To have this power of seeing things, it is not necessary that one should be sly, or should use stealth of any kind. Knowledge gained by such mean practices never amounts to much, and always lowers a teacher in the estimation of his scholars; it weakens instead of strengthening him. Whatever a teacher does in the way of observation of his scholars, should be done openly and aboveboard. And after all, more can be seen in this way, by one who knows how, than by any of the stealthy practices usually resorted to. Darting the eyes about rapidly in one direction and another, is not a good way to make discoveries. Seeing is accomplished, not so much by the activity of the bodily organ, as by mental activity. The man's mind must be awake. This in fact is the secret of the whole matter. The more the face and eyes are quiet, and the mind is on the alert, the more a man will see. Seeing is rather a mental than a bodily act, though of course the bodily organ is necessary to its accomplishment. To be a good observer, one must maintain a quiet and composed demeanor, but be thoroughly wide awake within.
ERRORS OF THE CAVE.
Improvement comes by comparison. One of the most profound observations of Bacon is that in which he remarks upon the dwarfing and distorting influence of solitariness upon the human faculties. The man who shuts himself up in his own little circle of thought and action as in a cave, having no consort with his fellows, evolving all his plans from his own solitary cogitation, must be more than human if he does not become one-sided, narrow, selfish, bigoted.
A like result, but not so aggravated, is produced, when a man limits his range of thought and action to those of his own special calling or profession; when the merchant mingles only with merchants and knows only merchandise; when the teacher knows nothing but teaching and books; when the medical man spends every waking hour and every active exercise of thought upon his healing art; when any man forgets that, in the very fact of his being a man at all, he is something greater and nobler than he can possibly be in being merely a merchant, or teacher, or doctor, or lawyer, or the possessor of any other one special art or faculty.
It is true, indeed, that in order to attain to eminence in any one department, a man must bend his main energies to that one thing; and he must give to it much solitary thought and study. But no department of action is isolated. No interest is unconnected with other interests. No truth stands alone, but forms a part in the great system of truth. Study or action, therefore, which is entirely isolated, must needs be dwarfed and distorted.
A man must go occasionally out of his own sphere in order fully to understand those very things with which he is most familiar. A man must study other languages, if he would hope fully to understand his own. A man must study more than languages merely if he would become a perfect linguist. The only way to understand arithmetic thoroughly is to study algebra. A parent who has only one child, and who gives his entire and exclusive attention to the study of that child, in order that he may, by a thorough understanding of its nature and disposition, be better able to teach and train it, will not be so likely to attain his object as he would if he were to spend a portion of his time in mingling with other children and in becoming acquainted with childhood generally. A teacher who should shut himself up in his own school-room, giving to it every moment of his waking hours, would not be likely to benefit so largely his own pupils, as if he were to spend a portion of his time in communing with other teachers and observing other methods besides his own. A teacher even who should mingle freely with those of his own profession, and get all the benefit to be derived from observation of the views and methods of other teachers, but should stop there, would not yet obtain that broad, comprehensive view, even of his own calling, and of the duties of his own particular school-room that he might have if he would travel occasionally beyond the walk of books and pedagogy, and become acquainted with the views and methods of men in other spheres of life, with merchants, lawyers, and doctors, with farmers, mechanics, and artisans.
It is only by mingling with those outside of our own little specialty that we are disenthralled from the bonds of prejudice. It is wonderful to see the change produced in the minds of men of different religious denominations, when by any means they are thrown much into the actual fellowship of working together in some cause of common benevolence. How, without any argument, merely by the fact of their being brought out to a different point of view, the relative magnitude and importance of certain truths change in their estimation! The points in which Christians differ become so much smaller; the points in which they agree become so much larger. The little stone at the mouth of the cave no longer hides the mountain in the distance.
Let the teacher, the merchant, the mechanic, the banker, the lawyer, the minister of religion even, still remember that he is a man, and that he can never reach a full and just estimate of his own position without sometimes going outside of it and placing himself in the position of other men.
MEN OF ONE IDEA.
There is between the teacher and other operatives one obvious difference, arising from the difference in the materials upon which their labor is bestowed. That class of laborers whose toil and skill are exerted in modifying the forms of matter, succeed generally in proportion to the narrowness of the range to which each individual's attention is confined. It is possible (the writer has known it to be a fact) for the same person to sow the flax, to pull and rot it, to break it, hatchel it, spin it, warp it, weave it, dye or bleach it, and finally make it into clothes. I say this is possible, for I have seen it done, and I dare say many of my readers have seen the same. But how coarse and expensive is such a product, compared with that in which every step in the progress of production is made the subject of one individual's entire and undivided attention.
If we were to go into the factories of Lowell, or into any of the thousand workshops which are converting Philadelphia into a great manufacturing centre, we would find the manufacture of an article approaching perfection just in proportion to the imperfection (in one sense) of the individual workmen employed in its production. The man who can make a pin-head better and cheaper than any one else, must give his attention to making pin-heads only. He need not know how to point a pin, or polish it, or cut the wire. On the contrary his skill in that one operation increases ordinarily in proportion to his want of skill in others. His perfection as a workman is in the direct ratio to his imperfection as a man. He operates upon matter, and the more nearly he can bring his muscles and his volitions to the uniformity and the precision of a mere machine—the more confined, monotonous, and undeviating are his operations—the higher is the price set upon his work, the better is he fitted for his task.
Not so the instructor of youth. The material operated on here is of a nature too subtle to be shaped and fashioned by the undeviating routine of any such mechanical operations. The process necessary to sharpen one intellect may terrify and confound another. The means which in one instance serve to convince, serve in other cases to confuse. The illustration which to one is a ray of light, is to another only "darkness visible." Mind is not, like matter, fixed and uniform in its operations. The workman who is to operate upon a substance so subtle and so varying must not be a man of one idea—who knows one thing, and nothing more. It is not true in mind, as in matter, that perfection in the knowledge of one particular point is gained by withdrawing the attention from every other point. All truth and all knowledge are affiliated. The knowledge of arithmetic is increased by that of algebra, the knowledge of geography by that of astronomy, the knowledge of one language by knowing another. As no one thing in nature exists unconnected with other things, so no one item in the vast sum of human knowledge is isolated, and no person is likely to be perfectly acquainted with any one subject who confines his attention with microscopic minuteness to that subject. To understand thoroughly one subject, you must study it not only in itself, but in its relations. To know one thing well you must know very many other things.
Let us return then to the point from which we set out, namely: that one important difference between the teacher and other operatives arises from the difference in the objects on which they operate. The one operates upon matter, the other upon mind. The one attains perfection in his art by a process which in the other would produce an ignoramus, a bungler, a narrow-minded, conceited charlatan. Hence the necessity on the part of those who would excel in the profession of teachers, of endeavoring continually to enlarge the bounds of their knowledge. Hence the error of those who think that to teach anything well it is necessary to know only that one thing. That young woman who undertakes to teach a primary school, or even an infant class, has mistaken her calling if she supposes that because she has to teach only the alphabet or the "table card," she has therefore no need to know many other things. There are some things which every teacher needs. Every teacher needs a cultivated taste, a disciplined intellect, and that enlargement of views which results only from enlarged knowledge.
We all know how much we are ourselves benefited by associating habitually with persons of superior abilities. So it is in a still higher degree with children. There is something contagious in the fire of intellect. The human mind, as well as the human heart, has a wonderful power of assimilation. Every judicious parent will say: Let not my child be consigned to the care of an ill-informed, dull, spiritless teacher. Let it be his happy lot, if possible, to be under one who has some higher ambition than merely to go through a certain prescribed routine of duties and lessons; one whose face beams with intelligence and whose lips drop knowledge; one who can cultivate in him the disposition to inquire, by his own readiness and ability to answer childish inquiries; who can lead the inquiries of a child into proper channels, and train him to a correct mode of thinking by being himself familiar with the true logical process, by having himself a cultivated understanding. Such a teacher finds a pleasure in his task. He finds that he is not only teaching his pupils to read and to spell, to write and to cipher, but he is acquiring an ascendancy over them. He is exerting upon them a moral and intellectual power. He is leaving, upon a material far more precious than any coined in the Mint, the deep and inerasible impress of his own character.
