Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

the channels through which these regenerating influences have worked their way to the minds of men. Whenever a child has been taught to read, he has been intrusted with a key wherewith he can unlock the great storehouse of knowledge. History and literature become his teachers. He rises out of himself, and thiitks the thoughts of others. He knew before that life was a struggle; but he sees now that mankind has been struggling on for ages, and that to the sum total of human toil and pain he is indebted for what he is, and that he will be to a certain degree responsible for the future of his race. God's revelation becomes his possession, in the pages of which are revealed both his own weakness and depravity and the Deity perfect in power and goodness.

In the long march from the savagery of six thousand years ago to the civilization of the present, progress was measurably slow until schools began their work of mental elevation.

That education has been indirectly effective in preventing crime can be safely affirmed. The lighting of our city streets, the scientific appliances employed by the police, the use of chemistry and electricity in the detection of crime, and the better adminisstration of justice are but incidents of the improved moral and social condition which education has produced.

The study of nature has tended to soften human feelings and to promote a humanity that is quick to sympathize with weakness and suffering. Every hospital, with its trained attendants and its appliances for soothing pain and thwarting disease, every retreat for the insane, schools for those defective in sight, speech, or the imbecile,- all these witness to the intelligent and earnest philanthropy of our time. Even dumb animals are protected from cruelty by law. Society, aroused and on the alert, is guarding the public health from every contaminating influence; and, while science is attacking the germs of disease with marvellous results, we hear of the discovery of an “elixir of life" that can make the aged young and the weak strong.

John Stuart Mill defines education as whatever helps to shape the human being, to make the individual what he is, or to hinder him from being what he is not.” Accepting this very broad definition, and observing the enlightened condition of the civilized world and the security in which we live, we are able to award to education in general, and to the public school system in particular, a large measure of credit.

If our jails and prisons are as full as ever, we know that many are deterred from evil-doing by modern facilities for detecting and punishing crime. If intemperance is still defiantly assaulting life and character in every grade of society, and is the direct agent of more crime than all other causes considered, we still know that a moral sentiment is being developed that will eventually place this monster evil in subjection and protect society from its ravages. The movement now in successful operation towards making hygiene and the evil effects of alcohol topics for instruction in the common schools will add materially to the debt which the public welfare owes to popular education.

The fact that we are annually adding to our population upwards of half a million of foreigners, many of whom are not in sympathy with our institutions, but are bred in pauperism, discontent, and possibly in crime, is often overlooked when criminal statistics are cited by pessimistic writers. But there is no grander proof of the efficacy of free schools than is seen in the capacity of our country for receiving and assimilating this mass of material without serious detriment. The increase of crime may be partially explained by other causes, as, for example, the rapid growth of cities, the unsettled condition of our industrial system, the rapid accumulation of wealth, all tending to prove that the subject of crime and its causes is very complex, and presents many problems for science and philanthropy to solve.

But, whichever way we turn, we have to face one sublime fact,these United States, with all the dangers to which they have been exposed, resulting from rapid growth, immigration, and intemperance, have severally and unitedly evinced a strength and stability that have excited the world's admiration; and this phenomenon can be explained only in the intelligence of the people through the common schools. If our education in the past has not been powerful as a corrective of crime, it has certainly produced a high average of intelligence, and fortified the public mind and conscience in its attempt to deal with it promptly and wisely.

With this hasty and somewhat superficial view of the relation which education has borne to crime hitherto, I propose to consider rather carefully the prospects for the diminution of crime in future through educational means.

The hosts of evil now pressing upon us are vast and threatening. Intemperance, immigration, heredity, ignorance, poverty, and insane, nihilistic tendencies are present in great strength. Now, granting that the pulpit and the press are efficient as pre

а

ventive agents by their constant appeals to right and warfare upon wrong, and by their efforts in disseminating truth, we must look to the, schools, public and private, to so counteract and cure moral disease in its incipient forms as to afford to all our youth a fundamental training in habitual morality. In previous remarks, I have laid considerable stress upon heredity and the principle of persistence of type, so well understood by the naturalist;, but there is another truth of equal educational value in this connection, and that is the exceeding plasticity of the infant child, and the capacity of his nature for modification through proper training and environment. Children born under the worst conditions, if transplanted at an early age to a good home, form moral habits that prove their safeguard through life.

The schools are capable of doing a great corrective and curative work. The educational reforms instituted during the past ten years, and now being vigorously pushed, all look to this result. The assertion may sound paradoxical, but the schools of the future are to be more corrective of evil because less penal and less repressive than in the past. Strong, healthy growth, moral, physical, and intellectual, leading up to honest citizenship, is to be the real end and aim.

