« AnteriorContinuar »
of this truant school is made a truant officer, so that he may if necessity requires, enter houses and bring out the truant. He has an assistant teacher who takes charge of the school while he is absent in search of truants, or on other duty devolving upon him as master or officer. The effect of this “step” is most excellent upon the other schools of the city. The number attending it thus far ranges from twenty to thirty. But there are some in every city who with their home training and street discipline bearing heavily against them, cannot be rescued at this “step,” and for such a "third step” is taken. A portion of the almshouse property has been set apart and assigned as a “House of Reformation.” A convenient school room and suitable slee ng rooms are made
ecure with grated windows, etc. A large yard is surrounded by a high fence, in which the boys are allowed to play certain hours of the day. The Mayor, City Marshal, the Superintendent of Schools, and a number of our Police are made a Commission, and when a boy cannot be reformed by either of " steps" No. 1, or No. 2, or is found idle and roaming about the streets and public places of the city, this commission makes complaint before the Police Judge, who has jurisdiction in the case, and the boy is sent up to the “ House of Reformation.” It is only at this “ third step” that any extra expense is incurred. Here the boys are fed, and in some cases clothed at the expense of the city. The school is in the charge of a judicious and resolute woman, and now numbers thirteen scholars, who are, as might be expected, very backward in their studies, but whose faculties have been fearfully sharpened by the half gypsy life they have heretofore led. The prospects for the system are very flattering, though it has been in operation here but a short time. We intend to introduce some light work to occupy a portion of the time of the boys when they are not engaged at their lessons, and thus inculcate habits of industry, and at the same time defray a portion of the expenses of the school, and so far as possible make it self-supporting. To my mind one thing is clear, that if we are to continue to have " a government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” the masses must be educated, voluntarily if possible, compulsorily if necessary.
This system is authorized by the provisions of Chapter 207 of the Laws of 1862.
TOO MANY STUDIES.
TOO MANY STUDIES.
To the Editor of the Massachusetts Teacher :
I propose, with your permission, to say a few words in regard to a fault to which private schools are more prone than public, but from which few of any sort at the present day are free, that of pursuing too many studies at a time. The inevitable result is either to overload and weary the mind, or to weaken it by dissipating the attention and frittering away the time.
There is no question that any person of ordinary powers can study two branches at a time to better advantage than one; probably most persons can do as well with three as with two; but further than this it is not often advisable to go. Continuous and regular attention are necessary in order to secure the most rapid and thorough progress in any intellectual work. The mind has its friction and inertia as well as a railroad train, and if it requires rest and change, which a railroad train does not, it is none the less true that any irregularity or interruption beyond what is absolutely required for the health of the mind itself, involves a direct loss of power. It is, therefore, a fundamental principle, in the arrangement of school studies that each study should, so far as possible, come every school-day, and at the same hour of the day.
It is probable that in the good old times when “the three R’s" [Reading, 'Riting and 'Rithmetic] formed the staple and almost the sole substance of the boy's education, the scholar left the public school with a better trained mind (I do not say better stored) than at present. The cause of this is the neglect of the principle above referred to. It would not be possible, and no one would desire, to reduce the common school curriculum to its former meagreness, but I am sure that some mean must be found between that and its
present exuberance, and that the principle of unity of attention must be more distinctly recognized in practice, if we would secure vigor and power of mind, as well as extent of information.
The temptation to have the course of studies embrace everything that is worth knowing is one of the strongest to which teachers and committee men are subjected. There are three ways in which we may meet and partially solve the difficult problem presented here.
The first is, heroically to make up one's mind that something must be omitted, or at least deferred, — that it is not possible to cram the whole range of science, even in a rudimentary form, into so narrow a space; and to satisfy ourself with giving the pupil a thorough, if narrow, foundation, and imparting to him such a thirst for knowledge as will induce him to pursue further studies by himself after leaving the school. The second is a careful and scientific arrangement of studies, which shall take each up at precisely the age to deal with it to best advantage. I will not do more than hint here at this most important topic, but will illustrate my point by saying that a year, often two, is absolutely lost out of the intel. lectual lives of the majority of boys who go to college, by the pernicious practice of beginning Latin too young, and that the minds of most children are tortured by the perplexities of higher Arithmetic and Algebra, at an age when they should be acquiring by observation the pleasant facts of Natural History, or learning some modern language by a natural and easy method.
