The Philosophy of Teaching
by Nathaniel Sands
The Philosophy of Teaching.
THE PUPIL, THE SCHOOL.
HARPER &BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS,
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1869, by
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for
the Southern District of New York.
THE TEACHER, THE PUPIL, THE SCHOOL.
TEACHER AND PUPIL.
Of the various callings to which the division of labor has caused
man specially to devote himself, there is none to be compared for
nobility or usefulness with that of the true teacher. Yet neither
teachers nor people at present realize this truth.
Among the very few lessons of value which might be derived from
so-called classical studies, is that of the proper estimate in which
the true teacher should be held; for among the Greeks no calling or
occupation was more honored. Yet with a strange perversity, albeit for
centuries the precious time of youth has been wasted, and the minds and
morals of the young perverted by classical studies, this one lesson
has been disregarded.
What duty can be more responsible, what vocation more holy, than
that of training the young in habits of industry, truthfulness,
economy, and sobriety; of giving to them that knowledge and skill
without which their lives would become a burden to themselves and to
society? Yet, while the merchant seeks to exercise the greatest caution
in selecting the persons to whom he intrusts his merchandise, and
yields respect to him who faithfully performs his commercial
engagements; he makes but scant inquiry as to the character or
qualifications of the MIND-BUILDER upon whose skill, judgment, and
trustworthiness the future of his children will greatly depend.
The position assigned by our social rules to the teacher accords,
not with the nobility of his functions, but with the insufficient
appreciation entertained of them by the people, and is accompanied by a
corresponding inadequate remuneration. And what is the result? Except a
few single-hearted, noble men and women, by whom the profession of the
teacher is illustrated and adorned; except a few self-sacrificing
heroes and heroines whose love of children and of mankind reconciles
them to an humble lot and ill-requited labors, the class of
school-teachers throughout the whole civilized world barely reaches the
level of that mediocrity which in all other callings suffices to obtain
not merely a comfortable maintenance in the present, but a provision
against sickness and for old age.
What aspiring father, what Cornelia among mothers, select for their
children the profession of a teacher as a field in which the talents
and just ambition of such children may find scope? Nor can we hope for
any improvement until a juster appreciation of the nobility of the
teacher's vocation, and a more generous remuneration of his labors
shall generally prevail.
It is to the desire to aid somewhat in bringing about a juster
appreciation in the minds alike of teachers and of people of the
utility and nobleness of the teacher's labors and vocation that these
pages owe their origin.
When we consider the nature of the Being over whose future the
teacher is to exercise so great an influence, whose mind he is to store
with knowledge, and whom he is to train in the practice of such conduct
as shall lead to his happiness and well-being, we are lost in amazement
at the extent of the knowledge and perfection of the moral attributes
which should have been acquired by the teacher. It is his duty to make
his pupils acquainted with that nature of which they form a part, by
which they are surrounded, and which is rubbing against them at every
step in life. But he can not teach that of which he himself is
ignorant. Every science then may in turn become necessary or desirable
to be employed as an instructive agent, every art may be made accessory
to illustrate some item of knowledge or to elucidate some moral
Man is his subject, and with the nature of that subject and of his
surroundings he must be acquainted, that the object to be attained and
the means for its attainment may be known to him.
What is man? What are his powers, what is his destiny, and for what
purpose and for what object was he created? Let us enter the laboratory
of the chemist and commence our labors. Let us take down the crucible
and begin the analysis, and endeavor to solve this important problem.
In studying the great Cosmos we perceive each being seeking its
happiness according to the instincts implanted in him by the Creator,
and only in man we see his happiness made dependent on the extent to
which he contributes to the happiness of others. What, so far as we can
see, would this earth be without any inhabitants? What great purpose in
the economy of nature could it serve? A palace without a king, a house
without an occupant, a lonely and tenantless world, while we now see it
framed in all its beauty for the enjoyment of happiness.
The Being upon whom the art and science of the teacher is to be
exercised is one to whom food, clothing, fuel, and shelter are needful;
possessed of organs of digestion, whose functions should be made
familiar to their possessor; of breathing organs, to whose healthful
exercise pure air is essential; a being full of life and animation,
locomotivedesirous of moving from place to place; an emotional being,
susceptible to emotions of joy and sorrow, love and hate, hope and
fear, reverence and contempt, and whose emotions should be so directed
that their exercise should be productive of happiness to others. He is
also an intellectual being, provided with senses by which to receive
impressions and acquire a knowledge of external things; with organs of
comparison and of reason, by which to render available for future use
the impressions received through the senses in the past. Lastly: he is
also a social being, to whom perpetual solitude would be intolerable;
sympathizing in the pains and pleasures of others, needing their
protection, sympathy and co-operation for his own comfort, and desirous
of conferring protection upon and of co-operating with them. But,
further, he is a being who desires to be loved and esteemed, and finds
the greatest charm of existence in the love and esteem he receives; to
be loved and esteemed and cared for, he must love, esteem and care for
others, and be generally amiable and useful.
Such is the Being, susceptible of pain and pleasure, of sorrow and
joy, whom the MIND-BUILDER is to train up so that, as far as possible,
the former may be averted and the latter secured.
The teacher, then, must train him in habits of industry and skill,
that work may be pleasant and easy to him, and held in honorable
esteem; for without work, skillfully performed, neither food, clothing,
fuel nor shelter can be obtained in sufficient quantity to avoid
poverty and suffering. Knowledge also must be acquired by the laborer,
in order that the work which is to be skillfully performed may be
performed with that attention to the conditions of mechanical,
chemical, electrical, and vital agencies necessary to render labor
productive. A knowledge of the conditions of mechanics, of chemistry,
of electricity, and of vital phenomena should be imparted by the
teacher; and to impart this knowledge, he must first possess it.
How sublime, then, are the qualifications, natural and acquired,
which the true teacher should possess! How deep should be our reverence
for him who, by his skill and knowledge, is capable, and by his moral
qualities willing, to perform duties so onerous and so difficult. What
station in life can be regarded as more exalted; whose utility can be
compared with that of him who proves himself faithful to the duties he
assumes, when he takes upon himself the office of a teacher of youth?
The question which is ever present to the mind of the true teacher
is: What can I do to insure the happiness of these beings confided to
my charge, whose minds it is given to me to fashion, not according to
my will, but according as my skill and judgment shall, more or less,
enable me to adapt my teachings to their natures? What shall I seek to
engrave upon the clear tablets of their young and tender minds, in
order that their future lot may be a joyous one? Let me illustrate (he
will say) my profession. I will raise it high as the most honored among
men, and for my monument I will say: Look around; see the good works
of those whom I have taught and trained; they are my memorials!
Such may, such will become the hope and aspiration common to
teachers in that good day to come, when their labors shall be honored
as they deserve; when parents, in all the different ranks into which
society falls, shall vie with each other in the respect and honor
tendered to the teacher, whose true place in society is at least not
beneath that of the Judge.
The teachers to be developed by such a state of society will, as
their first step, seek to obtain a clear and comprehensive view of the
work they propose to accomplish, and will then seek to adopt the most
judicious means to reach the end proposed. They will adapt their
methods of teaching to the nature of the object to be taught and to the
order in which the faculties of the human mind naturally unfold
themselves, for true education is the natural unfolding of the
intellectual germ. In order to obtain the knowledge necessary of the
object to be taught, the true teacher turns to nature as his guide, for
the voice of nature is the voice of God, and in reading her statutes we
read that grand volume in which He has left an impress of Himself. The
science of nature is nothing more than the ability to read and
interpret correctly the lessons taught. There was a period when mankind
knew very little of the planet upon which they lived and moved and had
their being; there was a time when they knew almost nothing; and
there will come a time when they will know almost every thing
that can be known by finite man. The earth is our mother, and
nature is our teacher, and if we listen to her voice, she will lead
us higher and higher until we will stand the master and the king in the
glorified temple of wisdom. To reach results so grand and a position so
exalted, our natures must unfold in exact harmony with all the laws and
forces which surround and control us from the time our existence
commences until its close.
From the period of conception until birth the child draws to itself
all the essential elements required for the organization of a human
being; the capabilities and powers of the parent are taxed and called
upon to contribute their material to enable nature to reproduce itself.
