Imágenes de páginas

can, because of religious hearts. Properly meant and properly understood, indeed, the demand for a national literature cannot be too strongly uttered. But this daydreaming about a national literature produces a neglect, if not a perversion, of talent and genius. To hear or read what is often said about a national literature, one would think there was an American nation, independently of the individuals composing it, that the genius of America had an existence and agency separate from the hearts in which the true American idea dwells, and that the fair personage whose head we are so familiar with on our copper coin ought to give ear to our loud and long cry, and graciously pen us a national literature with a pen made of one of the quills of our own eagle. Such a dream certainly can never be realized by our authors cherishing the delusive notion, that they must not write from personal feeling and experience, but conform to a certain vaguely imagined national model. Let every American writer be imbued with true wisdom, true patriotism, true humanity and true independence; and then the aggregate of all these individualities will be a literature which, if it should not, in the general improvement of the nations, be strongly and sharply distinguished from other national literatures, whatever it may comparatively be, will be positively something great, permanent and classical.

We may not, for the reasons which have already been suggested, as well as for other reasons growing out of our peculiar social and political circumstances, soon, if ever, produce an Epic, or any long poem. But suppose

we should never do anything more in the way of verse than write little songs on this side of the Atlantic. It is a very considerable, though by no means an uncommon mistake, to suppose that a great poem must be a long one. A life, too, may be a poema heroic poem, interspersed with bursts of lyric melody. Our national poem shall be, let us hope, the grand harmony of that manystringed instrument, a community of free spirits, each in its own way speaking or singing the truth. This shall be our unwritten Columbiad.

C. T. B.


In this country all are sovereigns except the rulers. They are the subjects and must do as they are bid. Every one else may do as he pleases. The people's will is the fundamental law. The government is a mill-wheel moved by the current of public opinion. The real governors are the majority of the people, and wo to the country if that majority be not wise and virtuous. We have no security for good order, for "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," but the wide diffusion of virtue and intelligence. Without these our people will be a blind Sampson, and may at any moment, in a fit of madness, pull down the pillars of the social edifice. To enable them to preserve and extend their blessings, they must be well educated. Especially, as this country is becoming more and more the receptacle of the poverty and ignorance of Europe, does it behoove us to make ample provision for the diffusion of the means of instruction.

But apart from the peculiar importance of general education in this country, growing out of the peculiar character of our institutions, it is becoming every day better understood that the education of the young is the great means of improving the condition of mankind. Nothing can be more trite than the maxim that

"Just as the twig is bent the tree's inclined," and the reason is that nothing can be more true. But though the paramount value of the education of children has been well understood as long as civilization has existed,

* 1. Eighth Annual Report of the Board of Education, together with the Eighth Annual Report of the Secretary of the Board. Boston: Dutton & Wentworth. 1845. 8vo. pp. 136.

2. Abstract of the Massachusetts School Returns for 1843-44. Boston: Dutton & Wentworth. 1844. 8vo. pp. 336.

3. Remarks on the Seventh Annual Report of the Hon. Horace Mann, Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education. Boston: Little & Brown. 1844. 8vo. pp. 144.

4. Reply to the "Remarks" of Thirty-one Boston Schoolmasters on the Seventh Annual Report of the Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education. By HORACE MANN, Secretary of the Board. Boston Fowle & Capen. 1844. 8vo. pp. 176.

5. Observations on a pamphlet entitled "Remarks on the Seventh Annual Report of the Hon. Horace Mann, Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education." Boston S. N. Dickinson. 1844. 8vo. pp. 16.





yet the direction which ought to be given to the young mind has only been gradually learned. The development of the Christian spirit has opened men's eyes to the ends which should be aimed at, and the means which should be used, and has prepared them for the toil and self-control which are required for the proper performance of the task. Benevolent men in Europe and America have become impressed with the duty of laboring to elevate the character of those who are to constitute the coming age, and are devoting themselves to the work. One of the reports of the school committees of this Commonwealth, published in the first volume of the "Abstracts," contains the remark, that "there is no better test of the state of society in a town than the state of the schools, for in a very few years the schools make the society." What is here said of a town is true of the nation.

