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strong arm of the law. For such cases, one or more institutions, similar to the “ Farm School,” near Boston, or the “Reform Schools,” or “Schools of Industry,” in some parts of Europe, should be provided, where these young barbarians can be tamed into the manners and habits of civilized life, and society be saved from the revenge which they will otherwise wreak upon its peace for their neglected childhood.
. When all these expedients and plans have failed, the law of self-preservation imperiously demands that political institutions, which are embodied in written constitutions and laws, should not pass into the keeping of juries, witnesses, and electors, who cannot write the verdict they may render, or read the vote they may cast into the ballot box. The right of suffrage should be withheld from such as can not give the lowest evidence of school attendance and proficiency.
To make the school attendance of children in the highest degree serviceable, in the right training of their intellectual and moral nature, they should go through a regular course of instruction, in a succession of classes and schools, arranged according to similarity of age, studies and attainments, under teachers possessing the qualifications best adapted to each grade of school. This subject has been alluded to in connection with the external organization of schools, the construction of school-houses, and the regular attendance of children at school, but its relations to good discipline, and thoroughness and extent of instruction demand a more particular consideration. Its almost universal neglect explains the failure of many schools, even when provided with good school-houses, and, in some respects, well qualified teachers. Its practical recognition would be followed immediately by extensive, thorough and permanent improvement in more than half of the school districts of the state, and have a beneficial influence
What then was the condition of the public schools in respect to classification in 1844? Out of three hundred and fourteen districts, in which public schools were kept during the year, only fourteen employed more than one teacher. We need but look into any one of the other three hundred districts, to be satisfied that something should be done to reduce the multiplicity and variety of cares and duties which press at one and the same time, and all the time, upon the attention of the teacher, and to introduce more of system and permanency into the arrangement of classes and studies in all the schools. No matter whether the school be large or small, there will be found collected into one apartment, under one teacher, chil
dren of both sexes, and of every age from four years and under, to sixteen years and upwards.
This variety of age calls for a multiplicity of studies, from the alphabet to the highest branches ever, pursued in well regulated academies. The different studies require at least a corresponding number of classes; and in most schools the number of classes actually required, is more than doubled by the diversity of books, and of different editions of the same book, in which the same studies are pursued by different scholars. The number of classes are again increased by the differing attainments of scholars in the same study, arising out of differences in school attendance, parental co-operation, individual capacity and habits of attention. Each class requires a separate recitation, and in those studies, such as arithmetic and penmanship, in which no classification is attempted, the teacher will be obliged to give individual assistance to as many scholars as may be pursuing them, which is never less than one-half of the whole school. With so many causes at work to prevent the teacher from acting on any considerable num. ber at a time, he is obliged to carry forward his school by individual recitations and assistance. Out of one hundred and sixty schools, from which information on this point was obtained, in 1844, there were fifty schools containing more than seventy scholars, in which the number of distinct recitations, including the classes in reading and spelling, and excluding the attention given to pupils in arithmetic and penmanship, averaged as high as twenty-three in each half day; there were one hundred and ten, numbering over fifty scholars, in which the average exceeded seventeen. The amount of time in a half day's session, which can be made available for purposes of recitation, in most schools, with the utmost diligence on the part of the teacher, does not exceed one hundred and fifty minutes, and much of this is lost in calling and dismissing the classes, and in beginning and ending the lessons, so that an equitable distribution of the teacher's time and attention, gives but a small fragment to each class, and still less to each individual. The disadvantages under which pupils and teachers labor, in consequence of this state of things, are great and manifold.
There is a large amount of physical suffering and discomfort, as well as great hindrances in the proper arrangement of scholars and classes, caused by crowding the older and younger pupils into the same school-room, without seats and furniture appropriate to either; and the greatest amount of suffering and discomfort falls upon the young, who are least able to bear it, and who, in consequence, acquire a distaste to study and the school room.
The work of education going on in such schools, cannot be appropriate and progressive. There cannot be a regular course of discipline and instruction, adapted to the age and proficiency of pupils—a series of processes, each adapted to certain periods in the development of the mind and character, the first intended to be followed by a second, and the second by a third, the latter always depending on the earlier, and all intended to be conducted on the same general principles, and by methods varying with the work to be done, and the progress already made. With the older and younger pupils in the same room,
there cannot be a system of discipline which shall be equally well adapted to both classes. If it secures the cheerful obedience and subordination of the older, it will press with unwise severity upon the younger pupils. If it be adapted to the physical wants, and peculiar temperaments of the young, it will endanger the good order, and habits of study, of the more advanced pupils, by the frequent change of posture and position, and other indulgences which it permits and requires of the former.