The child is born, and then, in a higher and more enlarged and more
independent state of existence, commences drawing to itself the
materials and substances necessary for its growth and unfolding. It
draws in its mother's milk, it draws in the air, and it builds up in
itself the unseen forces of life. Nature, true to her mission, goes on
unfolding the child, and teaches it daily and hourly the lessons best
adapted to its condition. In a few days after it is born, its powers of
observation begin to show signs of life and action, and it can
distinguish light from darkness; in a few weeks its mother and nurse
are knownin a few months quickened intelligence displays itself in
all its actions; in about twelve months it has learned the most
difficult art of balancing itself so as to walk, and also to speak a
few words; at from two to two and a half years of age, only thirty
months from birth, it has learned a language which it speaks, and has
become familiar with a vast number of things surrounding it. From a
state of entire ignorance it has in thirty months learned what would
fill volumes. Horses, cows, pigs, dogs, toys, whips, birds, people,
trees, houses, fruit, food, clothes, music, sounds, parents, friends,
and a thousand other things are all familiar to it. Without
professional teachers, almost without effort, all this valuable and
indispensable knowledge has been acquired, through the unconscious
adoption on the part of the mother of the true system of education
e ducoI lead forth, and hence nurse, cherish, build up, develop.
The child feels or reaches out, like the tendril, to the material
world, seeking to make itself acquainted with that world; even the
young infant soon begins to observe closely, soon knows its mother from
all other persons, clings to her, loves her above all; soon it
recognizes light from darkness, sweet from bitter; soon, when it sees a
dog it will recognize it and jump with delight almost out of its
mother's arms; it will show an eager delight to watch the motions of
the horse, and imitates the sounds employed by adults when driving. He
spreads forth the tentacles of his feeble mind for knowledge, and his
mind grows by what it feeds upon, and it is for those intrusted with
the infant's training to respond intelligently to the child's desire,
to place within its reach the mental food adapted to its digestion, to
nourish and develop it so that its mental hunger shall be at once
gratified and excited anew.
It is here, and to this end, that the able teacher steps in, to
perfect the development of the future man and woman. He educates, by
assisting the natural unfolding of the intellectual germ, he places
within reach of the child-mind the food needed to its growth, and the
child-mind reaches out its tentacles and absorbs the nourishment
offered to it. Thus the mind grows from within outward, and the
teacher aids its development, as the careful husbandman by tilling and
enriching the soil according to the nature of the plant he cultivates,
produces a healthy and fruitful plant.
The true teacher does not seek to teach by simply putting books into
the child's hand, and bidding it to learn; he addresses himself to
those faculties and powers of the child's mind, which bring it in
relation with the world in which it lives. Sight, hearing, touch,
smell, taste, and thence observation, judgment, perception, reason,
memory, hope, imagination, and the love of the beautiful are appealed
to, developed and strengthened by natural exercise, even as the organs
and limbs of the body are developed and strengthened by gymnastic and
other appropriate exercises.
Education, mental and physical, is but the ABSORPTION of surrounding
elements into the mind and bodyan arrangement an assimilation of
materials so as to incorporate them into the being to whose nourishment
they are applied, just as the tree or plant assimilates to its growth
and subsistence the materials which it draws from the air and the soil.
It is thus apparent that a great change in the system and principles
now adopted in teaching is required, and if we change the principles we
must, of course, change the instruments. These are now adapted to the
method of teaching from WITHOUT inward. If we are to invert the system,
and teach from within outward, then must our means and appliances be
adapted to this change. The task, the forcing process, the stuffing and
cramming must all give way to the natural mental growth, fostered,
cherished, unfolded by culture, in accord with nature and with law. The
inquiry then arises: What are to be the new means and appliances for
mental culture? We have but to turn again to Nature as our teacher and
our guide; her instincts are unerring. The seed germinates and pushes
forth its root from within outward. The expansion or growth takes place
by means of the elements which it attracts to itself, when these are
placed within its reach, and towards which it stretches forth its
organs. These elements it assimilates into and makes a part of itself.
This process of Nature, so familiar to most of us, serves to illustrate
exactly what should take place in intellectual growth. The mind hungers
and feels out for and is impelled by a natural internal impulse to
gather to itself the elements of knowledge; the wise teacher steps
forward and becomes to the germinating intellect what the sun and dew
and rain are to the plant. The mind must be fed in conformity with its
longings, its wants, its desires. Blessed are they that hunger and
thirst after righteousness. The teacher develops this hunger and
thirst by stimulating inquiry, and by presenting to the mind the use
and beauty of knowledge; and when the mind gives signs that its hunger
is temporarily appeased, that time is now required for mental digestion
and assimilation, the wise teacher rests, and would no more attempt to
stuff and cram the mind than the wise mother would seek to force food
into her child's stomach.
Intellectual growth of some kind, not less than bodily growth,
whether good or evil, is constantly taking place. It should be the
teacher's care to render that growth a healthy one, calculated to
insure the happiness of the subject, and, in securing his own
happiness, to contribute to the happiness of others.
The body being visible to the physical eye, its growth is also
visible, and we do not think of feeling impatient at the long months
and years required for it to attain its full proportions; nor do we
seek by any forcing process to produce a man at 10 instead of at 20 or
30 years of age.
Were the mind and its growth also visible to the eye, we would be
equally careful in our treatment of it. Man's first impulse in an
uncivilized state has generally been a resort to force for the
accomplishment of his objects; and as he took his first step forward
the habits of his barbaric life remained with him. Hence, the first
steps in teaching were by forcethe lash, the rod, the school penal
code; but even as when hungry, wholesome and well-dressed food rejoices
us, so will the mind gladly accept the mental food carefully prepared
for it by the true teacher.
We live in a world adapted by its Creator to our happiness and
highest well-being. It is not only possible, but easy, to win from
Nature all that is necessary or desirable, for our sustenance and
comfort. It is the true teacher's duty to fit the child thus to win its
happiness; and such a teacher has ever present to his mind the
question: How am I to perform this duty? What sort of teaching and
training am I to give to the subjects of my care? Let us endeavor to
find some direction to guide us to Nature's answer to this question.
TEACHING AND TRAINING
Whether we regard private schools or public schools, boarding or day
schools, we find that much which goes on at them affords an important
lesson, not as to what to follow, but what to avoid.
Is there any thing worthy of the name, of confiding intercourse
between teacher and pupil known upon this continent, or to extend our
inquiry, we may say, known anywhere? Here and there exceptional
instances will be found, as we have before said, both in this country
and in Europe, of men and women devoted to their noble profession,
between whom and their pupils there has grown up the strongest bond of
parental and fraternal affection. To these teachers the pupils run in
every difficulty for its solution, in every danger for protection; but
with these exceptions the teacher is looked upon as a task-master,
sometimes even as a spy; the tasks set to be shirked as much as
possible, the observation of the teacher to be eluded and deceived.
Lesson-time over, the children resort to their tame animals, to
their weaving-machines, their wind-mills and dams; to their gardens,
kites and ships; to swimming, rowing, foot-ball, marbles, leap-frog,
base-ball and cricket. In the practice of these games, skill, dexterity
and knowledge are acquired of which the pupils appreciate the utility,
and enjoy not only for present, but for anticipated future use.
Natural History, to be taught in school and made a reality, by
following the guide given us by nature in the amusements to which
children resort of their own accord, should be a prominent subject of
instruction and training in the school. Cultivating the faculties of
observation and of analysis, it should be among the earliest subjects
of instruction, and, at the same time, of amusement.
But they ought not to be taught from books; nature and the teacher
are the only books to be employed until considerable progress has been
made by the pupils. It is so easy to procure the things themselves for
the study of botany; an abundant supply of wild flowers can be so
readily obtained, sufficient to enable each child to be supplied with
specimens for examination and dissection. The interest of the children
in their study can be so easily awakened and sustained by the judicious
teacher, the difficulties of the supposed hard words of scientific
names disappear so readily, that the real difficulty is to understand
how so obvious a subject of instruction is either wholly banished from
the schools, or sought to be taught only from books, without any
reference to living nature.