Says Washington Gladden, addressing himself to those who direct the policy of our schools, “You have been building on a foundation too narrow; you must enlarge your basis; you must learn that character is the result of a harmonious development of all the powers of the eye and hand and the practical judgment, and the will, as well as of the memory and the logical faculty; and you must not forget that industrial training affords a discipline almost indispensable to the right development of character." The new education, whose principles are already well diffused, and whose sole purpose is to build character on solid foundations, calls for a more generous policy on the part of the State and greater skill and discrimination in applying educational means.

First, greater attention must be paid to school hygiene, including both health conditions of buildings and those dangers growing out of the nervous tendencies and defective constitutions of so many children.

The State cannot afford to furnish an education that ignores the laws of health and fails to promote physical stamina. The ancient Greeks exposed their weak and defective children, and so spared them a life of suffering and unhappiness. Is the civilized State of to-day doing better than they, when it

sends its youth out to battle with life unschooled in the care of the body, or, it may be, weak and puny, from lack of physical culture ?

A recent paragraph in the Chicago Inter-Ocean is full of truth. It says: “Physical infirmities and deficiencies, resulting from the disregard of the commonest rules of muscular development and bodily perfection, must have their reflex in the spiritual and moral character of the victim. Strong, active, physical health is rarely associated with moral perversity in the rightly educated man or woman.”

The educational authorities of England, seeing the remarkable results of physical training in the schools of Germany and Sweden, are earnestly agitating this question. Even now, in the Board Schools of London, instructors are employed to introduce the Swedish military drill, in which a great variety of muscular movements, at once graceful and rhythmic, is secured. Decided indications of progress in this department are seen in this country Hygiene has become a prescribed study; gymnastics and military drill are somewhat in vogue ; and in several cities physicians are employed as inspectors of schools with regard to health.

The second demand is the adoption in our cities of the kindergarten as a part of the public school system, especially for all neglected children and those whose breeding and environment are likely to result in criminal habits. I wish to emphasize this point. It is most vital to the question we are considering. If the State leaves the children born in the slums to run wanton during the first five, six, or seven years of life, until every form of wickedness and evil is automatic in their thought and feeling, she must expect to reap a harvest of crime.

The kindergarten has been found to possess this distinct advantage over all other forms of infant training,- that children, if taken at three years of age from the worst surroundings, can be reclaimed. The plastic nature of the child responds readily to love and kindness. As a new environment is revealed to him, so a new set of affections and impulses is awakened. The aim of the kindergarten is thoroughly normal. The systematic development of the child power, the arousing of self-activity, the culture of the feelings, the establishment of the practical virtues, the kindling of æsthetic, moral, and social sentiments,— these are all present in the true kindergarten. It may be said, in passing, that this training is the best possible foundation for the school proper.

So says

Doctor Harris, our newly appointed Commissioner of Education, who has had universal facilities for observation. A recent writer has said that “solicitude for children is one of the signs of a growing civilization.” Let this sentiment materialize in legislation that shall zealously rescue from danger all those unfortunates who are inevitably destined to be an expense to the State. It is far cheaper to apply some simple remedy in the earlier stages of an illness than to become a confirmed invalid and wage a life-long struggle with disease. A school training, engrafted on a character that is fixed in bad habits, is as unsafe as was the dam at Johnstown, with its flimsy foundations and a mountainous mass of water pressing against it. Five dollars a year spent in giving a child kindergarten training may save the State ten thousand dollars in trials and imprisonments, to say nothing of the economical advantages of having each and every man a supporter of the laws rather than a source of moral contamination, a producer of wealth rather than a destroyer of it.

Third, we must leaven the entire curriculum with that most effective of all moral correctives, manual or industrial training. While I prefer to argue this question on the broadest educational grounds, time will only permit me at this time to emphasize the moral element that belongs to all intelligent labor. So much has been written on this topic that I need recall only a few well-known facts. Wherever mental and manual exercises are blended, there is manifest a moral earnestness, a growth in manly and womanly character. This is no theory. The results now seen in many schools and colleges testify to the truth. Wherever, in the public schools of this country, boys are trained in the use of tools or the girls are taught sewing and cooking, the children from neglected homes seem to experience a change in conduct and ambition. Hope for the first time dawns upon their lives; and they become missionaries at home, setting order, comfort, and happiness in the place of squalor and wretchedness.

The system so extensively adopted in England, and partially begun in this country, of gathering dependent children into industrial schools where the useful arts are pursued in connection with a vigorous schooling of the mental and moral powers, has convinced many observers that France has builded wisely in constructing a system of national education with the industrial element present in every grade. A most striking evidence of the reforming power of diversified industry is found in the recent

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »