Imagens das páginas

would. Supt. Howell closed by reading the following extract from the Toledo Blade of Dec. 28:

In the matter of manual training the Board of Education cannot be charged with making undue haste. It is considered purely as an experiment, and if it turns out badly it will be dropped. The Tribune believes that such training is of great importance, but that it should be gained in special schools. - New York Tribune.

Toledo has had this system in practical operation for two or three years, and it works admirably. No person here regards it as an experiment, except as to the extent of that kind of training. A certain amount is unquestionably most important. It takes the place of, and is an improvement upon, the gymnasium. Toledo could not be induced to abandon her manual training school. It fits pupils for usefulness in new and desirable channels, just about doubles their capacity for taking care of themselves, and affords practical knowledge which is of incalculable value to all. It is no longer an experiment, any more than the common school system is an experiment. It may be a question as to the extent of instruction which either may afford.



The teacher's duties are manifold. To no class of men and women has been given a wider range of activity, more serious and far-reaching responsibilities. The higher the civilization, the freer the institutions, the more diverse the employments, the more conflicting are the interests and the more imperative are the demands upon the teacher. Despotism asks of its subjects implicit, blind obedience only; freedom calls for intelligence, judgment and moral power. As men have broken through the hereditary boundaries of caste and thrown off the shackles of superstitution and absolutism, the development of the mental and ethical has become a civic necessity. Based upon this necessity the functions of the state have gradually extended, systems of moral and intellectual progress have been devised, and the entire people have been required to contribute toward the diffusion of knowledge. To the teacher is committed the administration of this trust. While it may be true that, with the influx of a foreign population, and the introduction of discordant elements into our civilization, there has been a tendency to expect too much of the teacher; yet, concerning one point, there is a practical unanimity of sentiment; the teacher is bound to give each pupil as thorough a preparation as possible for practical usefulness in society and the state.

This preparation will embrace two elements, culture and character. It may be true that there is no real culture without character, but this latter element cannot be too much emphasized. How are these ends to be attained? Vari. ous methods have been proposed. The pursuit of practical studies, the pursuit of disciplinary studies, long, deep draughts from the fountain of pure literature, familiarity with moral precepts, and vital religious instruction. Each of these methods has its office, but it is not our purpose here to discuss their places, relations or relative values. Our subject distinctly warns us off these fields of inquiry. It is with the teacher himself we wish to deal. Not his learning, character or genius distinctively, but his social nature as an element of each, as a silken thread running through the pearls of all his virtues. We would consider the teacher in his relations to the community in which he lives, his obligations, bearing, and opportunities. We have said that the teacher's true function is to give the pupil a generous culture and to build up a sound character; such a culture and such a character as Milton says, “fits a man to perform justly and magnanimously all the offices, both public and private, of peace and of war.” What we can do for our pupils never rises above the level of our own attainments; hence our ability to train men and women for places in society, to produce well rounded characters will depend largely upon the cultivation of our own social natures. Man is by nature a social being. Society is just as essential to his full development as food, knowledge, or religion. He has no more right to ignore its demands than he has to ignore the demands of his body, his

mind, or his soul. Strong characters are not formed in the dark. They are not the result of self-contemplation and solitude. The recluse is nearly always a visionary. Working as the teacher does with material drawn from every stratum of society, he, of all men, should be the most extensive in his acquaintance, the broadest in his sympathies. Pupils, parents, the entire community expects to find in the teacher a high degree of self-control, conversational ability, and practical knowledge. They have the right to expect these things. If the teacher is to give culture and character to his pupils, if his own personality is to be an important factor in this result, if he is responsible as well for the extent as for the kind of his influence, certainly the teacher must not be a social dead weight. A teacher without social ability, either native or acquired, is hard to imagine, but if such a being exists, he is a pedagogical humbug. He sours the sweetness of youth, makes school a prison, and disgraces the profession. No calling, no profession is more noble, more sacred than that of the teacher. The technical duties of the school-room call for the daily exercise of his best talent; but high and sacred as these duties are, those of manhood and womanhood, of citizenship take precedence. The community, the state demand the exercise of his social abilities, and the teacher has no right to refuse.

The teacher should have a study not for ornament but for use. But this study should not be a den. He should not hibernate. Patrons and teachers should not stand gazing at each other from opposite ends of the educational problem. Distance will not lend enchantment. They should unite their energies. Some one has said that we never know a man until we know his mother, and some irreverent wag has added, “yes, and his mother-in-law.” We never know a pupil until we have breathed his home atmosphere, and until we see what formative forces are there at work. How necessary, then, to our professional success is that social nature which leads us to familiar acquaintance with the parents and friends of the school.

To attempt to educate a child without a knowledge of his home is to attempt a demonstration on insufficient data. Hereditary tendencies, parental training, and social surroundings will in a large degree determine the taste and needs of the pupil and give bent to his genius. We are called upon now and, if I mistake not, we will be called upon yet more, to advise pupils as to their future career. “What studies would you recommend me to pursue?” “Would it pay me to attend college?” “For what business or profession do you think me best fitted?” These are questions frequently asked. Our answers are important. The consequences will be either gratifying or disastrous. On whatever principle educators may finally settle as to where courses of study should commence to diverge, wherever the school differentiation shall begin, one thing is sure, the teacher will always be asked to advise some of his pupils in relation to their future lives. It is therefore incumbent upon him to so acquaint himself with their home and its influences, to so familiarize himself with the demands of business and society, that he may make as few blunders as possible in this exceedingly difficult part of his duty.

