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The most direct and effective way in which a teacher can exert an influence over the language of his pupils is to set them a vigorous example of manly and appropriate English. Mere correctness of expression will not be very effectual as an example. Unless there is something taking in the teacher's use of language, it will be simply harmless, without power as an incentive. The negative virtue of committing no offence against Syntax and never uttering a word that has the faintest odor of slang, is, in itself, a paltry, imbecile accomplishment.
What, then, is this positive quality of speech, by virtue of which an influence for good may be imparted to others? We express it as directness, fitness and conciseness, of expression. Renouncing as both a less feasible and less worthy object of endeavor, the inculcation of a perfect grammatical propriety, the teacher ought to assume as his standard the highest possible culture of the powers of language. We shall do well to teach the boys to hold grammatical accuracy in the same estimation that wise men, and not prudes and pedants, do. And in our daily talk with our pupils we shall do better to stand on the natural ground of men confronting men, than to mount the stilts of the conventional pedagogue. A man does not teach his son from behind a desk on a platform; no more, morally, need the teacher so teach his school.
In matters of knowledge the teacher may assume the guidance and control of his pupil. But in matters of habit he must forego all but his small quantum of influence. It will be great success for him if, in a few instances, he succeed in developing in his pupil, as habit of speech, two or three principles which he has before instilled as science.
That person is the best teacher of Grammar who uses language himself with the greatest ease and effectiveness. The pupil's proficiency in the use of speech depends on his æsthetic tastes more than on the analytical powers of his mind. We have heard of famous teachers of Grammar, but have not found their pupils especially skillful in using language.
It will be seen that we are going back to the teacher's personal character, leaving out of sight all text-books and the traditions of the schools. We suppose that the teacher can put on the blackboard now and then a sentence which will soon exhaust all the necessary dogmatic part of Grammar. Whenever the dead-weight of textbooks can be removed from this study, and the formal traditions dis
carded, then the teacher can begin to exert without obstruction a real influence, as strong as his own character on the language of his pupils.
If it is objected that teachers capable of exerting an individual influence of the nature we have suggested are rare, we answer that they are just as common as earnest, thinking men. Rare enough, doubtless. No amount of work spent directly on the school will quite atone for neglect of culture of seli. If the teacher will, by studying the models of written language, frequenting cultivated society, and striving to attain genuine self-reliant thought of his own, elevate himself to his proper position of originality, he will thereby acquire a power that can never be exerted through the prescribed forms of the schools.
JUVENILE DEPRAVITY AND THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS.
The spirit of rowdyism and recklessness which precedes a Presidential election, seems to be contagious. Like colds, catarrhs and diarrhæas, it attacks a whole community at once, runs its course, and dies out of its own accord. Even the dogs about the streets grow cross, snappish and pugnacious. It seizes a troop of boys, and forthwith they stone a gang of Chinamen, encouraged by the chivalric conduct of two brave butchers who made mince-meat of an unfortunate Mongolian not long since. Others catch it, and, on a small scale, imitate their elders, in that kind of heroic valor, which resents a word by a blow, and appeals to the higher law of fisticuffs.
Then goes up a howl of indignation against the public schools. Reporters point their paragraphs with morality, and hurl them against public school teachers who tolerate such things.
All the young rowdyism of the city is charged upon the boys of the public schools. Public speakers, on public occasions, expiate on the fearful depravity of this new Sodom on the shores of the Pacific. Two or three cases of moral depravity are ferreted out in one or two public schools; and forth with they are all charged with being dens of infamy, charnel houses of corruption, worthy of Gomorrah on the day before it was purified by fire and brimstone.
These are grave and serious charges, and they demand from our hands some answer. Is it true that the youth of this city are worse
than the children of other cities ?—and if so, are the public schools responsible for such a condition of things ? It is undoubtedly true that there is, in this city, a class of boys precocious in iniquity. They have grown up in a rough-and-tumble life which has made them rude, disrespectful, saucy, and impudent. They are keen, smart and shrewd, but dwarfed in their moral natures. They have all the restless activity of scalded fiends. Profanity is their vernacular, inlaid with obscenity and vulgarity. They chew tobaccoo, smoke cigars, and imbibe mint-julips and brandy cocktails. They have a nice sense of honor, and use their fists “scientifically.” But few such boys are found in the public schools, or in any schools except the street and the corner groggeries. The schools are not justly chargeable with all their varied accomplishments.
