Billeder på siden

from all those anxieties that plow deeper furrows on the brows of humanity than are warranted by passing years; or, it may become a bright and growing reality when the Vril-ya have shivered the rocks that now shut them in and have delivered mankind from comparative barbarism. But the school-room of the nineteenth century belongs not to these ideal realms; societies among the people for the study of science and for the promotion of culture are rare and short-lived; parents are untaught and children are born to a heritage of ignorance. Earnest, practical work is needed to save our mother tongue from the corrupting influences that steal in at so many points. Especially is this true in the new land of the West, but it is also true of the cultured East, where the foreign element enters so largely into the population, and where children enter the schools from homes of squalor and dens of poverty and vice. Many pupils have had no training, and speak the language of the streets. Some have, through carelessness, been allowed to contract habits of inaccuracy which can only be corrected by much patient effort and often bitter mortification. In fact, such errors are frequently never wholly eradicated, and, as a result, we hear such barbarisms as "tote," "I would rather do this as that," and others of like nature from the lips of people of culture as well as native intellect.

The average pupil of the grammar grades neither speaks nor writes correctly. He murders the Queen's English often in matters of construction; his a's are so flat that it seems a herculean task to round them into fulness; his g's and d's are dropped as useless, while the faithful letter r is tossed aside contemptuously; he has a limited vocabulary, with an undue proportion of slang; his ideas are crude, and his expression is timid and halting; often his written work is "confusion worse confounded," the ei's, ie's, ti's, si's, and ce's of our erratic orthography being to him profound mysteries, with the mastery of which he has never burdened his mind and in whose use he has not had sufficient practice to enable him to absorb the correct forms; his i's are undotted and his t's remain uncrossed; he knows little of the use of capital letters, and still less of the laws of punctuation.

As to faults of construction, only the utmost patience and most careful attention can secure to him the greatest good. No error should pass unnoticed, and, since we can only acquire habits by acts, as Malibran says, and can strengthen them by use alone, the corrected form put into practical use at once imparts power which could not be derived from theoretical

instruction. "Eternal vigilance is the price of success," and this, with instruction in the simpler details of construction, with a very little drill in the technicalities of the language, with frequent analysis and synthesis of sentences according to methods dictated by common sense, ought to enable the pupil of average capacity to leave this department with a reasonable knowledge of how an English sentence is built.

With regard to pronunciation, it is probable that the teacher can never overcome entirely the defects which are perhaps hereditary, and which have been strengthened by increasing years. But exercise of all the organs that contribute to the various elementary sounds of our language will benefit the most stubborn case. With some there is insufficient movement of the lower jaw, the effect of which is to keep the lips and teeth so closely shut that distinct enunciation is an impossibility. With others the tongue is heavy in its movements and needs exercise to render it more flexible, while many, if not all, carry themselves in such manner that the vocal organs are out of their natural position and this leads to husky tones, short breath, and the many other evils which produce that indistinct articulation so unpleasant and whose prevention ought to receive so much more attention than we accord it. Nothing is more productive of good results in the effort to gain possession of discarded sounds than frequent and thorough drills in phonetics.

To extend this vocabulary numberless good things may be tried. Exercises in synonyms, for which a book of synonyms may be provided, or, with more trouble, perhaps, the dictionary may be consulted, sentences containing homophonous words, the study of prefixes and suffixes, exercises in defining and in the synthesis of sentences from selected words, and many other devices may contribute to this end when one really wishes to master the intricacies of our composite language.

The importance of the question of slang must occupy the thoughts of all who care to preserve the beauty and purity of the language which, in the "last thirty years, has doubled its area and quadrupled its population." Though we denominate as slang many expressions which, through their very force, must become a part of our language, and though we are all willing to admit these "crystallized thoughts," yet it is easy to see that nothing so limits and contracts one's vocabulary as the continued. use of slang, and for this reason, as well as that it is inelegant and often bids defiance to the requirements of good taste and the laws of language, the teacher should discountenance its use, and, by continued disapprobation and examples for the use of

correct forms, lead pupils to follow the best writers and speakers, and avoid those expressions which must always be excluded from our best literature.

To reach the desired result the teacher must contend against the tendency, either natural or acquired, to shirk the thought and care necessary to the production of correctly written exercises. This tendency is at times the result of ignorance, for nothing sooner discourages a young mind than to find itself in a maze of difficulties with no previous knowledge to use as a key to the situation. Proper instructions should be given, line upon line, much written work assigned, providing always for a fair division with the oral so as not to make a hobby of the former, mistakes carefully noted, and thorough corrections required. This done there must be notably good results. Even after much care there will be errors, at times ludicrous perversions of sound instruction, and then, instead of the gratified sense of good seed sown carefully in good soil, bringing forth a hundred-fold, the result of a careless moment, some chance expression, or, more often, perhaps, deplorable inattention and listlessness is seen in such examples as are furnished by Mark Twain in his "English as She is Taught," and in similar ones discovered by most teachers in English as she is wrote in Examinations. If one pupil has become somewhat confused and says: "Always use a capital letter after the word O," and another, in profound ignorance of theological terms, says that "Heaven should begin with a capital letter when it means the Virgin Mary, or the Holy Ghost," there is no need for discouragement, but the teacher must be honest enough to see that the fault may possibly lie in the fact of too much being undertaken. Fewer principles thoroughly taught will develop the mind and lay a stronger foundation for future work.

