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You have all had a large experience, and have become familiar with the working of the various laws relating to Public Schools. You know, therefore, wherein they are deficient, where they operate harshly, or unjustly, where they fail to accomplish their purpose, and wherein they might be improved.
A recommendation from so large and influential a body of experts, as compose this Convention, will have controlling influence with the Legislature, and will greatly assist the Superintendent of Public Instruction in procuring the passage of such laws as the necessities of our schools require.
It would be well also to appoint a Committee on a State Normal School, whose duty it should be to memorialize the Legislature to authorize the establishment of such an Institution.
The committee should be instructed to prepare, at their leisure, an address, explaining the object, the valuable uses, the necessity, of such a school in Calitornia.
The Superintendent will be happy to embody this address in his annual report to the Legislature, and will urge and enforce its recommendations, with all the power he possesses.
I have thus sketched the outlines of the plan, according to which the Institute and Convention may be conducted with profit to all in attendance. It will be for you, ladies and gentlemen, to elaborate and fill up those outlines.
I may here be permitted to congratulate the friends of Public Schools in California upon the great improvements made in our school laws and the valuable adjuncts to our school system, adopted within the last three years. And, first, as to the ways and means for increasing the School Funds, and thereby increasing the number, duration, and usefulness, of our schools, I refer to sections two, three, four, and five, of the act of April twenty-six, eighteen hundred and fifty-eight, whereby Trustees are authorized, in certain cases, to call an election, and submit the question of a district tax to the electors, to pay the expense of an additional term of their school; to section six of the same law, by which a means is provided for procuring the funds necessary to erect and equip school-houses ; to section four of the act of April twenty-eight, eighteen hundred and sixty, whereby the School Fund is relieved from the payment of the per centage of County Treasurers, the salaries of County Superintendents, Census Marshals, and Trustees, and provision is made for the pyment of those expenses out of the General Fund; to section five of the same law, whereby the maximum tax, the several counties in the State are authorized to impose annually, for the support of schools therein, is raised from ten to twenty-five cents on each one hundred dollars of valuation ; to the act of April twenty-three, eighteen hundred and fifty-eight, under which some two hundred and sixty thousand acres of school lands, that had long remained unsold, were rapidly disposed of, and by which seventy-five per cent. of the purchase money, for which a credit is allowed, is made to yield a revenue of ten per cent. per annum, in place of the seven per cent. which the State pays upon the principal of the School Fund, when paid up; to the revenue law, passed by the Legislature just adjourned, whereby the State School Fund's proportion of the proceeds of the poll tax is increased from twenty-five to fifty per cent.; and, finally, to the act of April twentytwo, eighteen hundred and sixty-one, providing for the sale of the Sixteenth and Thirty-Sixth Sections in each township, and the conversion of the proceeds thereof iuto a General Fund for the equal benefit of all the schoolable children in the State.
For the sale of the millions of acres embraced in these school sections, the law has provided the simple and effective machinery, under which the last two hundred and sixty thousand acres of the five hundred thousand acres were so rapidly and satisfactorily disposed of,
Under the old law, sales had almost ceased. Under that just passed, we may confidently expect a rapid sale, and a large and rapid increase of our State School Fund.
Every year the laws I have referred to, have been gradually placing larger means at the disposal of school officers. It will require time for them to work their full effeets, but, with time, we may confidently count upon a large augmentation of the resources of the schools,
I need not tell you that it has required not a little energy and perseverance to secure the passage of these laws.
With all the aid derived from such as were in operation, our School Fund has been wretchedly insufficient. It has been a pittance almost beneath contempt, when compared with the magnificent fund provided for the support of schools in other States. In view of this, the Superinterdent, at a time when the State treasury contained a cash surplus of six hundred thoxsand dollars, exhausted argument and entreaty to induce the Legislature to make a dircet appropriation of one hundred thousand dollars, over and above the interest paid upon the principal of the Sehool Fund, for the support of schools, but without success. Members were 80 shocked, so horrified, at such extravagance, that the Superintendent felt very much as if he ought to apologize.
