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Articles: Original and Selected.
ETHICS IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS.
BY W. E. RUSSELL, B.A.
The character of the legacy of one generation to its successor can be approximately foreknown by a study of the ethical instruction given to the members of that coming generation.
While the voice of the people is almost an unit in advocating education, it is a dire misfortune that common usage has limited the term to mean, mainly, intellectual development. Moral education, vastly more important, is deemed an adjunct worthy only of minor consideration. For the fruits of this sinful error, we need only to turn, for convicted examples, to our penitentiaries and jails; for a more harmless class, to the dishonest and conscienceless knaves, cloaked by respectability, who openly make war on human happiness with the weapon of quickened intellect; for results, to the almhouses, pauper hovels, and dens of misery.
On History's page we find the record of a corresponding increase of vice with intellectual development unless that development is tempered by moral education; we note, further, how far more insidious and dangeros are the glossed vices of intellect than the coarse sins of ignorance. The dramatist adds to the evidence of history by giving us a Mephistopheles and an Iago. The Blind Poet makes the climax to the sad picture of intellectual wickedness by the monster Beelzebub.
But surely such apathy to the importance of moral education does not characterise religionists! Nay, and yet the sad results
HARVARD COLLEGE LICKARY
outlined before are due, paradoxically, more to religionists than non-religionists: each sect realises fully that moral education is the foundation-stone upon which it must build the superstructure of its religious doctrines, and each sect arrogates to itself the privilege of laying that foundation in the halls of the Sabbath-school and church. Sad error, to expect a few hours once a week to supplant the worldly impressions upon an unceasingly active and imbibing brain during the six whole preceding days!
True, says the Sectarian, I admit that the crumbs of ethical instruction taught by us to the children of our faith does not offset, as a rule, the wickedness that thrusts itself upon and around them at all times; but what else can we do? We cannot permit the prerogative of laying the foundations to our doctrines to be assumed by others who may build them in opposition to our faith. True, say I in reply, and now that we understand each other, allow me to suggest a basis of a simple system of ethics for public school instruction which will compromise the difficulties named by each of us.
In leading up to the basis, which you will find very trite, so far as theory is concerned, but unfortunately too near in application, permit to generalize briefly upon some of the points at issue.
What is religion? What is your religion? Is it according to the brief definition of "an aspiration to live in accord with truth?" Do you answer yes, with the modification that "truth" be considered not an abstract term but as a synonym of the condensed result of your own tenets? May I then suggest my own definition of true religion as being: A conscientious realization and acceptance of responsibility to God, Fellowman, and Self.
Whatever else your sectarian views may prescribe, you, along with all religionists, must perforce agree that the prime work of your organization is a counteracting influence against sin. While methods may differ in nature and adequacy, there is at least, in such a purpose, a common cause and interest, a common enemy to fight. Waiving the origin of original sin, and judging from known effects, to what can we ascribe the most, if not all, of the prevalent sin? An answer seems unnecessary, since to each thinking mind the evils that curse the world flow directly or indirectly from the one great satanic attribute of humanity-selfishness. To this monstrous viper can be traced the cruelty of despotism, the persecution and oppression of the weak, the blood-thirsty wars of conquest, the brute-like antagonism in the daily battle, each man against his
brother, so-called by the sophistry of selfish philosophy the "survival of the fittest." The woes of nations, the woes of families, the woes of individuals spring in great part from the same black fountain.
In fighting this prolific parent of misery and vice, united effort on a common platform will serve to lay the solid rocks with which the cement of special sectarian instruction will combine to build a sure and lasting foundation.
Wherefore then delay in adapting the ethical instruction in our public schools to that common platform upon which all sects can agree? What is that platform? Simply nothing more nor less than the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do to you."