The variety and multiplicity of insect life affords ample
opportunity for the study of that branch of natural historyand
entomology would be found not less beautiful and interesting than
botany; the delightful excursions in which teachers and pupils would
join for the gathering of objects of natural history would at the same
time serve to strengthen the bond of affection which should exist
between them. The nature of his own body and the functions of his
various organs will soon interest the pupil, and along with instruction
therein he would learn the qualities of the different kinds of animal
and vegetable substances in use for food, their relative value and
importance in building up his body; he would learn to compare the food
now in use with that which was employed by our ancestors, and what has
given rise to the adoption of the new and abandonment of the old; the
methods of cookery best adapted to each kind of food, and what kinds of
food are suitable for particular ages and states of health; what
material, vegetable or animal, is most suitable for clothing,
separately or in combination. He would learn to compare our present
style of clothing with that adopted in past ages; he would learn the
history of the changes which have been adopted, and while feeling
desirous of retaining such as have been wisely adopted, might learn
from past experience to desire to return to some good habits as to
clothing which have been abandoned.
The tight-fitting garments in which we unhealthily clothe our
bodies, a fashion for which we are indebted to the use of armor in
times when the chief occupation of man was mutual slaughter, and the
great object of desire to secure protection against hostile weapons,
might some time come to be discarded for the more healthful practices
of the ancient Asiatics and Romans, if a general knowledge of the
unhealthfulness of our present practices should come to prevail.
The necessity and meaning of light and cleanliness, the indifference
of the human body to all natural changes of temperature, when
strengthened and maintained in health by wholesome food and efficient
bathing, might lead to the taking of effective measures to restore the
old Roman bath to general use.
As regards shelter, why a building on the ground is generally to be
preferred to a cave or shelter in the groundwhat materials are best
adapted for roofs, what for walls, floors, windows, why we use stone or
brick in one part of the country and wood in another; what sizes,
shapes, means of warmth and ventilation, for privacy and social
enjoyment, should be adopted, and as regards furniture and utensils,
what are most suitable for the several parts of a dwelling; what should
guide our selection of material, fabrics, shape, size and pattern; how
to establish a communication from one part of a building to another;
how water and light are to be had most readily. All these things should
form the subject of school study and inquiry.
The means of locomotion, how streets, roads and paths should be laid
out and maintained; the construction and use of carriages, cars,
wagons, tramways, railroads, ships, steamers, propelling power; where
bridges should be built, and how; viaducts and embankments to cross
valleys, cuttings and tunnels to penetrate hills and mountains; these,
too, simply at first, and afterwards in more elaborate detail, should
form subjects of school instruction, the rules determining the
selection of each and the methods of their construction not being
preached in lectures, ex Cathedra, but evolved by a patient
questioning of nature, by experiment and the Socratic method of
inquiry. Exercise of the limbs under the direction of a skilled
instructor, so that all the muscles of the body may be duly trained,
and a healthy body built up to support a healthy mind. The kinds of
recreation to be selected, whether bull-baiting, cock-fighting,
rat-catching or prize-fighting, should be preferred to games of skill
and strength, to the drama, literature, works of art, public walks,
gardens, and museums; the comparative influence of all these upon the
health, strength, courage, activity, humanity, refinement and happiness
of society; how people may be led to prefer such as tend to general
well-being to those which have a tendency to brutalize and debase. All
these also should be dwelt upon in the school.
How stores of food, of clothing, of fuel and of the materials for
building may be collected and preserved; how present labor may be made
to supply future wants, and the thought of future enjoyment be made to
sweeten the present toil. How the means of instruction and of amusement
may be secured. How all engaged in supplying one need of society
co-operate with all who are engaged in supplying its other needs. What
form of government is best, and how it may be best administered. How
upright judges may be secured, justice administered, and society
protected against internal and external foes. These and all the other
subjects enumerated would, if handled by a true teacher, be found most
attractive to children.
The names given to the subjects at which we have glanced are:
Natural History, the Mathematical and Physical Sciences in all their
branches, Vegetable and Animal Physiology, the Political and Social
Sciences; which should be presented in the order in which the attention
and desire to learn could be aroused.
It will hardly fail to strike the mind of the reader that nothing
has yet been said about giving instruction in the use of those tools
for acquiring knowledge, reading, writing, ciphering and drawing. The
true teacher will understand the omission. The commencement of the
instruction in reading, writing, ciphering, drawing, and in spelling,
would take place as part of the object lesson which should be adopted
as the first step to knowledge, and should be retained in the most
advanced classes as the most perfect method of applying the knowledge
which has been acquired. It would soon be understood by the pupils that
the power of reading, of writing, of designing and of calculating is
essential to the acquirement of knowledge, and to any thing like extent
and variety of information on subjects relating to individual and
social well-being. The desire of acquiring this knowledge would quicken
the faculties of the children, augment their industry, and lighten the
labors of the teacher to an indefinable extent. The teacher who should
fail to impart a moderate degree of skill in these arts to most, and of
excellence to many, at the same time that adequate progress was made in
the study of the sciences we have named, should be deemed unfit for his
profession, and not be allowed to relieve himself from disgrace by
magnifying the difficulties of his task or by complaints of the
idleness or want of capacity of his pupils. As children will take
interest in what they learn in proportion to their understanding of its
bearing upon their own happiness, and upon their actual life and
surroundings, the knowledge of themselves as beings acted upon by
surrounding objects and by their own kind, should be carefully imparted
to them simultaneously with the knowledge of the qualities of the
surrounding objects destined to act upon them.
Children thus worked upon by skilled and earnest instructors; led to
find out and observe the properties of that Nature of which they form a
part; their minds nourished by the enjoyment which follows the
mastering of every difficulty, and the addition of every fresh item of
knowledge to their previous store; trained also in habits of
healthfulness and of amiability; will not only cheerfully give
themselves to study, but will also seek to dignify by their conduct and
to improve by practice the knowledge they progressively acquire, soon
understanding, among other things, why they are sent to school and the
importance of that education, part of which they are to acquire at
As the object of the school-teaching should be to prepare the pupils
for actual life, they should be made familiar with the idea that all
their means of subsistence and enjoyment can only be obtained by labor;
not only should their attention be called to the fact, but they should
be made sensible how much skill, knowledge and labor and economy were
needed for the creation of existing stores, and are needed for their
maintenance in undiminished quantity; nor can this be done in any way
more fitly or completely than by performing under their eyes, and
causing them to take part in, the actual business of production. The
well-ordered school is an industrial school, in which every industrial
occupation, manufacturing or agricultural, for the carrying on of which
convenience can be made, should be successively practised by the
children, under the direction of skilled workers.
The farm, the factory, the shop, the counting-house and the kitchen,
should each have its type in the school, and present to the minds of
the children a picture of real life; while their practice would impart
a skill and adaptability to the pupils which would insure their
preparedness for all the vicissitudes of the most eventful life.
Can any reason be suggested for adopting a different system of
instruction for girls than that which shall be determined on as best
fitted for boys? We confess to our inability to perceive anyboth are
organisms of the same all-pervading natureto both the most intimate
knowledge of that which skill and perseverance secure, seems to be
desirable for their happiness, and that of all mankind. Of the two,
perhaps, the greatest knowledge is needed for the woman, FOR HERS IS
THE MORE IMPORTANT AND MORE PERFECTED ORGANISM; to her is committed the
performance of the chief functions of the highest act of organized
beings, viz., reproduction; therefore, upon her knowledge and conduct,
far more than upon that of the man, depends the future of the beings in
whom she is to live again.
Another great object with the true teacher, will be so to train the
judgment of his pupils as to avoid that forming of unconsidered opinion
which is the parent of prejudice and a chief obstacle to progress.
Trained to investigate the foundations of every fact in nature and in
science, to weigh the evidences on which they are asked to receive
assertions, whether of a physical, moral or social nature, they will
ever have a reason for the faith that is in them; and will know how to
SUSPEND JUDGMENT when the means of knowledge are insufficient.
Such pupils will not be apt to form opinions either in physical
science, politics, or industrial life, without having first thoroughly
examined the bases of the opinions they form and express, while the
prejudices imbibed from nurses or parents, will be subjected to
vigorous investigation, and either received as sound doctrine, or
discarded as ill-founded and superstitious. Of how many prejudices are
we not the victims, without being ourselves in the least conscious of
the fact! Our political opinions, our social customs, are taken up like
the fashion of a coat, without reason or reflection; and habit and
association, but too often hold us captive long after reason has
pronounced her condemnation; our minds have been warped from truth, and
we fail to perceive our own deficiency, to recognize the mental
dishonesty with which we are afflicted. All this will be averted in the
case of those who in their youth are trained to a rigorous
investigation of every fact presented to their minds, until the habit
of truth, not merely of speaking and telling the truth, but that mental
truthfulness which shrinks from accepting a falsehood for truth, and
acknowledges ignorance rather than utter what is not assuredwill
become as much a part of the pupil's nature as is his desire for food.
