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have come to consider truancy and rebellion as most promising symptoms in an urchin six years old ; we greatly admire his ingenious contrivances to escape from a restraint so unnatural. We regard them as evidences of unquenchable talent ; and however we may deprecate the long habit of deceit which is ever the consequence of oppression, we cannot but delight in a rogue in petticoats. We heartily sympathize with the rosy runaway in his love of liberty and fresh air, and in his proneness to make exploring expeditions into unknown territories. The steady boys, who, under fear of the birch, or from conscientious submission, sit out the term of imprisonment, relieving their weary little backs by a stretch now and then, and only opening their heavy eyes upon the dog's-eared page when a rap on the desk or on the skull rouses them, are more genuine martyrs to study than the student who wastes the midnight oil. Certainly much time is wasted in childhood and youth, wasted in weariness and disgust from the tedious sameness and fruitless confinement of school, which might, without prejudice to grammar and mathematics, be spent in lessons which have no immediate and necessary connection with the making of money, but which educate the eye, enlarge the heart, aid the development of thought, and secure unfailing sources of happiness through life.
Botany, one of the most important branches of the study of nature, has been regarded, though less of late than formerly, as an effeminate and trifling pursuit. We have ourselves been aggrieved, in times past, by side-glances of ridicule, nay, smiles of open derision, at our collections of precious specimens, gathered laboriously from woods and wilds rarely trodden but by foot of beast and bird. We once knew an unfortunate person who was released from durance vile in a muddy swamp, and carried home to his friends as an insane person, because his pockets were filled with minerals and lichens, and his hatband stuck full of rare weeds.
Why should not some little attention be paid to natural history, as well as geography, in our common schools ? To
Το be sure, geography ought to be at the head of the list of required branches ; that the visible horizon is not the limit of the world is a startling piece of news to a child, and should be followed up, while his curiosity is awake, by interesting information suited to his young faculty of comprehension.
At the same time, his youthful and active perceptive powers are busily employed upon things immediately about him ; and why not aid him to form distinct ideas from his lively impressions, and to know something of the nature of things with which he must be conversant through life ? Here the old objection, lack of time, comes up. Since boys in general leave school at fourteen, too young, but so it must be, - only one or two branches, it seems, in addition to the indispensable accomplishments of reading, writing, and arithmetic, can be allowed. Better one thing perfect, say the committee-men, who have never been teachers, than a smattering of many. But is there more than one boy in twenty, who, when he has made his escape from school, after a seven years' thumbing of a dry and scanty manual of geography, can remember the statistics, or the long strings of names of towns strung upon rivers, or parallels of latitude, which he could once rattle off in triumph, while his less studious comrades underwent flagellation or loss of rank for missing or misplacing some on the list ? Supposing that he remembers them, like the names of the months or his own age, till months and days are no more for him, of what practical use are the statistics, constantly changing, and the thousands of names he may never once hear or see again? The general ideas he has acquired are invaluable ; if the process by
; which he got them have not quenched, instead of inspiring, an interest in the subject, they serve as a nucleus for further knowledge, which any intelligent person can gather from a thousand sources in this land of books and lectures. He will have but a smattering, after all ; but we like the word ; in some sense, all are smatterers, and the greatest philosopher of the age is less likely to boast of a perfect knowledge in any science than the best boy in a town school. universal smattering made Shakspeare profound.” Universal knowledge, be it ever so shallow, only correct so far as it goes, is preferable to blank, staring ignorance on all points but one. A boy's mind is not a mere memory, a vessel to hold such overflowings from the full fountain of knowledge as may be allowed to dribble into it drop by drop, — leaky, and therefore never to be filled full. It is a spiritual body, craving the aliment and the stimulus of generous food, assimilating the various substances it imbibes to its own constitution, and growing with what it feeds on. Every body knows how variety spurs the bodily appetite, and the analogy holds good with spiritual hunger. A lad, who will gape and lounge for hours over one long, unvaried task, will in less time contrive to master many short lessons in as many different books ; that is, if his recitation be not looked forward to with dread as a stern demand on mere verbal memory. What he remembers indistinctly will be the outer edge of the luminous point beginning to enlighten the chaos of unformed ideas, to grow brighter and clearer as he advances. Only a formal and unskilful pedagogue will discourage his first efforts by blows or frowns at his want of appropriate words in which to clothe the half-formed notion he has seized, or by sarcasms at his inability to grasp the whole at once. Power comes soon, by the voluntary and uncramped use of the faculties ; an astonishing increase of vigor often suddenly manifests itself under the spur of a new hope, a new ambition ; and the quickening impulse is not lost, though it may appear to be so from its not continuing in one particular direction for ever.
The greater the variety of subjects on which a child's mind can be induced to act voluntarily, the better.
