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How few have looked on teaching as one of the greatest and noblest professions which could engross their mind and heart through years of reflection and preparation! More has been done in the last ten years than in the fifty preceding. The need of this has been equally on the increase. Parental oversight and restraint have greatly diminished. Perhaps our ancestors, as a whole, were excessive in their severity; yet the danger of to-day lies in the opposite extreme. If the teachers do not prove careful agents, our nation will drift to destruction. Amid the general relaxation of parental discipline, no hope is left save what is gathered from the true teacher, inspired with the dignity and importance of his profession. Already, in the departments of advanced science, the teacher is the professor, and of course has a profession, as much remote from public interference as that of the lawyer or the physician.
In order to ingratiate teaching as a profession in juvenile science, the public must be certified of instructive ability ere they resign their control over the teacher. In order to meet this demand, every State should have some standard which should merit and receive entire confidence. This standard would become a door, leading to his profession, which, when passed, would preclude the necessity of repeated examinations, and inspire in the teacher a feeling of responsibility and requisite dignity. A sensible
relief would come to the successful candidate; and while the diploma would induce emulation and competency on the part of the teacher elect, it would prove an invaluable certificate to the people, who would now feel that the whole matter was resting in able hands. The standard should be high. While the scholastic attainments should be of a high order, that especial genius for teaching, which, when cultivated, amounts to an art, and is indispensable for success, should be a requisite, or at least ground for distinction. Different diplomas should be awarded according to adaptation for different spheres or grades. By this means much of the necessity that now exists for self-commendation and favoritism would be forestalled, and the truly meritorious, though modest, would find their true position.
So long as teachers show, by their conduct, that they have no profession, from an apparent consciousness of demerit, just so long will other professions, at great disadvantage, employ teachers as passive tools, and every man become the teacher's censor. Of course, those who cry out that they cannot walk alone must be helped to walk. Teachers, to-day, are drinking the chalice they have prepared for their own lips, and the public deserve our sincere thanks for the interest they have taken in our imbecility. Thanks to the clergy, the lawyer, and the physician, for doing that which we have neglected to do for ourselves.
With great satisfaction we exclude from these reflections the efforts that have so successfully culminated in our Normal schools. Here, and in our conventions, we are imperceptibly instructing the public and ourselves to the adoption of sound principles, and are preparing for the needful transition without friction or injury; and it is with no ordinary feeling of pride I make reference to my native State, which has done herself the honor to grace her territory with two Normal schools. They are justly due to her judgment, her magnanimity, and greatness. The teacher is an agent, not a servant, and is practically an incarnation of the principle. The responsibility of the teacher, as an agent, is thereby greatly extended and intensified. If the office of the teacher be to develop and mould the mind and heart of the nation, what momentous interests are attached to educational influences! Man, in miniature, the mastercreation and likeness of the Divine One, in his most susceptible state, is intrusted to the teacher. From the age of six to sixteen, a large percentage of our habits, our morals, our manners, and our purposes, are fixed forever. While discarding the position of Dr. Reid, who believed that all thoughts are the product of sensation, we maintain that a very large proportion are referable to surrounding influences. Education is the nearest to fate of any word in the English language. Her lines are drawn across the faces ofhood often been slighted for the lack of “filthy lucre.” Wealth has not only been deemed the passport to society, but the all-requisite for happiness. Just so long as this view obtains will men continue to desire that, notwithstanding that “the love of money is the root of all evil,” a large number of roots shall grow in their garden. The only remedy to this, evil is the power of the teacher. True education will reduce Mammon from being the god, to become the servant, of the public. Golden eagles, instead of becoming our deity, will, as they are fabled to have done in ancient times, assist heaven in his movements, and raise man, when he falls, into “everlasting habitations.” Culture will give possession to the vast fields of divine wisdom, opening up the real avenues that lead to content and refinement. With this responsibility is the teacher charged. A second Joseph, he is put in trust of celestial stores. What a duty rests upon American teachers to elevate the standard of human enjoyment and worth, and thus pave the way for national greatness! That value arises from mental and moral qualities, and that every man prospers who succeeds in improving himself, are points to be deeply impressed by the teacher upon the hearts of his pupils.