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two inquiries, to answer which will be our purpose, so far as the limits of a short essay will. permit.
First, what is education ?
In the general acceptation of this term, it means the instruction of children: that is, teaching them to read, write and spell a few words; teaching them a little arithmetic, grammar, and perhaps a little history, merely by rote. “But what we understand by the term 'education is quite a different thing. It is the process by which the mind becomes acquainted with those subjects of investigation and instruction with which it comes in contact. The word education means the training, bringing up, and disciplining the mind.
To train the mind, is to exercise it; to bring it up, is to advance its exercises from one degree to another; and to discipline it, is to cause these exercises to be performed in the most philosophical manner. If our definition is correct, and founded upon the philosophy of the human mind, then education is not confined to the school house, 'nor developed by the school-master whose chief employment is to force a few abstract ideas into the unexpanded and unexpanding intellects of his hopeful urchins, with a rod and ferule, but by the use of all the ways and means which can be suc. cessfully employed to advance the intellectual improvement of the child, -the youth, and the man. Of course the true system of education begins in the nursery, and the only rightful teacher there is the mother. How important then is the education of females. It will be seen ere long that female education is as important to the welfare of this republic as that of men, if not far more so. But, to return, having settled this point of investigation, viz: what is education? we shall proceed to our second inquiry, which is,
2. What is the best method of obtaining it?
To answer this question with precision, requires great deliberation and experience, and a thorough investigation into the nature of mind and the best mode of acting upon that mind through the medium of the senses.
That the present writer is fully qualified for the task which he has imposed upon himself, is not assumed, but if his partial information and experience on this deeply interesting subject can possibly afford any light, his object will be obtained.
The mind is the man. Without it, the man is nothing but a • worse than useless lump of flesh and bones. He has limbs, to be. sure, but they are of no use. The whole machinery, unequaled in complexity, beauty, and majesty, is like the wheels of a watch without a mainspring. It is the mind then, that we are to operate. upon. How is it to be approached, is an inquiry worthy of attention. If we wished to secure an interest in the good will of a
king, we should make it a matter of peculiar moment to approach him at that precise time and in that manner which is best caleulated to win the monarch to our cause. - So if we would produce the most desirable effects upon mind, it becomes our duty to study the time and mode of approach to it, otherwise our efforts will be rejected, and our labors vain. Mind cannot be forced by human agency, and herein, we apprehend, lies no uncommon error in the various systems of education at the present day. One grand object to be achieved by them, is, to force knowledge into our youth. Coercion is resorted to by almost all. “Spåre the rod and ye spoil the child,” is a proverb so literally believed in, and acted out, that very few have inquired into its spirit or meaning. Some kind of punishment is often necessary and wholesome, but severe punishment very seldom.' There is an almost : total' want of a proper regard for the thing acted upon, in the education of our youth. If we had a plant of great delicacy, beauty and importance, we should feel a deep anxiety to know the best mode of rearing it to perfection. And not only so, but our anxiety would extend itself to those things, which might prove obnoxious to its growth. With what eagerness should we watch its early developments, and with what daily interest should we behold its opening beauties and fragrance, So with mind. It is a plant, (if we may be allowed the expression) of peculiar delicacy, beauty, and of infinite importance. "It must be cultivated, and it will be cultivated, in a greater or less degree, either for the better or for the worse. To carry out the figure more fully, mind is an exotic plant, and therefore requires the greater attention and solicitude. It is not indigenous to this terrestial soil, and consequently it is not only necessary to endeavor to enlarge its conceptions and expand its views, but still greater care should be taken to prevent its contact with any obnoxious or extraneous matter. The truth is, that there is greater difficulty in subduing or removing from the mind evil influences, than in expanding its useful capacities. With this view of our subject, we are enabled to learn two very important things. .1. That it is an exceedingly difficult.
task to rear the tender thought,
And teach the young idea how to shoot." And, 2d. That there are few to be found capable of doing it. There are various other qualifications nécessary, aside from the possession of the specific knowledge we wish to communicate to others. An A. M., however well obtained, should not alone be taken as a sufficient evidence of the individual's qualifications to instruct. Nor should the want of this college degree simply, debar any from the high and exalted station of instructer. The reason of this is apparent. 1. The course of training in most, if not all, of our colleges is sadly deficient. 2. It is not every one, who can or does stand high in his class, and deservedly too, that is fit, or able indeed, to take of the fund: of his own hard earned acquisitions, and impart it to others. 3. Their knowledge is not always the kind which is best calculated to benefit society in gerteral,
The very first thing to be attended to, is a regard for the minds to be operated upon. The teacher should have some adequate idea of the worth of that mind which is put into his hands for cultivation. He should feel a sincere regard for it. This regard should lead him to study carefully the natural temperament, faculties, and inclinations of that mind. He should learn its propensities and gifts by taking a deep intérest in all its actions and desires, so far as expressed. It is in this way that he can learn how and when to approach it so as to secure a welcome reception. His regard should lead him to act with-the most perfect candor towards it, and to bear with all its ten thousand caprices in such a manner as to secure its easy acquiescence in that which is right. It should be his duty to watch for and duly appreciate every laudable effort on the part of his pupil to overcome a difficulty, and toʻadminister encouragement in a thousand different ways to keep up the interest already excited in the mind. · Indeed, to use a very common phrase," human nature" should be one grand object of every professional teacher's attention. Unless he has some knowledge here, his efforts will meet with only partial success, if with any at all. Hence one great reason why some very learned men cannot make good teachers, and why some men with limited education succeed tolerably well. The teacher's knowledge should go so far as never to ask of a pupil more than he is abundantly able to perform, and never to impose à task upon a child which is evidently against his feelings, withoût, at least, showing him the reason of it. The human mind must be reasoned with, and if we would instil into its infancy even, any good thing, it must be done in a reasonable way.