Every man has an inside life and an outside life. There is a world within him anà a world without him. There are individual interests and there are general interests. Proper self-love and self-respect are commendable, but is there not danger that we will live so much in the world within, will be so absorbed in our individual interests, as to lose sight of the greater world and the multiplied interests without? Professional teachers are as a class men and women of more than ordinary attainments. It is my honest convic. tion that neither law nor statecraft, medicine nor theology, can assemble from this state a body of higher average ability than graces the seats of this hall to-day. But is there not, fellow-teachers, in our daily environment an influence which needs to be carefully guarded against and resisted? Associated as we are with those younger than ourselves, children who are apt to accept our statements and opinions as final and determinative, are we not liable to become self-assertive and dogmatic? May we not grow restless of contradiction and conceited? The school room is and must ever be in a large measure a monarchy. The effect of supreme power is to make the one who exercises it selfish, narrow, and opinionated. Nothing can be more potent to counteract this evil tendency and enable the teacher to form a just estimate of himself and his work than social intercourse with his fellow-men.

The teacher should be sociable that he may bring the people into full harmony with him and his plans. They desire to know him and hear him tell what he is doing. If he is stiff and formal, or cold and distant, he can never secure that support and enthusiasm so essential to the best results. He will be constantly misunderstood and constantly criticised. His tenure of office will not be very secure, and who can blame the district fathers for desiring a change when they behold the time-honored rod of correction transformed into a social stick and placed in the teacher's chair? If the teacher finds his community factious and over-critical, nothing but a cordial, discreet, social spirit will ever ünite them in favor of the school. If he finds them careless and apathetic, he should not sit in his study and bemoan his hard lot, but bestir himself, get out among them, and breathe into them anew the spirit of educational life. The interest which any community takes in its schools will depend principally on the social talent of the teacher.

Worry, not work, is the greatest source of the school-master's ills. Our profession is at best a wearying one. If we would keep fit for duty, each day must bring its rest and relaxation. At such times the teacher should resolutely put aside the cares and vexations of the day and find renewed strength and vigor in other lines of thought and in social diversions. What diversions and amusements are open to him? This should be a question of conscience. It should be considered and decided not in reference to the effect on himself alone, but in reference to his pupils and his future usefulness. I must not digress to discuss this question except to say this : that it seems to me that a teacher has a right to no habit, diversion or amusement, which he can not recommend to his pupils.

If, then, we have considered this subject rightly, the teacher is under strong obligations to enter society. Let us next inquire, “What society shall he enter, and what shall be his bearing and duty there?” The teacher can not make intimate friends of all his patrons, nor would this be desirable if it were possible; but he can be friendly and courteous to all. He should seek to know as many as possible. He should entertain no high-flown notions of intellectual or social superiority. Of all men the teacher should be among the last to fix a property qualification for friendship or respectability lest he find himself shut out by his own standard. The teacher who is too exclusive or too retiring to meet on a friendly footing men and women, whatever their financial status, is likely to find the people of his district in favor of his retiring permanently. He is the servant of the people. Even the lowest and vilest are entitled to his consideration. They need it more than the rich and influential. It is the especial province of the public schools to exalt the common people. To raise up even from the lowest by-paths of society men and women who will honor the highest walks of life. To perpetuate government and ensure freedom by redeeming the rising generation from ignorance and lawlessness, through the powerful instrumentalities of moral and mental training. If the teacher is the chosen agent by which this wonderful transformation is to be wrought, certainly he would be inexcusable should he avoid the social avenues by which these classes are to be reached. It will not do to overlook the philanthropic phase of the teacher's work. The Great Teacher, our only perfect model, was the friend of the poor and lowly.

Nothing, unless it be the book he reads exercises a greater influence on the life of a teacher than the companions with whom he associates, those whom he meets intimately, those with whom his confidences are exchanged. These not only reveal what his tastes and attainments are, but strongly indicate what they will be. As his familiar friends, therefore, the teacher should choose those whose reputation and character are sound, whose culture and conversation are elevating. It is related of John Stuart Mill that he was never so well pleased with his position in society as when he thought himself the least of all the company. The teacher especially needs this intellectual stimulas which comes from association with superior minds. He needs it to keep him moving onward. He needs to feel that there are heights which he has not yet reached, that there are depths which he has not yet fathomed. Such society enriches his thought, perfects his knowledge, and lifts him out of himself. Happy is the teacher who comes with a receptive spirit into the circle of such refining and elevating influences. What is the key which unlocks the door to such opportunities? I know but one,-fitness for such companionship. Society puts a fairly just estimate on a man. It values him for his accomplishments and his capacities, for what he can do and for what he can learn. To be an acceptable member of society a person must needs know some one thing well, keep a clean record, cultivate a pleasant manner, and be a good listener. These qualifications will break down every social barrier which is worth breaking down and secure admission to the most cultured society.

Guided by these general principles what society should the teacher seek? First, he should seek the society of other teachers. We work on immortal material. Mistakes here are fatal. No other soul can replace the one in whose shaping we blundered. No matter how thorough the psychical research, no matter how complete the knowledge of educational principles and doctrines, experience will always prove an important factor, I may say an indispensable factor, in the problem of every school-master. The experience of our fellow teachers supplements our own. We profit by their successes and avoid their failures. We learn to shun the shoals on which their pedagogical keel was grounded, to steer clear of the hidden rocks on which their adventurous craft dashed in pieces. The teacher who cuts himself off from association with his fellow-teachers will become one of two things, an old

« AnteriorContinuar »