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system of schools where the attendance is irregular ; unfortunately they are too numerous and too palpable to even a superficial examiner. Exbibit judiciously, regularly attending pupils of eight, nine or ten years, rapidly overtaking and leaving behind irregularly attending scholars several
years older. Publish such facts and statistics as would tend to encourage in their constancy those who send regularly; while those who are indifferent about the regular attendance of their children will feel such home truths so forced upon them as to make them uneasy under the infliction. Make absenteeism and the difficulties arising from the practice of it, the subject of conversation, citing instances where individuals have suffered from it. Keep a private memorandum of the worst cases, so that the memory may be refreshed, and when the parents of such cases are met, they may be addressed
the subject. While this education of public opinion is going on, let Superintendents and Teachers enact and quietly carry out such a course of executive policy in their schools as will naturally and inevitably tend to make irregularity hateful and regularity desirable to the scholars. It is not necessary that these rules should be arbitrary or overbearing. They should carefully avoid any tendency to deprive any pupil of that public instruction which is the right of all, and which should be supplied untrammeled by the oppressive regulations and peculiar idiosyncrasies of any person.
Such resolutions as the following would interfere with the just rights of no one:
I. When any pupil is absent for any cause except sickness, (either personal or of some member of the family,) let the seat of such pupil be forfeited, and let any other pupil of the same sex and class, who may desire to do so, occupy the same. Where two desire the seat, prefer the most regular attendant. II. Let there be a separate place for all absentees under every
circumstance without exception. All, upon entering, must go there until excuses have been called for and examined.
III. Let the Teacher exercise a judicious discrimination as to whether the absence was justifiable and the excuse rendered is satisfactory.
IV. Establish special seats for absentees, which they shall occupy after their return to school so long as the Teacher shall deem it advisable, taking into consideration the cause of absence, excuse rendered, general standing of pupil, and other extenuating circumstances.
V. All occupying these seats should be deprived of any special local privileges which the scholars may have been in the babit of enjoying. At recess and at dismission they should also be the last to leave.
VI. Any pupil missing a recitation should upon rejoining the class, stand at the foot.
VII. Where a scholar is frequently absent, if such scholar fail to maintain a definite, average, established standing in his (or her) respective classes, let such be transferred to a lower class, both as a punishment, as a warning, and as an act of justice to those who attend regularly.
VIII. Where a scholar is so sent down, take care that the act is made sufficiently prominent; and that the cause is well understood by all the scholars, for they will be certain to talk about it at home, and it will often effect more benefit among those who are not habitually absentees, than it does upon the unfortunate absentee who has been made to suffer.
IX. Publish the names of the most regular and their respective positions in their several classes; also the names of the most irregular and their positions. Sometimes it may also be desirable to append a brief notice of the grades of classes through which some of them may have risen within a given period.
Some communities take more interest in education and the welfare of their schools than others; this arises from various causes wbich it is not at present necessary to investigate, but the fact that it seems an evil inherent to some societies, gives rise to the thought that absenteeism in a system of schools is like consumption in the human system ; suffering the body to retain the bue of health, and promising ultimate convalescence to the end, it gradually and inevitably eats up the life of a glorious structure and keeps it ever powerless for good. Nor does the resemblance terminate here. As the consumptive invalid can never hope for a permanent cure, so absenteeism can never be entirely eradicated from our schools. But as the consumptive can, by a careful and constant adherence to the laws of life, baffle and arrest the enemy which would speedily destroy him ; as like the celebrated Dr. Andrew Coombe, he can keep the disease in check by a rigid and systematic regard for nature and a respect for her imperious laws, and finally sink to sleep a comparatively old man after a life of usefulness, so by the constant vigilant prosecution of a well digested code of rules, Superintendents and Teachers can so far reduce absenteeism in their schools, that it would no longer be regarded as the one great impediment to the successful working of our Union School System of Public Education.
To effect this, however, requires patient persevering effort. To relax is to relapse, and to relapse seriously to fail. The foregoing suggestions could be carried into effect, and, if judiciously executed, could be defended successfully by any Teacher and would force even a careless indifferent Board of Education to acquiesce in them; at the same time they attack the rights and privileges of no scholar in such a manner as to afford grumbling or ignorant parents a pretext for asserting that they deprive any pupil of power to prosecute his education to the utmost.
If a few faithful laborers shall be lead to devise more efficient meape for securing regularity of attendance than they have hitherto done, then it may be hoped that these few thoughts are not entirely unworthy of the pages they are designed to fill.
Much has been said within a few years by our educators, of the evils of memoriter recitations. To remedy these evils, some of which are real, and more imaginary, various devices have been resorted to; among which the lecturing method, a kind of “royal road to knowledge, stands very prominent: a method in wbich the Teacher not only does the studying, but the reciting also. With a weakness incident to our nature, the advocates of the method, in avoiding Scylla bave fallen upon Charybdis. I am aware that its supporters do not state their views in very distinct terms, but by a phraseology exceedingly loose and indefinite, they deceive both the public and themselves, as to their real position.