Let me repeat then, at the risk of becoming tiresome, what I hold to be an important and elementary truth, that the teacher should know very many things besides what he is required to teach. A good knowledge of history will enable him to invest the study of geography with new interest. Acquaintance with algebra will give a clearness to his perceptions, and consequently to his mode of inculcating the principles, of arithmetic. The ability to delineate off-hand with chalk or pencil the forms of objects, gives him an unlimited power of illustrating every subject, and of clothing even the dullest with interest. Familiarity with the principles of rhetoric and with the rules of criticism, gives at once elegance and ease to his language, and the means of more clearly detecting what is faulty in the language of others. A knowledge of Latin or of French, or of any language besides his own, throws upon his own language a light of which he before had no conception. It produces in his ideas of grammar and of language generally, a change somewhat like that which the anatomist experiences from the study of comparative anatomy. The student of the human frame finds many things that he cannot comprehend until he extends his inquiries to other tribes of animals; to the monkey, the ox, the reptile, the fish, and even to the insect world. So it is with language. We return from the study of a foreign language invariably with an increased knowledge of our own. We have made one step at least from the technicalities of particular rules towards the principles and truths of general grammar.
But it is not necessary to multiply illustrations. I have already said enough to explain my meaning. Let me say, then, to every teacher, as you desire to rise in your profession, as you wish to make your task agreeable to yourself or profitable to your pupils, do not cease your studies as soon as you gain your election, but continue to be a learner as long as you continue to be a teacher, and especially strive by all proper means, and at all times, to enlarge the bounds of your knowledge.
A TALENT FOR TEACHING.
There can be no doubt that some persons have a natural aptitude for teaching. As there are born poets, so there are born teachers. Yet the man born with the true poetic temperament and faculty will never achieve success as a poet, unless he add study and labor to his natural gift. So the man born with a talent for teaching needs to cultivate the talent by patient study and practice, before he can become a thoroughly accomplished teacher. No man probably ever showed greater native aptitude for anything, than did Benjamin West for painting. Yet what long years of toil and study it took for him to become a really great painter? In teaching, as in every other profession, while men doubtless differ as to their original qualifications and aptitudes, yet the differences are not so great as they are often supposed to be, and they are by no means so great as those produced by study and practice. The man who has no special gift for this employment, but who faithfully and intelligently tries to perfect himself in it, is sure to be a better teacher than the one who has the natural gift, but adds to it no special study and preparation. Indeed, if we exclude from consideration those very nice and delicate touches in education, which are so rare as to be quite exceptional, there is nothing in the business of teaching which may not be acquired by any person of average ability.
When, therefore, we see a teacher not succeeding in gaining the attention of his scholars, or in securing obedience and respect, or in bringing them forward in their lessons, we are not disposed to free such a person from blame on the plea of his having no natural aptitude for teaching. We would respectfully say to such a teacher: if you know not how to impart knowledge, learn how; if you have no tact, get it. Teaching is a business, as much as knitting stockings, or planting corn. Either do not undertake to teach at all, or learn how it is to be done.
If one-fourth of the labor bestowed upon the work of teaching were devoted to studying the business, the value of the remaining three-fourths would be quadrupled. It is painful to see the amount of hard work done in school with so little proportionate effect. If a man who knew nothing of farming, but who had a desire to be useful, were to dig a pit and bury therein a bushel of corn, and imagine that he was planting, his labor would not be wider of the mark than much that is bestowed in school. A man must learn how to do even so simple a thing as planting corn. Let the teacher also learn how to plant the seeds of knowledge, how to prepare the soil, how to open it for the reception of truth, where and when to deposit the precious grains.
I have no desire to discourage those faithful men and women who are so nobly striving to do good as teachers. But I cannot help expressing the regret that so much of this labor is without adequate result. Why should persons act so differently in this matter from what they do in any other? If a woman wants to make a pair of stockings, she goes to some other woman who understands knitting, and sees how it is done, and learns the stitches, tries and experiments, and studies the matter, until it is all familiar to her. So of any other ordinary business. Yet when it comes to teaching, anything like definite study or observation of the mode of doing it, is almost unknown! It is really no exaggeration to say that many teachers bungle in their work as egregiously as would a woman who should put yarn into a churn, and expect, after a proper amount of churning, to draw out stockings.
In our schools are many professional teachers of approved skill. Why should not a school-teacher, who is conscious of not succeeding as he would desire, spend an hour occasionally in observation? Find out the name of some teacher who is particularly successful, and look on while the work is being done, and if possible see how it is done.
Then again, there are books on the subject, in which the business of teaching is explained in all its branches. Get some of these books and read. The mere reading will not make you teachers. But it will set you to thinking. It will quicken your power of observation. It will help you to learn from your own experience.
Make a note of the difficulties you encounter, and the points in which you cannot accomplish what you desire. Very likely you will find these very difficulties discussed in the books on teaching which you are reading. If not, lay your difficulties before some friend who is a successful teacher, and get advice. Anything, rather than going on, week after week, without improvement. There is a way of interesting your class in their lessons, of securing good order and punctual attendance, of making the scholars learn. Only make up your mind that you will find out what that way is. If you think it cannot be done, of course it will not be done. If you have fairly made up your mind that it may be done, and that you can do it, it is half done already.
You have no idea how much more pleasant the work will be, when you have once learned how to do it. One reason why so many teachers desert the ranks, is the irksomeness produced by want of success. Few things are more intolerable than being obliged to do a thing while conscious of doing it in an awkward and bungling manner. On the other hand, almost any work is a pleasure, which one is conscious of doing well.
Teachers differ greatly in their ability to bring a class forward in intellectual acquisition and growth. With one teacher pupils are all life and energy, they take hold of difficulties with courage, their ideas become clear, their very power of comprehension seems to gather strength. With another teacher, those same pupils, studying the same subject, are dull, heavy, easily discouraged, and make almost no progress. The ability thus to stimulate the intellectual activity of others, to give it at once momentum and progress, is the true measure of one's teaching power. It may be well to consider for a moment some of the conditions necessary to the existence and the exercise of this power.
In the first place, we can exert no great, commanding influence over others, whether pupils or not, unless we have in a high degree their confidence. Pupils must have faith in their teacher. I never knew an instance yet, where there was great intellectual ferment going on in a class, that the pupils did not believe the teacher infallible, or very nearly so. This principle of confidence in leadership is one of the great moving powers of the world. In teaching, it is specially important. This feeling may indeed be in excess. It may exist to such an extent as to extinguish all independence of thought, to induce a blind, unquestioning receptivity. Such an extreme is of course opposed to true mental progress. But short of this extreme point, there is almost no amount of faith that children can have in their teacher, that, if well founded, is not of the highest advantage. Seeing the firm, assured tread of father or mother, or of an older brother or sister, is a great aid to the tottering little one in putting forth its own steps while learning to walk. So the child is emboldened to send out its young, unpractised thoughts, by the confidence it has in the guidance and protection of its teacher. To acquire and retain the proper ascendancy over the mind of a child, two things are essential, ample knowledge and entire honesty. Shallowness and pretension may mislead for a while. But to hold a child firmly and permanently, the teacher must abound in knowledge, and must have thoroughly honest convictions.
The next condition to great teaching power is confidence in one's self. A timid, irresolute, hesitating utterance of one's own convictions fails to produce conviction in the minds of others. I do not recommend self-conceit. It is not necessary to be dogmatic. Yet a certain style of self-assertion, bordering very closely upon these qualities, is needed in the teacher. In the higher regions of science and opinion, there are of course many points about which no one, at least no one well informed, would undertake to speak with authority. Such subjects it becomes us all to approach with reverent humility, as at the best only inquirers after truth. But the case is very different with teachers of the common branches concerned in our present remarks. On these points the teacher ought to have a certainty and a readiness of knowledge, so as to be thoroughly self-reliant before the class. Teaching is like fighting. Self-reliance is half the battle.
