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during the year 1819, it is stated by most of the teachers, that the children at their several schools can read the New Testament by the time they have been one year at school. Nay, some of them assert, that they can read it in six months, and even during the second and third quarters.* That the New Testament is put into the hands of children at the periods now stated, and that they are allowed to stammer through it in the best manner they can, is doubtless a fact, and a fact which is much to be regretted; but that a child that goes to school at the age of four or five, is able, in ordinary cases, to read the New Testament with any tolerable degree of accuracy and ease, in six, nine, or even in twelve months, is altogether incredible. There are many passages in this book as difficult to be read as the writings of the generality of English authors; and, if a boy or girl can once read it with propriety and ease, a very little additional practice will suffice to enable him to read any other English work. The statements to which I refer, however, show that the practice of hurrying children from one book to another, is too prevalent in many of the parochial schools of this country, and must, consequently, be attended with a train of pernicious effects. I have seen children sent to school with a Testament in their hand, as a class-book, who could not read a single verse, and could scarcely pronounce two or three of the easiest vocables without pausing to spell almost every word that occurred, and who, at the same time, appeared deficient in their knowledge of the characters of the alphabet. Before children can read such a book as the New Testament, with any degree of ease and fluency, they must be trained to the exercise of spelling, and of reading a variety of appropriate lessons accommodated to their capacities, till they can read a sentence or a paragraph without blundering or hesitation. But how is this proficiency to be acquired?-how can a child, with propriety, be transferred from one spelling-book to another, and from one series of reading-lessons to another, in the space of six or eight months? The practice to which I refer seems almost to imply, that they are conducted at once from a twopenny Primer to the Evangelical History or the Acts of the Apostles. A pupil should be able to read with ease every initiatory book that is put into his hands before he is transferred to another. For, by passing with a rapid transition from one book to another, and to lessons which are too difficult for his articulation and comprehension, he will be apt to acquire a hesitating and a blundering habit of reading; he will
* See Christian Instructor for August and November, 1819, pp. 561 and
be discouraged in his progress; he will seldom attempt to aim at accuracy and perfection; he will appreciate few of the ideas contained in his lessons; he will seldom acquire even the elements of accurate spelling and pronunciation, and will be apt to continue through life, an awkward, an incorrect, and an injudicious reader.
5. The last circumstance I shall mention, in the meantime, as prejudicial to an accurate and enlightened education, is—the attempt to teach three or four branches of education at the same time. The principle of the division of labour, and its utility when applied to the various departments of art, science, and commerce, are now fully appreciated and realized; and to this circumstance is to be attributed many of the improvements of modern times. In cities and large towns this principle has also been applied successfully to the art of teaching. But it is well known that in the majority of schools, especially in the country, an attempt is made to teach reading, grammar, writing, arithmetic, book-keeping, mathematics, Latin, French, and other branches, in the same school, by the same teacher, and at the same time. The consequence is, that none of them is taught with efficiency and accuracy-which can only be obtained by allotting separate hours for each distinct department of knowledge, and, if possible, having separate teachers for every branch of scholastic instruction. Before this principle, however, can be followed out to its full extent in country schools, a variety of arrangements require to be made, a variety of difficulties and obstructions removed, and a variety of new scholastic institutions established-the details of which I shall postpone to a subsequent section of this work.
Such is a brief sketch of some of the evils and defects connected with the system of instruction which has so long prevailed in this country. It treats rational beings as if they were mere machines -it presents the form of education without the substance—it expends its energies on words instead of things-it rests in the means of knowledge, without prosecuting the end-it stimulates the memory, and even tortures it, by cramming its compartments with sounds instead of sense, but permits the understanding to remain in darkness and desolation-it indirectly fosters malignant passions, but leaves the benevolent affections waste and unculti vated-it throws a gloom over the enjoyments of the young instead of inspiring them with delight at the prospect of being introduced to the sublime and interesting scenes presented in the temple of knowledge-it conveys a jumble of confused notions into their minds, but leaves them ignorant of all that is grand and ennobling, and interesting to man as a rational and immortal in
telligence. In proof of these positions, we need only look around us on the various ranks of society. Where is there one individual out of twenty to be found, who has his mind enlightened in the knowledge of those subjects with which every human being, considered as a rational, social, and immortal being, ought to be acquainted? Where is there even to be found a relish for useful information and intellectual improvement, among the majority of those who have gone the round of the usual course of education? And where are to be seen the moral effects of our scholastic training on the stage of social and active life? Is not ignorance still a prominent trait in the great mass of our population? Do not vice and immorality very generally prevail? And are not selfishness and avarice, envy and revenge, sensuality and other grovelling affections, still the distinguishing characteristics of the majority of the lower orders, and even of the higher ranks of society, notwithstanding the scholastic process through which they have passed? If any individuals in our times have been excited to the prosecution of rational and scientific pursuits, the stimulus has been derived from other quarters, from other circumstances, and from other institutions. The greater part of the benefit derived from the existing system, consists in a considerable portion of our population having acquired, to a certain degree, the art of reading, and, consequently, the capacity of rendering it subservient to the acquisition of knowledge, when certain peculiar and favourable circumstances in after life conspire to stimulate their mental activity, and to produce a relish for rational enjoyments. But, it may be affirmed, without the least hesitation, that there is not one out of twenty of the population who is stimulated, in this way, to rise superior to his grovelling associates in the scale of intelligence. Such considerations evidently show, that the system of instruction hitherto adopted is glaringly defective and inefficient for the improvement of society in knowledge and virtue-and must be subverted and new-modelled, if ever we expect to see mankind raised to that rank which they ought to hold in the scale of moral and intellectual excellence. Till this object be accom. plished, I verily believe, that, notwithstanding the instructions delivered from a thousand pulpits, very little change to the better will appear on the face of general society; for the public instruc tions of religion are neither understood nor appreciated by the one half of our church-going population, owing to the deficiency of their moral culture in the early periods of life. That such a futile and inefficient system of tuition should have so long prevailed in this enlightened age, as it is generally termed, and that no powerfu! and general exertions should have been made for its improve
ment, is little short of a libel on the common sense and the Christianity of our country.