We speak advisedly, from years of laborious experience. Honestly, however, we allow that the great army of schoolmasters would shake their grave heads at our maxim. They deprecate that butterfly activity which the wits of volatile children display, now settling on this, and anon on that object, without gathering much honey to lay up for time of need. But let them be willing to take advantage of these sudden and often transient glows of interest, indulge and encourage them to the utmost while they last, and have patience when they capriciously change, - it is a great deal of trouble, to be sure,
, and involves some sacrifice of formal routine and old-fashioned notions, — but they will at last command the secret springs of excitement, and touch them to fine issues. Mere external force cannot so overcome the vis inertiæ of mind, and give it an impulse to a perpetual and life-long progress. The mass, acted upon from without, will move no longer than the compelling power is exerted upon it; the unwilling plodder is apt to remain stationary at the last point he reached, if, indeed, he does not lose ground.
Yes; this humbly practical course of study, this strictly utilitarian education, allowing only those things to be planted in the mind, in its seed-time, which are of immediate and
direct use, savors of the early Yankee settler's husbandry. Corn and potatoes do not need so much hoeing and hilling as to leave no time to drop an acorn here, and set out a peartree there ; yonder dry rock might be profitably, as well as gracefully, covered with a grape-vine, while, with a little trouble, pinks and roses might perennially spread their perfume in every spare corner, in the place of poisonous thornapple and prickly nettles.
we say it with a grieved spirit, - cultivation, as it is often managed, is not all it boasts itself to be. Much more ought to be expected from it. When we compare the richly and variously beautiful wild wood with a potato-field which has been taken from it, we are almost ready to feel that what has been planted and produced, in the process of tillage, is less valuable and noble than what has been discouraged and kept down by it. The plough and harrow of the old school discipline have been the means of killing and burying deep many a promising shoot of genius and talent. Many great geniuses have become eminent in spite of education, rather than by means of it.
The difference between man and man made by mere booklearning, however, is more superficial than we literary people in our vainglory are apt to imagine. Neither taste nor talent was ever inspired by it; where these did not previously exist, they were never called out, or so many wise dunces would not weary the world with their second-hand wisdom. True mother wit, even in its ignorance, is never trite. Perhaps it loses as much in originality and force as it gains in refinement and polish, by being school-taught. The most racy personages, in the admirable delineations of character in the novels of Scott, Galt, and Dickens, are decidedly the unlearned and unpolite. The more we search the by-ways and hidden dells of the social world, the more of native beauty we discover, more interesting, though less showy, than the artificial display in the garden. To change the figure, many a bright lamp burns to waste under the extinguishing bushel of poverty or a laborious occupation, while farthing candles - we hope our readers will not think the allusion appropriate to ourselves send their flickering beams afar from an undeserved elevation on a candlestick.
We have wandered far from our immediate subject, and, as a cross-cut home, we would remark, that, taste being proved to be an inherent and natural quality, and to exist
more frequently in our working-day world than a stranger among the Yankees would suppose, it is evident that one of the peculiar merits of Mr. Emerson's book, the fine writing of which he alınost repents, will not be wasted and unfelt. This volume ought to have a place in all school libraries, where it may, with books of a similar cast, supply to many the want of variety in the branches regularly taught in school. Its practical utility, together with its untechnical, often graceful and poetic, style, will doubtless make it a popular work. A slight sense of contrast and incongruity, where the writer's limits and heroic sense of duty compel him to make a sudden transition from the beautiful to the useful, occasionally makes one smile. It brings to our recollection a similar sensation we once experienced, when travelling in the stage-coach through a noble forest in Maine. A young lady, who was accustomed only to the shorn level of Essex county in Massachusetts, eagerly gazing out, now at one window, and now at the
opposite, was so struck at last by the majesty of a giant pine, that she could not help turning her sparkling eyes upon a stranger on the front seat, with the exclamation, "Is it not grand?" He replied, with equal enthusiasm, “ Yes, 'm, 't is a grand large one ; I should like to see that tree sawed into plank !"
That ancient forest! Why must we ride fifty or a hundred miles to enjoy such forest scenery? It would, indeed, be worth even crossing the ocean, to see an American forest in its gorgeous autumn dress, had we never beheld its glory. Its startling and strange beauty reminds us of the trees of gold and precious stones in fairy gardens under ground, as our childish fancy delighted to paint them, in reading the story of Aladdin. If it be not enchantment, what is it, that, when the flowers are sinking into their graves, transfers all their beautiful tints to the foliage, as if to cheer our melancholy hearts into forgetfulness of the silent progress of de
“ The observation, for a single year, of the varying colors of the red maple would be sufficient to disprove the common theory, that the colors of the leaves in autumn are dependent on the frosts. It is not an uncommon thing to see a single tree in a forest of maples turning to a crimson or scarlet, in July or August, while all the other trees remain green. A single brilliantly colored branch shows itself on a verdant tree, or a few scattered leaves exhibit the tints of October, while all the rest of
VOL. LXVI. — NO. 138.