Equally important with the former is it to have the affection of one's pupils. Writers on metaphysics now-a-days dwell much, and very properly, on the influence of the body upon the mind, and the necessity of a healthy condition of the former in order to the full clearness and strength of our intellectual apprehensions. There is a still more intimate connection between our moral emotions and our mental action. The wish is father to the thought, in more senses than that intended by Shakspeare. If the intellect is the seeing power of the soul, the affections are the atmosphere through which we look. The same object may appear to us very differently, as it is seen through the colorless medium of pure intellectual perception, or as it is enlarged and glorified by the mellowing haze of fond affection, or as it is distorted and obscured by the mists of prejudice and hate. When a child has a thorough dislike for a subject or for his teacher, the difficulty of learning is very greatly increased. Not only is the willingness to study weak or wanting, but the very power of mental perception seems to be obstructed. The power of attention, the power of apprehension, the power of memory, the power of reasoning, are all paralyzed by dislike, and are equally vitalized by love and desire. Mental action, in short, is influenced by the state of the heart as much as by the state of the body. If you do not expect great mental efforts from a child that is sickly, burning with fever, or racked with pain, neither may you expect the best and highest results from one whose heart is diseased and alienated, who approaches a subject with feelings of aversion and dislike, whose conceptions are clouded with prejudice.
A teacher of great intellectual force, and with an overbearing will, may push forward even a reluctant and a rebellious class with a certain degree of speed. On the other hand, a teacher who enjoys the unbounded love of his scholars, may accomplish comparatively little, on account of lacking the other qualities needed for success. The highest measure of success in teaching is attained only where these several conditions meet,—where the teacher has and deserves the full confidence of the scholars, where he has full confidence in himself, is self-reliant and self-asserting, and where at the same time he has the warm affection of his pupils. Love, after all, is the governing power of the human soul, as it is the crowning grace in the Christian scheme. Love is, in teaching, what sunshine and showers are in vegetation. By a system of forcing and artificial culture, the gardener may indeed produce a few hot-house plants, but for all great or general results, he must look to the genial operations of nature.
Children often use the term "grown-up people." By it they mean persons who have come to the age of twenty, or twenty-one, and whose bodily growth is complete. But there are other kinds of growth, besides that of the body.
What is a "grown-up" teacher? It is not difficult, certainly, to find some, in every locality, to whom this term could not be applied, with any propriety. They have been engaged for years in the work, and yet they are the merest babes. They have no more skill than when they first took a class in hand. When a boy begins to use a penknife, he is very awkward. He cuts himself about as often as he cuts the stick. After a while, however, he learns to manage the matter better. He finds out how to handle the curious instrument with skill and even with elegance. But you will see teachers, so called, who seem never to make any of this progress in their work. They have no more idea now, than they had when they gave their first lesson, of what they must do to secure attention and silence, how they must manage to keep all the children busy, how to secure good attendance, or study of the lesson, how to gain affection and confidence, how to enforce order and obedience, how to do anything, except to sit, book in hand, and ask the questions one after the other round the class, and see that John, George, and James severally say the answers correctly. This is the idea of teaching with which they begin, and they make no progress towards anything better. They acquire no skill. They make no growth. They are "grown-up" bodily. But in all that pertains to teaching, they are still babes. They whittle as awkwardly and unskilfully as when the delicate instrument was first put into their clumsy fingers. They go on from year to year and learn nothing.
Some persons are born teachers, just as some are born poets or mechanics. That is, they are gifted with a natural aptitude for that particular work. But those most gifted by nature, are capable of improvement, and those having least natural gifts for teaching, may acquire a certain and a very considerable amount of skill, by proper observation and study. The point which I wish to make, and which I deem important, is, that teachers should not rest content with their present qualifications, whatever they may be, whether large or small. Let it be the aim of every one to be a growing teacher. We come short, if we are not better teachers this year than we were last. We should aim and resolve to be better teachers next year than we are now. Our education as teachers should never be considered as finished. Forgetting the things which are behind, let us ever press forward. Let us constantly aim upward. Skill in teaching admits of infinite degrees, and no one will ever be perfect in it. Efforts at improvement, if persistently followed up, are always rewarded with success, and success in such a work brings a most sweet recompense. What satisfaction is equal to that of feeling that one is steadily increasing in the power of guiding and moulding the minds of others? Growing skill in anything, even in works requiring mechanical ingenuity, brings joy to the mind. How much more intense and pure the joy, when there is a consciousness of growth in this higher department of mental power?
Will the teacher, who reads these paragraphs, consider the matter? Are you, as a teacher, growing? or are you working on in dull content in the same old routine? On your answer to these questions depend very largely, not only the welfare of your scholars and the amount of good you will achieve, but your own happiness and satisfaction in your work. The artist, who produces some great work of genius, has his reward not merely in the dollars which it may bring to his coffer, but in the inward satisfaction which successful achievement produces. The true artist is always struggling towards some unattainable ideal, and his joy is proportioned to the nearness of his approach to the imagined perfection. So in proportion as we approach in skill the great Teacher, will be our joy in the work itself, apart from our joy in the results.
To be a growing teacher requires a distinct aim to this end, and a resolute and persistent effort. It does not come by chance. It is not a weed that springs up spontaneously, and matures without culture. It is not the fruit of mere wishing. There must be will, A DETERMINED AND RESOLUTE WILL. Rules and theories will not accomplish it. There are books and essays in abundance on the art and practice of teaching. But back of means we must have, first of all, the propelling power. Have you made up your mind to be stationary, or have you resolved to go forward? Will you remain in the wilderness, or will you advance into the promised land and take possession? Are you a deliberate, predetermined, contented dwarf, or will you resolutely grow? You may never become a giant, but do not remain an infant.
If there is any one duty of the teacher more imperative than another, it is that of continued, persistent self-improvement. No element of progress is so efficient as a wholesome discontent. "I count not myself to have attained," says the great apostle of progress. To sit down self-satisfied with present attainments is in itself a sign that you have not yet risen much. It is to belong to the owls and the bats of the lower valleys. One must already have ascended to lofty heights before he can even see the higher Alps towering beyond.
The teacher who would improve must, in a good sense, be restless. He must bestir himself. He must study and read and experiment, attend teachers' meetings and conventions, and take teachers' papers, and find out what other teachers are doing and have done, ever remembering that improvement comes mainly by comparison.
LOVING THE CHILDREN.
Some teachers make the mistake of supposing that a love for the work and a love for the children are one and the same thing. The two things are certainly separable in thought, and they are often actually separated in action. It is of some importance to teachers to remember the difference.
We see persons every day struggling with all their might to accomplish certain results. They have certain ideas which they wish to realize, certain theories which they wish to verify. To bring about these results, is a matter of pride with them. So that the end is gained, the means to be used are a matter of comparative indifference. Their heart is set on the result, they care nothing for the machinery by which it is brought about. Now, so long as the work is of a nature which requires only the use of mechanical powers, or of mere brute force, it is all very well. The sculptor need not fall in love with the block of marble on which he is working, in order to realize from it the conception of his mind. The engine which carries us thirty miles an hour towards the goal of our desires, will not speed us more or less for not being an object of our affections. But every man has a natural and proper dislike to becoming a mere machine for carrying out the schemes of others. Children especially revolt at being treated in this way. If a teacher takes the charge of a class or of a school, for the purpose of showing to himself or to others how certain things may be done, the children are quick to find it out, and to resent it. No child, however humble or obscure, but feels indignant at being considered as a mere pawn upon a chess-board, or a mere wheel or pulley in some complicated piece of machinery. Every individual child is to itself the centre of all human interests, and if you are to have any real and abiding influence upon him, he must first feel that you have a regard for himself, in his own proper person, independently of any schemes or plans of your own.
You may love to see your children all present punctually, to see them making a good appearance, and by their orderly behavior and manners helping forward the school generally; you may love the work of teaching as giving you honorable and useful occupation. But something more than this is wanting. You must love the children. You must love each particular child. You must become interested in each child, not for what it is to you, or to the class, or to the school, but for what it is in itself, as a precious jewel, to be loved and admired, for those immortal qualities and capacities which belong to it as a human being. No matter how degraded or depraved or forbidding in appearance that child may be, it has qualities which, if brought out, may make it more glorious than an angel. If Jesus loved him, you may love him. Jesus did not stand off at a distance from the loathsome and filthy leper, while performing the miracle of healing. He first "touched" the leper, and said, "Be thou clean." We are sometimes too fastidious in our benevolence, and shrink too much from coming into contact with those whom we would befriend.
Little real influence is ever produced upon any human being, without creating between you and him a bond of sympathy. If we would work strongly and efficiently upon the minds of children, we must really love them, not in the abstract, not in a general way, but concretely and individually. We must love John and William and Mary and Susie, simply and purely because he or she is, in himself or herself alone, an object of true interest and affection. In looking over a school, it is not difficult to discover at a glance which teachers thus love their children. It speaks in every word from the lips. It beams in every look from the eyes. It thrills in every tone of the voice. It has a language in the very touch of the hand and the movements of the person.
Some persons are naturally more fond of children than others are. But those not naturally thus inclined may cultivate the disposition. They must do so if they mean to be teachers. No one is fitted to be a teacher, who has not learned to sympathize with the real wants and feelings of children. Pretence here is all wasted. Shams may do with grown persons sometimes, never with children. They have an instinctive perception of what is genuine and what is pretended, in professed love for them. In fact, the way to win the affection of a child is to love him, not to make professions of love.
It is not always the easiest thing in the world to exercise this love. A teacher may have the charge of a class of children whose appearance, manners, and dispositions are exceedingly forbidding, perhaps even loathsome. Yet observation and study will ordinarily discover some good quality even in the worst and most degraded. A talent for discovering what is good in a child is much more important in the work of elevating him, than the smartness at detecting and exposing his tricks, in which some teachers take pride. It is a bad sign, though not an uncommon one, to see evidences of cunning in a teacher. Better by far to be outwitted and duped occasionally, than to forfeit that character of perfect sincerity and straightforwardness which secures the confidence of a child. The teacher who would love his children, particularly if he happens to have been entrusted with an unpromising class, must learn to wear the spectacles of charity. He must cultivate the habit of seeing things in their best light. While not blind to faults, he must be prompt and eagle-eyed to spy out every indication of good. Above all, he must remember that no human soul, however degraded, is without some elements and possibilities of good, for whom there is the possibility that Christ died.
GAINING THE AFFECTIONS OF THE SCHOLARS.
The importance of this point is not to be measured by the mere gratification it affords. It adds undoubtedly to the happiness of the teacher in his work, to know that his scholars love him. Nor is this a small consideration. The teacher has many vexatious rubs. He encounters much toil and self-denial; and whatever tends to mitigate these asperities, and to make his labor sweet, is for that very reason important. The teacher has, for a part at least of his reward, the enjoyment of a love as pure and unselfish as any known upon earth. He will doubtless go forward in duty, even where he fails of obtaining this precious foretaste of the heavenly bliss, and he has doubtless higher aims than any arising from mere gratification, of whatever sort. Yet a boon so great is not to be despised or ignored. The ardent love which scholars sometimes give to their teachers is a high gratification, and something to be greatly prized for the mere pleasure it gives.
And yet, after all, this is not its main value. The fact that children love their teacher, gives to the teacher almost unbounded influence over them. There is hardly a point, necessary to the success of a school or of a class, that scholars will not readily yield to a teacher whom they love. By this silken cord they can be drawn whithersoever the teacher wills. To please teacher, they will attend regularly, will come punctually, will be quiet and orderly, will learn their lessons, will be attentive to instruction. More than all this, many a child, by the love of an earthly friend, has been led to the love of his heavenly Friend. The young heart is opened to receive the Saviour, by the warmth of its love for one who so manifestly bears his image. Perhaps there is no one, not even excepting a mother, who can so easily bring the young to the Saviour, as the teacher who has thoroughly succeeded in winning his scholars' affections.
There is another consideration in this matter, not so weighty as the one named, yet of great importance, and the more worthy to be named, because it is generally not rightly understood. I refer to the fact that children will learn so much more readily under a teacher whom they love. Not only will they study better, and be more attentive, for the sake of pleasing their teacher, but by some mysterious process of the mind, love helps us to understand, as dislike disturbs and beclouds the understanding. When a child has a dislike or prejudice or ill-feeling of any kind against a teacher, or a subject of study, the effect upon the mind of the child is like that produced upon a spring of pure and sparkling water by stirring up the mud and sediment from the bottom. In the human organization the heart is at the bottom, and disturbing influences there cause us to see things through an impure medium. The calmness and serenity, produced by perfect love and trust, are the proper conditions for the right and best working of the understanding. We must get the heart right if we would see truth clearly, and that teacher who has won the love of his scholars has done much towards making the path of knowledge easy for them.
Let the teacher, then, aim to win the love of his scholars, first, because this love is in itself a boon to which the teacher has a rightful claim; secondly, because it gives him a powerful influence in moulding the character and habits of the children, and especially in bringing them to the Saviour; and, thirdly, because it helps the scholars intellectually, enabling them to understand better and to learn faster.
But how is this love to be gained?
Assuredly, not by demanding it as a right, or by fretting, complaining, or scolding because your scholars do not love you. Love only is the price for love. If you wish your scholars to love you, you must first love them, not pretend to do it,—children are quick to see through such pretences,—but really and truly love them.
Many teachers, however, sincerely love their scholars, and yet do not succeed in winning their affections. Something in their manner and appearance is repulsive. There is in the face of some good people a hard and forbidding look, at which the heart takes alarm and retires within itself. The young heart, like the young buds in spring-time, requires an atmosphere of warmth and sunshine. If we would draw forth their warm affections towards us, we must not only feel love towards them in our hearts, but we must wear sunshine in our faces. A pleasant smile, a loving word, a soft, endearing tone of the voice, goes a great way with a child, especially where it is not put on, but springs from a loving heart.
Some teachers in avoiding this hard, repulsive manner, run to the opposite extreme, and lose the respect of their scholars by undue familiarity. Children do not expect you to become their playmate and fellow, before giving you their love and confidence. Their native tendency is to look up. They yearn for repose upon one superior to themselves. Only, when the tender heart of youth thus looks up, let it not be into a region filled with clouds and cold, but into a sky everywhere pervaded with a clear, steady, warm sunlight. Let there be no frown upon your brow, no harsh or angry word upon your lips, no exacting sternness in your eye. Let the love which you feel in your heart beam forth naturally and spontaneously in loving looks and words, and you need not fear but that you will meet with a response.
THE OBEDIENCE OF CHILDREN.
There is much misapprehension as to the true nature of obedience. Wherein does obedience really consist? What is its essence?
Merely doing a specified act, which has been required, is not necessarily an act of obedience. A father may have a rule of his household that the children shall rise in the morning at five o'clock. A son who habitually disregards this rule, may rise at the appointed time on a particular morning, in order to join a companion on a fishing excursion, or for some object connected solely with his own pleasure and convenience. Here the external act is the one required. He rises at the hour enjoined by his father's command. But his doing so has no reference to his father's wishes. It is not in any sense an act of obedience. Something more than mere external compliance with a rule or a command is needed to constitute obedience. In other words, not only the act itself must be the one required, but the motive must be right.
If I am led to do what my father or my mother requires, by mere dint of coaxing, or by the expectation of cakes or pennies or promised indulgence of any kind, if it is a bargain, in which I give so much compliance for so much per contra of self-gratification, the compliance rendered is not an act of obedience. As well might a man profess to obey his neighbor, because he gives him a bag of oats for a bag of corn. A great deal of what passes for obedience in families and schools, is mere barter. Strip the matter of all glosses and disguises, and the naked truth remains, that children are hired to do what the parent or the teacher wants to have done. They do not obey, in any legitimate and wholesome use of the word. They are quiet when they should be quiet, they learn the lessons which they should learn, they abstain from whatever things they should abstain from, because they have learned that this is the only way to gain the indulgences which they desire. The parent and the teacher use a motive adequate to secure the outward act, but they do not secure obedience.
It is not obedience for a child to do a thing because his reason and conscience tell him that the act in itself, without reference to his parents' wishes, is right and proper. At least it is not filial obedience. I may be obeying my conscience, but I am not obeying my father. Many parents, who are above the weakness of bribing their children, satisfy themselves by reasoning with them. Far be it from us to say a word against any legitimate appeal to the reason and conscience of a child. Children, at the proper age, should be taught to reason and to judge for themselves, in regard to the right and wrong of actions, just as they should learn to walk alone, and not be forever dependent upon leading strings. Only, let it be understood that just so far as the child acts on its own independent judgment, the act is not one of filial obedience.
