Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

al and pedagogical experts. The more competent they are, the more likely to demand of the people authority to unite with boards of other towns to form a supervisory district.

All the reforms suggested depend upon public opinion for their consummation.

Good schools cannot be forced upon any New England community from the outside; they will come, if they come at all, from an enlightened public sentiment which demands them and which will accept nothing less; they will come to any community whenever the controlling influence insists upon them, whether that control is made manifest by a majority vote or a predominant intellectual power.

The solution, then, of all our problems depends upon interest and enlightenment of the people. This view brings to us a question almost appalling: How may the people of any town, of any state, be brought to realize their personal responsibility for the schools ? To the accomplishment of this end, every teacher, every superintendent, every one connected with educational work, should constitute himself or herself a missionary: every such one must remember that his duty is not fully discharged with the completion of the immediate school room work. We owe a duty to the state as well as to the local community. Individuals should be enlisted, organizations should be interested. We must aim to unify all the educational forces to the end that every citizen be aroused to an understanding and appreciation of the obligation of the citizen to the school.

LITERATURE IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS.

M.

BERTHA MCCONKEY, SUPERINTENDENT, PRIMARY

SCHOOLS, SPRINGFIELD, MASS. There is much less idle marking of time in modern schools than there was in schools of twenty years ago. Children, as a rule, read well at a much earlier age, and the child of today reads ten times as many pages of good literature before he reaches the high school as his father had read at a corresponding age. As a consequence of the improvement in methods of teaching, teaching appliances, and text books, the average grammar school graduate of today knows as much about literature, science, history and the life of the world as an average high school graduate of twenty years ago. This large improvement has not been brought about without some loss. Classics in art and literature that are beyond the comprehension of the ordinary child have been forced upon him before his life experience has fitted him to appreciate or understand them.

Not that the literary diet of a child should be limited to what he can understand-no one who knows children could advocate that—but some things should be allowed to wait until the time for their presentation is ripe. Browning makes but a poor substitute for Mother Goose when one is reading to a five-yearold. Stevenson passes muster with a child of six years because Stevenson never grew up; he was always the big boy who liked to steal away from his adult companions in order to play pirate with the other lads under the table. Shakespeare for the child of six is

another matter. His message is for the more mature mind and there is very little in his verse to which the young child responds.

Children are a constant temptation to their instrúctors. So much can be done with them—they are such wonderfully adaptable material for experiment. An enthusiastic teacher may be able to interest a child in the paintings of Corot, but the interest can be no more than transitory—the mere temporary effect of a contagious enthusiasm. When a little child looks through a picture book for his own pleasure he usually skips the pictures that his elders think he ought to enjoy and dwells lovingly upon those that express action, appeal directly to his crude sense of color, present familiar objects in new or unexpected relations, and those that approach the grotesque.

The picture that tells a story which he can understand is the one that is dear to the heart of a child. As his experiences multiply his taste in art is gradually modified until Corot and Raphael make their own direct appeal to something within him that understands.

To withhold from a child the picture that he enjoys while forcing upon him one that has, as yet, no special interest for him, is to risk depriving him in later life of the power to appreciate the beautiful thing with which he too early became familiar.

In Literature, as in Art, we are face to face with this danger, and we may grow as weary of “The Vision of Sir Launfal, as we have grown of "St. Cecelia."

Teachers in our secondary schools and in the higher grades of the elementary schools complain that they

are feeling the lack, in their Literature classes, of the vivid interest that pertains to the unknown and the unexplored.

In a kindergarten of which I know, children four years of age are taught the selection from the “Vision of Sir Launfal” beginning "What is so rare as a day in June?" It is often well to give young children a taste of poems that they cannot appreciate in toto,' but there are surely more suitable selections than this upon which to exercise the memories of kindergarten children. For the poem as a whole even fifth grade pupils are too young. Ten-year-old children, as a rule, will entirely miss the ethical lesson summed up in the lines,

“Who gives himself with his alms feeds three, Himself, his suffering neighbor and me.”

I have found, however, that it enhances rather than detracts from the interest shown in some poems if the children have had the story of the poems told to them some time before it is read to them or by them. “The Pied Piper of Hamelin"may be told many times from kindergarten through second or third grade, and “The Leak in the Dyke," "The Legend of St. Christopher, "The Bell of Atri," "Hiawatha and Snow Bound" are more thoroughly enjoyed by children if the story is familiar to them. We need have very little fear of "wearing out" a story that possesses intrinsic interest for children. Verse may become hackneyed and lose its charm, but a favorite story can scarcely be too often repeated.

An ideal course in Literature should include, for young children, some of the world's best folk lore and mythical tales, true stories of birds and beasts and people, a sprinkling of Mother Goose, and a goodly number of short poems that have stories bound up in them, together with a few that will be enjoyed because of their rhythm. In making selections preference should be given to such poems and stories as touch the child's experience at some point. Later in the course the ideal in life and conduct should have a place, and such selections as emphasize the homely every-day virtues.

There is enough and to spare for every grade, and not all the good things were written in the days of our grandfathers. There is much in modern and contemporaneous Literature that will bear comparison with the classics. Nothing finer, of its kind, can be found in any age than Victor Hugo's picture of the gentle shepherd of souls whose love for mankind so greatly exceeded his love of self.

With the old and the classic the wise teacher will combine that which is best in modern Literature, seeking to guide, not force, the child in his choice of intellectual food.

To cultivate a love for the best in literature, to reach the feelings with the refining influence of story, poetry and song, to open to the victim of unfortunate circumstances a door into the land of happy self-forgetfulness, to increase the sum total of the world's joy—this is the mission of the public school teachers who have at their command the wealth afforded by our public libraries.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »