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tent to read properly a paragraph in the newspaper, to keep a single debt-and-credit account in a mechanic's shop, or to write an ordinary business letter in a creditable way.” And it is from a Massachusetts teacher too that he cites the remark that (p. 123) "the culpable neglect of the New England schools in teaching their pupils how to write a letter is proved a hundred times every year in the letters we receive. Men and women in respectable situations write us letters which disgracefully abound with false grammar, bad spelling, and worse punctuation." These are not cheerful pictures, nor does our author encourage us to believe that matters are substantially improving. He is “ by no means prepared to admit that the schools of to-day make better readers, spellers, and writers than were made by the schools forty or fifty years ago.” Then, “what was lacking in facilities was largely made up in application and painstaking. The young mind was not distracted with a score of different studies. Nobody dreamed that rhetoric and philosophy, political economy and constitutional law, had a place in the daily common school.” The system must be judged by its fruits, and, moreover, relatively to the general development and progress; if the schools are not better, they are worse ; " the arts and sciences have advanced marvellously, but whether the people more justly appreciate their social and civil privileges, whether the virtues of honesty, industry, temperance, and reverence for the authority of God or man, are as conspicuous now in the mass of the community as they were then, is very questionable."
Whether we fully share these gloomy views, or whether there may be something to be said on the other side or not, there is some truth in the notion that the cheerful view is the distant one, and that in general those who see the schools near at hand, without any professional or other disturbing bias, are the least satisfied. Those who see them at a distance see a good deal of show and bustle, and they are ready to condude that the high average of intelligence and cultivation which they see, and which no doubt is highest where the schools are the best, is the direct product of the schools. The opposite view is, the wonder that schools in the midst of so intelligent a people, and completely subject to their control, should be so lifeless, so little in earnest or discriminating either as to what is taught or 'the way in which it is taught. And an uncomfortable suspicion sometimes intrudes itself that the stir and noise, the imposing array of academies, lyceums, colleges, with their programmes, their diplomas, and their professorships, may be due to the working of a very different spirit from that which moved in the original conception of the New England schools, — that the glory of that conception is in danger of being counterfeited for the behoof of something of a very different nature, - and a doubt whether the real demand is not in many cases rather for something to be used as the badge of social distinction than for education.
There is certainly no excess of political economy, philosophy, or even of rhetoric, that is, of the reality of these things, in the community, but a great deal too much of a cheap and flashy show of them, a smattering of names and phrases with little thought of knowledge, but only a desire to be supposed to know, and to get thereby some credit or advantage, without any gain, but only to the obstruction, of real enlightenment. And it may be well for us to ask ourselves whether something of this spirit might not be found even in the Normal Schools of which we in Massachusetts are so proud. The idea is an attractive one, - 10 teach the teachers, to raise the whole level of education by elevating the sources. But are they teachers that we are teaching in these schools? In 1862, two hundred and seventy-five pupils entered the four Normal Schools of the State. How many teachers came out? What proportion of the pupils went there with the intention of devoting themselves to the profession of teaching? These questions our author does not find it easy to get answered. The Normal School at Salem, he says, has been open ten years. The number of graduates from this school alone is seven hundred and fifty-eight. Yet it appears that only about four per cent of the teachers in the State have been under normal-school instruction. What becomes of the rest of the graduates ? One of the New York school reports says, “The graduates of the Normal School do us but little good,” and hints that the attraction for the girls is the improvement of their matrimonial prospects. In the reports of our own State, we find a good deal of general enthusiasm, but nothing definite as to final results. What anybody can see for himself in the villages and farm-houses is an increased number of young ladies of a dressy turn, who read the magazines, and perhaps write in them, — who often have delicate health, not often much capacity or taste for the primary duties of women. There is a marked increase in the number of candidates for any genteel employment that does not require much hard work, but not a very manifest advance in the application of trained intelligence to the arts of life.
The sort of ambition which these higher schools and “ academies” often nourish, and which has a considerable share in keeping them up, has no doubt a good side to it. It is a vanity of comparatively a high kind; still, so far as it is vanity, it will be apt to bear the fruits of vanity; and in this connection, the hint of an experienced observer like Professor Atkinson (Lecture, p. 41), that it leads in many cases to the worst mischief, deserves attention. At any rate, there is no reason why
the public should pay for gratifying it, under the pretence of improving the schools in which the public are directly and generally interested.
The defects of the school system our author considers to be directly traceable to neglect of the primary schools, — in which alone nine tenths of the people get all the education they have, and with which alone therefore the State has properly anything to do, in favor of the advanced or “graded” schools. These he thinks ought to be left to private enterprise. And certainly there is a manifest distinction between the two classes of schools as regards their claims to public support. The community has a direct interest in giving to every one of its members to whom it can be given so much elementary instruction as shall put within his reach the means of qualifying himself to discharge the duties of citizenship; and there is little danger of being too wholesale or indiscriminate here, or of doing the work too thoroughly, for its efficiency depends on its thoroughness. An education which is not thorough so far as it goes, gives only a stunted and abortive product, and fails of the best fruit of education. We must all be smatterers in many things; but every man must at some point or other touch the hard pan of unyielding reality, and not be content to let well enough alone, — else he lacks foundation, he is a waverer, never sure of himself, and never surely to be relied on to stand to any conviction he may have. For it is the moral element that avails, - not what is learned, but the
temper in which it is learned; and the habit of looking only to what will serve the turn pervades and vitiates the whole fibre of the mind.
But when we come to special preparation for particular tasks or exceptional positions, the case is entirely changed. Here indiscriminate ness is an absurdity; there ought to be special qualification as a reason for every step, and the danger from an indiscriminate and wholesale system is immense. No risk need be incurred in strengthening the child's limbs to run his future course; but if we are to take him up and carry him forward on his course, we ought to make sure that it is the right course, else every step may be a step farther out of the way. This, however, is just what cannot be done by the machinery of public administration, especially in a democracy. Democracy is not a good contrivance for administration ; in fact, it is probably the worst for that purpose of all forms of government. Perhaps the strongest proof of the inherent virtue of our democracy is, that it can bear such bad administration as seems to be inevitable so soon as we get beyond the sphere of the direct personal interest and immediate agency of the whole people into the sphere of officials. Upon this point, it seems to us, our author has not made all that he might of his case. He puts it upon the diversion of public sympathy and support from the primary to the higher schools; but this might not be of itself a sufficient objection. The high schools, were they really higher, that is, if they taught better what it behooves everybody to learn, even if they did not come into so direct contact with the people, might yet have an indirect effect greater than anything that could be effected directly. The highest motives owe their efficiency with the mass of mankind to their indirect, and as it were refracted influence, in places where they have little direct effect.
But the real evil, as it seems to us, is that the so-called advanced education often does not aim at education at all, but at something else, at a longer list of accomplishments, excellent perhaps in themselves, and in their proper place important and essential, but, when used in this way as costume or decoration, sure to be the cover for pretence, to distract attention from the true ends of education, and to substitute a vague wonderment for the intelligent interest of the public. The radical ailment which our author finds everywhere in the existing state of things is not so much a want of action on the part of the community, as a want of interest. People give their support, but in a heedless, unsympathetic way. They are generally ready enough to vote money for the schools, and they look (p. 47) with a “misty, indefinite respect upon the array of officials, and the manifold involutions of the red tape that connects them together; but all this will not begin to compensate for the absence of a hearty good-will towards the school, of a discriminating appreciation of its value to them and their children, or of a disposition to co-operate actively in measures which look to its efficiency and gradual improvement.” This want of appreciation, however, is not necessarily connected with any particular list of studies, nor does it follow at all from the fact that the studies are too much advanced for the majority of the people. It is not necessary to understand farming in order to know a good farmer from a bad one. Our fishermen appreciate Agassiz's mastery readily enough without much knowledge of ichthyology. Superiority of attainment is no bar to a sympathetic appreciation, -on the contrary, assures and strengthens it. But it is easy, under guise of something superior and advanced, to set up, and even to get accepted by the people, something which is merely remote and in no vital connection with their thoughts and feelings, — in which they take no real interest; but they accept it as an idol, their adoration of which accordingly will not be of an edifying kind. The notion of a higher culture to be bestowed by the more enlightened in the community upon their less favored brethren is plausible, and, in one aspect of it, sound. But then it implies that mankind are really brethren, partakers of one spirit and not merely of one animal organization ; so that whatever is
truth for one may be felt as truth by every other. The education of the race by superior men is not likely to go out of fashion, for it is the way, and the only way, in which civilization advances ; but the method of this education does not consist, when it is at its best, in substituting the thoughts and feelings of one class of persons for the thoughts and feelings of another class, but in a more just and more vivid appreciation and more thorough realization by the few of the thoughts and feelings of the many; and the means accordingly will not be the ordinary machinery of the State, for that is applicable only where men can be lumped and treated in the mass, as we treat paupers and criminals. Exceptionally, this may be needful; as, for instance, in dealing with savages, it may be needful to make them conform to some extent to civilized practices, without much regard to their views or feelings. But such a mode of proceeding is at best provisional, and only preliminary to any education, for to the same extent it ignores what is educable. You cannot educate a corpse or a machine, but only a will ; and education, in proportion as it is passively accepted, instead of being the object of a free and intelligent interest, ceases to be education.
The notion of a state education, therefore, seems to rest on a fallacy ; it must be either useless or else injurious ; it is either a mere form, and can accomplish nothing, or else it must be obstructive. Take, for instance, the view lately set forth, in his usual attractive style, by Mr. Matthew Arnold, in the essay entitled “ A French Eton.”
His proposal, reduced to its simplest terms, is that the middle class in England shall use its control of state action to improve middle-class education. The middle-class spirit, he says, is full of rawness, hardness, and imperfection; it is under-cultivated, intolerant, bitter, unlovely; it cannot be safely allowed to have its own way, but needs to be transformed by being liberalized, enlarged, ennobled. But by whom is the transformation to be effected ? Not by the actual governing class, the aristocrats, for they are all for letting everything alone. Not by the voluntary combination of the middle class itself, for voluntary combination is casual and precarious. It must be, he says, by public agency, “ by beneficence working by rule.” But why should that be incompatible with voluntary combination ? Why may not what is voluntary be at the same time done by rule? in other words, Why may not the free-will of the people be the rule? Why should it be the will of somebody else, or theirs of another time? What Mr. Arnold proposes amounts to this, that the middle class in its corporate capacity should rule to their good the middle-class considered as individuals. But this expedient, though Mr. Arnold treats it as an experiment to be tried, is extremely familiar to us in America. We acknowledge its value, its indispensableness in certain cases; but