A general interest in the improvement of common schools has of late years been awakened among us, and much has been done in their behalf, particularly in New York and New England, by the establishment of School Funds, School Commissioners, School Libraries, Normal Schools, Common School Journals, Conventions of Teachers and other friends of Education, and by lectures and addresses from distinguished men in official and private stations, who have warmly advocated these and kindred measures, and have strongly set forth the need of improving the means of popular education.

The Massachusetts Board of Education was created by an Act of the Legislature passed April 20, 1837. Its duties as prescribed by statute are, "1st, to prepare and lay before the Legislature, in a printed form, on or before the second Wednesday in January annually, an abstract of the School Returns received by the Secretary of the Commonwealth ; and 2d, to make a detailed report to the Legislature of all their doings, with such observations as their experience and reflection may suggest upon the condition and efficiency of our system of popular education, and the most practicable means of improving and extending it." The duty of the Secretary is," under the direction of the Board, to collect information of the actual condition and efficiency of the common schools and other means of popular education, and to diffuse as widely as possible, throughout every part of

the Commonwealth, information of the most approved and successful methods of arranging the studies and conducting the education of the young." We will now consider how these duties have been discharged.

The first volume of the Abstracts of School Returns, prepared by the Secretary, enables us to judge of the state of the schools when the Board began their labors. looking over the selections which it contains from the reports of the school committees, we find loud and long complaints from every quarter respecting the condition of the common schools at that time. We learn from them that many of the school-houses were too small, out of repair, standing on and sometimes in the highway, with short posts for seats, on which the younger scholars sat with their legs dangling in the air, until the progress of time should give them length of limb sufficient to reach the floor, without proper desks, without blackboards, or other apparatus for instruction, without blinds or curtains to exclude the sun, or roofs sufficiently tight to exclude the rain, with broken latches, broken hinges, broken floors and broken windows. These last however served a good purpose as ventilators. In houses which were not provided with broken windows or open fire-places, the air was kept snug and quiet all the school-time, and not allowed to leave the room until the school was dismissed. These buildings were warmed or rather chilled with green wood, which gave out little heat but abundance of smoke. This smoke sometimes proved too much for teachers and pupils, drove them from the premises and broke up the school. Sometimes they had not even green wood to burn. Strange to say, these difficulties about fuel exist even now. The Eighth Report of the Secretary, presented to the Legislature a few weeks since, says, 66 Every year more or less schools are broken up in the county of Berkshire from a want of fuel, or from being supplied only with such wood as in the present state of the arts is incombustible." The scholars were often a worse trouble than the school-house, rebellious, absent half the time, and late and lazy during the rest of it. All ages were mingled in the same room, grown up men with little children, whom their mothers sent to school to save themselves the trouble of looking after them at home. The school committees and the prudential committees of the

districts were continually jarring, the duty of the former being to examine teachers before they were engaged, and the pleasure of the latter often being to engage teachers before they were examined. The parents showed little interest in the schools, except when they came to the schoolhouse to flog the master or berated him in the children's presence at home. They insisted that the old school-books on hand should be used up before the children should have new ones, and often in fact sent them to school without any. The consequence of this was, that half a dozen different text-books were used by pupils pursuing the same branch of study. Reading was taught mechanically; or as one of the committees says, "the words came from the pupils' mouths like apples dropping from the tail of a cart." The elementary studies were hurried over to make way for the more advanced ones. Added to all this, the appropriations for the schools were so small that by the time the pupils were fairly in training, the money was spent and the teacher was gone. The want of proper qualifications in the teachers is a subject of continual complaint in these reports. One of the committees says of them,

[ocr errors]

They know too little of the human mind to lead it to apprehend the principles of the various branches of study, and consequently, when difficulties occur to the pupil, their only resource is to lift him over them, leaving the principle unexamined and the difficulties unremoved. One would almost imagine they were aiming to do with the pupils as the angel did with Habakkuk, when he took him by the hair of his head and transported him in an instant from Judea to Babylon."

Finding this to be the state of things when they came into office, the Board, and particularly its ardent and indefatigable Secretary, applied themselves with spirit to the work of improvement. The reports of the school committees, since published, show the result of their labors. They have stimulated the prudential committees of the districts to engage teachers in season, the school committees to examine them with care, and the parents to encourage them by visiting the schools and to aid them by repressing a spirit of insubordination in their children. They have perseveringly held up to public view the defects of the school-houses, their want of proper seats and desks, of blackboards and other apparatus, of the means of ven

« AnteriorContinuar »