Imagens da página

depicting the customs, modes of life, and national peculiarities of people of all countries. Such works as the travels of Marquette, Cook, Ledyard, Lewis and Clark, Dwight, Silliman, Layard, Livingstone, Lynch, Fremont, Kane and Bayard Taylor, possess an interest as enduring as the English language.

Astronomy.- “No branch of knowledge,” says EVERETT, “can surely claim precedence of astronomy. No other science furnishes such a palpable embodiment of the abstractions which lie at the foundation of our intellectual system ; the great ideas of time, and space, and extension, and magnitude, and number, and motion, and power. How grand the conception of the ages on ages required for several of the secular equations of the solar system ; of distances from which the light of a fixed star would not reach us in twenty millions of years ; of magnitudes compared with which the earth is but a foot-ball ; of starry hosts, suns like our own, numberless as the sands on the shore; of worlds and systems shooting through the infinite spaces, with a velocity compared with which the cannon-ball is a way-worn, heavy-paced traveller!

"The heavenly hosts! There they shine and there they move, as they moved and shone to the eyes of Newton and Galileo, of Kepler and Copernicus, of Ptolemy and Hipparchus ; yea, as they moved and shone when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy. All has changed on earth ; but the glorious heavens remain unchanged. The plough passes over the site of mighty cities, the homes of powerful nations are desolate, the languages they spoke are forgotten; but the stars that shone for them are shining for us ; the same eclipses run their steady cycle ; the same equinoxes call out the flowers of spring and send the husbandman to the harvest; the sun pauses at either tropic as he did when his course began; and sun and moon, and planet and satellite, and star and constellation and galaxy, still bear witness to the power, the wisdom, and the love which placed them in the heavens, and upholds them there."

Natural History and Physiology.--"Every clime is tasked," observes BANCROFT, “to enlarge the boundaries of knowledge. Minerals that lie on the peaks of the Himalayas, animals that hide in the densest jungles of Africa, flowers that bloom in the solitudes of Sumatra, or the trackless swamps along the Amazon, are brought within the observation and domain of science.

"With equal diligence the internal structure of plants and animals has been subjected to examination. We may gaze with astonishment at the advances which the past fifty years have made in the science of comparative physiology. By a most laborious and long continued use of the microscope, and by a vast number of careful and minute dissections, man has gained such insight into animal being, as not only to define its primary groups, but almost to draw the ideal archetype that preceded their creation. Not content with the study of his own organization and the comparison of it with the Fauna of every zone, he has been able to count the pulsations of the heart of a caterpillar ; to watch the flow of blood through the veins of the silkworm ; to enumerate the millions of living things that dwell in a drop of water ; to take the census of creatures so small, that parts of their members remain invisible to the most powerful microscope ; to trace the lungs of the insect which floats so gayly on the limber fans of its wings, and revels in the full fruition of its transcendent powers of motion.”

Chemistry.- How wonderful, how varied, and how useful is a knowledge of chemistry. Earths and alkális, touched by the creative wire of electricity, start up into metals that float on water, and kindle in the air. Chemistry explains the formation of clouds, rain, mist, snow, water-spouts, and other atmospheric phenomena ; treats of the great combinations of nature, which produce volcanoes, earthquakes, deluges, minerals ; it acquaints us with the best means of constructing and arranging our habitations, so as to render them healthy, of examining and adjusting the air which we must breathe in them, guarding against contagious diseases, selecting and preparing wholesome food, drink, and clothing, discovering and explaining the influence of occupation, fashion and customs on health and longevity; it treats of the nature of plants and soils, their mutual adaptation, the laws of production, and the nature and use of manures ; and its applications to the arts, manufactures, agriculculture, household economy, the health and happiness of our race, are most extensive, interesting and important. Every School Library should possess popular works on a subject so varied and useful in all the affairs and interests of every-day life.

Geology. This science is full of interest and profit to our race. It has faithfully pointed out the localities of precious and useful metals and coal, which have added unnumbered millions to the comfort and wealth of the civilized world. “The geologist,” says BANCROFT, “has been able to ascertain, in some degree, the chronology of our planet ; to demonstrate the regularity of its structure where it seemed most disturbed ; and where nature herself was at fault, and the trail of her footsteps broken, to restore the just arrangement of strata that had been crushed into confusion, or turned over in apparently inexplicable and incongruous folds. He has perused the rocky tablets on which time-honored nature has set her inscriptions. He has opened the massive sepulchres of departed forms of being, and pored over the copious records preserved there in stone, till they have revealed the majestic march of creative power, from the organism of the zoophyte emtombed in the lowest depths of Siluria, through all the rising gradations of animal life, up to its sublimest result in God-like man.”

Electricity.—“Of the nature of electricity,” says BANCROFT, “ more has been discovered in the last fifty years than in all past time, not even excepting the age when our own Franklin called it from the clouds. This aerial invisible power has learnt to fly as man's faithful messenger, till the mystic wires tremble with his passions, and bear his errands on the wings of lightning. He divines how this agency which holds the globe in its invisible embrace, guides floating atoms to their places in the crystal ; or teaches the mineral ores the lines in which they should move, where to assemble together, and where to lie down and take their rest. It whispers to the meteorologist the secrets of the atmosphere and the skies. For the chemist in his laboratory it perfects the instruments of heat, dissolves the closest affinities, and reunites the sundered elements. It joins the artisan at his toil, and busily employed at his side, this subtlest and swiftest of existences tamely applies itself to its task, with patient care reproduces the designs of the engraver or the plastic art, and disposes the metal with a skillful delicacy and exactness which the best workman cannot rival.Nay, more : it enters into the composition of man himself, and is ever present as the inmost witness of his thoughts and volitions."

Of Natural and Intellectual Philosophy, of Botany, and other interesting subjects, it is not necessary to speak in detail.When presented in popular forms, they cannot fail to interest, enlighten and strengthen the youthful mind. In both the natural and mental world, we find abundant sources of the noblest attraction, and of the highest utility to our race. Let books on these and kindred subjects, properly popularized, and stripped of technicalities, be placed where children and their parents can everywhere have free and convenient access to them, and it would be impossible to estimate the happy results of a few brief years' experience.

The time was when even the learned Bacon thought the stump of a beech tree had been known to put forth a birch, and when the great philosopher Kepler believed that the planets were monstrous animals — errors from which those giant minds could not divest themselves, but which the veriest school boy now knows to be absolutely impossible. “The collective man of the future,” suggests BANCROFT, “ will see further, and see more

[ocr errors]

clearly, than the collective man of to-day, and he will share his superior power of vision and his attainments with every one of his time. Thus it has come to pass, that the child now at school could instruct Columbus respecting the figure of the earth, or Newton respecting light, or Franklin on electricity; that the husbandman or the mechanic of a Christian congregation solves questions respecting God and man, and man's destiny, which perplexed the most gifted philosophers of ancient Greece."


There are several special benefits to be derived from a general system of School Libraries, that deserve particular notice.

1. Standard histories would inform us of the different countries and ages, of the men and the women, to whom we are indebted as a nation for our success, our knowledge, and prosperity. “Our land,” says BANCROFT, “is not more the recipient of the men of all countries than of their ideas. Annihilate the past of any one leading nation of the world, and our destiny would have been changed. Italy and Spain, in the persons of Columbus and Isabella, joined together for the great discovery that opened America to emigration and commerce; France contributed to its independence; the search for the origin of the language we speak carries us to India; our religion is from Palestine; of the hymn's sung in our churches, some were first heard in Italy, some in the deserts of Arabia, some on the banks of the Euphrates; our arts come from Greece; our jurisprudence from Rome; our maritime code from Russia; England taught us the system of Representative Government; the noble Republic of the United Provinces bequeathed to us in the world of thought, the great idea of the toleration of all opinions; in the world of action, the prolific principle of a Federal union. Our country stands, therefore, more than any other, as the realization of the unity of the race.”

2. Teachers would be improved, and they, in turn, would still more improve their pupils. « In the first place,” remarks Prof. DANIEL READ, now of our State University, “the teacher will be improved in the standard of his qualifications. No one is fit to be a teacher who is not himself a learner. This is a pre-requisite to all success. Unless the teacher is a learner, he cannot have the spirit of his profession; he cannot be an earnest man in his work; unless his own mind is quickened and made active by thought and study, he is wholly unfit to stir up and energize the minds of others. In the library, he has constantly before him a stimulant to his own improvement; and he can bring forth from this treasure-house things new and old to

braryheory as of cowledge

interest and arouse his school. Instead of spending his leisure moments in idleness and gossip, he has, in the library, a never failing means of enjoyment and recreation befitting his vocation.

“Besides, in every School Library, there would, of course, be placed the standard works on the theory and art of teaching. Thus the best and most improved methods of conducting a school are brought directly to his attention and knowledge—the means of governing a school-of banishing inertness and the stupid routine of drawling lessons. Above all, his own mind will be stirred up, and he will be brought to think for himself, as well as to avail himself of the aids of others. How should the young teacher, male or female, without experience, know how to conduct the school, and with what eagerness will aid and instruction be sought from the best books. It is a common topic of complaint here and everywhere, that well qualified teachers cannot be had for our schools. What shall be the remedy? This has been a subject of earnest inquiry in our State Legislatures, and among our eminent educators. Some of the States have established Normal Schools at a vast expense; some have made liberal appropriations for the support and holding of Teachers' Institutes. No doubt these instrumentalities have accomplished their measure of good. But I shall not soon forget the remark of an eminent teacher of another State, whose heart is in every great educational movement. After all,' said he, “the little silent volumes for teachers, which have been sent out in our School Libraries, have done more good in improving our teachers, and making them what they should be, than any thing else we have done. They have gone into every schoolhouse, and been the guides and companions of our young teachers, our young men and women, when entering upon their new charge, while all other instrumentalities have been partial and limited in their influence.'- School Libraries would open to teachers a source from which they could prepare lectures for the benefit of the district, as well as Teachers’ Institutes, on the various subjects of education, health, morals, government, natural and civil history, the wonders of science, the discoveries of art, and many other topics of enduring interest. They would have the means at their command to prepare themselves, if not already prepared, for another important work—one, in an eminent degree uniting pleasure and instruction: “ Once, at least, each week,” suggests Hon. ANSON SMYTI, State Commissioner of Common Schools of Ohio, “I would have the teacher accompany the pupils on an excursion through the neighboring fields and groves. This occasion might be improved for the imparting instruction

« AnteriorContinuar »