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his students according to one uniform ideal standard, would be attempting the impossible, because he would be striving to do what is at variance with the laws of nature and of nature's God. In all the Creator's works, there is charming variety. There are no two stars in the firmament equal in magnitude and splendor, “for star differeth from star in glory;" there are no two leaves of the forest alike, no two grains of sand, no two human faces. Neither can there be two men absolutely identical in mental capacity or moral disposition. One may excel in solid judgment, another in tenacity of memory, and a third in brilliancy of imagination. One is naturally grave and solemn, another is gay and vivacious. One is of a phlegmatic, another of a sanguine temperament. One is constitutionally shy, timid and reserved ; another is bold and demonstrative. One is taciturn, another has his heart in his mouth. The teacher should take his pupils as God made them, and aid them in bringing out the hidden powers of their soul. If he tries to adopt the leveling process by casting all in the same mould, his pupils will bocome forced and unnatural in their movements; they will lose heart, their spirit will be broken, their manhood crippled and impaired.
“I will respect human liberty,” says Monseigneur Dupanloup, " in the smallest child even more scrupulously than in a grown man ; for the latter can defend himself against me, while the child cannot. Never shall I insult the child so far as to regard him as material to be cast into a mould, and to emerge with a stamp given by my will."
Instead of laboring to crush and subdue their natural traits and propensities, he should rather divert them into a proper channel. The admonition which would be properly administered to a sullen or obstinate youth deliberately erring, might be excessive, if given to one of an ardent or sensitive nature acting from impulse or levity,
One day, an abbot of some reputation for piety, was complaining to St. Anselm about the boys who were being educated in the monastery. “Though we flog them continually,” said he, “yet they become worse.” And,” queried St. Anselm, “how do they turn out when grown to be young men ?” “Stupid and dull," answered the abbot. “At that rate," exclaimed the saint, “the system you employ is a model one for stunting intellectual growth. My dear abbot, suppose you were to plant a tree in your
garden and shut it in on all sides so that it could not shoot forth its branches, what might you expect save a twisted, tangled, and worthless trunk ? Now, by enslaving the spirit of children, by leaving them no liberty of action, you foster in them narrow, vicious, and wicked propensities, which, growing stronger day by day, resist every effort to change and eradicate them. Finding, moreover, that you are neither kind nor amiable, they will put no confidence in you ; they will believe that you are moved by motives of dislike and envy. These inclinations increase with their years, and their minds and hearts grow bent to vice. Devoid of Christian charity, their views of the world and of life become utterly distorted. Now, tell me, were you in the place of these boys, would you be pleased with such treatment as you give them ?”
The abbot threw himself at the feet of St. Anselm, admitted his lack of tact and discretion, and promised amendment.
Jesus Christ is the model Teacher. His conduct toward His disciples is the best example to be followed. He did not attempt to quench their natural spirit, but He purified and sanctified it in the fires of Pentecost. After Peter had graduated in the school of his Master, he remained the same ardent man that he had ever been. His vehement energies were expended, however, not in defending his Saviour's person with the material sword, which he had formerly used in cutting off the ear of Malchus, but in wielding the sword of the Spirit in the cause of righteousness. The sons of Zebedee were ambitious of glory. Ambition is in itself a magnanimous sentiment; therefore, Christ did not smother it in their breast, but He ennobled it by directing it to higher and holier ends. He taught them to aspire to a heavenly, instead of an earthly kingdom. Paul, after his conversion, retained the fiery zeal that had marked the youthful Pharisee, though it was now transformed into a zeal tempered by charity, and it fonnd vent in evangelizing the world. Instead of dragging Christians before civil tribunals, as he was wont to do, we now find him arraigning Jews and Gentiles before the tribunal of conscience. Our Saviour did not blame Thomas for opening his mind and expressing his honest doubt upon the fact of the Resurrection ; but he gently reasoned with him, and removed that doubt by a palpable argument. In the same way, should the professor study, as far as possible, the individual character of his pupils, and adapt his instructions and admonitions to the capacity and temperament of each.
Regarding the discipline to be observed in our colleges and seminaries, the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore lays down the following judicious rules : “ Let the discipline for regulating the whole course of life in the seminary be so arranged that it may savor neither of excessive rigor nor indulge pernicious laxity. The vigilance of superiors should be so tempered and moderated in maintaining it that it will not pry too closely into minute details, nor so hamper the minds of youth, as it were with chains, as to impede the normal expansion of their energies.”
