« AnteriorContinuar »
III. Concluding Remarks upon our National Literature 205
THE OCCASION FOR THIS WORK.
LONG experience in teaching has convinced the compiler that Aone of the numerous works known to him on the subject of Rhetoric and Composition are sufficiently adapted to a large class of scholars, in academies and common schools, that need, and are susceptible of, instruction in this important branch of knowledge. He has been compelled, therefore, by a regard to the interests of the young, and to the interests of the community, to undertake the compilation of a work from the best sources, which, being the result of long experience, may not only aid teachers and scholars in this branch of education, but may render the pursuit of it more agreeable than any other treatise within his knowledge. One great objection to almost every treatise hith erto furnished to schools, is their dry, uninteresting, and even repulsive character in the view of the young; which, added to the dislike to efforts in composition which the young generally enter tain, render those works of comparatively little service.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS BRANCH OF EDUCATION BEING MORK EXTENSIVELY AND THOROUGHLY TAUGHT IN ACADEMIES AND COMMON SCHOOLS.
The compiler of the present work begs leave to express his conviction that the labors of teachers in all our schools are di rected too exclusively to the securing of correct habits in speaking and reading the language; and that altogether too limited an amount of time and share of attention are employed in teaching the art of correctly WRITING the language. He believes that during several years of attendance at school, the time of the pupil could not be more profitably employed, during an hour or a half hour of each day, than in transcribing from books, or in composing, until the art is acquired of correctly committing to paper what may be heard or thought. To do this, implies a practical and thorough knowledge of orthography, punctuation, and proper use of capital letters, in addition to a knowledge of grammatical and rhetorical principles.
When we consider how many, who have enjoyed the advantages of common and even of academic schools, are unable to write down their own thoughts or the speeches of other persons; how much occasion every one has in life for the ability to communicate or preserve his thoughts by writing; when we consider how many persons of strong powers of reflection make no record of their valuable thoughts because they were not educated to the practice of it at school; when we consider, also, how difficult and protracted the process must be of learning to reduce our
thongnts to a written form with grammatical and rhetorical ac curacy; when we reflect upon the pleasures, as well as the nu merous advantages, of readiness and excellence in the art of com posing, is it not important to secure the attention, and the vigor ous action, both of teachers and of parents, to this long-neglect ed branch of education? and is it not desirable that works shall be used on the subject that shall be best fitted to secure the important end in view? Is it not desirable that the young should be trained, under competent instructers, to think and to write ou their thoughts as readily as to speak their thoughts?
Besides, is there a more effectual method of securing closeness, connection, accuracy, and completeness in habits of thought, than to habituate ourselves to write upon the subject of investigation? Is there any better mode of guarding ourselves against vagueness and obscurity in the language we habitually employ? How often do we suppose ourselves well versed in a subject until we attempt to write upon it? Our own muddiness of mind, or that of others, is discovered not so readily by speech as by writing.
The habit of writing much with accuracy would greatly aid us, also, in speaking the language with accuracy and elegance a very great, but not common accomplishment. When about to speak, we should then be likely to inquire of ourselves how we would express on paper the ideas we are about to communicate. Many things that appear tolerably well when addressed to the ear, can not escape condemnation, perhaps ridicule, when submitted to the eye. The writing, then, of the English language, and composing in it, should form as regular a part of the daily exercises of enery school as that of reading the language. It has more to do with intellectual discipline, with giving vigor to all the powers of the youthful mind. Even the humble business of copying accurately from a book, from reading books, geographies, grammars, or any other text-book, is a suitable exercise, until it can be done with exactness in every particular. Why is it that those who are accustomed to set type in a printing-office not only spell well, but so generally learn to compose well, but that they have thus employed themselves in copying the language of those who compose well?
If one hour, therefore, of each day were devoted to the writing of our language, either in copying pages of scientific and literary works, or, afterward, in giving a written form to the scholar's own thoughts, observations, and recollections, there would be gained so much of mental discipline, such a habit of mental application and exactness, as would facilitate his progress in all his other studies. While, in relation to the latter, there would, therefore, be no loss sustained by the time thus directly withdrawn from them, there would be acquired the great positive gain of increased mental discrimination and power, besides a most valuable readiness in turning to a useful account the daily results of the scholar's reading, observation, and experience.
Do we not need, then, in this respect, a RADICAL CHANGE IN