Obedience is doing a thing because another, having competent authority, has enjoined it. The motive necessary to constitute any act an act of obedience, is a reference to the will and authority of another. It is submission of our will to the will of another. The child receives as true what his parents say, and because they say it; so, he does as right what they command, and because they command it. That fact is, and in the first instance it should be, to the child's mind, the ultimate and sufficient reason for either believing or doing—for faith or obedience. This faith and obedience rendered to my earthly father, which is only partial and temporary, besides serving its own immediate ends, in securing a well-ordered household and my own best interests as a child, has the further end of training me for that unqualified faith and obedience, which I am to render to my heavenly Father, and which is of universal and permanent obligation. One object of the parental relation seems to be to fit the soul for this higher obedience. I must, however, learn to obey my father simply because he is my father, and because as such he has the right to command me, if thereby I am to learn, for a like reason, to obey my heavenly Father. No lower motive will secure the end.
Submission to parental authority is not always the instinctive impulse of childhood. Where this submission is not yielded, it must be enforced. Authority, in other words, requires sanctions. The father has no right to command, unless he has the right to punish in case of disobedience. Furthermore, if he does not, especially in the early childhood of his offspring, train them to a habit of real obedience and submission to authority, he does his children a great wrong. He deprives them of the benefit of that habit of obedience, which will be of the utmost value to them in their future religious life.
A man forbids his child to eat green apples. The child abstains. That abstinence is not necessarily an act of obedience.
He may abstain because his mother offers, in case of his doing so, to give him sugar-plums, and he prefers the sugar-plums to the apples. This is not obedience.
Or, his reason and experience may have taught him that the eating of green fruit will cause him sickness and pain, and so he abstains for the same reasons that his father, mother, or anybody else does. This is not obedience.
But children often have not the forethought to look at remote consequences, or they have not the strength of purpose to deny a present gratification for the sake of a distant good, and especially for a good of which they have only a vague idea through the representations of their parents or teachers. Suppose such a case. Suppose a child with a strong inclination and desire for the thing forbidden, and with no clear apprehension that there is anything wrong or hurtful in the indulgence, except in the fact that the father has forbidden it, and with no temptation of a higher indulgence as a reward for abstaining. If, in such a case, the child abstains, he performs a true act of obedience. He really subjects his will to the will of his father.
This kind of implicit obedience is greatly needed. It is to be secured just as our heavenly Father secures obedience to some of his laws. If a child thrusts his finger into the candle, he violates a law, and he instantly suffers for it. We are surrounded by many such laws, without the observance of which we could not live a day. To teach us obedience to these laws, the penalty of transgression is immediate and sharp. There are other laws of our physical well-being, the penalties of which are remote, and in regard to those we have room for the exercise and cultivation of our reasoning powers. Now in childhood, there are many things which a child should be taught to forbear doing as promptly as he forbears to thrust his hand into the fire. Yet for these things there is no natural penalty. Here the command of the parent should be interposed, and transgression should be promptly followed by penalty. The authority of the parent and the penalties by which he sustains it, guide the child during those years when reason and the power of self-denial are weak. But to make this discipline easy and effective, there should be no hesitation or uncertainty about the exercise of it. Parents often have to strain their authority, and use very largely their right of punishment, because they are so unequal and irregular in their methods of government. A child soon ceases to thrust his finger into the fire. Fire is not a thing which burns one day, and may be safely tampered with the next. So, if disobedience, invariably and promptly, without passion or caprice, and with the uniformity of a law of nature, brings such a penalty as to make the disobedience painful, there will be little transgression and little need of punishment. A child does not fret because he cannot play with fire. He will not fret because he cannot transgress a father's direct command, if he once knows that such commands must be obeyed.
RAREY AS AN EDUCATOR.
Parents, teachers, and all who are charged with the duty of training the young, may learn important lessons from the example of the late Mr. Rarey. The principles on which the horse is rendered obedient and docile do not differ essentially from those to be employed in the government of children or of men.
Some of the accounts of Mr. Rarey's system, however, which have been published, are liable to mislead, and to foster a mischievous error. His procedure was eminently kind and gentle. The horse became fully assured that no harm was intended towards him. This conviction is essential to success in securing a perfect and willing obedience, whether from brute or human. But the distinctness with which this feature of the treatment was brought out in Mr. Rarey's exhibitions, led some apparently to think that this was the main, if not the only feature. Kindness alone, however, will not tame, and will not govern, brutes or men. There must be power. There must be, in the mind of the party to be governed, a full conviction that the power of the other party is superior to his own—that there is, in the party claiming obedience, an ample reserve of power fully adequate to enforce the claim. The more complete this conviction is, the less occasion there will be for the exercise of the power. The most headstrong horse, once convinced that he is helpless in this contest of strength, and convinced at the same time that his master is his friend, may be led by a straw.
Mr. Rarey went through various preliminary steps, the object of which was to make the horse acquainted with him, and to prevent fright or panic. But obedience was not claimed, and was not given, until there had been a demonstration of power—until the horse was convinced that the man was entirely too much for him. By a very simple adjustment of straps to the forefeet of the animal, he became perfectly helpless in the hands of his tamer. The struggle, indeed, was sometimes continued for a good while. The horse put forth his prodigious strength to the utmost. He became almost wild at the perfect ease and quietude with which all his efforts were baffled, until at length, fully satisfied that further struggles were useless, he made a complete surrender, and lay down as peaceful and submissive as an infant.
This point is of some importance. I do not underrate the value of kindness and love in any system of government, whether in the household, the school, the stable, the menagerie, or in civil society. But love is not the basis of government. Obedience is yielded to authority, and authority is based on right and power. The child who complies with his father's wishes, only because a different course would make his father grieve, or give his mother a headache, or because his parents have reasoned with him and shown him that compliance is for his good, or who has been wheedled into compliance by petty bribes and promises, has not learned that doctrine of obedience which lies at the foundation of all government, human and divine. God has given to the parent the right to the obedience of his children, and the power to enforce it. That parent has failed in his duty who has not trained his child, not only to love him, but to obey him, in the strict sense of the word, that is to yield his will to the will of a superior, from a sense of appointed subordination and rightful authority. This sense of subordination and of obedience to appointed and rightful authority, is of the very essence of civil government, and the place where it is to be first and chiefly learned is in the household. To teach this is a main end of the parental relation. The parent who fails to teach it, fails to give his child the first element of good citizenship, and leaves him often to be in after-years the victim of his own uncontrolled passions and tempers. The want of a proper exercise of parental authority is, in this age of the world, the most prolific source of those frightful disorders that pervade society, and that threaten to upturn the very foundations of all civil government. The feeling of reverence, the sense of a respect for authority, the consciousness of being in a state of subordination, the feeling of obligation to do a thing simply because it is commanded by some one having a right to obedience—all these old-fashioned notions seem to be dying out of the minds of men. The popular cry is, Don't make your children fear you. Govern them by love. Conquer them by kindness. Treat them as Mr. Rarey did his horses.
I protest against the notion. It is a mistake of Mr. Rarey's system, and it is not the true basis for government, whether of brutes or men. The doctrine may seem harsh in these dainty times. But, in my opinion, a certain degree of wholesome fear in the mind of a child towards its parent, is essential, and is perfectly compatible with the very highest love. I have never known more confiding, affectionate, and loving children, than those who not only regarded their parents as kind benefactors and sympathizing friends, but who looked up to them with a certain degree of reverence. The fear spoken of in the Bible, as being cast out by perfect love, is quite a different emotion. It is rather a slavish fear, a feeling of dread and terror. It sees in its object not only power but hostility. It awakens not only dread but hate. The child's fear, on the contrary, sees power united with kindness. It obeys the one, it loves the other. It is the exact attitude of mind to which Mr. Rarey brought the horse that was subjected to his management.
A BOARDING-SCHOOL EXPERIENCE.
