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my. It was stated in convention at Augusta, that one town had instructed their school committee to discharge all their duties except that of visiting the schools, and this, it is probable, to save the expense of such visitation.
Again, as it regards the examination of teachers, in how many towns is this examination a mere farce ? In how many do they omit even the form of examination ? So long as this is so, it is useless to speak of a standard of qualification for teachers,—there is no such standard. Many teachers are employed in this State, who are wholly incompetent to teach any one branch usually taught in our schools. It could not be so, if the law, even as it is, were executed.
We have provided, that public instruction shall be general, but that does not ensure its being good. The diffusion of education is one thing, its quality, another. The law requires that candidates for teaching “shall be well qualified to instruct youth in reading, in writing the English language grammatically, in arithmetic and other branches usually taught in public schools.” What is it to be well qualified ? It is idle for a person to attempt to teach a branch with which he is not familiar. A stammering, blundering reader, is not qualified to teach boys to read; one who has merely ciphered through an arithmetic, is not qualified to teach arithmetic,—nor is one, who has passed through Pope's Essay, of course qualified to teach grammar. The teacher should have mastered his branch so that he can promptly detect the difficulties which embarrass the scholar—and readily and skillfully illustrate and explain. His ear should be as quick to detect an error in reading, or grammar, &c., as the ear of a musician a discord. The teacher should be far above his pupils in knowledge, or he will not command their respect. No parent would send his son to learn carpentry of a man who has but half learned his trade. Yet teachers are often employed, who have not half learned the branches they profess to teach. This is a fatal evil in our system of schools. No laws, no influence will make a good school, if the teacher be incompetent. And this evil will continue to weaken the efficiency of our schools,
so long as half taught young men and women, can procure certificates.
What are the evils of having incompetent teachers? The public money is wasted. The money is raised for the purposes of instruction, which, under incompetent teachers, the children do not receive. Errors are inculcated. An incompetent teacher will teach his scholars many things which they will be obliged to uplearn. Under such a teacher, the children will not be stimulated—there can be no progress. Pupils must of course be shut up to the field of the knowledge of the teacher-their minds then will be cramped—there can be no advance or expansion among them. The condition of the school, moreover, will act upon the district. You may judge of the one by the other. A district or town which bas badly managed schools, will soon make that defect manifest to the passers by. Now if we would ensure vigorous intellectual growth in a school and in a community, (for the character of a community depends on that of its schools,) we must, for one thing, have competent teachers.
But the great evil arising from incompetent teachers is that they bring the free school system into contempt. The object of our free school system is to educate the public mind. It should furnish an education sufficient for the wants of the community at large. But the pernicious practice of cutting up a town into small districtsand of employing incompetent teachers (and this last practice is a direct and unavoidable consequence of the former) injures the public schools—and gives rise to private schools. Short public schools and poor teachers render it necessary for those who are able,) to employ private teachers in all our towns and villages. The consequence is, that the children of the poor are kept in the free schools, while those of the more wealthy are sent to private schools. Before long, we shall have the great mischief become general, of a separation between the rich and the poor, springing out of the mismanagement of our free school system. This ought not, it must not be. It makes education more expensive, without making it in reality any better, than is designed by our free school system. During the last century some of the best men Scotland could boast of, were reared in the parish schools. In many towns in New England, the public schools now give as good an education, as is to be obtained in any private school.
Allusion has not yet been made to the moral qualifications of a teacher. · What parent would send his children to a school, where the teacher was known to have an infectious disease ? Better do that, than place them under one that is low, vulgar and impure. If the teacher is corrupt, however fair may be his appearance and manner, his corruption will show itself, and will affect his pupils. Says Mr. Mann: “if none but teachers of pure taste, of good manners, of exemplary morals, had ever gained admission into our schools, neither the school rooms, nor their appurtenances would have been poluted, as some of them now are, with such ribald inscriptions and with the carving of such obscene emblems, as would make a heathen blush."
