« VorigeDoorgaan »
stances of childhood or manhood. The authority of law must be respected; there must be a willing obedience to it, and when it is wilfully broken, the offender must suffer, so that, at all events, the law shall be honored, and, if possible, that he may be led to reformation. Childhood is the proper season to implant the principle of obedience and a relish for it, to continue through the whole period of parental authority; so is the moral discipline of the common school related intimately to that of the academy and the college, the general duty of obedience and respect which pupils owe to their instructors being the same in all schools. Therefore it is a matter of infinite concern to the prosperity of the higher seminaries and the safety of the students connected with them, that the right principles of discipline be taught and practised in all the primary schools. And the relation of schools of learning of every grade to the security and happiness of the State, is in no one point more momentous than in this.
It is believed that, in all our colleges and in most of the higher institutions, moral discipline is still administered on correct principles. Public sentiment still requires the maintenance of strict discipline, and the enforcement of extreme penalties to secure the success and safety of students surrounded by the dangers and temptations of college life.
But for the common school, we have heard of new and improved systems of discipline, and in these new systems, though such terms as “ moral discipline" and “moral suasion” are introduced, yet the word “moral” has such a meaning as gives it no right to be associated in any way with the idea of discipline.
It is said we must govern by the authority of love. The phrase authority of law sounds harsh and ungentle, and affects the nerves of those who are meekly perverse, and good-naturedly obstinate and amiably criminal. The teacher must rule by the law of love, and all will be well; he will ever find a ready response to all his wishes.
Now that teacher fulfils to his pupils the law of love, who teaches them to love the law and to reverence its sanctions, and who implants in them an ever-abiding regard for the rule of right conduct, a regard fortified by the motive of fear also, yea of exceeding dread of the consequences of wrong-doing. And to ensure the habit of obedience, the teacher of right may, and in duty must, employ adequate means.
What is there in the idea of an unbending law of right, that should be repulsive to young minds ; that should be withheld, that should be softened down by smooth, euphonic names? What child is too young to learn the most important lesson of sympathy with the spirit of what is described in the celebrated words of Hooker, that " of law no less can be said than that her seat is in the bosom of God; her voice, the harmony of the world ?"
We cannot but think the discussions that have prevailed of late, in reference to the use of corporal punishment, have been uncalled for, and have been demoralizing in their tendency. There may be occasionally instances of severity in its use, but then there are means of redress and remedy, other than calling in question principles on which all authority rests. The exercise of the master's right, in the primary school, to inflict pain, as the extreme penalty of school discipline, must, under judicious management, but very seldom occur; and then, indeed, however painful it may be to the master, the moral uses of it are such as to render it his imperative duty to employ it. The calling in question his right to use this mode of discipline must tend greatly to increase, rather than diminish, the occasions of administering it.
That theory of school government which it is not safe to announce from the teacher's desk, is not safe to an. nounce any where. That system which would naturally find sympathy with boys inclined to be vicious, should never be heard of by them. That good time dreamed of by radical reformers, is never coming, when juvenile delinquents or adult criminals will be less inclined to wrong-doing, by the advocacy of such a theory of moral discipline. That good time is never coming, when indolence will be quickened and passion checked, or the power of temptation be awakened by such a notion. That good time is never coming, until human nature shall no more need moral discipline, being “ fixed in virtue though free to fall.”
The cause of the discussion is not, we are persuaded, that there has been any general abuse of power by the schoolmasters ; but the principle on which the ancient theory of school discipline rests, is unpalatable. The controversy is analogous, in its causes and general bearings, to that which has arisen on the question of capital punishment, and some other topics of a political character. Retiring from places of public notoriety,
such as the halls of legislation and the pulpit, and avoiding controversy with the leading minds who are busily engaged with the engrossing duties of professional life, the advocates of error have entered the school-room, and under the cover of a most zealous regard for universal education, they have undertaken to revolutionize public sentiment by infusing false notions into the minds of the young, as to the principles of obedience to the authority of law, and thus, ere long, will the safety of the State be endangered by a new generation of active citizens, who have been taught to regard not the law of conscience, but of mere inclination, as a correct principle of action.
If these wrong notions of school discipline shall extensively prevail in the common schools, their influence will soon be felt in the higher institutions, and increase a thousand fold the difficulties of maintaining sound discipline in our Colleges and Universities. And no conservative power of any or all of our seminaries of learning will be able to prevent the consequent destruction of public morality, and the introduction of the worst principles of civil government.
Therefore this heresy in the matter of school discipline, should be watched with a most wakeful solicitude by the patriot and the Christian. It is the offspring of a false philosophy of social life, though loud in its pretensions to reform. It is a philosophy which calls crime a misfortune or a disease, and retributive justice, revenge. It is the offspring of a false philanthropy, though loud in its professions of benevolence. It is a philanthropy which sheds crocodile's tears over the
merited sufferings of the guilty criminal, but has no sympathy for outraged justice; and thus have the forms of the law been made to shield the greatest crimes, and penitentiaries have become retreats for the insane, or cities of refuge from the avenger of blood.
We shall not endeavor here to refute these monstrous errors further than to say, that if the principle of punishment under which the criminal is a sufferer, cannot be justified, and those ends of punishment be not legitimate, which are retributive, then we know not what to think of the universal sentiment of mankind which has awarded the highest honors to such names as Aristides the Just; to the elder Cato, the stern old Roman Censor, “who had rather his good actions should go unrewarded, than his bad ones unpunished ;” to Sir Thomas More, who could most cheerfully die rather than compromise his integrity; and to our own Marshall, whose love of truth and justice was a burning passion. How shall teachers in our schools commend, as they do, these examples to the admiration of their pupils, and yet exercise over them a system of discipline which tends to the subversion of that idea of truth and justice, the love and the practice of which made these great names immortal?