I have often wished I had the descriptive power of the man who wrote "The Diary of a Physician." My experiences in another profession have not been wanting in incident, often of a curious and romantic kind, and sometimes almost startling. But the "Diary of a Schoolmaster," to be read with interest, requires something more than a good basis of facts. He who writes it must have, also, graphic and narrative powers—a special gift, of which nature has been sparing to me. I had one experience, however, many years ago, so remarkable in some of its features, that perhaps the bare facts, stated in the simplest form, without artifice or embellishment, will be found worthy of perusal. The youth who was the principal actor in the scene which I am about to describe, has been dead these many years, and I believe the family have nearly all died out. The only survivor that I knew anything of ten years ago was then blind, and ill of an incurable disease. There would, therefore, perhaps be no harm in giving the youth's real name; but as the name is one widely known, and as it is always best to avoid unnecessary intrusion upon private affairs, I have concluded to use a fictitious name, both for the person referred to and for the place from which he came. In other particulars the following incident is a simple narration of facts.
At the time of which I am writing, I had a large boarding-school for boys, at Princeton, New Jersey. Particular circumstances gave me, for several years, quite a run of patronage from a town in one of the Western States, which for convenience I shall call Tompkinsville. Among those who applied for admission from this town were two brothers, Bob and Charlie Graham. Bob was only ten years old. Charlie was fourteen, and as mature as most boys at nineteen. Mature, I mean, not so much in his intellectual development, for in that respect he was rather behindhand, but in his passions, and in his habits of independent thought and action.
I had many misgivings about the propriety of receiving these boys into the school. Most of those that I had already from Tompkinsville were of the fire-eating class, whom it had taken all my skill as a disciplinarian to bring into subjection, and I did not know what might be the effect of adding to their number two such combustible youths as these Grahams were reputed to be. Tompkinsville, indeed, had long been notorious for the fiery and lawless character of its inhabitants. While containing many most estimable families, where a generous and warm-hearted hospitality reigned supreme, yet no town, probably, in all the Western States witnessed annually a greater number of street-fights and other deeds of violence of the most desperate character. No family in Tompkinsville were more noted than the Grahams, on the one hand for the passionate warmth of their attachments, and on the other for the fierceness and violence of their resentments. Nothing was too much for them to do for you when their affections were touched. On the other hand, no law, human or divine, seemed to restrain them when their blood was up. When roused by what they regarded as an insult, they were human tigers, no less in the quickness than in the desperate ferocity of their anger. The father once, in open court, in a sudden rage, actually strode over the tables and heads of the lawyers, and seizing the presiding judge by the collar, dragged him from the bench and horsewhipped him in the presence of all his officials. Charlie himself, of whom I am writing, gave, about two years after leaving school, a similar demonstration of violence. Hearing that a young man, who was a fellow-student of his in a law office, had done something insulting, Charlie drew up a formal written apology and presented it to the young man to sign, intending afterwards to post it. On the young man's refusing to sign the paper, Charlie drew a weapon of some kind and sprang upon him. The young man being several years older, and very large and powerful, had no difficulty in disarming his assailant, throwing him upon the floor and holding him there. While thus down upon his back, bound hand and foot, and completely at the mercy of his antagonist, Charlie still demanded, as fiercely as ever, the signing of the "apology," giving the young man, as the only alternative, either to kill him or to be killed. "If you let me up alive, I will shoot you at sight, as sure as my name is Charles Graham." Knowing the desperate character of the family, and feeling too well assured of his own social position to care for any effect the signing of such a paper might have, the young man courageously let the ruffian up and signed the apology. Two days after, Charlie came back to the office, thoroughly mortified and penitent for his outrage, voluntarily gave up the paper, and apologized in the amplest manner for his folly.
I might enumerate other instances by the score, were it necessary, to show the character of the boy with whom I had to deal. But these are probably sufficient. His passions were as quick as gunpowder, and as indiscriminate. Had I known all that I afterwards knew in regard to his disposition and his antecedents, I certainly would not have undertaken the charge of his education.
The Grahams had been with me nearly a year without the occurrence of anything to attract attention or call for discipline. The school had considerable reputation among the people of Tompkinsville for the strictness of its discipline. Though the relations between the pupils and myself were for the most part thoroughly kind and friendly, yet it was well understood by every boy who entered school that the will of the Principal was supreme. Mr. Graham had probably brought his boys to the school for that very reason. The routine of obedience had been so thoroughly established, that his boys, he thought, would submit through mere force of example. Bob was too young to give any uneasiness. He fell, of course, into many of the peccadilloes of boys of his age, and received, without demur, the treatment of a little boy. Charlie, for a long time, was almost a model of propriety. He was diligent in his studies, and observed the rules of the school with scrupulous care. He was fair, almost girlish, in appearance, and gentle in his speech. No one, merely observing the quiet, modest boy, going about his usual routine of duty, without noise or turbulence, would have dreamed of the sleeping volcano that lay beneath this placid exterior.
About the middle of the second term I began to notice in Charlie symptoms that I did not like. The harness evidently chafed him somewhere, and there was no telling when he might kick out of the traces. The crisis at length came. One morning, when the boys were in the washroom, under the charge of the senior teacher, Charlie, with what precise provocation I could never ascertain, drew back his basin of water and threw it full into the teacher's face.
Here was a case. We were about to have an explosion. Evidently the young fire-eater's blood was up. He was bent on having "a scene;" and, while his hand was in, he would quite likely make up for all the long months of peaceful inaction. All the tiger within him stood revealed.
The matter was reported to me of course. After some little thought, my plan was chosen. Not a word was said on the subject for several hours. Meals, play-time, study-hours, lessons, everything went on as usual. At length, about eleven o'clock, Charlie was summoned, not to the principal's desk, in the public school-room, but to my private office, in a remote part of the premises. As he entered the quiet apartment, it was evident that the intervening hours of reflection had not been lost upon him. He was pretty sure, of course, that I had sent for him in consequence of the occurrence of the morning. Still he was not certain. Not a word had been uttered in school on the subject—no allusion to it even. Altogether there was something about the affair that mystified him.
The following brief dialogue ensued.
"Where are your skates, Charlie?"
"In my box in the play-room, sir."
"Where is your sled?"
"That is hanging up in the outer shed."
"Where is your fishing-line and your ball?"
"They are in the play-room."
"I wish you would get these and all your other playthings together before dinner. Peter (this was the head waiter) has collected your boots and shoes, and Sarah (the seamstress) has got your clothes together and packed your trunks. I have made out your accounts, and will be ready to send you home to your father by the afternoon train. You may help Bob also to collect his playthings; he has not done anything wrong, but he is so young I think your father would not like to have him here alone so far from home."
All this was said in a tone as utterly emotionless as I would have used if asking him whether he would be helped to beef or lamb at table.
Charlie was taken aback. If I had attempted to chastise him, if I had even used towards him the language of invective or reproach, he could have met the case. But here was an issue which he had never contemplated. After a moment of blank amazement, he said:
"Mr. H., I don't want to go home thus. It will grieve my father, and it will be a lasting stigma to me in Tompkinsville, where it is counted an honor to belong to this school. I know I have done wrong, but can't you inflict some other punishment? I will submit to anything rather than be sent home in this way. Put me in 'exile' and at the 'side-table,' for three days, or any time you please!"
This was an extreme penalty, sometimes used in school for very grave offences. The boy who was subject to it was obliged to stand at a table by himself in the dining-room and eat bread and water, while the other boys and their teachers were at their meals. Besides this, during the continuance of the penalty the culprit was not allowed to go upon the play-ground, or to speak to any one, nor was any one allowed to speak to him, under the penalty of being himself similarly punished. The punishment was, of course, a severe one in itself, and was very mortifying to a boy of high spirit. It was only resorted to in extreme cases, and was limited to one day. Charlie begged that I would "exile" and "side-table" him for a week, if I pleased; only not send him home thus.
"No, Charlie; I am not sure that your father would approve of your being thus publicly disgraced before the school and the family, nor am I myself sure that it would be right in the case of a boy so far advanced towards manhood as you are. In assuming the charge of you, I never contemplated anything in our intercourse but such as occurs between gentlemen. Since I have been mistaken in my estimate of you, let our intercourse cease. It would not alter your character to subject you to a humiliating punishment before the assembled school. If it were your brother Bob, the case would be different. But you are almost a man. You have been treated here, as at home, with the consideration due to a young gentleman. I would myself revolt at seeing one of your years and standing treated as you request me to treat you. I cannot do it. You must go home."
