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without the inner brain power is as nothing in the contest of life.
Therefore the legitimate and paramount object of the school is to · awaken the mind, and set it at work, so that thinking may become a habit, and by-and-by, not only a pleasure but a source of power. In short, it is the duty of the public school to make a thinking nation, and a nation so trained will not only eventually become the strongest industrially as well as politically, but its citizens w Il meet with success in the whole circle of life's duties and advance society to the forefront in the rivalry of prosperity and power. The highest industrial skill is an offspring of the mind, and we cannot afford to sacrifice brain.power for mere dexterity. Material success is an end to be provided for in organizing the institutions of a state, and every reflecting mind will recognize the utility of technical training, but profit is not the only nor the chief object within the scope of popular education. To enlarge the mental grasp and intensify the aspirations for high character, are more essential for the perpetuation and historic greatness of the nation than the accumulation of wealth. To take from the youth of the country any part of the brief period now conceded to direct intellectual and moral culture and devote it to the industrial trades, would strangle the highest hopes in the place of their birth. Our education should be practical, but we must not secure dexterity at the expense of directive power.
SUPT. SEAVER: I agree with Mr. Patterson that it is the object of the school to awaken intellectual power, but I must take issue when this manual training as one of the means for developing intellectual power is contemptuously cast aside. For my own part, I believe that machinists, for instance, are among the most intelligent of men. The thorough learning of the details and working of much of our complicated machinery is a study in itself, and perhaps as liberal in its tendencies as the study of Latin and Greek. As to the matter of taxation for trade teaching, I might say that if you have a right to tax me for the teaching of Latin and Greek to your son, why, on the other hand, should you not be taxed to defray the expenses of my boy while learning to use tools and understand the working of machinery?
PRINC. McDONALD, Stoneham, Mass. : I think that teachers, before committing themselves to any system of industrial training should weigh well the question, if we begin where are we to
stop? Besides, I think the outcry for such manual training of our pupils, which is just now being made, is entirely unnecessary. For most of the trades, there is no need of such long training of the hand. An intelligent boy is likely to learn as much of the shoe-making trade in five weeks as a dull boy in five years; the long continuous grind of five years only serving to deaden the mind to all outside endeavor; and the same is true of blacksmithing, carpentering, and a majority of the manual trades. It is bad enough for the pupils to have to devote a lifetime after school to such soul-stultifying work, which at best, leaves most of them mere automatic machines.
NATURAL HISTORY IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS.
By Miss LUCRETIA CROCKER, SUPERVISOR OF SCHOOLS, BOSTON.
In treating of Natural History as a branch of public school instruction, we should consider first, why it ought to have a place in elementary schools, and second, when and how it should be taught.
It is the main purpose of this paper, - written from strong convictions, based upon experience, of both the educational and practical value of the study of natural history, — to show that children are developed physically, mentally, and morally, by early and continuous observation of their relations to the natural world, in which they are to pass their human lives, and to find their productive industries. If this be proved, the inference is direct that such early training is fundamental, and a valuable preparation for more advanced studies.
On this last point let so high an authority as Charles Kingsley speak for us. He wrote thus : “ Everything which helps a boy's powers of observation helps his power of learning; and I know from experience that nothing helps that so much as the study of the world about us, and especially of natural history: to be accustomed to watch for curious objects, to know in a moment when you have come upon anything new, — which is observation; to be quick at seeing when things are like and when unlike, — which is classification. All that must, and I well know does, help to make a boy shrewd, earnest, accurate, ready for whatever may happen.” What Kingsley has claimed for boys, we must claim for girls as well.
The recent storm of criticism upon our public school system, though often unjust and indiscriminating, has created a healthful agitation, in which much chaff will be blown away, while none of the true seed-grain of education will be lost. Already many teachers have broken the fetters of habit; and, by disposing of unnecessary technique and manipulation, have found more time for doing well whatever is worth the doing.
With the general admission that too much of the teaching and study in our schools has been fruitless; that large expenditures of time and money have failed to secure those practical results that tax-paying communities can cordially commend; the inquisy has come from all sides, “what is wrong? and what is the remedy?”
That the answers vary according to the prejudices and prepossessions of the critics, is natural; but it is within the province of this paper to refer to them, only so far as they have a direct or remote bearing upon the question of Natural History as a branch of common school instruction.
Multiplicity of studies, oral instruction, non-adherence to text-books, are heralded as departures from the good old times ; and, in the minds of many, account for all present defects. Many critics, therefore, urge a speedy return to " the three R’s” pure and simple.
Yet all must agree that we need, in the lowest grades, variety in subjects and in their presentation ; that we need, there, the live teacher more than the book, or, rather, the true teacher, with magnetic influence of voice and manner, to prepare children for the intelligent use of their text-books.
Dr. Stanley Hall's interesting article on “ The Contents of Children's Minds” at five years of age, indicates both the difficulty and the importance of beginning with children as we find them on their entrance into school, and of proceeding to quicken their observing powers and to develop their intelligence.
Indeed, we must claim that we need variety in instruction through all the elementary grades, in order that the child's observation and thought may reach out naturally in many directions, taking whatever is within his grasp with as keen a zest as during the five years that preceded his school life.
If “variety is the spice of life,” it is the necessity of childhood; and this necessity is the opportunity of the elementary teacher, who must work on different lines, in quick succession, to keep up interest and attention; yet always with the fixed purpose of making children mentally brighter and clearer by every new point made, and ready for the next in its natural order.
“Multiplicity of studies” is a good or a bad thing, . according to our interpretation of it. If we mean lead
ing children to look in many directions, but to see only what they are prepared to see clearly in each ; remembering that “the eye brings with it the power of seeing,” and the mind of thinking; and that whatever cannot be perceived by a child readily this week or this year should wait for his own discovery later; — if we so apply the phrase, then we must all believe in “multiplicity of studies” for the little ones.
This “multiplicity” is perhaps greater in the five years before school life begins than ever afterward. It is the work in play and through play, which awakens the powers, and adjusts the little lives to their surroundings.