In short, he would be so trained as to feel as great a repugnance to
plunge his mind into moral, as his body into material filth.
Again, while ever merciful and pitying to the criminal, he would be
intolerant of falsehood wherever it might be found; and he would deem
himself derelict in his duty, as a man and as a citizen, did he leave
corruption to rot and fester in the Commonwealth, because he and others
like him would not take the trouble to raise their voices against
What a different aspect would not this great city of New York offer
to our inspection to what it now presents, had a generation been
trained in the knowledge, and practised in the observance of their
duties as citizens!
Did those merchants and traders, who, in their private dealings
would scorn a lie, but recognize the duty they owe as citizens and as
men of truth, they would, by uniting, soon sweep away the serious
discredit to our country and to Republican Institutions, the festering
corruption of this city and of the State; yet it is to their supine,
nay wicked tolerance of the evil that we owe the specimens of judicial
corruption by which we are robbed and dishonored. Can it be said that
any system of education can be sound, which shall fail to demonstrate,
at least to the older pupils, their duties as citizens, to take an
active, intelligent and upright interest in public affairs; that shall
fail to instruct them in the principles by which their judgments should
be guided, and lead them to discard every action in public affairs,
which they would not approve in private life?
We must cease to live in books, in past mystifications, in useless
theories, in foolish and unprofitable discussions, in ancient ideas and
customs, and grasp the living present with all the richness, fullness
and beauty of its life. The chemistry of nature, the work of her great
laboratory, should be the study of youth as of age, instead of dead
languages and the vain and foolish mythology of Greeks and Romans
wherewith at present we poison the minds of the young.
Can we take burning coals into our bosom and not be burned? Can we
suffer the impressionable minds of youth to be impregnated with the
filth of the heathen poets in their imaginings of gods as disgusting as
themselves, without staining the pure tablet of the mind with spots and
grossness, while the children acquire a distaste for that glorious
nature whose volume should be their constant study?
We have to deal with the great present, with life, not with
deathto promote health, physical and moral, not to propagate
infectious sickness. The present, wisely improved, leads to a happy
future, and is the only road to that goal. We can not jump the present
and its duties and reach the future so as to enjoy it, neither can the
dead past lighten the labors of the living present. There is a past
which still lives and vivifies the present, but the quaint and filthy
imagery in which the ancient priests disguised from the profanefrom
all but the initiatedthe mysteries of their lore, can be of small
account to a people whose great duty is the dissemination of light and
Every thing that has any relation to man's comfort and well-being,
or to his happiness as a social being, that it is, and not the dead
past that we should learn, and of the things that affect us most nearly
we should learn first. What did the ancients know of steam, of
electricity, of the material elements of nature, of her forces? And
little as we know, how much of that little could be learned from a
lifelong study of ancient lore? If there be aught of value in the laws
of ancient Rome which has not been translated into our native tongue,
let it be translated; but let not our youth waste precious years in
learning to play upon an instrument (Greek or Latin) which when learned
can give forth no sound. But if we turn to Nature and to her grand
volume, we there find all the knowledge man can acquire. From her
study, too, we can learn a lesson, not perhaps among the least
important, as to the limits fixed by nature to human knowledge. To know
of a surety what those things are which never can be known to mortal
man, is a knowledge, the want of which has driven many to puerile and
superstitious practices, and many more to madness and despair.
From the great book of Nature, God's book, is to be learned the
principle of justice, of love, of wisdom, of truth; and as the germ of
justice is developed in the mind, the mind is brought in contact with
the Great Fountain, absorbs a portion of its light, enlarges, develops,
becomes stronger, assimilates to itself the essence of the great
Godhead, and renders man godlike.
So with each of the other faculties of man; each draws its
nourishment from its special FOUNTAIN. Wisdom, love, justice, and truth
should preside; and if judgment, sympathy and conscientiousness be
judiciously trained and developed, they will help to develop
harmoniously all the other faculties. But to this end they, and each
and all of man's faculties, must be brought into a wholesome, natural
contact, each with its proper food; and by natural we mean not that
contact which might peradventure happen if left uncared for, but such
as the nature of the faculty demands for its development in due
harmony, to produce the greatest amount of happiness to its possessor.
To supply this food, to bring to each faculty its proper aliment, is
the business of the true teacher. If we desire a child to be truthful,
we must bring it in contact with truth, and bring it to love truth by
causing its practice to inure to the child's enjoyment. If we wish it
to be wise, we must bring its mind in contact with wisdom, exercise its
analytical powers, and train its judgment; let it see sound judgment
producing happiness; let it see how beautiful and desirable is the
possession of wisdom, and the child will soon learn to seek it for its
To chastise a child for speaking that which is untrue may fill it
with fear, but does not make it love truth. The love of truth and of
wisdom must be cultivated as we cultivate the love of music. Seek me
early, and ye shall find me. Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
That which the mind seeks it will find. The natural relationships are
established, and it is only for us to work in harmony with, and not
obstruct or interfere with them. It is the true relationship of
things we need to learn. There is nothing in us that is not in nature.
All the forces developed in man are but developments of nature; and all
the forces required for his nourishment and strength exist in the bosom
of Nature. Matter, light, heat, electricity are not produced by him. In
nature they exist; remove any one of them and he perishes. To Nature
then must we ever turn as the reservoir of nourishment and as the
teacher, by the study of whose volume we learn all of wisdom that can
be known of mortal man, or that can tend to his well-being; and her
true relationships must be the constant object of our search. Before
the knowledge of her true relationships disappear superstition and fear
and mystery. The lightning's flash, the thunder's roar, the falling
meteor and the sun's eclipse cease to terrify and alarm. Witches,
hobgoblins and demons come no longer to trouble us; the most unusual
phenomena awaken only philosophical research and curiosity. And what is
true of the full-grown man is not less true of the child.
That school wherein children above the age of infancy fail to assist
the teacher in his instruction, is an ill-ordered school. It is not the
subject, but the teacher who is uninteresting; he scolds, worries and
punishes his pupils, when he himself is the fitter subject for the
lash. He awakens the sense of fear which should lie dormant, while the
other faculties of his pupils slumber in spiritless inactivity.
As the object of education is to prepare children to enter
successfully and happily into life, and wisely to discharge all the
duties devolving upon them as they unfold into men and women, and
occupy the sphere assigned to them, the simple rule for the course of
instruction seems to be, that they should learn those things in the
order in which they can be received by the child's mind, which most
vitally affect their well-being and happiness.
As only a healthy, well-developed body can afford a home to a
healthy, well-developed mind, physical culture claims early and
constant attention, and should receive that careful regard to which the
truth contained in the well-known aphorism: We are fearfully and
wonderfully made, entitles it. The teachings of the sciences of
Pathology and of sanitary science should be judiciously and carefully
elucidated, practically and theoretically; presented step by step to
the mind of the child; and the child's body and mind should be
carefully trained, so as to develop all its physical and mental powers
in harmony. Gymnasiums for the body, conducted by men who have made
themselves masters of anatomy and physiology, should be an essential
feature in every school, so that ignorance and the desire to excel may
not lead to putting a strain upon the system calculated materially to
injure organs which need careful and judicious development. Plays,
games, dancing, marching and the gymnasium all require the careful
supervision of a teacher well versed in a practical knowledge of the
human system, and thoroughly appreciative of the great truth, We are
fearfully and wonderfully made. But the foundation for the school as
for the life career must be laid at home, and much as the teacher can
do, he can never supply deficiencies resulting from the want of a
well-ordered home or of a healthy home training. Never, save under
necessity, should the parent yield up his sacred duty to another, at
least during the tender years of childhood.
