Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

the fact that the school has kept fully abreast of the advance in other departments of social and moral progress, of which their own charges, if rightfully regarded, would afford the most conclusive proof.

A few weeks since, while riding with a friend through the suburbs of an Eastern city, we drew up our horses upon a height, from which, across an intervening valley, we had a full view of the busy town lying beneath a summer sky, seemingly embowered by green groves, with their suggestion of soft lawns, cool shades, and sparkling fountains, and the sweet scent of fresh verdure, with here and there a white spire pointing through to the purer blue above, and with the outlying farms of thrifty orchards and fields of grass and grain almost rivaling Lamartine's picture of Damascus.

My friend said that an old citizen, long familiar with the dusty streets, on seeing a photograph taken from the same point a few days before, had remarked that the artist must have had a vivid imagination, as there was nothing of the kind there.

So, as with a sort of filial tenderness we turn our thought to the old home and school of our early days, the green memory of some task or sport—some new book begun or old one finished, some hard problem solved, the snow fort, with the gallant assault or defense, the splendid slide down the long hill-side, the brake booth by the road, or perhaps some sweet, childish friendship-seems to fill the whole field of view, and it is with a sigh of regret that we compare the present with the dear old days.

But when from the old chest in the garret we bring forth a fragment of the old thumb-worn, dog-eared book, from which the cover, as we quickly recall, was torn in a physical contest of the master with one of the big boys, and turn the leaves traced with our frequent autograph, the pictures colored with poplar-buds, or the anther of the lily, or, as we turn to the master's copy, from which we learned to write, we can more justly fill up the picture ; and, though we may smile at the awkward figures with their grotesque surroundings, we can but feel that the childhood of to-day finds itself in the school-room upon a higher moral plane and subjected to better methods and kindlier influences.

In judging of the moral character and influence of our schools, we are happily freed from the perplexing questions that divide the different schools of philosophy and embroil the metaphysician and the scientist. The cunningly devised theories of the origin of our ideas of right and wrong-whether an original endowment or a gradual development—we can safely leave to those who are preparing a system of ethics or moral philosophy.

But it may not be amiss to remember that the original of the word “moral” indicates a custom, a habit, pointing us not so much to our philosophic belief as to the conduct of life. And it is for us to inquire, not whether we teach our pupils the views of this or that school, but whether they do acquire a power of self-control, a command of their affections, passions, and desires, with the intent and will to direct them to worthy ends; whether, with a true and honest purpose, they go forth from our doors with a greater abhorrence of what is low and base, more faithful to the right, more sensitive to the breath of merited blame; whether, in regard for all that is ennobling, in courtesy to their equals, in respect for their superiors, they leave us better than they came, or rather, I would say, with a truer respect for the rights of all, even their inferiors. For to his superiors the boy, terrible as he is, is respectful-not to his superiors in position, in acquirements, in age, but in the essentials of true manhood or womanhood.

And the keen sagacity, the almost intuitive facility and accuracy with which a class of boys or girls will determine the quality and fix the position of a new teacher, might well put to the blush our examining committees and superintendents, with their nice balancings of merits and demerits, and summings of averages.

Nor are we to judge of our schools by now and then an exceptional case. “There is no flock, however watched and tended," of which we are always sure, though the committee of the National Association in July report no graduate of a high-school yet found in jail.

The school is not the only force working within and upon the pupil during the school age. Even with the most punctual and regular in attendance not more than a fourth of the waking hours are passed under the teacher's care. And who can tell the home influences of many of them, their associates upon the street, the exhalations from doorway, and basement, and window ?

Faithful and efficient as the teacher may be, there are influences and examples stronger than his and more constant and enduring. Let me make the ballads of a people,” says some one ; but with how much more truth might it be said, Give me the first six years, and send to what school you will! The question of submission or lawlessness, of truthfulness or falsehood, of deceit or honesty, is decided, we believe, for most children, before they are supposed capable of understanding it.

Not from the school, but in the home, do children learn their first lesson. In their own neighborhoods are they taught to look for wealth without work, for profit without capital, and honors without honesty. Teach contentment and industry to the toiler and the needy, with the palace home or storied warehouse of their mates rising before their gaze, the fruit of some bold venture or fortunate speculation ? Not till disappointment has deadened hope, and suffering numbed ambition, will they accept the lesson. ...

Nowhere, as in the well-directed school, is the spirit developed that regards character above surroundings, where merit is rewarded with success, and honor bestowed where it is due; and never, we believe, have our schools had a healthier influence, never made more earnest and successful endeavor for uprightness of purpose, or been surrounded or pervaded by a purer or more life-giving atmosphere.

In their very constitution are found the most efficient means for inducing a well-ordered life. If order is Heaven's first law, it must be the first and abiding rule of the school; not that fixed and monotonous routine enforced by the mere martinet in discipline, that deadens the vital force, stifles thought, quenches generous ambition, and, regarding more the outward form than the inner life, aims only at uniformity, though only of dullness and stupidity, but that quiet, unconscious harmony that results from each member moving undisturbed in his proper sphere, in willing conformity to an unfelt but allcontrolling power; no rules for the sake of ruling, no friction or jarring of ill-adjusted parts, none of the pomp and circumstance of military display, but all moving on to the attainment of a desirable end.,

We may all recall such instances, as far removed from the hushed stillness and bated breath of the one extreme, as from the restless, noisy turbulence of the other-an order which of itself is "able almost to change the stamp of nature," and is no insignificant factor in forming the character of a peaceful, law-abiding citizen.

. But the most barmonious order, pleasing though it be, is of itself but a passive, fruitless virtue—but the casket whose golden ornaments and satin lining furnish no sufficient reason for its being, till the jewels are placed within -but the well-founded structure, where the whirring wheels of a busy industry are still to be put in motion.

And from the initiation of the inchoate man or woman of presumably six years into all the mysterious possibilities of slate and pencil, through the little round of prerequisites of a high-school diploma, the pupils of a wisely planned school are learning lessons of patient, persevering industry. Despite the idle charges often made, it is not from our school-rooms that the lounging squads of the saloons are recruited, or the street-corners replenished. A search for the graduates of our high and grammar schools would lead us through the stores, the workshops, the counting-rooms, and the public or private offices of our city-to the records of boards of education, or into many a cultivated, happy home. And in this day of invention who can blame them, if, instead of finding our sons delving in the dirt amid the horny-handed laborers, we see them, with upright form and comely attire, with steam and electricity to do their bidding, guiding and controlling a broader industry and higher interests ?

If a habit of intelligent and productive industry be not the parent of moral virtues, it is, at least, their fostermother and most approved nurse.

And surely it can not be that the intellectual culture of the school, small and imperfect as it is, the history of the past, the rise and fall of individuals and nations, with the open or more hidden causes, the unbarring the gates of science and pointing them to the boundless and rich fields beyond, the unsealing of the wisest thought and the truest sentiment of the deepest thinkers and divinest

« ElőzőTovább »