Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

This special preparation should be two-fold. It should include a knowledge of political science, combined with a patriotic spirit. These will furnish to the man the ability and the inclination to do his duty as a citizen of a free republic.

The study of political science should be put upon a broad and generous basis. Now, it is safe to say, not ten per cent of the pupils who leave the public schools of New England, receive any instruction in this direction. Many of the western states do better. In several, the facts of the state government must be taught in every public school. In Massachusetts, such facts are only required in the high school. There the subject is put into a single term in the last year — pushed to the very apex of the educational pyramid, with ninety-nine per cent of the pupils below it. Even this point is bisected. Civil government is only in the English Course, a course which often receives little sympathy from the teachers and is patronized by the weaker students. It is time that we ceased to treat the subject as a luxury and began to deal with it as a necessity. When we do this, a few of the most obvious educational principles will at once occur to us, viz. :— that elementary knowledge should be distinguished from scientific knowledge, that elementary knowledge should be taught in the elementary schools, that the true order of teaching is from the near to the remote, from the well-known to the less-known, from the simple to the complex.

In teaching geography, we have learned to believe that the children's own world contains the great world in miniature. We use the springs the children drink from, the brooks they play in, the hills on which they coast, the rain and snow and fog and cold and heat they feel, the food they eat, and the clothes they wear. From these we teach the simple ideas of geographical facts and phenomena. Following this method in laying out a course in political science, we shall introduce into the lower schools the facts of local government, beginning with the smallest unit whatever that may be, — in New England, the town or the city. This part of the work will be carried on by oral lessons, the aim of which will be to gather up and arrange in systematic form the results of the pupil's own observation of familiar things. In the course of these lessons some of the fundamental ideas of civil government will be occasioned. Some of these are — the public; the public good; voting; civil officers; the subordination of the individual to the public. Inwoven with these simple relations are some of the most farreaching principles of political ethics. These should be discovered and magnified and worked into the moral instincts of the pupil. In their code of obligations — to vote should rank with to work and to pray. Cheerfully to share the public burdens of office-holding and tax-paying should be held up as a mark of a good man; to shirk the one or evade the other, should be branded as dishonorable. These are the vital processes of the body politic. If these are feeble, the state loses its virility. When they cease, gangrene begins. The safety of the republic demands that these principles be inwrought into the fibre of those whom the schools are preparing for citizenship. Current politics warns us that the work can begin none too soon.

In a higher grade the facts of the state government will be introduced in the order of the legislative, judicial, and executive departments. The pupils are familiar with some of these facts, and the newspapers may be used to

introduce them to nearly all the others. In making the study objective, the teachers will be helped by collecting and using copies of official papers, official notices, the manuals of the legislatures, and the statutes of the states.

The student of geography passing beyond the limit of his own neighborhood, finds himself in the presence of a larger world, but not altogether a new one. Hills are still hills though they are higher, and the rivers are only streams of water flowing through the land, as were the brooks he waded in. Day and night, summer and winter, wind and rain and sunshine are the same over the continent as in his village. So, in his study of government, there is still a public, only broader; there are civil officers, only serving this larger public. The same obligation to share the burdens rests on the citizens. But the broader relationship occasions new ideas. Chief among them is that of personal rights, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This leads to the idea of human law for the security of these rights, and then to the conception of civil liberty — as liberty under law.

The lessons here should show by illustrations the various means by which the government of the state endeavors to protect men from each other, the nature of the laws and the mode of administering them. The teacher should exalt the idea of justice — free, speedy, impartial justice, as due to the individual, however humble he may be, and at whatever expense to the public. This is the chief end of the state government.

After such study of the departments and their functions, it will be well to point out the dangers to liberty from the government itself, and this will prepare the way for introducing the Constitution of the State as the great safe-guard of liberty, and the Bill of Rights should be made a part of the mental fạrniture of every child. The pupil should be led to see that these are matters in which he has a personal interest. When his understanding has been informed of the ground of these political activities of the state, all his sympathies should be enlisted on the side of right and truth. Then a new obligation will reveal itself — to respect and obey the laws. All this is preparation for citizenship, working upon the intellect through the knowledge of facts and forms, and upon the moral nature through the ideas of obligation.

By showing the necessity for laws and so magnifying the beneficence of civil government, and by showing how the maintenance of these institutions demands the personal interest and activity of all the people, the work preserves from nihilism on the one hand and from political servitude on the other, — the Scylla and Charybdis of popular governments.

If the pupil should leave school at this stage of the work, he would be prepared to assume intelligently almost any of the functions which would be likely to fall to him. Voting for local and state officers, administering local affairs, attending town meetings, caucuses and conventions, and jury-duty constitute the principal part of the political activities of the average citizen. But not all. The first echoes of a Presidential campaign tell us that the average citizen has interests wider than his own state. Again our horizon recedes and we must introduce into the course of study a third series of lessons, — on the National government. The order and method may be the same that have been used, the officers of the three departments, their elections and their duties. The rights and duties which the previous study has made familiar will reappear in the new relationship, and some new ideas will be awakened.

The perils to the liberty of the citizen from his neighbors and from the government itself have already been noticed ; now it will be shown that there is peril from foreign nations, and the supreme function of the general government will appear — to protect the community of states from external foes. Just here another and the highest duty of the citizen presents itself,—to devote himself and his property to the defence of the nation. With this the elementary study culminates at the close of the elementary school course.

If the course ends here, as it does for most of the boys, the children will enter upon life with no mean preparation for United States citizenship. They have been taught to live so as to promote the public weal and, if necessary, to die in its behalf.

If it should seem to any that there is no room in the elementary schools for such work, I should not hesitate to say, “ Make room.” A good accountant is not an equivalent for a good citizen ; nor is a good carpenter. The people of this country need political education more than they do industrial education. Twenty thousand patents were issued last year by the United States government. This shows no lack of industrial thinking. But every large city in the country is ruled by its slums.

As a matter of public policy it would be a waste of energy to multiply skilled mechanics by public education and then leave them to be, first the tools and then the victims of any blatant demagogue who chose to trumpet himself as the champion of labor.

What constitutes a state ? Not mechanics nor bookkeepers; not lawyers nor doctors, but “men, high-minded men - men who their duty know, and knowing dare maintain."

« AnteriorContinuar »