In throwing out the preceding hints on the errors and deficien. cies of the present system of education, let it be carefully remembered, that I am far from attaching blame indiscriminately to that respectable body of men who superintend the parochial and other seminaries in this country. It is indeed to be regretted, that there are too many persons employed as teachers who consider themselves as sufficiently qualified for the office, if they can write a tolerably good hand and cast accounts. But, on the other hand, it is one of the pleasing signs of our times, that the characters and qualifications of teachers are rapidly advancing in respectabili. ty, and our public schools are in general filled with men of learning and talent. It is to the system of teaching, and not to the respectable individuals who act under it, that these strictures more particularly refer. I am fully aware of the difficulties and the opposition which teachers have to encounter when they deviate from the common mode-arising from prejudices in favour of established practices, the ignorance of parents, and the foolish and unchristian modes by which many children are trained under the domestic roof. Many of our intelligent teachers perceive the evils of the present system, but they are obliged, in the mean. time, to act under it. In their individual and insulated capacity, unsupported by public patronage, they cannot remove its essential defects, nor attempt any material or important improvement, in consequence of the current of popular opinion; and their deviation from established practices would, in certain cases, tend to injure their pecuniary interests. I have known instructors of youth who have attempted improvements similar to some of those above hinted at, who were afterwards constrained to throw them aside, owing to the causes now specified. I knew one in particular, who selected the most simple and interesting reading-lessons, and caused his pupils to give an account of every leading idea contained in them-who likewise attempted to explain the meaning of every question, Psalm and passage, which was to be committed to memory, and consequently, a very small portion only was prescribed, that it might be clearly understood and accurately repeated. But this plan could not be endured by those who estimate the quantity of instruction by the number of unmeaning lines and vocables which their children can vociferate. Such persons consider the repetition of three or four pages of mere words without ideas, as of far more importance than the communication of a hundred well-defined notions. He also caused the children, after their lessons were prepared and rehearsed, to
write upon slates-letters, triangles, parallelograms, and other mathematical figures and diagrams, in order to keep them fully employed while in school; and occasionally permission was granted to scratch whatever they pleased on their slates-men, horses, houses, windmills, or any other fancy, as a reward for the attention they had previously bestowed. But he was obliged to desist from the prosecution of these and other plans, in conse quence of "the hue and cry" which was raised about such "trifling modes of tuition."
It is, therefore, pretty obvious, that no general or extensive improvement in the system of education can be expected, till a strong conviction be produced in the minds of the intelligent public of the necessity of a more rational and efficient system being adopted, and till a powerful and simultaneous movement take place among all classes, in order to the erection and endow. ment of seminaries calculated to produce a moral and an intellec tual education. For many of the principles which pervade the present mode of tuition require to be completely reversed, and a system organized which shall form the foundation of the future progress of the human race-which will bear the test of succeeding and enlightened ages-which will render the acquisition of knowledge pleasant and desirable to the young-and which will embrace every thing that is interesting to man as an intellectual being, as a member of society, and as a candidate for a blessed immortality.
In the meantime, I am fully convinced, (however extravagant and paradoxical the sentiment may appear,) that the great majori ty of our youth acquire more real and substantial knowledge, during their play hours, and in their various amusements and in. tercourses with each other, than they acquire during the formal process of teaching while in school. At these times they acquire a rude knowledge of the appearances and qualities of various ob jects; of some of the laws of Nature and its general scenery; of the forms, economy, and varieties of vegetables,-of the habits and instincts of animals; of the application of several mechanical powers; and of the various modifications of human temper and action. Their games at shuttle-cock, nine-pins, marbles, balls and tops-their exercises in swimming, running, climbing, swinging and jumping-their visits to museums, menageries, and other exhibitions of natural and artificial curiosities-their views of the shipping, and the operations connected with it in seaport townstheir occasional excursions to the delightful and romantic scenes of the country, and the daily spectacle of the ebbing and flowing of the sea, of the sun shining in his glory, and of the moon walk