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of the elementary knowledge of their respective professions was acquired at school.
4. Something should be taught of geography in our common schools, but nothing, or next to nothing, without visible illustrations. The coarsest globe or map, which any teacher of ordinary ingenuity can prepare, is better than none. The object should be to make a correct impression of geographical outlines, and leave the filling up (except as it respects our own country) to a future opportunity, at a school of different character, or one affording different opportunities of instruction.
5. Reading, writing, arithmetic, and geography, having been thus duly taught, every schoolboy should be intelligibly instructed in the rights and duties of an American citizen. To this end, his teacher should be familiar with the history of our country, and not only with the great principles which are peculiar to our national compact, but with those still greater and immutable principles on which all rational liberty is founded. He should be required to spread out before his school, at proper intervals, the story of the American revolution; the doings and associations of that eventful period; and the sacrifices and sufferings at the expense of which that most hazardous struggle was maintained. Every spot should be designated upon the map, and made familiar to the pupils' eyes, where the blood of our fathers flowed out like water. They should learn on what principles, by what concessions, and for what ends, our constitutions were established. They should also be made acquainted with their rights as citizens—that they may know them well and feel their value-whenever they shall come to that honourable and responsible station such as the right to keep and bear arms; the right of exemption from searches and seizures by warrant; the right to be presented and indicted by a grand jury before being held to answer for any infamous offence; the right of being but once put in jeopardy of life or limb for the same offence; the right of trial by jury; the right respecting excessive bail, excessive fines, and cruel and unreasonable punishments; the right of conscience, of the press, and of speech; the right of assembling and petitioning government, with its wholesome limitations; and the right of the citizens of each state to all the privileges and immunities of the citizens of the several states.
The possession of these rights, and the intelligent consciousness that they are possessed, and are worth maintaining, should be recognized as vital principles in the education of every American lad. We are aware that very few of our common-school teachers are at all competent to give instruction of this kind; but if public sentiment required it, provision would soon be made to qualify them; and there are, probably, few topics that would
combine more interest and profit than these, if presented in the form of lectures or discussions, of five or ten minutes' duration, at every session of the school.
Perhaps, however, it will be thought by the very prudent and judicious that this is carrying the matter too far, and that a knowledge of these things had better be acquired as necessity urges it upon our boys. But may we not ask that they shall be taught why Americans are white rather than black, yellow, or copper-coloured ? Why we speak English rather than Dutch, French, or Chinese? What is meant by “the revolution,” the “ declaration of independence,” the "aborigines,” “the pilgrims,” the "colonists,” &c.? What is a freeman, a free country, a free constitution, a free government? What is our country bound to do for us, and what are we bound to do for her ? We
say that if a man comes to the polls without the substance of this knowledge, he may be enrolled as a freeman, he may make speeches as a freeman, and he may vote as a freeman; but he has neither the intelligence nor the independence which alone constitute a freeman; and, whenever the state of public feeling prepares the way, it will be found that he values much more highly, and exercises much more intelligibly, the right of throwing brickbats, demolishing houses, and burning machinery, than the lawful and invaluable rights of an American citizen.
We cannot here but advert to the importance of teaching children the requirements and prohibitions of the most important laws of the land—we mean such as are most frequently violated. During a term of ten or fifteen years, we had occasion to observe minutely the circumstances under which crimes are usually committed ; and we are persuaded that, in a multitude of instances, a knowledge of the nature and punishment: of the offence would have deterred the delinquent from his wicked purpose.
For example, it is probable that few persons are aware that, in many cases, the same crime is much more aggravated when committed in the night than when committed in the day-time; that, in some states, the difference of a single half hour in the time of committing a robbery may, in the consequences, make all the difference between imprisonment for one year and imprisonment for life! that stealing from a man's person, from his dwelling-house, and from his store, are entirely different offences, and differently punished ; that setting fire to an occupied dwelling-house in the night, is, in some of the states, punishable with death, while setting fire to the same house, when unoccupied, or to the barn on the opposite side of the way, might cost the offender only a few months' imprisonment; that intoxication is no excuse for crime, but rather an aggravation of it; and that, in the commission of most offences, those who are present,
consenting and abetting, are equally guilty with the actual perpetrators of the crime.
This is the class of subjects to which we allude; and we only ask that our children may be taught, in common schools, in a plain and familiar manner, the nature and consequences of such common offences against public law, and the cominon progress of the offender, from the earliest mis-step, until he is arrested, disgraced, and destroyed.
We will not dwell longer on this topic. The kind and degree of knowledge which common schools should furnish has been put, in the preceding remarks, at the very lowest point; and yet, to reach even this, we must have
I. Proper books.
V. A series of periodical reports, on the accuracy and intelligence of which entire reliance may be placed. We shall advert to but two or three of these requisites.