I can but glance briefly at seme of the most important provisions, recently adopted for the improvement of our school system.
For years, the practice of anticipating the revenues of years to come to meet present necessities, seriously crippled many of our schools. This has been remedied, and all operations are now conducted upon a cask basis.
Another step in advance, is the law organizing State and County Boards of Examination, for the purpose of examining Teachers, and granting them certificates. In the County Boards, the Teachers themselves have a voice, and it is within their power to raise the standard of their profession, and to weed out the untit and incompetent, who have succeeded in fastening themselves, in some instances, uron our schools.
A salutary amendment to this law has just been passed, whereby the County Superintendent may call to his assistance, in making up the Board, three qualified citizens, in case he finds a difficulty in procuring the attendance of three qualified Teachers. This will be a convenience in some of the less populous counties. Among other improvements may be mentioned the specification of the manner in which the funds belonging to a district shall be distributed among the several schools maintained therein, thereby removing a fruitful source of complaint and ill-feeling—the power granted to the State Superintendent to hold Teachers’ Institutes, and the authority conferred upon Trustees of two contiguous districts, to unite their funds for the support of a Union School, or a school of high grade, open to the children of the uniting districts.
In conclusion, let me say, ladies and gentlemen, that none of us are so wise that we may not learn something from our associates, especially when those associates have devoted their talents, much time, and study, to the mastery of a specialty in their profession.
From such, as far as I have been able to select them, will you receive instructions, from day to day.
You will be told to mark the distinction between education and instruction; that the former is the drawing out, cultivation, and development, of what is innatc--the sensibilities and moral faculties; the latter, the imparting of useful knowledge; that one may be perfectly competent as an Instructor, and yet signally deficient as an Educator; that the accomplished Teacher should combine both qualities. You will be told, as I have before told you, that it is not enough that he store the mind of his charge with all the knowledge to which man has attained. He must cultivate the moral qualities, elevate the sentiments, repress the passions, bring into subjection the senses, ennoble the aspirations,
The primary object of education is to develop and sharpen the thinking and reaboning powers, not to cram the memory of the unhappy pupil with a mass of facts that but too often he learns but to forget.
Little that the scholar learns in early life is of any practical use to him in after days, save as a stepping stone to higher attainments. No one relies upon his school-day knowledge, as the basis of action in the conflict of life. He matures and digests that knowledge, whenever the exigencies of his position demand its use. The school-boy is but the apprentice, who learns to use, skillfully, and with dexterity, the mental tools with which nature has endowed him. In after years, he may so use those tools as to rank among the master-workmen of his age.
Modern Educators have agreed that the development of the faculties must precede all intelligent use of them, in the great practical problems of life.
The perceptive faculties are the first developed in the human mind, and, therefore, with these, we have first to do in the education of the child, and thus we should begin with tangible objects, and those the most familiar; and where these are not accessible, with the pictures of objects, something upon which the senses may be brought to bear, and through them, the mind be led to determine color, form, size, weight, number, and sounds, and thus the child be early taught to observe carefully the many curious things spread out in nature, all around him.
In primary instruction, as you will be told, familiar objects must be exhibited to the child.
The prevailing error has been, in first presenting abstractions--the letter, the word, or the sentence, without meaning. In a word, the grand error has, for centuries, been, the cultivation of the memory, at the expense of the perception.
We want more oral instruction, more illustrative teaching, more maps, pictures, diagrams, apparatus, simple things that will commend themselves to the mind of the child, and awaken thought.
The object of study is not to exercise the faculty of memory, as many Teachers suppose, and upon which they base their whole theory of teaching. It is to awaken and excite the powers of reflection. It is not to repeat, but to ponder; not to make a lumber room of the child's mind, but a well ordered machine shop and laboratory, supplied with keen and ready tools wherewith to fashion and assimilate the crude facts arising in the every-day intercourse of life.