As methods of instruction, like institutions, live forever in the society they mould, it becomes an inquiry of immense importance, as to which are the best.
In pursuing this investigation, every one must be struck by observing the radical changes a few years have introduced into all departments of education. We learn nothing as our fathers learned it. Young America like, we “whistle down the wind” their patient plodding industry, as too slow for the enlightenment of the latter half of the nineteenth century. That the ways of our fathers were perfect, none will be found hardy enough to assert, yet are we constrained to admit that there were scholars, and good ones too, before the Agamemnons of modern educational reform.
A close observation has impelled us to the conclusion, that in abandoning old methods, we have not been sufficiently careful in selecting others. We have been too prone to seize upon any floating theory, if it be but new, and without reason or reflection, adopt it, praise it, and in every way commend it to others.
That our methods should be philosophical, adopted to the development of the faculties of the mind in the order in which nature develops them, all will agree ; yet how few of our Teachers endeavor to attain this philosophical method. Socrates, and Pestalozzi—whose plan is almost identical in its main features with that of Socrates—are the only exceptions that now occur to me. Instead of founding our methods on the firm rock of an enlightened philosophy, we resort to a rule miserable and blind, and destined in a majority of cases, to yield nothing but disappointment, — the “try rule.” We tried the memoriter method, and found it in many points defective; then, of course, something else must be tried ; and that something else as being farthest removed from that in use, happened to be the lecturing method.
Under this method, I fear, are growing up a laxness of mental disci pline, and a superficiality of knowledge, to be deplored by every friend of thorough culture, and sound acquirements. To show that this superficiality naturally results from the method of instruction, will not, I think, be difficult.
Ere the method could be introduced in its full blown beauty, its advocates found it necessary to depreciate the value of text books. Instead of being considered helps, they were declared such hindrances in the way of mental growth, that they ought to be entirely banished from the hands of Teachers; and pupils were to have them or not, as happened to be most consonant with their feelings; or, if not allowed to go that far, they were to be permitted to make their own selections. It was contended, that, if the Teacher was himself full of his subject, by some process not very clearly explained, the pupil would also be filled.
The writer may be here allowed to make what some will consider the very humbling confession, that notwithstanding all the new lights, he has a strong and abiding affection for good text books; and he hopes the manufacture of that kind will go on in an accelerated ratio. He would further add to his offense, by declaring it to be his fixed belief that he has learned more from one such book, than from all the lectures he has ever heard put together —and he has been delighted and bored by as many, probably, as any one of his years.
Without the aid of the eye, our culture would certainly be most miserably cramped and defective. Now by the lecture the ear alone is informed, and the eye can afford no assistance. But place the text-book beneath the student's eye, and he has before him his kingdom of thought to be conquered; it may be a field limited in its extent, it is true, and not over fertile, but still it must be subjugated before other and more extensive acquisitions are attempted, as it will not do to leave an army of ignorance posted in the rear. If he fails in his first charge, as he probably will, and in many others, he can return to the attack again and again. He knows exactly where the enemy lies intrenched, and he spends no unnecessary time in searching him out, but proceeds at once to make a descent upon his stronghold.
But to drop the figure—every man knows that no one can become a scholar by listening to lectures alone, however animated, learned and eloquent; nor by reading, however wide that reading may be; nor by both combined. Something more is required. It is necessary to pursue a science in a methodical manner, and in order to do this the foundation of its knowledge should be laid by a careful and assiduous study of a well-arranged text-book. However well it may be, nay, essentially necessary, for the Teacher to know many books on the subject in which be is giving instruction, and something beyond books, yet the pupil himself, in his early training, should not be encouraged to dissipate his powers, by what, with him, can be but a very superficial dipping into numerous authors. After his mind has become disciplined and matured by age and culture, the store-bouses of knowledge may be freely thrown
open to him, without any danger of what farmers would call a “founder.” In early training is the adage, “know few books and know them well,” specially applicable.
In the lecture method of instruction, the pupil appears to me to occupy the position of a sponge, absorbing whatever the Teacher, from a retentive memory and an extensive reading, may choose to deluge him with ; and resembling the sponge in another particular, in that it does not take a great amount of pressure to squeeze him dry.
Have you ever seen a recitation conducted in “the newest style?” If not, I will try to describe it to you. A long class of young ladies, (I choose a class of young ladies as an example, because the style is believed to be peculiarly adapted to their capacities, and hence is immensely popular with keepers of fashionable Boarding Schools, who look upon the capacities of girls and boys as widely dissimilar institutions,) file into the recitation room and take their seats, in the best of order. The Teacher, who has read everything on his subject, is fully