I. The outline of common-school instruction, which we have sketched, will never be wisely filled up until there is some radical change in the construction of reading books. The “ American Preceptor,” “ Art of Reading," " English Reader," “ Columbian Class-book," “Scott's Lessons,” and some few scores of later date, many of which have been compiled by intelligent and learned men, are as unfit for reading books in a common school, we mean as ill adapted to the purpose for which they are prepared, as a gimblet would be to drive a nail, or a hammer to bore a hole. We would gladly use a more courtly illustration, but could not more palpably show just what we mean by ill adaptation, or, rather, no adaptation at all.
The simple lessons," as they are ludicrously called, which are prefixed to some of these books, are exceedingly concise, often quaint in style, and almost always difficult to read; while the poetry and dramatic pieces, which are scattered through the book, or collected in a solid mass at the end, serve chiefly to try the master's skill in teaching his pupils in a tongue unknown to them, if not to him.
“ The curfew tolls the knell of parting day”
Columba," Columba, to glory arise”—
“Ye nymphs of Solyma begin the song”are the first lines of reading lessons, the very sound of which awakens vivid recollections of the stove and benches and faces
1. We write the words as they are com
ommonly pronounced in schools.
and frolics of a country school-house; but they revive no impression upon the understanding, for the very good reason that they never made any. We can well remember when and where it was considered the summit level in the English route of an ambitious boy, to be able to read, with a bold and confident air
“Romans, countrymen, and lovers," as it was called, without the most distant conception of the time, persons, scenes, or circumstances to which the passage owes all its interest, and, indeed, all its sense. Nay, more, it has been read by thousands upon thousands who could attach no meaning at all to three fifths of the words. It is hoped the time is not very far distant when such folly and imposition will not be tolerated. To collect extracts from two or three hundred volumes, and arrange them in chapters and sections, and invent a popular title, and then secure a page or two of certificates from Hon. Mr. A., General B., and Rev. C., D.D., is all very easy; but to make a good reading book for the common schools of the United States, is one of the most difficult and laborious undertakings in which the best of us could engage. Such a book, or a series of such books, should be prepared with reference to the wants of the whole country. The matter should be mainly American, and illustrative of American manners, scenery, history, resources, &c. &c.; excluding every thing that may have a tendency to excite local or sectional prejudice; and having in view, throughout the series, the training up, in our common schools, of a generation of sober, intelligent, virtuous, and patriotic freemen.
II. In the view we have taken, it will be obvious that, besides a radical change in books, every teacher of a public school, male and female, should possess a thorough knowledge of the art of reading. So far as our information extends, where any examination of teachers is customary, and even where it is most rigid, the judgment is formed on the general qualifications of the candidate. For example: though the applicant for a school reads and spells very imperfectly, yet if he writes handsomely, and is "quick at figures," as they say, it is considered a fair offset, and he is put in charge of fifty or a hundred children, to teach them, among other things, what, it is admitted, he does not know himself!
But on our remedial plan, an examination of the teacher, by the most competent persons that can be found, being considered, under all circumstances, indispensable, the very first requisition, after moral character, would be an ability to read, spell, and teach the English language correctly. If there was a failure here, though he were a second Bacon or Newton, it should end the matter. However well qualified he may be for a professorship
of philosophy or metaphysics, he is certainly unfit for the more important station of an American schoolmaster, and for this only do we want him.
We will venture to express the opinion, that if three disinterested and well-qualified commissioners were appointed to examine every common-school teacher employed in the United States, within the current year, nineteen in twenty would be found incompetent to teach children to read and write the English language. Mark, that we speak only of common-school teachers—they educate the country. Mark, also, that we speak not only of their knowledge of these two branches, but of their ability to teach them; and, farther, that we speak of their competency only in these branches, and not of their qualifications to teach other, and, perhaps, more difficult branches. The simple enquiry would be, is this individual qualified to teach children to read and write as they should be taught ?
The sort of investigation we have proposed would probably be impracticable, but there is a more simple test by which we are willing our assertion should be tried. Let every commonschool teacher write a letter, of fifteen lines, to the postmastergeneral. It shall be entirely, and in all respects, his or her own; and these letters, being submitted to such a commission as we have just described, we will abide by the result to which the evidence they furnish would lead.
III. As to the evil of non-attendance, it will be cured, partially at least, by the introduction of good teachers and suitable books. 'One principal cause of the reluctance which children almost universally show to "going to school," is the dread of being confined, in such a place, so long, to an employment monotonous, irksome, and seemingly useless. There is nobody to compel them to attend, unless it is for the sake of throwing off the care of them upon some one else; and, indeed, there seems to be no definite and settled conviction in any body's mind that it does any good to send them.
Now it is a fact, that the poorest and most ignorant man among us is proud of a well-educated son or daughter. Whatever he may say, when you propose to take the children from home, and so lessen the productive labour of the family, still he loves to be able to say that his children can all read and write; and it should be well considered, that if our schools were what they might and should be, they would not only be more attractive, but they would form in our children-before they become of much account as helpers in the family—the basis of education, on which they might themselves erect a very useful and substantial superstructure, with the knowledge which experience and observation would supply.
Two years of steady attendance upon a good school will