You will be further informed, that the oflice of school-keeping is threefold ; to secure authority, to stimulate intellectual activity, and to communicate knowledge.
Each of these is absolutely essential in every competent Teacher, and in so far as any one falls short in either of these qualities, he is an incompetent Teacher.
It will be the province of the gentlemen who will address you, to furnish valuable instruction on all these points, and to show you who is a perfect Teacher, and by what means perfection may be approached.
At the conclusion of this address the President introduced the Instructor of the day, George W. Minns, Esq. Teacher of the Natural Sciences, in the San Francisco High School. The following is Mr. Minns' address
On Methods of Teaching. The Common Schools are established by law, for the purpose of affording to all the children in the State the means of obtaining a good education, at the public expense. Their design is to have knowledge as common among the people, as are water, air, and the sunlight. They are planted deep in the affections of the people. Their importance cannot be overstated. Any attempt to improve them, or to render them more useful, deserves the encouragement of every good citizen. I understand that the object of this Institute, composed of Teachers from various parts of the State, is to interchange views in relation to the great cause of education, in order to assist one another in the practice of their profession.
So much has been written upon the subject of education, that it would seem to have been exhausted long ago. Yet it is, in fact, as inexhaustible as human nature. It comprehends and applies to all men, from the cradle to the grave, under all circumstances, and with all their varieties and peculiarities of character. It endeavors to ascertain the true and philosophical system of human culture, to point out the best methods of teaching, of maintaining good order, of preserving the health, and of developing all the faculties in the natural order, so as to produce the best results for the individual and the community.
The object of the present meeting is more specifically to improve, in every possible manner, the condition of the Common Schools of this State. We wish to render these fountains, at which the great mass of the people drink, as pure and invigorating as possible.
My purpose is then to take some of the ordinary branches taught in the Common Schools, and to state what I think the best methods of giving instruction in them. Before doing so, however, let me present a few general considerations.
Although the practice of teaching must have begun in Paradise, (indeed, according to the pious legends of the Rabbins, Adam was not only the first man, but also the first School-Master, aided by Enoch, I suppose, as his first Assistant,) yet it is ñearly certain that no great improvements were generally effected in the art of teaching, and that there never was known such a thing as the philosophy of teaching, until the institution of Common Schools, and in point of fact, not even till long after they were known. We owe our fathers a debt of gratitude for the establishment of the first Free Schools, supported at the public expense, for the education of the whole people. Yet they were very imperfect in many particulars, and the change for the better was very slow and not made without much opposition. There was for a long time grrat imperfection in the construction of school-houses. The Hon. Horace Mann, while he was Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Edulcation, described school-houses in central districts of rich and populous towns, where each seat was a stump, without side-arms, or back-board; some of them so high that the feet of the children in vain sought after the floor, and on the hard top of which they were obliged to balance themselves as well as they could, for some six hours in a day.
Mr. Mann says: “I have reason to remember one of another class of schoolhouses, of the wicker-work order of architecture-summer-houses for winter residences--where there was never a severely cold day without the ink's freezing in the pens of the scholars while they were writing, and the Teacher was obliged to compromise between the sufferings of those who were exposed to the cold of the windows, and those exposed to the heat of the fire, by not raising the thermometer near the latter above ninety degrees, until that near the window fell below thirty. It was an excellent place for the Teacher to illustrate one of the facts in geography, for five steps would have carried him through the five zones. Just before my present circuit,” he writes : “I passed a school-house, the roof of which, on one side, was trough-like, and down towards the eaves there was a large hole, so that the whole operated like a tunnel, to catch the rain, and pour it into the school room. At first, I did not know but it might be some apparatus to illustrate the Deluge. I called, and inquired of the Mistress, if she and her little ones were not sometimes drowned out. She said she should be, only that the floor leaked as badly as the roof, and drained off the water."
I myself have seen a school-house in which an old hat was shown to be a pronoun, by being used instead of the noun, glass.
