Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

cognizance of sin, neither may its school do so. But in morals sin is the vital matter; crime is but its legal aspect. Men begin as sinners before they end as criminals.

The atmosphere of religion is the natural medium for the development of character. If we appeal to the sense of duty, we assume belief in God and in the freedom of the will; if we strive to awaken enthusiasm for the human brotherhood, we imply a divine fatherhood. Accordingly, as we accept or reject the doctrines of religion, the sphere of moral action, the nature of the distinction between right and wrong, and the motives of conduct, all change. In the purely secular school only secular morality may be taught, and whatever our opinion of this system of ethics may otherwise be, it is manifestly deficient in the power which appeals to the heart and the conscience. The child lives in a world which imagination creates, where faith, hope, and love beckon to realms of beauty and delight. The spiritual and moral truths which are to become the very life-breath of his soul, he apprehends mystically, not logically, Heaven lies about him; he lives in wonderland, and feels the thrill of awe as naturally as he looks with wide-open eyes. Do not seek to persuade him by telling him that honesty is the best policy, that poverty overtakes the drunkard, that lechery breeds disease, that to act for the common welfare is the surest way to get what is good for one's self-for such teaching will not only leave him unimpressed, but it will seem to him pro. fane and almost immoral. He wants to feel that he is the child of God, of the infinitely good and all-wonderful; that in his father, divine wisdom and strength are revealed, in his mother, divine tenderness and love. He so believes and trusts in God that it is our fault if he knows that men can be base. In nothing does the godlike character of Christ show forth more beautifully than in his reverence for children. Shall we profess to believe in him and yet forbid his name to be spoken in the houses where we seek to train the little ones whom he loved? Shall we shut out him whose example has done more to humanize, ennoble and uplift the race of man than all the teachings of the philosophers and all the disquisitions of the

moralists? If the thinkers, from Plato and Aristotle to Kant and Pestalozzi, who have dealt with the problems of education have held that virtue is its chief aim and end, shall we thrust from the school the one ideal character, who, for nearly nineteen hundred years, has been the chief inspiration to righteousness and heroism; to whose words patriots and reformers have appealed in their struggles for liberty and right, to whose example philanthropists have looked in their labors to alleviate suffering, to whose teaching the modern age owes its faith in the brotherhood of men, by whose courage and sympathy the world has been made conscious that the distinction between man and woman is meant for the propaga. tion of the race, but that as individuals they have equal rights and should have equal opportunities? We all, and especially the young, are influenced by example more than by precepts and maxims, and it is unjust and unreasonable to exclude from the school-room the living presence of the noblest and best men and women, of those whose words and deeds have created our Christian civilization. In the example of their lives we have truth and justice, goodness and greatness in concrete form; and the young who are brought into contact with these centers of influence will be filled with admiration and enthu. siasm, they will be made gentle and reverent, and they will learn to realize the ever-fresh charm and force of personal purity. Teachers, who have no moral criteria, no ideals, no counsels of perfection, no devotion to God and godlike men, cannot educate, if the proper meaning of education is the complete unfolding of all man's powers.

The school, of course, is but one of the many agencies by which education is given. We are under the influence of our whole environment,-physical, moral, and intellectual; political, social, and religious,—and if, in all this, aught were different, we ourselves should be other. The family is a school and the church is a school, and current American opinion assigns to them the business of moral and religious education, But this implies that conduct and character are of secondary importance; it supposes that the child may be made subject to op

posite influences at home and in the school, and not thereby have his finer sense of reverence, truth, and goodness, deadened. The subduing of the lower nature, of the outward to the inner man, is a thing so arduous, that reason, religion, and law combined often fail to accomplish it. If one should propose to do away with schools altogether and to leave education to the family and the church, he would be justly considered ridiculous, because the carelessness of parents and the inability of the ministry of the church would involve the prevalence of illiteracy. Now to leave moral and religious education to the family and the churches involves, for similar reasons, the prevalence of indifference, sin, and crime. If illiteracy is a menace to free institutions, vice and irreligion are a greater menace. The corrupt are always bad citizens, the ignorant are not necessarily so. Parents who would not have their children taught to read and write, were there no free schools, will as a rule neglect their religious and moral education. In giving religious instruction to the young, the churches are plainly at a disadvantage, for they have the child but an hour or two in seven days, and they get into their Sunday classes only the children of the more devout.