The education of the heart and of the affections, is as essential as
the school education, and these can never be so well cultivated as
under the influence of home. All must be developed in order to maintain
the true equilibrium. The boarding-school is not the place for children
to attain a sound moral development, and the sooner parents generally
understand this truth, the better for their children, for themselves
and for society. As well uproot the flower, or shrub or tree, and
expect it to flourish, as to cut the child off from the influence of
home, and the care of a loving mother, father, brother and sister, and
hope that the sympathetic faculties of its mind can attain their just
Physical culture, heretofore neglected among usthe body being left
to grow up as it may happen or chancewill form a prominent feature of
training in every well-ordered school. All the muscles of the body will
be in turn exercised, developed. The ancient Greeks afforded us here
also a wise example, which we have signally failed to imitate.
Let us secure for our children all the advantages we can from an
enlightened and natural system of education, and do all we can to
perfect both mind and body. How often is the cry repeated, Mamma, tell
me a story, and mamma, tired and weary, says she is too busy, or, for
the want of a better, tells over again for the hundredth time, Little
Red Riding Hood, or some other equally foolish or more injurious tale,
such as Bluebeard or Cinderella. Anecdotes of great men, suitably
arranged, events in history and biography, carrying with them valuable
and important morals, will afford all the amusement the child desires,
without developing a love for the marvellous and false, which leads it
away in infancy from the simple, truthful, and natural. If children are
to be taught to think naturally and truthfully, we can not begin too
young, and it is the duty of parents to remember that Valentine and
Orson, Cinderella, Bluebeard, and such stories, are a web of false and
exaggerated statements that will, and do produce injurious effects upon
the child's mind. The story of Aladdin's Lamp has made many a child
desire to enjoy wealth without labor, and has exerted a most
pernicious, though unsuspected, influence upon his future. Children,
not less than men, seek an easy road to the objects of their desires;
and while works of imagination are to be by no means discarded in
mental training, such should not be selected as give false notions of
the busy and industrial life into which the child is to be introduced.
Even in the choice and use of the finest works of fiction, the greatest
caution is necessary. The little one can hardly distinguish between a
fable that amuses it, and a lie told to shield it from punishment. If
it hear nothing but truth, it will know nothing but truth; and a
truthful mind is a glorious thing to behold in children as in men. An
idle brain is the devil's workshop; therefore let there be no idle
brains, but let all work usefully and pleasantly. Usefully we say, for
even amusement is useful. We live in a world of use, in a world of
beauty, a world that can be greatly improved, and human happiness
largely increased, according as we avail ourselves of the knowledge
already acquired for the right teaching and training of the young, so
that they may grow up and develop into happy, self-supporting men and
women, diffusing happiness to all around, themselves happy in
proportion to the happiness they cause.
Upon the organization and arrangement of the school largely depends
the success of the educator. Two things must be borne constantly in
mind. First, to create truthful and intellectual atmosphere, where
wisdom, honor, and knowledge can be inhaled as with the breath, and
second, to make the school cheerful and attractive in every way
possible. We must get rid of the idea now generally prevailing among
children, that the school is to be resorted to with regret and escaped
from with pleasure.
So soon as the child will look at and become interested in pictures
and toys, and will listen to tales and little stories, it can
profitably be introduced in the school, the first department of which
should be the Infant-school, or, as the Germans so aptly term it, the
children's garden, or Kinder Garten.
Here plaiting, modelling, and building, with simple object lessons
for the older infants, develop their powers of observation, and give
employment and impart skill to little fingers which might else be
engaged in destroying furniture or clothes, or in pilfering from the
sugar-bowl. Practical familiarity with the properties of lines, angles,
circles, spheres, cylinders, cubes, cones, and the conic sections will
be acquired, which will give a life and reality to the geometrical
studies which will occupy them in their school career. Dancing and
singing will relieve the tedium of sitting, shake off the surplus
energy, give rest to the body, and power, time, and tune to the voice.
Models of houses, stores, workshops, kitchens, farms, and factories,
which later on they will assist in making, will be a source alike of
amusement and instruction.
In the children's garden no teacher should have charge of more than
about twelve children, who should regard her as their mother-teacher,
while she should seek to win the love and confidence of the little ones
as the beginning of her work.
Each class of twelve should have their own special room, while for
general purposes, such as music, drilling, gymnastic exercises, games,
tableaux, and exhibitions of the magic lantern, the oxyhydrogen
microscope, the stereopticon, and the like, they should assemble in a
large hall. The details of arrangements will readily suggest
themselves. The main feature is to have all things natural, free,
pleasant, cheerful, bright, refined, and unrestrained by external forms
or rigid rules, at the same time that order is secured by an easy
So deeply are we impressed with the importance and utility of the
kinder garten, and with the high qualities required by the teacher of
the very young, that we are more and more disposed to believe that the
true order in rank and promotion among teachers should be, to speak in
paradox, downwards; that is to say, the younger the children to be
taught, the higher the rank and remuneration of the teacher; for not
only is an extensive range of knowledge necessary to enable the teacher
truthfully to answer the innumerable questions of inquisitive infancy,
and to avoid giving false notions, to be afterwards with greater or
less difficulty removedalways with a shock to the moral sentiment
when the child discovers it has been deceivedbut also a knowledge of
the infant mind, a perception of the thoughts and fancies which chase
one another through the infant brain, a knowledge and perceptive power
which only a watchful and loving experience can acquire. An industry
and a patience far beyond any needed by the teacher of more advanced
pupils are also required by the highly-cultivated men and women, to
whom alone the training of infant minds should be intrusted. Advanced
pupils go more than half-way to meet their teacherthe infant can
render no assistance to his, all has to be borne, suffered and done for
himhis future habits depend mainly on those given to him in his
earliest years. Yet the care of him in these important days is
generally confided to ignorant nurses and to the less-skilled class of
In building the school, a pleasing style of architecture should be
adopted, and the walls of the main hall should be hung with diagrams of
all kinds, illustrative of natural history in its largest sense, of the
sciences and of the mechanical arts, and with portraits or busts of
distinguished men. The walls of the class-rooms should be decorated
with diagrams and maps and figures referring to the special branches
A large and commodious laboratory should be fitted up in the
building, to enable every pupil to acquire experimentally that
knowledge of chemical forces and action which books alone can never
impart. A convenient observatory should afford facility for
astronomical study and observation.
On the top floors or around the building should be arranged
workshops, where the use of tools and machinery could be taught. The
classes should assemble in the large hall, in the morning, where they
might join in singing or light gymnastic exercises, or listen to some
short appropriate address before betaking themselves to their
The teaching in these latter should be conducted, wherever
practicable, upon the Socratic method, and every branch of science and
of art could be thus explained. The mother unconsciously uses this
method in educating or drawing out the first perceptions of infancy and
early youth; and the impressions derived from this method of acquiring
knowledge are the most lasting, being such as become most absolutely
assimilated with the pupil's mind. The teacher would also, at frequent
intervals, conduct his class into the fields and woods for the study of
botany, entomology, and geology, where Nature would supply in abundance
the materials, and the teacher would be the only book. Instruction in
the various trades which could be conveniently practised should receive
attention, the taste of the pupils being made a guide to selection.
Some portion of the teaching which goes on in school should be
performed by the pupils, under the supervision of the teacher. No adult
can so thoroughly enter into a child's mind as can another child; nor
is this the only reason.
That is not fully known which can not be thoroughly used and
applied, and knowledge can not be applied which its possessor can not
himself impart. A perfect illustration of this truth is furnished us in
the training of the soldier.
Upon nothing, perhaps, have the knowledge and skill of the most
powerful intellects been more concentrated than upon the science and
art of mutual slaughter; and in establishing the soldiers' drill, an
exhaustive analysis of the means by which the desired object was to be
attained has been pursued. The men whose intellects have developed that
drill, have not been content to treat the soldier as a pupil only. Each
recruit has in turn to teach, as well as to learn to practise what he
has learned, by drilling others whom he is made temporarily to command,
as well as to practise his drill under the command of his officer; for
only by such means could the highest degree of efficiency be secured.
The reasons which led to the adoption of this principle in the barrack
apply equally to the school.
This principle of giving and receiving we also see exemplified in
Nature. Animals inhale oxygen from the air and return carbonic acid,
which serves to build up the structure of the plant, and the latter in
its turn gives out oxygen to supply the consumption of animals.
