youth.
Could parents who are truly conscientious, for once understand enough of anatomy, physiology and pathology, to see this matter, just as it is, there would be hope of reformation. Some, indeed, might desert the schools entirely; and resolve to depend solely on what their time and means could do for their instruction in the family. The greater part, however, it is believed and hoped, would suffer their love for their neighbors to come so nearly up with their love for themselves, as not to withdraw their influence, and thus leave the children of their neighbors in a more perilous condition than before ; but, on the contrary, would labor to make things better. The advantages of common school instruction over all other instruction beyond the family circle--at least were the common school what it ought to be—should lead every thinking person to hesitate, at the least, before he ventures to take a single step, however advantageous it may seem to him, for the time, which shall render the school, in the district where he belongs, less efficient or less useful than it would be without his aid.
One important means, as we have already seen, of rendering the common school what it should be, is, to improve, if possible, the writing desks; and one of the great desiderata in this matter has long been, the adaptation of the seats and desks of the pupils to their varying height. The legs of the pupils should not hang pendulous; nor should they, on the contrary, be too much cramped. And the writing desks, as we have already
What Mr Luther has done.
said, should be adapted, in like manner, to their every varying height.
The first of these objects remains to be accomplished ; and can only be done when each pupil has his separate seat, and when each seat is so constructed as to be raised or lowered at pleasure, either by means of screws, or something equivalent thereto. There is no difficulty of having chairs or seats of this description. Had they been needed in the family, as they are in the school, human ingenuity would have long ago devised and introduced them, and it would long since have been deemed as much a matter of courtesy to adapt the height of a visiter's chair to his comfort and happiness, by elevating or depressing the seat, as it now is to see that the room is of a proper temperature, or to see that he has a seat at all; or, above all, a cushion. But it happens, however, that we grown people do not confine ourselves or our visiters to their seats as closely as if they were statues, for two or three hours together; and hence it is, that even luxury herself seems not to have thought of elevating or depressing our seats. And how could it be expected that we should think more of the comfort of our children than of our own comfort ? Who does not know that any thing will do for children,' if it is not quite so comfortable or healthful, especially when they are very small, or at school?
The second object has now been accomplished—or at least the
way has been opened for its accomplishment-by an invention of Mr Seth Luther. We just adverted to the subject in our last number. He has invented and patented, what he calls, an · Alleviating Writing Desk ;' and what we believe will be found, on examination, to answer to the indications of the name. The principle of its construction is simple ; and one of its chief excellences consists in the fact, that it may be adapted to the family, the school house, or the counting room.
We have examined a model of Mr Luther's desk, and would gladly describe it ; but a want of familiarity with the terms of mechanical philosophy, renders us unable to do so, at least without the aid of engravings. The latter, Mr Luther has partly promised us, on some future occasion. For the present, we can only say, that the leading advantage of the desk consists in the readiness with which it can be adapted to all positions of the body, whether sitting or standing. When made of the common, or counting room size, there will be thirtytwo different points of height at which it may stand. The highest is three feet, ten inches and a half from the floor ; which is as high as any man, not of extraordinary height, would require. The next is half an inch lower, and so on. The lowest is two feet, six inches and half