"Oh, no! no! Do not send me home! Do anything else. I will submit to any punishment you please. Flog me; please, flog me!"
"Flog you! Never! I have no scruples, as you know, on the subject of corporal punishment, for I often chastise the smaller boys; but boys as old and mature as you are have sense enough to be governed by other considerations than fear, and especially fear of the rod. If they have not, I want nothing to do with them."
"Oh! Mr. H., won't you please to flog me?"
And the boy actually went down on his knees and begged me to thrash him. He, Charlie Graham, whose veins ran fire, who, six hours before, would have leaped at my throat had I so much as raised my finger at him, was now begging me, as a special boon, to give him a whipping! I could hardly believe my senses. Yet there was no doubt of the boy's sincerity, or of his earnestness. So, to give me time to reflect as to what should be done, I finally said, "Charlie, I will think of what you have asked, and let you know at three o'clock."
Three o'clock came, and Charlie again made his appearance.
"Do you still wish me to whip you?"
"I do. I will make any apology you think proper to the teacher whom I insulted, and I will be most thankful to you to chastise me for the offence."
"Please to take off your coat."
* * * * *
When the painful affair was over, I gave him my hand cordially and frankly, and said, "Charlie, you have honorably and courageously atoned for a grievous fault, and I assure you, I restore you not only to your position in school, but to my respect and confidence."
I never had any further difficulty with Charlie Graham. Years afterwards, when I met his father at the Springs, he could hardly contain his amazement when I told him that I had once flogged his oldest son Charlie, at his own particular request. It was, I suppose, the first and last time the hand of correction was ever laid on him.
In the previous chapter I gave a leaf from my experience of life in a boarding-school. I propose now to give another leaf from the same book. The incident about to be narrated, however, is not given as an illustration of boarding-school life, but merely because it happened at school. It might have happened elsewhere, though the circumstances on that occasion were particularly favorable for giving to it a curious point.
While I was at the head of the Edgehill school, at Princeton, N. J., a stranger called one day and announced himself as Prof. ——. The name is one almost as well known in the history of Phrenological science as that of Prof. Combe. He said he was about to give a lecture in Princeton on the subject of Phrenology, and as he was an entire stranger to myself and to all the pupils and teachers in the school, he thought it would be a good opportunity for making an interesting and critical experiment. He proposed, therefore, with my consent, to spend an hour, in presence of the school, in examining the heads of any of the boys that I might call up for that purpose. From the very intimate relations existing in a boarding-school, the characters of the boys would be well known to me and to their companions and teachers, and we would have therefore the means of knowing how far he succeeded in his experiment.
Thinking that an hour spent in this way would not be misspent, that it would at least give some variety to the monotonous routine of study and lessons, and, let me add, being not entirely without curiosity as to the result, I consented to his proposition, and called the school together in the large assembly-room. All the boys being in their seats, together with the teachers and the ladies of the household, I stated briefly the object of their assembling and the method in which it was proposed to proceed with the experiment. They were to observe entire silence, and to give no indication, by word or look, so far as they could help it, to show whether the Professor was hitting the mark or not, as he read off to them the characters of their companions. The boys took to the idea at once, and the excitement very soon was at fever-heat.
Placing a chair upon the platform, in full view of the school, and the Professor alongside of it, I called up
Boy No. 1.—This happened to be a lad about fourteen, from the interior of Alabama. He was the most athletic boy in school. "Full big he was of brawn and eke of bones," as Chaucer says, in his picture of the Miller. He could beat any boy in school in wrestling, and no doubt could flog any of them in a fist-fight, though on this point I speak only from conjecture, as this part of boys' amusements is not always as well known to their teachers as it is to the boys themselves. The Professor, after some little manipulation of the cranium, read off the boy's character with tolerable accuracy. Any one, however, with a grain of observation, who had seen the boy stalking up to the platform, with bold, almost defiant air, or had noticed his bull-neck, hard fist, and swaggering gait, could not have had much difficulty in guessing what kind of a boy he was, without resort to his bumps for information. It was written in unmistakable characters all over his physical conformation, from his head to his heels.
I noticed, however, that while the Professor's fingers were busy with the boy's cranium, his eyes were not less busy with the faces of his youthful auditors. Whenever his interpretation of any bump was a palpable hit, his success could be all too plainly read in the upturned faces before him. If the success was very marked and decisive, the youngsters were entirely unable to restrain their expressions of surprise and admiration. It was very evident, from his method of procedure, that he was guided by these expressions, quite as much as by his fingering of the bumps. He would first mention lightly some trait of character. If it attracted no particular attention, he would quietly fall on to something else. But if the announcement seemed to create a little breeze, showing that he had made a hit, he would then dwell upon the point, and intensify his expressions, until, in some instances, the school was in quite an uproar of satisfaction.
Possibly there was a spice of malice in what followed. At all events, it seemed to me that that was a kind of game at which two could play, and if, under the circumstances, he chose to palm off for knowledge gained by the fingers, what he was really getting by means of his eyes and ears, there would be no great crime in punishing him a little for his impertinence. So, in calling the following boys, I selected some who were notorious in school for certain marked traits, but whose general appearance and manner gave no indication of their mental peculiarities; and I questioned the Professor, in regard to each boy, after a method suited to the case.
Boy No. 2 was a youth of moderate abilities, and was, in all things, save one, just like other boys. But, in one matter, he had a peculiarity about which there could be no mistake. That was in the matter of music. So, after questioning the Professor about various indifferent points, moral and intellectual, such as reverence, combativeness, secretiveness, language, ideality, etc., I asked incidentally something also about tune and music. The answer was such as might be safely given in regard to ninety-nine out of every hundred persons—some vague, indefinite epithet that would apply to almost any one. But, seeing a little sparkle in the eyes before him, the gentleman manipulated the cranium again, and then expressed himself somewhat more strongly. As his expressions increased in strength, the excitement of the audience increased, until he was quite lost in hyperbole, as they were in uproar. He even went into particulars. "Now," said he, "though I never saw this boy before, yet I venture to say that his ear for music is so quick that he can pick up almost any tune by once hearing it played or whistled in the street. [A general rustle through the school, boys winking and giving knowing looks one to another.] I dare say he could now sing or whistle a hundred tunes from memory. [More knowing looks.] Possibly he may never make a very accurate performer, on account of the very ease with which he picks up a tune. He learns a tune so easily by the ear, that he will not submit to the drudgery of studying it scientifically."
"You think, then, Professor, that the boy has decided indications of musical talent?"
"Undoubtedly. He has musical talents of a very high order [suppressed shouts] amounting almost to genius!"
The fact was, poor Charlie was the butt of the whole school, on account of his utter inability to learn the first elements of either the art or the science of music. He could neither sing, whistle, nor play. He could hardly tell "Old Hundred" from "Yankee Doodle." Although he had been taking music-lessons for two years, he could not rise and fall through the eight notes, to save his neck. His attempts to do so were a sort of indiscriminate goo, goo, goo, like that of an infant; and the excitement among the boys, which the Professor had mistaken for applause and admiration, grew out of their astonishment. They were simply laughing at him.
Boy No. 3 was a youth over fourteen years old, regularly and symmetrically formed in face, features, and person. There was nothing in his make or bearing to indicate any marked peculiarity. Yet he had a peculiarity as marked as that of the preceding. He was singularly deficient in the capacity for mathematical studies. He was studying English grammar, geography, and Latin, and got along in these branches about as well as the majority of his class. But when it came to the science of numbers, he seemed to stick fast. Neither I nor any of my teachers had been able to get him beyond Long Division. It was as clear a case as I have ever known of natural deficiency in that department of the mental constitution. Yet this boy was declared by the manipulator to have a decided talent for mathematics.
Boy No. 4 was my crack mathematician. He was really in mathematics what our manipulator had made out No. 2 to be in music. His quickness in the perception of mathematical truth was wonderful. Besides this natural readiness in everything pertaining to the science of quantity and the relations of numbers, he had received a good mathematical training, and he was in this department far in advance of his years. Whenever we had a public exhibition, George was our show-card. The rapidity with which he would fill the blackboard, in solving difficult problems in quadratics, was almost bewildering. It was not every teacher even that could follow him in his quick but exact evolutions of complex algebraical formulae. In Greek and Latin he hardly attained to mediocrity, being always behind his class, while in mathematics he was superior, not only to every boy in school, but to any boy of the same age that I have ever had in any school. But this boy received from the Professor only a second or third-rate rank for mathematical indications, while highly praised for linguistics, in which he was decidedly inferior.
