« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
and on it inscribes characters which no human power can efface, and which may last forever. What he says can never be unsaid ; what he does can never be undone. The record once written must be often reviewed, but may never be blotted out. How important it is, then, that it should be a pleasant record! But, as teachers, we are not only writing our own history in these indelible characters, but we are also making impressions on other minds which shall live forever. We are placing inscriptions on other tablets, which shall last when pillars of brass and marble shall have crumbled into dust.
It has been beautifully said, that none but a skilful hand should touch the strings of that harp, in whose chords the tones remain forever. And such a harp is the mind of every child. In the midst of our duties may we never forget this ; may we never forget that, in the lowliest pupil under our care, there is lodged an immortal soul, capable, under proper culture and with the blessing of God, of becoming useful to mankind, and which at last may soar and sing sweetly as a seraph in the home of the blest.
ADVANCEMENT IN THE MEANS AND METHODS
BY DAVID P. PAGE,
Among all the various blessings bequeathed to us by the ancestors of New England--if we except religious freedom-none has stronger claims for our attachment or demands more imperiously our warmest gratitude than their early institution of the Common School System. As if endowed with wisdom beyond the age in which they lived, and with a liberality far above the people from whom they came out, they were the first to declare-if not the first to entertain—the important doctrine, that religious and civil liberty, in the broadest sense, could have a permanent foundation only in a general diffusion of intelligence in the whole community. They were the very first men to declare positively against an exclusive aristocracy in mental cultivation ; the first to open freely and fully to all classes and to both sexes the fountains of knowledge; the first to establish and maintain at the public expense, wherever they felled the forest and founded a settlement-second in their affections only to the ordinances of religion—the MEANS OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION.
And perhaps it is no censurable pride in us that we fondly—and, it may be, somewhat boastfully—repeat the fact, that the spot which is now the site of the city of Salem, in the county of Essex and commonwealth of Massachusetts, was the locality of the very first public free school the world ever saw !
To us, then, who are met within the limits of a State so honorably distinguished in the annals of human improvement; to us, who are the descendants of a New England ancestry and have been nurtured amid New England institutions; standing as we now do between the illustrious dead on the one hand and the rising progeny of such a noble parentage on the other'; charged as we are with the responsible office of ministering with pure hands and devoted hearts to the intellectual growth of a rising multitude, and of perpetuating to others yet to come the blessings we have richly received,—it cannot be uninteresting to pause a few moments, by the way, and inquire what improvements have been introduced, and what advancement we have made in an enterprise so worthy of its founders and so necessary to our very existence as a free and self-governing people. The subject of this lecture, is the “ADVANCEMENT
METHODS OF PUBLIC INSTRUC
IN THE MEANS
It will scarcely be necessary, perhaps, to discuss the question whether there has been any advancement in these matters ;
any one present will furnish sufficient data to settle that point. The question for us to discuss then is, “ How great has been the advancement and in what does it consist ?
No remark is more common than that so frequently made by those who now visit our school-rooms, or in any other way are brought acquainted with the condition of our schools, namely : “ The youth of the present day have great advantages compared with those enjoyed by their parents.” But while we may safely assume that sorne improvement has been attained, we should not be too confident as to the degree of it, until after due examination we are able to lay our hand upon
the items of our educational thrift. We live in an age, it must not be forgotten, of experimenting ; an age which avoids too much, perhaps, the slow process of patient induction, but which impetuously rushes forward to its conclusions by overleaping the premises ; an age in which the clamorous pretender is nearly as likely to be greeted and caressed, as the more worthy, but more rare commodity-genuine worth ; an age in which a high-sounding name often like the title of the book which Dr. Johnson compared to a “cannon placed at the door of a pigsty”—announces to the world but very insignificant realities; an age in some things over-credulous, and hence very frequently imposed upon ; and if the age have all these characteristics, it will involve no hazard to allege that such an age may be an age of “humbugs.” I would not be severe upon the profession of my choice. I would be candid. But when we find ourselves surrounded by impositions ; when our politics have become a profession, under the robes of which patriots suck out the life-blood of the republic to aggrandize their party, and withal to aggrandize themselves; when our public financiers and fund-keepers depart from their post and their country, because their funds and their integrity had first departed from them ; when our mercantile enterprise is often but speculation without a capital, and bankruptcy is a surer road to wealth than a continuance in a safe and honest business ; when the poor debtor can frequently afford to maintain a more splendid style of living and a costlier equipage than his “rich” creditor ; when our systems of reform have some of them come to need themselves a reform ; when the advocates of peace and moderation " get by the ears ” among themselves, and quarrel and call hard names about the measures to be used in their warfare ; when the apostles of “free discussion," and “liberty of speech,” and “ rights of conscience," sometimes endeavor to hiss down an opponent, or perhaps essay to enter and forestall the forum or the pulpit dedicated to another cause and appropriated to other voices; when even our holy religion is sometimes distorted by false lights and “new lights” and extravagances, which, while they humble and grieve the believer, invite the derision and the scoff of the infidel,-I say, when all these things abound, and a thousand others quite as incongruous and quite as wild, who can wonder that the cause of education should contract the general disease, and bring forth among its precious fruits some of the excrescences and corruptions so common to the times? We might fairly anticipate such results, and accordingly we find them. We have our literary reformers, our