If the chief end of education is virtue, if conduct is threefourths of life, if character is indispensable while knowledge is only useful, then it follows that religion, which more than any other vital influence has power to create virtue, to inspire conduct, and to mold character, should enter into all the processes of education. Our school system then does not rest upon a philosophic view of life and education. We have done what it was easiest to do, not what it was best to do, and in this, as in other instances, churchmen have been will. ing to sacrifice the interests of the nation to the whims of a narrow and jealous temper. The denominational system of popular education is the right system. The secular system is a wrong system. The practical difficulties to be overcome that religious instruction may be given in the schools are rela. tively unimportant, and would be set aside if the people were thoroughly persuaded of its necessity. An objection, which

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

Dr. Harris, among others, insists upon, that the method of science and the method of religion are dissimilar, and that therefore secular knowledge and religious knowledge should not be taught in the same school, seems to me to have no weight. The method of mathematics is not the method of biology, the method of logic is not the method of poetry, but they are all taught in the same school. A good teacher, in fact, employs many methods. In teaching the child grammatical analysis, he has no fear of doing harm to his imagination or his talent for composition.

No system, however, can give assurance that the school is good. To determine this we must know the spirit which lives in it. The intellectual, moral, and religious atmosphere which the child breathes there is of far more importance, from an educational point of view, than any doctrines he may learn by rote, than any acts of worship he may perform.

The teacher makes the school, and when high, pure, devout, and enlightened men and women educate, the conditions favorable to mental and moral growth will be found, provided a false system does not compel them to assume a part and play a rôle, while the true self, the faith, hope, and love whereby they live, is condemned to inaction. The deeper tendency of the present age, is not, I think, to exclude religion from any vital process, but rather to widen the content of the idea of religion until it embrace the whole life of man. The worship of God is not now the worship of infinite wisdom, holiness, and justice alone, but is also the worship of the humane, the beautiful, and the industriously active. Whether we work for knowledge or freedom, or purity or strength, or beauty or health, or aught else that is friendly to completeness of life, we work with God and for God. In the school, as in whatever other place in the boundless universe a man may find himself, he finds himself with God, in him moves, lives, and has his being.

J. L. SPALDING. PEORIA, ILL.

it

1

II.

THE AMERICAN HIGH SCHOOL. (II.)

PREPARATION FOR COLLEGE.

L

[ocr errors]

The High School, to the great mass of its pupils, will of necessity be the completion of their education.

There are seldom to be found more than ten per cent., in any one year, who enter with the purpose of continuing their studies beyond the High School; and the proportion of such is usually much smaller. [The chief work of the High School, therefore, must. be to give the mass of its students the best preparation it can for the duties of life, and this without regard to requirements for admission to higher institutions. If, as some contend, the course best for those who intend to continue their studies through college is also best for those who drop out at any given point, then the main work of the High School will be the best preparation for higher institutions, This opinion, however, is not generally acted upon in the arrangement of High School courses.

But the preparation of students for college is widely, though not universally, recognized as a legitimate and important part of the work of the High School. It is best for the community that those who are competent and who desire should be encouraged to obtain a liberal education. It is also best for the High Schools themselves that they should do this work. It is generally the brightest and most promising of their pupils who are aiming at the college, and the presence of these gives a better tone and higher standard of scholarship to the whole school. Their example, when present, and their success in higher schools after they pass on, incite others to pursue advanced work. . And so the supporters of the school receive a two-fold return.

But granting the right and expediency of the preparation in High Schools of students for higher institutions, we are met by certain special difficulties in the practical performance of

« AnteriorContinuar »