Again, every practical teacher knows that he can teach better, and pupils will learn faster, when his school is properly classed. Any one may preceive that if any instructor should undertake to teach his pupils one by one, he would expend both time and labor at great disadvantage. The advantages of system in a school are quite as important as in a manufactory. But what system can avail much with a teacher, if he has as many separate recitations, there are pupils ? A man can instruct a dozen with more ease to himself and with more effect on his pupils than he can the dozen, one by one. The instruction given to one will answer just as well for a dozen, with this advantage, that in the latter case it is given with more spirit and vivacity. A teacher, that is stupid with a bright and intelligent class before him, must be a dolt. In all our higher institutions, they teach in classes. Why not so in our common schools? The first object then of parents and committees should be to aid the teacher in classifying his school. He will then work to the best advantage.
But how is it? Here is a school where there are half a dozen reading books, as many spelling books, as many arithmetics, as many geographies. What classification can be effected in that
school? Would it not be decidedly better to have all of the same rank in arithmetic and geography and grammar, placed in the same class, that they may stimulate each other, and receive the benefit of the undivided attention of the teacher to that particular branch, at a particular hour? If the six in one branch have different test books, they manifestly can each have, at most, but one sixth of the attention from the teacher, which they would have if they all recited together. “Without uniformity in books,” says Mr. Mann, " classification is impossible, and whatever defeats classification, destroys the power of the teacher.”
Such are a part only of the defects which might be enumerated. They are however important defects, which cripple, and which, if uncorrected, must eventually destroy an instrumentality that is fraught with the richest blessings to our whole community. The schools of our cities and of some of our larger towns, it is admitted, constitute to a good degree, exceptions to the whole class throughout the State. Within a few years, this portion of them have made advancement and have undergone valuable changes. In the aggregate, these however, are but an inconsiderable portion of the whole number. Generally, our free schools remain unimproved and apparently unregarded. Especially is this true of those situated in the remote and poor and thinly peopled districts. “But the buds of genius are scattered as bountifully in these remote districts as elsewhere. On the rough hills and among the sterile fields, the noblest of plants, the human soul, springs with as divine capacities, and if kindly and skillfully nurtured, will expand with as large and vigorous a growth, as in any of the most favored regions ; nay more, the very absence of the softness and luxuries of life will give an inward vigor and sturdiness most favorable to the highest talents and the best virtues. But a kindly nurture they require. Good schools they must have. How shall these schools be reached ?'
That something should be done to render effective the means of education now in use in the State, and to provide increased facilities to promote it, is a sentiment very generally admitted. This we infer from the fact that repeated recommendations of legislative
action on this subject, by different governors of the State, have been favorably regarded ; from the instructions of the pulpit and the press; from public addresses on education, and from resolutions emanating from conventions held at different times and places to consider and mourn over deficiencies which they could do but little to remedy. . And that this life-giving and life-insusing process must originate in legislation of some sort, is probably a sentiment equally prevalent with the former.
In these sentiments, we believe the Legislature most deeply sympathize. We dare not impute to them the inconsistency of making a liberal provision for the development of the material resources of the State, in its mineral and vegetable treasures, and yet remaining indifferent to the infinitely greater treasures, the whole intellectual and moral resources of its future population. What agency, if we except that of religion, is of equal value to man with education, whether it be positively or relatively considered ? Positively considered, it early impresses man with a sense of human dignity; rescues him from that state of degradation to which he is doomed unless redeemed by it, unfolds his physical, intellectual and moral powers, and fixes his eye on that moral worth, which through the narrow vista of human nature, leads him to catch distant glimpses of an almighty and infinite goodness. Or expressed in another form, man is the creature of habit; by practice, he becomes fitted for spheres of action for which he was previously upfitted. Exercise developes, strengthens and beautifies his powers. It enlarges his conceptions, expands his memory and invigorates his judgment; it elevates reason and gives energy to conscience. It is not however, random practice, nor every kind of exercise, that accomplishes these results ; but exercise put forth in accordance with the laws of mind; well directed, well timed and well proportioned exertion. Whatever then, mind itself is worth in its capacities to conceive, remember, reason and reflect; to feel, to enjoy and to will, that is education, positively considered, worth.
Relatively considered, a comparison of the savage that roams through the forest, with an enlightened inhabitant of a civilized country, would be a brief, but an impressive representation of its