To direct the child's thought, to develop his mind, to help him to secure pleasant and easy expression, reading, memorizing, and copying selections from the best writers will be of much benefit. The language lessons of the primary grades may be continued, and reproductions and abstracts, both oral and written, used with profit. Employed in the proper way English composition is a lever of no mean importance. Carelessly used it may be of some profit, but with judicious care its benefits are increased ten-fold. Don't tell a child to write of "the vanity of human grandeur," or "the subtlety of life," or "the evanescence of earthly joys," but let him tell of the trees which he knows, of the birds whose plumage he admires and whose song he enjoys, of the many common things around him, teach him

to find beauty in the most familiar objects and to tell of it, to study nature in books and in her own glad manifestations of herself, and to express what he has learned in simple and strong language; lead him to interest himself in the lives of great men, and, in giving utterance to knowledge thus gained, he will grow stronger, gaining not only the power of expression, but developing the force of character and many of the attributes which win our approbation.

Just here a great responsibility rests upon the teacher, who is not only to note the form of expression and any inaccuracies of construction and inelegances of style, but is to know what literature is placed before the child, and, so far as may be, provide that which is suitable and which will inspire such moral and spiritual aspirations as will be in line with the mental development.

To this end every school should have a library, and every teacher should use his influence in securing it. The true teacher is a lover of books; he finds one of his highest enjoyments in them, and counts them his noblest, his most faithful friends; to lay before young and unfolding minds this pure delight is to him a pleasure unsurpassed. No tongue can express, no mind conceive the great results which must follow the right use of a well selected school library. Open to children who might never otherwise know the great masters whose thoughts tend ever to lift humanity to grander heights, its influence extends through generation after generation, and, as one drop of water communicates its motion to others and these to others, till the ever-widening circle disappears in the infinite expanse of the sea, so this influence shall have no limits till time is lost in eternity. Southwestern Journal.


From our old friend the Schoolmaster, we cull with pleasure the report which it makes of a speech lately delivered by a member of the London School Board, and which is so full of meaning to all of us who are interested in emancipating ourselves and others from educational notions that are vulgarly called fads.

"I am at one," says Mr. Diggle, the member in question, "with those who place the moral development of the child's character in the position of primary importance. There is an elementary education in morals just as in anything else. A teacher is compelled to insist upon obedience to certain primary laws before the child can understand the reasonableness of the laws he is

called upon to obey; and it is through simple obedience that moral character in its elementary stage is built up. The importance of the personal character of the teacher now appears. And hence it is that stress has been laid in the past, and will be laid still more in the future, upon the religious side of early training."

In practical teaching, of course according to Mr. Diggle, the moral and intellectual influences continually act and react upon each other. The proportion of intellectual advance which an average child may reasonably be expected to make in each year of his school life, has been decided by experience to be fairly measured by the six standards of the Government Code. These standards, or estimated yearly advances in knowledge, if thoroughly attained, do constitute a complete foundation of knowledge in reading, writing, and of calculation, upon which all future advance must be made. Where the controversy rages the most strenuously is around certain applications of these elementary principles to certain definite fields of operation. It is just in this area of choice that the man with an idea finds his field of action. One man's idea is science. Then he insists that every child's use of reading and writing and power of calculation shall be directed towards the acquisition of certain scientific facts. Another man's idea may be sociology in one of its many forms. Then he insists upon reading-books being used having the special information which he desires the child to possess. And so the manufacture of these regulations goes merrily on in the form of one "specific" subject or another, until the great aim which ought to underlie all the school work is obscured and lost.

The essential things obviously are, in Mr. Diggle's eyes, first of all, that a child should be taught to read well and to understand what he reads. He ought to be trained to express in writing his own thoughts and his recollections of the thoughts of others. He ought to be trained to use his power of calculation for the purpose of training him in accuracy of thought and statement. These are the first stages of intellectual development. What the child should be taught, and what he can usefully be taught beyond these, depends upon the capacity of the child and of the teacher. "I place no other limits upon what should be taught beyond these. I only suggest this as a guiding principle, that in the choice of a sphere in which the child's acquired knowledge should be called upon to exercise itself, the aim should be to stimulate the intelligence of the child and to foster the love of learning."

"It will be obvious, therefore," continues the shrewd member

« ForrigeFortsæt »