Every dayin the middle of the day, in winter, in the summer, early
in the morning, or in the eveninggymnastic training on the system of
the Swedish anatomist Ling or of the German Turners would form a
portion of the curriculum, for which convenient apparatus would be
Biography should form an important feature in the course of reading,
its subjects being arranged in groups; and the true glory of a
Washington, a Bentham, a Stevenson, a Morse, and a Cobden distinguished
from the false glare and tinsel of a Louis XIV. and a Marlborough.
Music, both vocal and instrumental, would be taught to all, but only
those more gifted by nature would be educated to perform solo. Nearly
all persons can be trained to sing part-music pleasantly and
intelligently, and to perform moderately on some instrument. The
cultivation of the musical faculties harmonizes the mind, and affords a
never-failing source of solace and recreation. The attempt to convert
all persons into solo performers, and the hypocritical applause with
which their discordant notes are indiscriminately greeted, deprives
society of the pleasures which part-music well performed would afford,
by encouraging all to attempt what they are pretty sure to do badly, to
the exclusion of what they would be equally likely to do well.
We have reserved for the last, to enumerate what is, perhaps, the
most important of all the subjects of instruction.
TO ALL children, so soon as they can be promoted from the kinder
gartenperhaps even to the higher grades thereininstruction in
the conditions of human well-being, and in the phenomena and
arrangements of social life should be given, and should be continued
throughout their school career.
What! teach political economy to children? Even so. It will be
conceded, that to teach the future laborers the laws by which the wages
of their labor will be regulated, how high wages may be secured and low
wages preventedto teach the future capitalists the laws by which
their profits will be determined, how large profits may be secured, and
loss, failure, crises, and panics avoidedmust be a desirable, if it
be a practicable thing. Is it practicable? The experience of twenty
years has proved that it is. The experiment has been tried by Mr. Wm.
Ellis, the wise and noble founder of the Birkbeck schools of London,
England, who not only devoted his surplus means to the endowment of
true schools, but gave also his time to instruct in the principles of
the science of human well-beingalike the poor children by whom his
schools were attended and the children of the Queen of England. He also
instructed and trained a corps of teachers, professional and volunteer,
and by one of the latter a class was conducted in the winter of 1867,
'68 at the Normal School of this city of some 35 to 40 teachers engaged
in the practical work of teaching in our common schools, who, under his
guidance, became, after a short course of some twenty or more lessons,
enthusiastic advocates for the introduction of this study into the
schools; for not only does it teach the conditions of industrial
success, but it is also a science of morals and of ethics far more
worthy of the attention it has never yet received in this or, indeed,
in any country, than that which is given to what goes under the name of
moral teaching and training. It is by gradual stepsby the employment
of the Socratic method of instructionwith a rare use of text-books,
that the most intricate problems of this science can be unfolded to
pupils with such effect that a child of fourteen or fifteen years of
age, who shall have passed through a course of four or five years'
instruction, would put to the blush, with few exceptions, alike the
members of both houses of the United States Congress and of the British
A museum and a library would be necessary adjuncts to such a school
as we have described. It would need but a few seasons to get together
in the various excursions taken by pupils and teachers, quite a
collection of botanical, entomological, and geological specimens. These
would serve as objects for illustrating the teacher's lessons, and for
examination by the pupils. The drying, preservation, and arrangement of
plants, animals, and minerals, in which the pupils would assist, would
serve to impart to them a skill and dexterity, which they would know
how to value, and would be eager to acquire, and, together with their
frequent visits to the museum, would serve to cultivate a love of
nature and devotion to the study of her works.
The library, besides containing treatises on science and for
reference, would be filled with books of travels, and the nobler
English and foreign classics; the books would be loaned to the pupils
as in ordinary circulating libraries, and a pleasant reading-room would
be furnished with the better class of periodicals and newspapers.
To be deprived for a time of the right to visit the museum or
reading-room, or to borrow books from the library, would be one of the
severest punishments known in the school.
It is hardly necessary to say that the selection of the principal of
such a school as we have indicated is among the most difficult problems
of its establishment. His qualifications should be as near the
perfection of manhood as can possibly be found. Invited by a large and
generous salary (to be dependent, beyond a stated sum, on the number of
the pupils), it is to be hoped such a teacher could be found.
Such a principal, after a fixed period of probation, should not be
removable except on a very large vote of the proprietors of the school
to that effect, but his office should be vacated on his attaining the
age of 60 or 65 years. The selection of teachers to assist him in his
duties should be left to himself. The remuneration of the assistant
teachers should also be large, and should be such as not only to enable
them to live in comfort, but to make ample provision for their future
when the age of labor shall have passed.
The chief position in society should be assured to the principal and
his assistants by the proprietors of the school.
The visits of the former to the houses of the latter should be
regarded as an honor, the greatest respect and deference should be paid
to them, and the pupils should be taught to look upon them with love
and respect next only to that they pay their parents.
The best investment a parent can make of his wealth is in the proper
education of his children. Life is not merely to be born, to grow, to
eat, to drink, and breathe. Noise is not music. Life is such as we take
it and make it, or rather as it is taken hold of and made for us by
those to whom the care of our youthful days is intrusted.
Let us endeavor to picture to ourselves the being likely to be
produced by a system of teaching and training, continued for successive
generations, such as we have indicated above. Let us imagine the full
development of the most complex of nature's organismsa part of the
one living organism of the Universe, the latest product of her
laboratory; considered, as a part of the great Cosmos, the most
perfect, yet but an integer in the whole; the ultimate development of
nature's chemistry, yet forming an atom of her living unity; combining
and possessing the widest relationships, even embracing therein the
entire volume of that nature whose true relationships comprise all
knowledge, truly the noblest study of mankind. Let us try and draw
the picture of the developed man!
Robust and supple of limb, symmetrical of shape, his muscles
swelling beneath their healthy development; with head erect, conscious
of his strength and skill, which he puts forth for the protection of
the weak, and for the purpose of drawing from nature her bounteous
stores; free from sickness or disease, in harmony with nature, at peace
with his fellow-men, possessing a competent knowledge of nature's laws,
and guiding his conduct to be in accord therewith, sitting beneath his
own vine and fig-tree, blessed in all the works of his hands, and
diffusing blessings and happiness around. Such is the picture of THE
HEALTHY MIND IN A HEALTHY FRAME, which it is in man's power to
procreate and rear!
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION,}
CORNER OF GRAND AND ELM STREETS, }
NEW YORK, June 5th, 1869. }
TO MAGNUS GROSS, Esq.,
Chairman of the Executive Committee for the Care, Government and
Management of the College of the City of New York:
DEAR SIR,I have observed with surprise, and with a sense of deep
regret, that the proposition is entertained by a large number of the
Trustees of filling the chair of Latin and Greek, now vacant, and even
of establishing separate chairs for each, at the College of the City of
New York; involving, with the necessary tutors, an outlay of not less
than $20,000 per annum. The subject in all its bearings is one of too
vast importance to be treated in the ordinary method of discussion by
the Committee, and I therefore beg leave to place my views in writing,
to insure their receiving more matured consideration than oral
observations could secure.
I pass over the question (on which considerable difference of
opinion exists) as to the propriety of sustaining at all, at the
enforced expense of the public, an educational institution to supply
the needs which the College of the City of New York is intended to
meet. The College exists by law; we are its guardians, and the only
question we have to consider is, how most efficiently and most
economically to secure the attainment of the ends desired by the
These ends we shall no doubt all agree to befirst: that any of the
youth of this city possessed of special talents, but lacking means for
their cultivation, may have placed within their reach an education the
best possible for the development of their powers for the benefit of
themselves and of the community; and, second, to provide for the
comparatively well-to-do the means of pursuing useful studies in
compensation for compelling them to provide for the instruction of
their less fortunate citizens.
As it is self-evident that whatever course of studies will tend to
secure the first of these ends will tend also to secure the second and
less important, we are spared the necessity of a two-fold
A very few statistics suffice to show that neither of these ends has
been hitherto attained by the College of the City of New York.
It is immaterial what year we select for examination, the numbers
which follow will be found to bear about the same relative proportions
in every year. I quote from the Trustees' Report for 1866 merely
because it is the latest document at hand which furnishes the numbers
in the different classes and of the graduates; from this report I find,
that while there were three hundred and eighty-one students in the
introductory class, only twenty-five graduated in that year. The number
of graduates in 1867 was thirty, and twenty-nine in July, 1868. Of the
three hundred and eighty-one who composed the introductory class in
1866, one hundred and fifty-one left the College during the year, and
doubtless the two hundred and thirty who remained will have dwindled to
about twenty-five or thirty by the year 1871.