While the vigilance of superiors should be active in observing and prompt in correcting abuses, it should be entirely free from a spirit of espionage and distrust, which is calculated to make hypocrites, and to provoke the clandestine violation of rules. If the students are persuaded that they are habitually suspected and watched, they will also have their eye on their professors. They will take a morbid pleasure in eating the forbidden fruit, in drinking the “stolen waters, which are sweeter, and eating hidden bread, which is more pleasant.” Like those that try to avoid the Octroi in French towns, they will come to regard their offences as purely penal without any moral sanction attached to them.
I once heard of a professor who always presupposed that the students were untrustworthy antil they gave proof of virtue. The opposite rule, which assumes that they are good until their vicious character is made manifest, is, certainly, to be preferred. A gentleman once informed me that the principal of the academy in Europe in which he had made his studies, had an observatory, from which he could view all the boys in their respective rooms, and take note of any misdemeanor they might commit.
All right-minded men will agree that it is far better that youths should be religiously impressed with a sense of God's presence, that their enlightened conscience should be their monitor, and that the Faculty should appeal to their moral rectitude and honor rather than to their sense of fear.
This generous confidence in the student's honor is calculated to develop a higher and nobler type of manhood, and to fit young men for the great world in which they will have no preceptors to admonish them, and in which their conscience will be their chief and often their only guide. And besides, wherever this method of government obtains, whatever chastisement may be inflicted on the transgressor in vindication of the law, will be sanctioned and applauded by the students themselves; for they feel that any grave violation of college discipline affects their personal honor and good name. I am happy to say that this system prevails in all the institutions of learning with which I am acquainted.
St. Augustine, in his Confessions, complains of the excessive harshness and severity of some teachers of his time. They multiply, he says, the labors and sorrows through which the sons of Adam are obliged to pass. Youth are better governed by motives of love and filial reverence than by servile fear, and their tasks are more diligently learned when enjoined by principles of duty than when enforced by threats of punishment; for “no one,” he adds, “ doth ever well what he doth against his will, even though what he doth be well.”
The mode of punishment inflicted on refractory subjects has varied according to the popular sentiment prevailing at different times and in different countries. We are told in the Life of Plutarch that corporal chastisement was not tolerated in the school which he frequented in Greece. This authority was exercised only by parents. “The office of the teacher was to inform the mind. He had no power to extinguish the flame of freedom, or break down the noble independence of the soul by the degrading application of the rod." Plutarch informs us of a novel and ingenious method employed by his preceptor Ammonius in correcting his pupils. “Our master," he says, “having one day observed that we had indulged too freely at dinner, ordered his freedman, during his afternoon lecture, to give his own son the discipline of the whip in our presence. The philosopher all the while had his eye upon us, and we knew well for whom the example of punishment was intended.” Our American youth would, I presume, submit with patient resignation to this vicarious sort of punishment, for it is easy to bear the misfortunes of others.
The experience of General Sheridan's schooldays was not so agreeable. His teacher had less scruple than Ammonius about
physical correction. He tells us in his Personal Memoirs that, when a youth, he attended a private school in Ohio. Whenever any one of the boys committed a serious breach of discipline, if the teacher was unable to detect the culprit, as was usually the case, "he would consistently apply the switch to the whole school without discrimination.” It must be conceded that by this means he never failed to catch the real mischief-maker.
So great an authority as Dr. Johnson advocates moderate corporal punishment as an efficient means for curbing perverse and refractory spirits.
The ancient Lacedaemonian father was accustomed to inflict a second punishment on his son who complained of being chastised; for, he held," he who would take the trouble to correct the son, showed thereby his affection for the father.”
But the spirit of this country seems to be growing more and more averse to the application of the rod. I am persuaded that neither the authority of the sturdy Dr. Johnson nor the example of the Lacedaemonians will have any effect in supplanting the milder regime now in force in our educational institutions, especially in our Catholic colleges and seminaries; for while American fathers admit the wisdom of Solomon's maxim:
“ He that spareth the rod, hateth his son,” they are reluctant to delegate to others their paternal prerogative.
It will be generally admitted, in conclusion, that he is a model disciplinarian who combines the paternal and maternal attributes in his relations to his pupils. While he is always expected to maintain the authority of a father, he should exhibit in a more marked degree, the affection and tenderness of a mother; for he who gains our heart easily commands the attention of our mind,
J. CARD. GIBBONS.