The fact was, I saw that the gentleman was trying to read me, as well as the more youthful part of his audience; and so, in questioning him about this boy, I was malicious enough to be very minute and specific in my inquiries about any indications of a talent for language, while the questions about mathematics were propounded just like those about half a dozen other points; that is, with no special stress or emphasis, but just enough to draw from the Professor a clear and distinct expression of opinion.
Boy No. 5 was perhaps the most critical case of all, yet the one most difficult to describe. He was good, and about equally good, in all his studies. He stood head in almost every class. He was so uniformly good that his character became monotonous, and would have been insipid, but for the manly vigor that marked all his performances. His moral were like his mental traits. He was indeed our model boy. In two years he had not had one demerit mark. He was on all sides rounded and complete—totus teres atque rotundus. The uniformity of his goodness was sometimes a source of anxiety to me. There was danger of his growing up with a self-satisfied, pharisaical spirit.
Thus far, however, I have not named the feature which I regarded as the critical one, and which had led me to select him as one of the subjects for examination. Model boys are to be found in all schools. But this boy had a power of reticence which was to me a continual study, and it was this feature in his character that I wanted to bring out in the examination. He was not a sneak. There was nothing sly about him. His conduct was open and aboveboard. What he did was patent to all. But what he thought, or how he felt, no one knew. Not Grant himself could more perfectly keep his own counsel. If a new rule was promulgated, Joseph obeyed it to the letter. But whether it was agreeable or disagreeable to him, no teacher could ever find out. Nor was his obedience of that tame, passive sort which comes from indifference and lack of spirit. We all knew him to be resolute, and to be possessed of strong passions. But his power of self-restraint was equal to his power of reticence. He had, indeed, in a very marked degree, qualities which you look for only in those who have had a long schooling in the stern realities of life, and which you find rarely even then. He was as self-poised as a man of fifty, with not a particle of that easy impulsiveness so nearly universal at his age.
None of the gentleman's performances surprised me so much as the character which he assigned to this boy, and all the more because something of the boy's self-continence and reserve was written upon his face and manner. He was represented by the Professor, in general terms, as having a free and easy, rollicking sort of disposition—not being really worse than his companions, though probably having the reputation of being so. 'If he got into more scrapes than the others [Joseph was never in a scrape in his life], it was more owing to his natural impulsiveness than to anything inherently bad in him. And then, when he did get into a scrape, he had no faculty for concealing it. His organ of secretiveness was unusually small. The boys would hardly admit him to a partnership in their plans of mischief, so sure was he inadvertently to let the cat out of the bag,' etc., etc.
Boy No. 6 was the weakest boy, mentally, that we had in school. He was barely able to take care of himself. Some of his mistakes and blunders were so ridiculous, that they were handed down among the traditionary jokes of the school, and I am afraid even at this day to repeat them, lest they may be recognized. If the manipulator had had the cranium of Daniel Webster under his fingers, he could not have drawn a mental character more marked by every trait that belongs to intellectual greatness of the highest order. Finding that he was making a decided impression upon his young hearers, the Professor continued to pile up qualities and powers, until the scene became almost too much for the most practised gravity.
The examinations occupied an hour, and I made copious notes of the whole, writing down, as nearly as I could, the exact expressions used by the operator. The report which I have now given of it is as nearly literal as it is safe to make it.
When the Professor was through, and was about to leave, he asked me privately to tell him how far he had succeeded in his experiments. Not wishing to say anything disagreeable, I evaded the question to the best of my ability, answering with some vague generalities, but indicating sufficiently that it was not agreeable to be more explicit. He pressed me, however, to tell him candidly and explicitly whether he had succeeded, and how far. I then told him frankly that he had failed point-blank in every case. "Ah," said he, "you are skeptical." "No, sir," said I, "skepticism implies doubt, and I have no longer any doubts on the subject. My skepticism is entirely removed!"
The term Normal School is an unfortunate misnomer, and its general adoption has led to much confusion of ideas. The word "Normal," from the Latin norma, a rule or pattern to work by, does not differ essentially from "Model." A Normal School, according to the meaning of the word, would be a pattern school, an institution which could be held up for imitation, to be copied by other schools of the same grade. But this meaning of the word is not what we mean by the thing. When we mean a school to be copied or imitated, we call it a Model School. Here the name and the thing agree. The name explains the thing. It is very different when we speak of a Normal School. To the uninitiated, the term either conveys no meaning at all; or, if your hearer is a man of letters, it conveys to him an idea which you have at once to explain away. You have to tell him, in effect, that a Normal School is not a Normal School, and then that it is something else, which the word does not in the least describe.
What then do we mean by a Normal School? What is the thing which we have called by this unfortunate name?
A Normal School is a seminary for the professional education of teachers. It is an institution in which those who wish to become teachers learn how to do their work; in which they learn, not reading, but how to teach reading; not penmanship, but how to teach penmanship; not grammar, but how to teach grammar; not geography, but how to teach geography; not arithmetic, but how to teach arithmetic. The idea which lies at the basis of such an institute, is that knowing a thing, and knowing how to teach that thing to others, are distinguishable and very different facts. The knowledge of the subjects to be taught, may be gained at any school. In order to give to the Teachers' Seminary its full power and efficiency, it were greatly to be desired that the subjects themselves, as mere matters of knowledge, should be first learned elsewhere, before entering the Teachers' School. This latter would then have to do only with its own special function, that of showing its matriculants how to use these materials in the process of teaching. Unfortunately, we have not yet made such progress in popular education as to be able to separate these two functions to the extent that is desirable. Many of those who attend a Teachers' Seminary, come to it lamentably ignorant of the common branches of knowledge. They have consequently first to study these branches in the Normal School, as they would study them in any other school. That is, they have first to learn the facts as matters of knowledge, and then to study the art and science of teaching these facts to others. Instead of coming with their brick and mortar ready prepared, that they may be instructed in the use of the trowel and the plumb-line, they have to make their brick and mix their mortar after they enter the institution. This is undoubtedly a drawback and a misfortune. But it cannot be helped at present. All we can do is to define clearly the true idea of the Teachers' School, and then to work towards it as fast and as far as we can.
A Normal School is essentially unlike any other school. It has been compared indeed to those professional schools which are for the study of law, divinity, medicine, mining, engineering, and so forth. The Normal School, it is true, is like these schools in one respect. It is established with reference to the wants of a particular profession. It is a professional school. But those schools have for their main object the communication of some particular branch of science. They teach law, divinity, medicine, mining, or engineering. They aim to make lawyers, divines, physicians, miners, engineers, not teachers of these branches. The Professor in the Law School aims, not to make Professors of law, but lawyers. The medical Professor aims, not to make medical lecturers, but practitioners. To render these institutions analogous to the Teachers' Seminary, their pupils should first study law, medicine, engineering, and so forth, and then sit at the feet of their Gamaliels to be initiated into the secrets of the Professorial chair, that they may in turn become Professors of those branches to classes of their own. Nor would such a plan, if it were possible, be altogether without its value. It surely needs no demonstration to prove, that in the highest departments, no less than in the lowest, something more than knowledge is needed in order to teach. An understanding of how to communicate one's knowledge, and practical skill in doing it, are as necessary in teaching theology, metaphysics, languages, infinitesimal analysis, or chemistry, as they are in teaching the alphabet. If there are bunglers, who know not how to go to work to teach a child its letters, or to open its young mind and heart to the reception of truth, whose school-rooms are places where the young mind and heart are in a state, either of perpetual torpor, or of perpetual nightmare, have these bunglers no analogues in the men of ponderous erudition that sometimes fill the Professor's chair? Have we no examples, in our highest seminaries of learning, of men very eminent in scientific attainments, who have not in themselves the first elements of a teacher? who impart to their students no quickening impulse? whose vast and towering knowledge may make them perhaps a grand feature in their College, attracting to it all eyes, but whose intellectual treasures, for all the practical wants of the students, are of no more use, than are the swathed and buried mummies in the pyramid of Cheops!