With studies ranging from the alphabet and the simplest rudiments of knowledge, to the higher branches of an English education, a variety of methods of instruction and illustration are called for, which are seldom found together, or in an equal degree, in the same teacher, and which can never be pursued with equal success in the same school-room. The elementary principles of knowledge, to be made intelligible and interesting to the young, must be presented by a large use of the oral and simultaneous methods. The bigher branches, especially all mathematical subjects, require patient application and habits of abstraction, on the part of the older pupils, which can with difficulty, if at all, be attained by many pupils, amid a multiplicity of distracting exercises, movements and sounds. The recitations of this class of pupils, to be profitable and satisfactory, must be conducted in a manner which requires time, discussion and explanation, and the undivided attention both of pupils and teacher.
From the number of class and individual recitations, to be attended to during each balf day, these exercises are brief, hurried and of little practical value. They consist, for the most part, of senseless repetitions of the words of a book. Instead of being the time and place where the real business of teaching is done, where the ploughshare of interrogation is driven down into the acquirements of each pupil, and his ability to comprehend clearly, remember accurately, discriminate wisely, and reason closely, is cultivated and tested, --where the difficult principles of each lesson are developed and illustrated, and additional information imparted, and the mind of the teacher brought in direct contact with the mind of each pupil, to arouse, interest and direct its opening powers—instead of all this and more, the brief period passed in recitation, consists, on the part of the teacher, of hearing each individual and class in regular order, and quick succession, repeat words from a book; and on the part of the pupils, of saying their lessons, as the operation is significantly described by most teachers, when they summon the class to the stand. In the mean time the order of the school must be maintained, and the general business must be going forward. Little children without any authorized employment for their eyes and hands, and ever active curiosity, must be made to sit still, while every muscle is aching from suppressed activity; pens must be mended, copies set, arithmetical difficulties solved, excuses for tardiness or absence received, questions answered, whisperings allowed or suppressed, and more or less of extempore discipline administered. Were it not a most ruinous waste of precious time,did it not involve the deadening, crushing, distorting, dwarfing of immortal faculties and noble sensibilities,--were it not an utter perversion of the noble objects for which schools are instituted, it would be difficult to conceive of a more diverting farce than an ordinary session of a large public school, whose chaotic and discordant elements had not been reduced to system by a proper classification. The teacher, at least the conscientious teacher, thinks it any thing but a farce to him. Compelled to hurry from one study to another, the most diverse,—from one class to another, requiring a knowledge of methods altogether distinct,-from one recitation to another, equally brief and unsatisfactory, one requiring a liveliness of manner, which he does not feel and cannot assume, and the other closeness of attention and abstraction of thought, which he cannot give amid the multiplicity and variety of cares,from one case of discipline to another, pressing on him at the same time,-he goes through the same circuit day after day, with a dizzy brain and aching heart, and brings his school to a close with a feeling, that with all his diligence and fidelity, he has accomplished but little good.
But great as are the evils of a want of proper classification of schools, arising from the causes already specified, these evils are aggravated by the almost universal practice of employing one teacher in summer, and another in winter, and different teachers each successive summer and winter. Whatever progress one teacher may make in bringing order out of the chaotic elements of a large public school, is arrested by the termination of his school term. His experience is not available to his successor, who does not come into the school until after an interval of weeks or months, and in the mean time the former teacher has left the town or state. The new teacher is a stranger to the children and their parents, is unacquainted with the system pursued by his predecessor, and has himself but little or no experience in the business ; in consequence, chaos comes back again, and the confusion is still worse confounded by the introduction of new books, for every teacher prefers to teach from the books in which he studied, or which he has been accustomed to teach, and many teachers cannot teach profitably from any other. Weeks are thus passed, in which the school is going through the process of organization, and the pupils are becoming accustomed to the methods and requirements of a new teacher-some of them are put back, or made to retrace their studies in new books, while others are pushed forward into studies for which they are not prepared; and at the end of three or four months, the school relapses into chaos. There is constant change, but no progress.
This want of system, and this succession of new teachers, goes on from term to term, and
year to year-a process
which would involve any other interest in speedy and utter ruin, where there was not provision made for fresh material to be experimented upon, and counteracting influences at work to restore, or at least obviate the injury done. What other business of society could, I will not say, prosper, but escape utter wreck, if conducted with such want of system,— with such constant disregard of the fundamental principle of the division of labor, and with a succession of new agents every three months, none of them trained to the details of the business, each new agent acting without any knowledge of the plan of his predecessor, or any well settled plan of his own! The pubsic school is not an anomaly, an exception, among the great interests of society. Its success or failure depends on the existence or absence of certain conditions; and if complete failure does not follow the utter neglect of these conditions, it is because every term brings into the schools a fresh supply of children to be experimented upon, and sweeps away others beyond the reach of bad school instruction and discipline; and because the minds of some of these children, are, for a portion of each day left to the action of their own inherent forces, and the more kindly influences of nature, the family and society.
Among these conditions of success in the operation of a system of public schools, is such a classification of the scholars as shall bring a larger number of similar age and attainments, at all times, and in every stage of their advancement, under teachers of the right qualifications, and enable these teachers to act upon numbers at once, for years in succession, and carry them all forward effectually together, in a regular course of instruction.