Without doubt some proportion of the three hundred and eighty-one
leave the College because of the necessity they are under of obtaining,
by their labor, the means of subsistence; but when it is remembered
that these three hundred and eighty-one are the picked youth from
the many thousands attending the public schools, and when the
sacrifices and privations which men and youth imbued with a love of
learning will make and undergo for the acquirement of knowledge are
borne in mind, we must look to something in the constitution of the
College itself to account for this result. In short, we can but come to
the conclusion that the main cause of this falling off is to be found
in the feeling which grows upon the pupils and their guardians, of the
comparative uselessness of the studies to which they are consigned.
Let us examine the course of studies, as given from pages 8 to 14 of
the Report of the Board of Trustees for the year 1866, or from pages 24
to 28 of the Manual of the College.
The first observation which must strike the mind of every thinker is
the fact that the primary analysisthe main classification which has
been adopted of studies which ought to be framed to fit the students
for complete livingis one of words, i. e., the tools of
knowledge, instead of knowledge itself. Or in the words of the Report:
There are two courses of studiesancient and moderndiffering only
in the languages studied.
On examining the course for the introductory and freshman classes, a
feeling of astonishment must fill the mind at the marked want of wisdom
by which it was dictated, but which at the same time affords a
sufficient explanation for the abandonment of the College by its
Even if words ought to be the real object of education, it
would be supposed that English words would be more useful to a people
whose mother-tongue is English, than the words of any other language;
yet the students of the introductory and freshman classes of the
ancient course receive instruction five hours a week through both
terms in Latin and Greek, and one lesson per week during one
term in the English language. The students of the modern course
substitute for Latin and Greek the French and Spanish languages.
I purposely abstain from saying any thing as to the method of
instruction, which is the converse of that adopted by nature, and as a
consequence signally fails. This has been so forcibly put by President
Barnard, of Columbia College, that I need only refer the members of our
Committee to his essay on Early Mental Training, and the Studies best
fitted for it.
What steps are taken to familiarize the students of, say the
freshman class, with that great nature of which they form a part? What,
for instance, do they learn of the structure of their own bodies, and
of the means of preserving health? One lesson a week is given on
Physiology and Hygiene, and that is all! The fear of making this letter
too long compels me merely to refer the Committee to pages 40 to 42 of
Mr. Herbert Spencer's chapter on What Knowledge is of Most Worth, in
his work on Education, in farther illustration of this subject, instead
of making extracts from it as I would otherwise like to do.
Attention, it is true, is paid throughout the college course to
mathematical studies, yet very little to their practical application;
while to Chemistry, the parent of modern physics, the manual (which is
our guide) prescribes two lessons per week to the introductory class,
and to the freshman, sophomore, and junior classes absolutely none
at all! Mining, Mechanical Engineering, Architecture, Theoretical
Agriculture, Biology, and Botany are utterly ignored; and no branch of
Zoology is even mentioned in the curriculum. We next come to a science
more important, because universal in its application and in its need
than any other, viz.: The Science of Human Well-being, commonly called
Political or Social Economy. Here, too, like exclusion! except that in
the sophomore class, for one term, one hour per week is given to it.
That is to say, a people who are to live by labor are left by the
guardians of their education in ignorance of the laws by which the
reward for that labor must be regulated; they who are to administer
capital are to be left to blind chance whether to act in accordance
with those laws of nature which determine its increase, or ignorantly
to violate them!
Restrained again from quotation by the fear of wearying the
Committee, permit me to refer them to the lecture of Dr. Hodgson,
delivered at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, on The Importance
of the Study of Economic Science, which will be found in the work of
Professor Youmans, on The Culture demanded by Modern Life.
I confess to a feeling of deep discouragement at the perusal of such
a record as that presented by the course of studies at the College of
the City of New York, especially when I find that this is the state of
things a large number of the Trustees seem desirous of perpetuating. My
views on this subject are confirmed by the following remarks found in
President Barnard's Essay on Early Mental Training, and the Studies
best fitted for it.
Whatever may be the value of the study of the classics in a
subjective point of view, nothing could possibly more
unfit a man for any immediate usefulness in this
world, or make him more completely a stranger in his own
the purely classical education which used recently to be
which, with some slight improvement, is believed to be still
the universities of England. This proposition is very happily
enforced by a British writer, whose strictures on the system
in the London Times some twelve or thirteen years ago.
Common things are quite as much neglected and despised in the
education of the rich as in that of the poor. It is wonderful
little a young gentleman may know when he has taken his
degrees, especially if he has been industrious, and has
stuck to his
studies. He may really spend a long time in looking for
more ignorant than himself. If he talks with the driver of
stage-coach that lands him at his father's door, he finds he
nothing of horses. If he falls into conversation with a
knows nothing of plants or flowers. If he walks into the
does not know the difference between barley, rye, and wheat;
rape and turnips; between natural and artificial grass. If he
into a carpenter's yard, he does not know one wood from
he comes across an attorney, he has no idea of the difference
common and statute law, and is wholly in the dark as to those
securities of personal and political liberty on which we pride
ourselves. If he talks with a country magistrate, he finds his
idea of the office is that the gentleman is a sort of English
as the Mayor of the neighboring borough is a sort of Cadi. If
strolls into any workshop or place of manufacture, it is
find his level, and that a level far below the present
company. If he
dines out, and as a youth of proved talents and perhaps
honors is expected to be literary, his literature is confined
few popular novelsthe novels of the last century, or even of
last generationhistory and poetry having been almost
omitted in his education. The girl who has never stirred
and whose education has been economized, not to say neglected,
order to send her own brother to college, knows vastly
more of those
things than he does. The same exposure awaits him wherever he
and whenever he has the audacity to open his mouth. At sea
he is a
landlubber; in the country a cockney; in town a greenhorn; in
an ignoramus; in business a simpleton; in pleasure a
milksopeverywhere out of his element, everywhere at sea,
clouds, adrift, or by whatever word utter ignorance and
incapacity are to be described. In society and in the
work of life,
he finds himself beaten by the youth whom at college he
frivolous or abhorred as profligate.
Take the preparation of our youth for their duties as citizens.
Here, again, a knowledge of political and social economy is
indispensable. We have seen the attention it receives; and while two
lessons a week for one hour, and that only to the senior class in its
last term, are given to American citizens on the Constitution of the
United States and on International Law, none whatever is given on
the science of Government throughout the entire course of five years!
I might go through the whole course of studies with similar results.
Here and there, in this or that class, a small amount of attention is
given to some of the sciences omitted in the other classes; but the
entire record is one of the most disheartening character.
Words! words! engross almost exclusively the attention of the
students from the hour they enter the College until they leave it; and
it is not to the five-and-twenty graduates the palm of useful industry
should be awarded, but to the many who, in discouragement, abandon a
course which tends to unfit them for the great battle of life!
What, then, are the reasons generally assigned for this perverse
conventionalism of devoting the time of youth to the acquirement of
dead words, to the unavoidable exclusion of nearly every thing that is
of value? First, we are told that we can not understand the English
language without a knowledge of Latin, from which it is derived. The
inaccuracy of this pretension is at once made manifest by reference to
Webster, where he states:
That English is composed of
First. Saxon and Danish words of Teutonic and Gothic
Second. British or Welsh, Cornish and Amoric, which may
considered as of Celtic origin.
Third. Norman, a mixture of French and Gothic.
Fourth. Latin, a language formed on the Celtic and
Fifth. French, chiefly Latin corrupted, but with a
Sixth. Greek formed on the Celtic and Teutonic, with
Seventh. A few words directly from the Italian,
and other languages of the Continent.
Eighth. A few foreign words, introduced by commerce, or
political and literary intercourse.
Of these, the Saxon words constitute our mother-tongue,
words which our ancestors brought with them from Asia.
The Danish and Welsh also are primitive words, and may be
as a part of our vernacular language. They are of equal
with the Chaldee and Syriac.