Granted that some vicious boys belong to the public schools. When they are on the school grounds the teachers are responsible for their conduct; but the schools have them only six hours out of the twentyfour. Where are they the rest of the time? Under the control of their parents, who cannot shift the whole government to the shoulders of the teachers, and charge all vices to school accounts.
The lack of home discipline, of parental restraint, is a fruitful cause of evil. Headstrong children govern careless and weak parents. The greatest difficulty the teachers have to contend with, is the want of a hearty coöperation on the part of fathers and mothers in enforcing a strict, rigid, and unswerving school discipline. It is sheer transcendentalism to talk of Utopian systems of government by love alone. Judicious severity is, in the end, true benevolence and real kindness. Fear of punishment is a law of nature, of the physical world as well as of the mental and moral. Were there no physical pain or punishment connected with drunkenness or licentiousness, how long would men hesitate to plunge into excesses ? When an adept in street accomplishments, rude, impudent, careless and profane, enters school, he submits only when he feels the strong hand of power holding him as relentlessly as fate. When his moral faculties have been developed, kindness will govern him, as the wild horse of the pampas once lassoed and subdued, submits to be led by a child. Yet, when the teacher takes a firm stand and enforces his rules by direct punishment, it too often is the case that unthinking and unreasonable parents sympathize with the dear little offenders, and “ take them out of school,” out of the hands of the terrible ogre who lives by beating innocent little children. Cannot parents see that the willful boy
will soon rebel against their authority just as he has against the teacher's ? “ They that sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind.”
Where do the boys pass their evenings from six o'clock to ten ? Who is their keeper then, the teacher or the parent ? Are they at home in the family circle, reading or studying their lessons ? Some of them are, but many are their own keepers, with full license to go where they choose. The evening street schools all over the city are fully and regularly attended. Their teachers are experienced in practice, and artful in theory. What avails the influence of the public school teacher against such a flood of pollution and debasing influences? These pupils of squad schools gather round the reeking mouths of drinking hells. They cluster in dark alleys. They hang round the theatres ; they frequent the low places of amusement where coarse jests and vulgar jokes are retailed for two bits. They enter pestilential dens of infamy, to drink the Circean cup and become transformed into swine.
Where do the boys of the city pass the Sabbaths ?- in the quietness of home, in the place of worship, in the Sunday school ? Some of them do, but more of them are found lounging around the wharves, at the Willows, or Hayes' Park. Are the public schools responsible ?
Such boys as we have described are found in all cities. We doubt if they are any worse here than in New York, or Boston, or Chicago. During the past ten years we have taught many thousands of boys in. this city, and have found the great majority of them honest, industrious, and trustworthy. We have seen them leave school, and see them now, holding good positions as clerks and apprentices, growing up respectable and enterprising young men. Rakes and rascals are the exceptions.
During our term of ten years' teaching, we have visited many households of families, of all classes of society, rich and poor, high and low. While we found in some families a bad home government, in a great majority the home discipline was as good, and the family circle as pleasant, as can be found in the first families of Boston or Virginia. Indeed, we found many pleasanter than we ever knew in New England, for wholsome restraint was tempered by a kinder social atmosphere, and more attention was paid to harmless amusements and wholesome enjoyments.
The home training in the German families of the city is preferable to our taste to the most rigid rule of the most strictest models that are
sometimes held up for our imitation. We have here a picked population—as noble men and true women as can be found on the face of the globe; we have, too, as good homes, and pleasant firesides, and well-bred children.
And while speaking in defence of our homes and home training, we feel called upon to say a word in defence of our girls, who on several public occasions, have been twitted with being vain, frivolous, forward and foolish. So far as our observation goes, our girls are very much like the girls of other cities, except that in physical health and vigor they are superior to most. They may play a little harder and romp a little more than the daughters of the first families Eastwe like them all the better for it. We have seen hundreds of them leave school, modest, intelligent and well-bred; they have made good and virtuous wives, and are now good and sensible mothers, quite as good as any imported from the places of model morality.
As a panacea for all our ills, as a sin-offering for both parents and children, it is proposed to model our schools after the first schools of Boston, and the ward schools of New York — to separate the boys from the girls — the sheep from the goats, and turn over a new leaf in morality. Then the girls will all become angels, like the Boston school girls, who are little lumps of pure perfection; and the boys will become saints, like the little Bowery boys of New York, where they never go to school with girls, and of course never know what sin is.-California Teacher.
The sailing Pine; the Cedar, prond and tall;