It is of great importance to provide healthful and comfortable school-houses for the young. Let them be placed in the niost pleasant locations; let the seats be convenient for children of all ages, and let an abundance be furnished of that prime necessary of life, fresh air.
More improvements have been made in the last twenty-five years, in relation to the structure and management of school-houses, and in reference to the modes of teaching the various branches pursued therein, than had been accomplished during the preceding two centuries. I well remember the first Grammar School which I attended. It was a very long room with a smoke pipe extending the whole length of it, into which, so the Master said, all bad boys would go. I was puzzled for some
time to find where it led, as it passed through a partition separating us from the
The stove was large and grim-looking, with the head of some pondescript monster upon the door, with the snarling mouth wide open ; and when the full power of the draught was on, it roared loud enough to devour sereral bad boys at once. I kept at a safe distance from it. The walls of this apartment were as bare as prison walls. There was not a map, nor an engraviny, nor a picture upon them, and no globe belonged to the school. This was certainly wrong. The walls of our school-rooms should be covered and adorned with maps and pictures suited to the progress of the scholars. There are published in the pictorial papers, and in other ways, farm scenes, pictures of domestic animals, birds, and beasts, of flowers, of different kinds of trees, and views of some of the largest cities of the globe, all of which would be useful in this respect. Nor, by any meaus, would I have omitted some scenes addressed to that sense of the beautiful which exists in children as strongly as it does in us. All this might be done at a trifling expense, and what a contrast would be presented between such a school-room and the cold, lifeless, and dingy walls within which too many children are confined. If I had a school in the country, particularly if it was one for small children, I would, in the proper season, have many of the exercises conducted in the open air, in a grove, or any shady place, near by. Every lesson relating to nature should be studied, or read, in the face of nature, with flowers scattered all around, and under the living trees, instead of hanging over the “desk's dead wood.” Why should a class read Bryant's glorious poem The groves were God's tirst temples,” in a wooden box lined with Lowell sheeting, when at a short distance may be nature's temple itself, with its lofty pillars, its green arches, its majestic roof, and its sweet songsters.
Then, still carrying out this principle of object-teaching, I would avail myself of it wherever I could. For instance, by the use of the numeral frame, or, if that cannot be had, with buttons, or beans, all the fundamental rules and principles of arithmetic can be taught and m:ide palpable to the eye. I would have the length of a yard, foot, and inch, permanently marked upon the upper part of the blackboard. I would have every Grammar School provided with the following articles, for use in the various departments, namely: Peck, gallon, quart, pint, and gill, measures; grains, pennyweights, ounces, and pounds, of the different measures, blocks to represent square and solid measures, and, in addition, a pair of scales. The clock can be used to illustrate the divisions of time. I would have every scholar studying arithmetic show himself, by experiment, whether the tables he commits to memory are correct. In this manner, the learning of the tables, which is so often considered a drudgery, would become a pleasant pastime. After this, do you think the pupil would forget them ?
So, in commencing grammar. Provide a number of different colored wafers, bits of cloth, silk, or cotton. Show them to the scholars, asking them to state the color of each. Let the pupils tell and write upon their slates, the object, the color, and the number, shown. Will not they very soon learn which is the noun, and which words merely describe the noun, that is, are adjectives ?
A similar course may be pursued with the verb, and it may be modified so as to bring the child to understand the office of pronouns, and to apply some of the tenses of the verbs.
Ecample-I lift a book (doing it). He lifts a book. The book can be lifted. You may rise. They will sit. She is touching the table, etc.
This exercise may be varied indefinitely. Children should go through these exercises together, pronouncing the sentences, and illustrating them by doing the thing mentioned.
In this connection, I will remark that, in my opinion, children pursue the study of grammar at altogether too early an age. Because they can easily be taught what a noun, an adjective, or a verb, is, it by no means follows that their minds are in a fit state to understand the principles of grammar, or analysis. There are other studies more suitable for their tender years. A year, or two, later, they can enter