But even were it true that our language was derived from the Latin,
wherein lies the difficulty in the way of the teacher explaining to his
pupils the meanings of the parts of English words which are of Latin
origin, without the necessity of the pupil's acquiring the same
knowledge by the roundabout process of learning one thousand words he
will never need, for one that may at some time be to him of some
service as a mnemonic?
Driven from this position, the advocates of classical
studies tell us that the study of Latin and Greek serves as a training
for the intellect. Unquestionably the exercise of the faculties of the
mind serves to develop the faculties so exercised; yet if this were the
object to be attained, Hebrew, nay, Chinese, would be preferable to
Latin; but SCIENCE develops the same faculties, and far more
efficiently. The facts of science to be stored up in the mind are so
infinite in number and magnitude that no man, however gifted, could
ever hope to master them all, though he were to live a thousand years.
But their arrangement in scientific order not only develops the
analytical powers of the mind, but exercises the memory in a method
infinitely more useful and powerful than the study of any language.
Finally we are told classical studies develop the taste. If then to
this the advocates of such studies are driven, its mere announcement
must suffice to banish Latin and Greek from all schools supported by
taxation; for however essential it may be to provide the means of the
best possible instruction, it is as absolutely out of the sphere of the
Trustees of Public Moneys to provide, at the public expense, so mere
a luxury as on this hypothesis Latin and Greek must be, as it would
be to provide the public with costly jewels! But even for the
cultivation and development of art and taste, SCIENCE is the true
He who is ignorant of anatomy can not appreciate either sculpture or
painting! A knowledge of optics, of botany and of natural history, are
necessary, equally to the artist or to the connoisseur; a knowledge of
acoustics to the musician and musical critic. No artist, says Mr.
Spencer, can produce a healthful work of whatever kind without he
understands the laws of the phenomena he represents; he must also
understand how the minds of the spectator or listener will be affected
by his worka question of psychology. The spectator or listener must
equally be acquainted with the laws of such phenomena, or he fails to
attain to the highest appreciation.
I now come to the last and most serious aspect of this question, and
I fearlessly assert that classical studies have a most pernicious
influence upon the morals and character of their votaries.
It should not be forgotten that Greeks and Romans alike lived by
slavery (which is robbery), by rapine, and by plunder; yet we, born
into a Christian community which lives by honest labor, propose to
impregnate the impressionable minds of youth with the morals and
literature of nations of robbers!
This letter has already extended to so great a length that I am
compelled to abstain from making extracts from the works of the
greatest thinkers, which I had desired: and I can now but cite them in
support, more or less pronounced, of the views above put forward, viz.:
President Barnard, of Columbia College, who with rare honesty and
boldness has spoken loudly against the conventional folly of classical
studies; Professor Newman, himself Professor of Latin at the University
of London, England; Professors Tindall, Henfry, Huxley, Forbes, Pajet,
Whewell, Faraday, Liebig, Draper, De Morgan, Lindley, Youmans, Drs.
Hodgson, Carpenter, Hooker, Acland, Sir John Herschell, Sir Charles
Lyell, Dr. Seguin, and, rising above them all in educational science, Bastiat and Herbert Spencer. To a modified extent, the
name of Mr. John Stuart Mill may be quotedfor he loudly advocates
science for allscience, which is unavoidably excluded by the
introduction of, or at least the prominence given to, Latin and Greek
in our College. Mr. Mill, it is true also, advocates classical studies,
but for certain special classes which exist in England who have no
regular occupations in life.
Neither is it without importance as a guide to ourselves to observe
that in the very best school in this countrya school perhaps not
surpassed by any in the world, viz., the Military Academy at West
Pointneither Latin nor Greek studies are permitted.
If now, in any career whatever, any use could be found for Latin, it
must be in that of the professional soldier, to whom, if to any one,
the language and literature of the most military people the world has
ever seen, should be of some service. But no! the wise men who framed
the curriculum of West Point, though they knew that the study of the
campaigns of the Romans would be serviceable to their students,
provided for their study, not by the roundabout method of first
learning a language which could never be of any other use, but by the
direct method of the study of those campaigns! Are the pupils of West
Point generally found deficient in intellect? Is not, on the contrary,
the fact of having graduated at that school a passport to the
highest scientific and practical employment?
Our duty to the people is clear; let us neither waste the precious
time of our youth on worse than useless studies, nor the money of the
citizens on worse than useless expenditure.
I do earnestly hope that our Committee will give to my observations
their most serious deliberation. Let us come to no hasty conclusion on
this subject: accustomed as we have been to hear constantly repeated
such conventional phrases as that Latin and Greek are essential to the
education of a gentleman; that classical studies are indispensable to
a liberal education; to hear applauded to the echo orators who have
introduced into their speeches quotations of bad Latin or worse Greek
by audiences of whom not one in one thousand understand what was said.
We have been apt to receive such phrases as embodying truths, without
ever examining their foundations. I respectfully urge the Committee to
consider well before they act, to study the reasons assigned by the
great thinkers I have named for condemning, as, humbly following in
their wake, I venture to condemn, as worse than mere waste of time, the
years devoted to Latin and Greek studies.
Let us endeavor to make the College of this city worthy of the city
and of the state; let us cast aside the trammels of mediæval ignorance,
and supply to the pupils of the College the culture demanded by modern
life. Let us in this, the first important matter which has come before
our Committee, act in harmony and without prejudice, for the welfare of
the College and for the advancement of learning, and so prove
ourselves worthy of the sacred trust we have assumed.
I am, dear sir, very truly yours,
Member of The Executive Committee for the Care,
Government, and Management of the College of the
City of New York.
The Philosophy of Teaching.
THE TEACHER, THE PUPIL, THE SCHOOL.
BY NATHANIEL SANDS.
8vo, Cloth, $1 00.
An interesting and valuable work, in which the science of teaching
is treated in a philosophical and practical manner, and a sketch is
given of a school to be established on the principles developed in his
pages. Mr. Sands takes the view that education, mental and physical, is
but the absorption of surrounding elements into the mind and bodyan
arrangement and assimilation of materials so as to incorporate them
into the being to whose nourishment they are applied, just as the tree
or plant assimilates to its growth and subsistence the materials which
it draws from the air and the soil; and his theory of teaching is based
on these truths.N. Y. Times.
He advocates a radical change in the system of teaching youth. He
proposes a school where pupils shall be taught by illustrations from
nature as well as from books; where the museum, chemical laboratory,
and workshop shall find a place; where, in short, the mind of the
learner shall not be forced, but shall have just the kind of food
suitable for its age and development.N. Y. World.
Much has been written upon educationmuch that is both wise and
thoughtful, and much that has been but sound. Among the most thoughtful
and suggestive recent writings is an unpretentious work bearing the
title of The Teacher, the Pupil, the School, by Mr. Nathaniel Sands.
Small as it is, it contains more ideas than many bulky volumes.N.
The question with which he mainly concerns himself is whether Latin
and Greek, and certain other branches, shall be taught to the exclusion
of more practical studies. He thinks that what is commonly known as the
culture demanded by modern lifechemistry, mining, anatomy, natural
history, political and social economy, the science of government,
etc.should take the place now usurped by classical studies. Mr. Sands
believes in making no compromise between the useful sciences and the
classics. He condemns as worse than mere waste of time the years
devoted to Greek and Latin, and would bar them out altogether.
Journal of Commerce.
Mr. Sands, who has just been appointed one of the new Board of
Education, has long been known as an advanced thinker on the subject he
is now called upon to deal with. He has published a pamphlet on the
Philosophy of Education.N. Y. Sun.
We have in this compact and unpretentious treatise a great deal of
pith and acumen, brought to bear upon a most important subjectthat of
educational first principles. Mr. Sands has gone to the base of human
teaching, discarding pretentious themes, in order to illustrate the
simpler beauty of that eductive and inductive co-relationship which,
beginning at the mother's breast, proceeds through all the quiet
processes of mental development in infancy, childhood, and maturity.
N. Y. Dispatch.
His hints may well arrest the attention of thoughtful men.N. Y.
We commend it to the thoughtful consideration of all, but especially
of our public men. * * * Commissioners of Schools and others charged
with youthful training may advantageously consider the reflections.
N. Y. Evening Post.
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FRANKLIN SQUARE, NEW YORK.
HARPER &BROTHERS will send the above work by mail, postage
prepaid, to any part of the United States, on receipt of $1 00.
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