But suppose all the branches excluded which can be eliminated, and all that are left arranged so as to be studied to best advantage. Even then, the teacher will be bewildered by the apparent necessity of crowding more studies into one term than fairly belong there. Here the third principle will assist him — that of alternating the studies, taking one this term and dropping it next to make room for another. Hold fast to the cardinal doctrine that two hard studies and one easy one a day are all that most scholars can take with advantage, and that time will always be saved in the long run by not alternating day by day, but term by term.
Lastly, parents could, more than they have any conception, assist in reconciling thoroughness and efficiency with extent of acquire. ments in the education of their children, if they would be convinced of the vital necessity of observing the rule insisted on above, to do one thing at a time. Their children cannot be men and boys at the same time; they cannot attend parties if they wish to attend school with advantage. While they are members of a school, attending school is their business, and committees and teachers can accomplish very little unless parents will co-operate in a matter over which they alone have any control.
EAGLESWOOD, N. J.
W. F. A.
[The following criticism of prevailing faults of style, as just as it is amusing, is taken from the preface to the second series of Prof. Lowell's Biglow Papers, just published.]
“It had long seemed to me that the great vice of American writing and speaking was a studied want of simplicity, that we were in danger of coming to look on our mother-tongue as a dead language, to be sought in the grammar and dictionary rather than in the heart, and that our only chance of escape was by seeking it at its living sources among those who were, as Scottowe says of Major-General Gibbons,“ divinely illiterate." President Lincoln, the only really great public man whom these latter days have seen, was great also in this, that he was master — witness his speech at Gettysburg
, of a truly masculine English, classic because it was of no special period, and level at once to the highest and lowest of his countrymen. But whoever should read the debates in Congress might fancy himself present at a meeting of the city council of some city of Southern Gaul in the decline of the Empire, where barbarians with a Latin varnish emulated each other in being more than Ciceronian. Whether it be want of culture,- for the highest outcome of that is simplicity,-or for whatever reason, it is certain that very few American writers or speakers wield their native language with the directness, precision and force that are common as the day in the mother country. We use it like Scotsmen, not as if it belonged to us, but as if we wished to prove that we belong to it, by showing our intimacy with its written, rather than with its spoken dialect. And yet all the while our popular idiom is racy with life and vigor and originality, bucksome (as Milton used the word) to our new occasions, and proves itself no mere graft by sending up new suckers from the old root in spite of us. It is only from its roots in the living generations of men that a language can be re-inforced with fresh vigor for its needs; what may be called a literate dialect grows even more and more pedantic and foreign, till it becomes at last as unfitting a vehicle for living thought as monkish Latin. That
we should all be made to talk like books is the danger with which we are threatened by the Universal Schoolmaster, who does his best to enslave the minds and memories of his victims to what he esteems the best models of English composition, that is to say, to the writers whose style is faultily correct and has no blood-warmth in it. No language after it has faded into diction, none that cannot suck up the feeding juices secreted for it in the rich mother earth of common folk, can bring forth a sound and lusty book. True vigor and heartiness of phrase do not pass from page to page, but from man to man, where the brain is kindled and the lips suppled by downright living interests and by passion in its very throe. Language is the soil of thought, and our own especially is a rich leaf-mould, the slow deposits of ages, the shed foliage of feeling, fancy, and imagination, which has suffered an earth-change, that the vocal forest, as Howell called it, may clothe itself anew with living green. There is death in the dictionary; and, where language is too strictly limited by convention, the ground for expression to grow in is limited also; and we get potted literature, Chinese dwarfs instead of healthy trees.”
The degeneracy in the use of language is illustrated as follows:
“ But while the schoolmaster has been busy starching our language and smoothing it flat with the mangle or a supposed classical authority, the newspaper reporter has been doing even more harm by stretching and swelling it to suit his occasions. A dozen years ago I began a list, which I have added to from time to time, of some of the changes which may be fairly laid at his door. I give a few of them as showing their tendency, all the more dangerous that their effect, like that of some poisons, is insensibly cumulative, and that they are sure at last of effect among a people whose chief reading is the daily paper. I give in two columns the old style and its modern equivalent.
NEW STYLE. Was hanged.
Was launched into eternity. When the halter was put round his When the fatal noose was adjusted about neck.
the neck of the unfortunate victim of
his own unbridled passions. A great crowd came to see.
A vast concourse was assembled to wit