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one extreme to the other of life's manifold arcs of vibration. I know that some men seem to rejoice in this eternal oscillation; pleased, like children, to swing all day, no matter how far and high, apparently for the mere pleasure of the sensation. Others, more seriously, claim that this perpetual vibration is. a kind of moral necessity for keeping the great clockwork of life in motion. Let us rather, taking the needle for our guide, — whose vibrations, when disturbed, are always growing beautifully less, — endeavor to find the middle of the arc, and thus the pole-point of central truth.
This tendency to extremes in educational affairs may be noticed first in the matter of government. Educators, in the family and in the school alike, have differed very widely in regard to the kind of government most suitable to be exercised, and the means of enforcing it. We have the strict disciplinarians and the free-and-easy. For the straitest sect of the former class, we must look back to an earlier generation. Children, in those days, were often held, not merely to obey the requirements of parents and teachers, but to do it with an exactness and rigidity of compliance, and with a severity of treatment for any failure, which rendered obedience but a hard and slavish duty. The parent or teacher became too often a mere tyrant in his little empire of trembling subjects. Without reason or reasonableness, he stood
over them in the exercise of a cold and heartless domination, with apparently no higher motive than to maintain an austere mastery.
The means of enforcing this style of obedience corresponded with the spirit of the requirement. The rod, in some style of preparation, green from the nearest birch, or well-seasoned, — green-hide or horse-whip, ferule or shillalah, — was at once the emblem of authority, and its most potent vindicator. At home it hung over every mantle, and at school graced every teacher's desk; and rarely did a day go by without giving to the father or teacher some occasion to show the strength of his good right arm. There were, moreover, certain barbarisms of this oldschool régime, — such as standing on one leg, extend ing an arm, wearing a fool's cap on the head, or a gag in the mouth, or a split stick or quill upon the nose, — which need only be named to remind us of the austerities of those times which tried the poor children's souls.
From this extreme, there is no wonder that opinion and practice vibrated to the opposite. Men came to believe that children were restrained too closely and punished too severely, and by methods too harsh for reasonable and susceptible minds. Hence the swing across the middle line of truth to the opposite error. So that now we are oftener pained with the laxity and false tenderness of parents than with their. undue severity. The same error very naturally finds its way into the school-room. The sentiment of the household soon demands admission, and finds place in the teacher’s domain. The child who is uncontrolled at home claims the same exemption at school. If he is bribed or coaxed by his mother, why should he yield to the wishes of his teacher without a similar consideration ? If allowed his own way when properly subject to the authority of parents, what propriety, he argues, in regarding the will of the teacher, whose authority is surely no greater ? Thus the prime principle of obedience is broken down at home and at school together, and parents and teachers alike become subject to the usurped authority of the child. This comes, in great measure, from the assumption that children, as reasonable beings, creatures of sensibility and conscience, should be reached, in matters of discipline, only through these higher elements of their nature; forgetting that children have corporeal natures also, to be restrained and controlled, sometimes by means appropriate to that department of their being. If moral considerations fail, such parents appeal to certain lower appetites and selfish motives. The child is allured to obedience by promises of something good.” His mind is filled with visions of coming cakes and candies, or picture-books, or hand-sleds! What cheerful obedience is thus secured, — so long as the stock in trade lasts! With what alacrity the dear child hastens to obey his mother's requests, or to learn his lessons at school!“ Charlie, dear,” says a tender mother to her petted boy, who comes sulkily to the table, “ will you have a piece of bread and butter ?”—“ No,” replies Charlie ; “I want a piece of pie.” — “Charlie, dear, had n't you better have your bread and butter first ? ” — “No, I won't; give me my pie now,” is his imperious demand; and he gets what he clamors for. Charlie has conquered his mother ; indeed, has made a long succession of such conquests, until he finds them very easy. Such a mother is to be both pitied and blamed; and the father more, who gently acquiesces in mother's management and Charlie's ruin; while the poor abused and patient teacher submits, as best she can, to his corresponding conduct at school. Whatever her theory may be, her practice must conform to that which has been inaugurated at home. The coaxing policy, commenced by the parent, must be pursued by the teacher, or there is trouble in the camp forthwith.
Now, between these extremes in the government of children, there is a wholesome medium. On the one hand, I have no sympathy with the stern and rigorous authority, the domineering tyranny, which rules its subjects with brutal force; which forgets that children have sensibility and reason and conscience, to be developed by wise and skilful training. Nor, on the other hand, can I submit with patience to the milk-and-water theory which reckons all children as so many innocent creatures, — not lower than the angels, — needing only to be let alone to expand into full-fledged perfection. The true theory of management takes them as they are, — the unexpanded germs of common humanity, capable of growing into worthy citizens; having noble elements of character, with divine affinities, and aspirations for the true and good; and, at the same time, capable, by wrong direction and untoward influences, of missing these lofty aims, and utterly failing of life's great ends.
To train such powers to a wholesome development requires at once the voice of persuasion and the hand of restraint; the faculty of alluring, and the power to compel; gentleness in the manner, and firmness in the execution ; a love for the child which overpasses the bounds of mere natural affection, and embraces in its purview the child's whole immortal career. Such authority appeals to all that is high and noble in the child's or pupil's nature, but none the less applies the hand of restraint and the rod of correction when better persuasives fail. It knows nothing of weak allurements, which even a child despises; but makes its firm and high demands in the name of truth and duty. It summons to prompt obedience, with suitable penalties for wilful failure, and makes no idle threats.