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Educational Journal of Virginia.

Vol. XV.

Richmond, Va., November, 1884.

No. 11.

Value of Literary Culture to the Teacher.


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Culture! The very word "marshals us the way that we were going.” It brings us into sympathy with the world of life and growth around us; into relationship with the harvests ripening in our fields, with the herds browsing o'er our meadows, the trees in our woods and orchards, and with the birds whose voices fill the air with melody.

Wise is the face of nature unto him
Whose heart, amid the business and the cares,
The cunning and bad passions of the world,
Still keeps its freshness, and can look upon her
As when she breathed upon his school-boy face
Her morning breath.

It makes us partakers of that sovereign spirit and purpose which, working in harmony with nature, yet controls and guides her to better results—a spirit and purpose which find their every-day expression in the improvement of soils and in the development of varieties in fruits and flowers, in grain and stocks. The time when the farmer may rely upon the natural productive power of the soil is past, never to return. The hills of Western Pennsylvania were long considered of little worth for tillage; but now, by the liberal application of lime to the soil, they produce bountiful harvests of golden grain. Now, in the rich corn-fields of the South and West, the husbandman seeks to grow two ears of corn, and of a better quality, where but one was grown before.

The object of high breeding in the varieties of fruit and stock is to secure the best qualities with the least expenditure of material. Hence, with intelligent foresight and application, men have bred into

one variety the excellent qualities which before were found only in several varieties. So that now upon the farm may be found the blooded horse, bred for speed or strength-the blooded cow, bred for beef or butter; in the orchard grow the hybrid fruits, rich in all excellence of color and flavor; while in the garden bloom cultured flowers of surpassing beauty and sweetness.

Culture and cultivation! Take down your lexicon for a moment; note that these two vigorous words spring from the same root, and that their meanings, literal and tropical, shade into each other at every point. Springing into life with the first marked development of civilization, they carry the flavor of the soil and its tillage into ideas which are pictures of the best qualities of character. Observe that culture and cultivation both represent care-taking-the elimination of the bad qualities, the development of the good and that this idea is carried throughout up the scale of physical, mental, and moral growth, until it culminates in ideas of honor and reverence to the Supreme Ideal of all excellence.

It is evident, therefore, that the limitation of the word culture to mere polish of manners acquired from the conventional usage of good society, or to mere ornament of thought or diction—a limitation, by the way, which has become quite common—is an unjust application of a noble word. Training, discipline, development, growth, improvement, refinement, excellence, honor, worth, and worshipsuch are the words that are kinsmen to the word culture. There is nothing superficial about these. They relate to the highest and holiest ideas which engage the minds and hearts of men. Culture belongs to character. It concerns the mental texture and moral fibre of the man. It is a growth. It is a life.

With this understanding of the scope of the word culture, let us consider the following important preliminary proposition :


Childhood is an impression, middle life is a duty, old age is a memory. And the success and honor of the second, with the sweetness and beauty of the third, are largely determined by the character of the first. Says Daniel Webster, “It was from my conversation with Uncle Daniel Wise, an old sailor and fisherman, who had been 'round the world and seen many countries, that I got my love of geography, and my first knowledge of the manners, the customs and the costumes of the various lands and peoples of the globe. It was these conversations that excited in me a love of knowledge, and made me an ardent reader.” But it is to be remembered that the associations which give these imperishable impressions to childhood are dependent upon the will and wisdom of the parents and teachers to whom, to meet the demands of their position, is given the heaveninspired law, “To be childlike is to be divine.” Richter thus beautifully expresses the same truth : “I love God and little children.''

There is nothing too trivial in child-life to pass unnoticed and unstudied; for its hours of play, no less than its hours at home and at school, are its teachers. As the young tree, through root and leaf, receives from sun and air that which nourishes its growth, so does childhood, through eye and ear and touch, drink in with unconscious eagerness whatever ministers to the demands of its absorbing powers. Childhood is alert to every change of co!or, to every variation of tone. It is affected by every play of emotion on the human face. Hence it seems to me that it is not too broad a generalization to say that childhood's hours of unconscious teaching give to it the most abiding lessons. The interest which childhood has in every living thing, its love for the fields with their flowers, the woods with their birds, the creeks with their fishes, its eager questionings of the clouds and the stars—what are these but the voice of the prophet in the wilderness, saying to every teacher, “This is the way; make the child's path straight.”

The function of the teacher is to create the conditions, the atmosphere, in which the child shall “live and move and have its being.” Life is not a dogma. Childhood thrives not by rule. I have in mind to-day a familiar illustration of the permanence and practical value of these early associations. A few years ago, near an Ohio village, there lay a farm for which nature had done much, but its owner very little. The farm seemed to grow more ragged and the land more sterile every year. Everything about it seemed to share in the general decay. Indeed, it might have been taken for the original of Goldsmith's lines,

Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey.

But, after a time, the farm came into market, and passed into the possession of a young man who was just setting up a home for himself. One afternoon of a bright June day not long past, while driving along the highway which skirts this farm, my attention was arrested by a landscape of surpassing beauty. At the edge of a thrifty or.

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