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-so in the moral world, we seldom find the work of reform perfectly triumphant, or its results universally successful. It is thus with the reform we have been considering: Prejudices as chilling and unrelenting as the iceberg, still are to be met with in certain quarters; and ignorance, as dense and impenetrable as the darkness which hung over Egypt, still holds its undisturbed and cruel sway over many enslaved and craven minds. Prescriptive usages, and an attachment even to the errors and mistakes of
themselves to the progress of reform in many directions. Avarice and short-sighted calculation, are not without their influence in retarding improvement among us.
The dread of innovation, based perhaps on the failure of some past innovations, is a motive with many. And then, alas! the adventurous, unchastened and misdirected zeal of some of the friends of the cause; the wild and unwarrantable schemes of some of the dreamy movers of the public opinion; the false and ridiculous pretensions of the barefaced egotist, who advertises himself into the favor of the credulous, in order to enrich himself with their coin, and to impoverish them with his own counterfeits,—all these, constitute no inconsiderable drawback upon the progress of real improvement, and oppose a formidable barrier to the confidence of an abused and reasonably cautious public.
After all then, very much remains to be known and to be done on this subject. The profession of teaching has yet by no means attained the summit of perfection, nor are all our systems free from impediinents and abuses. The public appropriations are in many cases graduated by a mistaken policy, if not by the narrowest parsimony. Then it not unfrequently happens that the voters in the
town meeting, after appropriating the money, limited as that may be, either by an injudicious choice of committees, or by some ill-judged restrictions upon the measures to be used, embarrass all parties concerned, and bring down upon their offspring the deplorable calamity of incompetent teachers, and miserable schools. Small as the sums are, which are raised for the support of schools, what an amount is annually raised to be misspent, if not entirely thrown away!
It well becomes us, then, as a free people, as a people whose very institutions are based upon the supposition of a diffusion of intelligence through the whole community, to see to it that we are not surpassed in our efforts, and actually outstripped in our onward progress by some of the monarchical nations of Europe.
It well becomes us not only to be liberal in the appropriation of the means, but to be well informed as to the methods of so worthy an enterprize; and if we are convinced we have made some advances, either in the methods or the means, let every citizen bestir himself to attain more light and a better zeal; to open a more liberal hand, and exercise a stricter oversight; to comprehend more fully our deficiencies, and to devise and encourage real improvements, till we can confer upon our offspring privileges, such as no other people have ever enjoyed, and hand down to our posterity, in coming time, the system perfected, the institution of which our fathers achieved for us. May our wisdom, our zeal, and our efforts, merit the gratitude of our descendants as justly and as richly as our ancestors deserve our own!
R E A DIN G.
BY C. PEIRCE,
In this assembly, there are some, it is presumed, who have the charge of Primary schools, and others who purpose to become teachers. For them the remarks in this lecture are mainly designed, and not for the teacher of long experience. I would address them as their elder brother and fellow-laborer in the work of elementary school instruction.
Among your pupils, you may find those, who for the first time have entered the school-room, and know nothing of what is usually called school-learning. It has long been a desideratum to know what to do with very young children at school; and it has been probably, or will be, among your earliest inquiries, to know how to occupy this class of scholars.
It is not my purpose, at this time, to go into a minute consideration of the best manner of managing primary schools; but before I proceed to my principal subject, (which is the best method of teaching children how to read,') I wish to make a few suggestions on the proper treatment of young pupils when they first come to school.
It were better that pupils of this description should form a separate school, under a separate teacher, than be mingled with scholars of every age and size. But in the country, and in thinly populated towns and villages, this is impracticable. They must in general be provided for in the same room, and under the same teacher with other and older pupils. They should, however, somewhere be particularly cared for. Let them have easy, convenient seats,-frequent recesses,-short lessons,—and short sessions. Let their treatment in all things be suited to their years. They should be entertained, and constantly occupied, while they are being subjected to reSTRAINT, wholesome in kind and degree. The old way was, and in some places, the way still is, to make thein sit as still as possible, and teach them the alphabet by dint of repetition from beginning to end, till all the letters could be said off-hand, from great A to & (per se and.) A process sufficiently tedious, and often requiring from three months to a year for its completion! Nothing could be better calculated to beget on the part of children a dislike to school and all its associations. And there can be no doubt that it has been the foundation of lasting aversion in the minds of many children, who hav been made victims of this injudicious school-room discipline. But what shall be done? It is easy to find fault. Who can propose a remedy for the evil?
I have already said that I am not going to give my views in detail on the best manner of managing primary schools. I shall only throw out a few hints, and then pass to my main topic.
1. And, first, whatever is done for children, whether in the way of instruction, discipline, or amusement, let a suitable regard be paid to their age and attainments. Most children, and all who have had justice done them, have been taught many things before they enter the school-room. Some have been taught to read; and the teacher is thus relieved from what often proves a difficult and laborious task.
For all young children, as I have already said, everything should be short and simple. Short sessions, short lessons,—short recitations,-everything short,save recesses. These may be long. Children soon get tired of restraint, and they must not long be confined. Let everything be simple too,-easy to be understood. Children, especially young children, must not be subjected to long and hard thinking. Their brains cannot endure it. Frequently vary the exercise itself, as well as the mode of hearing it. Children are fond of change and novelty; and this element in their nature should be gratified. The kind and ingenious teacher will study out new and interesting ways to present old subjects; and thus lure them on in the paths of knowledge. It is surprising how long, in this way, interest in the same exercise may be sustained. I would instance in spelling, marking on the black-board, adding, numbering, or counting, and learning the origin, names, qualities and uses of objects. Much should be taught children before they begin to read, or rather in connexion with reading.