For the very first efforts of infantile intellect are to discover for itself, the reason of the things which surround it. Therefore, no person is qualified for the office of teacher, unless he can take a most lively interest in the ten thousand different ways in which an intelligent mind develops itself. He must value them highly, and duly appreciate all its performances. The next requisite qualification of a teacher is a pleasing manner of communicating his instructions. By this we mean, that affable courteousness which can never fail to please, even children. The teacher should be easily approached nor hold himself at a distance, a distance so great in many instances that the pupil trembles when called upon to come into his immediate presence. Instead of this, the pupil should always feel a delight in coming before his instructer. ' He should be made to feel, and feel-it from the heart too, that his teacher is, next to his parent, his best friend. I do not mean to be understood to say, that there should exist a kind of • hail-fellow-well-met” familiarity ; by no means.
But the pupil should exercise the same kind of regard for his teacher, as he does for his father. “But what is the prevailing system of education in this particular ? Fear is that passion of the human mind which is almost universally brought into action. The child is taught to be afraid of every thing, whereas he should be taught to be afraid of nothing but doing wrong. There is the fear of punishment, fear of disgrace, fear of doing less than others have done, and a thousand other fears. It is a common saying that children must be afraid of their teacher or he can have no influence over them, and in obedience to this principle, the reigti of teachers in the school-room has been and is now emphatically," the reign of terror.”. A greater error could not well be committed. It must appear obvious to every reflecting mind, that this system is wrong in toto. It is a system fit only for slaves. Fear disqualifies us for the performance of any duty, and therefore wholly unfit to be the operative principle to carry youth along in the acquisition of knowledge. Mind, in the development of its powers, should be left free. It should maintain a perfect self-possession in the investigation of any subject. For just in proportion as it is thrown off its balance or guard, it will fail to put forth its native energies, and consequently its progress in science will be retarded. Every thing, therefore, like austerity, should be carefully excluded from the manners of the teacher. There should be nothing in his character calculated to excite fear or disgust, but on the contrary, he should possess those traits which irresistibly create for themselves, respect, love and veneration.
Notwithstanding we have expressed our sentiments so freely upon the subject of fear, yet we are far from believing that no motive is necessary to induce the mind to, develop itself ;. on the contrary, we maintain that the whole course of education should be a complete system of motives. For motive to mind is what a lever is in mechanics; without it, mind would become nothing better than inert matter. The motives which can be used are various, and very different in their character. One we have already discussed as being incompatible.' We will here introduce that motive which we think is best adapted to the point in question. This is the motive of interest. When our feelings are deeply interested, they prompt us to action. Action without being interested, is always forced, and when the mind is forced contrary to its wishes, it nevcr' accomplishes much, if any good. To carry on the work of education properly, the whole soul must bè under the influence of the deepest interest.
Universal experience concurs, we believe, with this statement. Men seldom, if ever, excel in any science or profession without having their feelings warmly enlisted in that science or profession. And the
greater the interest the greater the advancement. So with education in general. If the pupils are interested in their studies, there is no obstacle which they will not eventually overcome ; but when . this state of feeling is wanting, and just in proportion as it is wanting, will there be negligence, slothfulness, inactivity and want of improvement. The scholar must be made to feel that he is laboring for his own good, for his own advancement, for his own pleasure, and for his own glory. If a teacher is unable to clothe the sciences, he proposes teaching to his pupils, with the garb of interest, he may give up in despair. True he may succeed in drilling into their heedless brains some few abstract ideas, but as to the real knowledge of what is taught them, they will know as little in the end as when they began. The practical effects of their course of education will be developed much in the style of that of a young lady who had just finished her education at one of the most popular boarding schools in Virginia. . Being asked what sciences she had turned her attention to, she replied by repeating a list of her acquirements, and among the rest theology was mentioned. 6 Theology!” says the. interrogator with some surprise, "what system of theology did you read, madam ? " "I do not recollect,” answers the young disciple of divinity, “but this much I know, it told how many muscles there are in the elephant's
The interest of which we have been speaking is excited in various ways. In very young persons, curiosity, a very strong and early propensity in the human mind, will be an enigma of sufficient power to excite interest. Curiosity is a propensity sọ strong that it is ranked next in order to love and fear, and has been thought by some to have more influence on the mind than both. Indeed, so strong is its influence that neither the fear of God, nor the love of innocence and heaven, could restrain it. For in the midst of the splendors and pleasures and immunities of paradise, Eden's queen saw with most inquisitive eye the golden apple pendent, took, ate, and knew good and evil. So great is it, that a single act committed under the influence of curiosity alone, wrecked a world ; and its inhabitants, for nearly six thousand years, have been wandering over its ruins. Nor is the propensity at all lessened by the flight of years. It is as strong now in the minds of men as when our common mother Eve first felt its power. It is almost the first development of the infant mind, and continues to be its most assiduous companion through life, and seems not to lose its power even in death. If then the teacher can succeed in exciting, or bringing into action, this strong propensity, he cannot fail to awaken the deepest interest in the minds of his pupils, whether they are young or old. : Nor will his sense of hearing be offended by being told by his scholars, “ Oh I am tired of this
old grammar,” etc.