Oh, what a vast amount of misery would have folded its sable wings and flown away ere this, had the practical application of this well-named rule been a matter of conscientious endeavor and anxious work in the instruction of the young! Why shall we endeavor to impress upon youthful minds abstract ideas of right and wrong and duty, abstruse in their nature and puzzling even to mature intellects, when each child has inherited a trait of character which can be so easily made the criterion for a system of ethics superior to all codes laid down in text-books. The innate selfishness of the child, as yet unhardened by the cruel contest of life, will present, under the Golden Rule, a precise and ever ready standard in concrete form to guide all actions. During this impressionable period of life, when the philosophy of individual interest has no weight, the simple admonition, wisely taught, to do unto others as they would be done by, will find a ready soil and a grand harvest.
Who can imagine a more beautiful sight than innocent childhood bestrewn with the virtues of kindness, sympathy, generosity, and crude justice!
How is the Golden Rule to be taught? By those various ingenious methods which are used in inculcating other ideas. First, and in fact mainly, by emulation. The experience and testimony of instructors and students of child-life agree that the natural pride of each child gives a subjective abetting force which makes emulation the strongest factor of progress. The methods based upon fear are happily being abandoned to a great extent, since it needed not a sage to discover that by such was produced in the child a natural antagonism.
If the prizes, preferments, words of commendation from teacher, parent, and public, now given to intellectual progress, were also given to moral progress under the Golden Rule, we
would have a rising generation that would place the brand of shame upon the gross meanness and vileness of their ancestors.
Second, by example. The far-reaching responsibility that attaches to those who mould future mankind must have an additional requirement. One of the most important qualifications of a teacher should be a conscientious gentleness and sympathetic nature. Who can wonder that manhood should so oft be contemptibly mean, when childhood so oft receives its moulding impress at the hands of a sour, disagreeable, unsympathetic and revengeful teacher.
"The pitiful wreck of the present
Bears the past's bitter-sweet on its breath."
Such a simple system of ethics in the public schools would not only remove the objection as to antagonising various religious beliefs, but what is vastly more important, would build a foundation for a moral character for each of the thousands of children who now receive intellectual education at the expense of the state, but are not included in the Sabbathschools and churches.
Shall the state place in the hands of its future guardians mind-knowledge, and, in thousands, leave the heart, the citadel of right and wrong, to grow up with pestiferous and rank weeds? Shall we be unmindful of the causes of the fall of other republics? Shall liberty be a term with a real practical meaning rather than a topic of spread-eagle laudation on anniversaries? Shall the legacy to the coming millions be a blessing fraught with happiness and peace, or the same continued vendetta handed down from time immemorial? Shall life be worth the living? Then hasten ye men of purpose, ye leaders in the van of true progress, the day when the doctrine of peace, good-will and truth will have for its rising champions the thousands of the onmarching generation.
DR. HARRIS' REPLY TO THE TEACHERS OF TORONTO.
We have great pleasure in presenting to our readers the address delivered to the teachers at Toronto, by Dr. W. T. Harris, United States Commissioner of Education, in his response to the welcome of Canada to the National Education Association at Toronto.
"In behalf of the people of the United States I thank you for this cordial welcome to your hospitable city. We have long heard of your thrift and of the sobriety of your manners, and we have listened with great interest to the story of your happy
adjustment of local self-government with centralized power, The fame of your educational institutions has created in us a warm desire to come to your province and see for ourselves. We come not as entire strangers, nor indeed as people differing widely in language or in political institutions; on the contrary, we claim close relationship, almost brotherhood, as descended from a common mother nation, the great Anglo-Saxon Empress Britannia, ruler of the seas. We are the elder and you the younger offspring of that nation, whose glory in the world's history is that of the invention of local self-government, the greatest political device ever invented by man for the protection of the individual and the preservation of his liberties. Like all contributions to the forms of civilization, this device is not the invention of theoretical thinkers. It is something far deeper. It was born of great national struggles, the collision of races, the Celt, the Saxon, the Dane and Norman meeting in bloody conflict, and the innate stubbornness of each furnishing an element in the four-fould product, the British constitution. The mutual toleration, the sense of fair play, the readiness of all to defend each in the exercise of his individual prerogative, the profound respect for established law-those characteristics belong essentially to the original people that invented local selfgovernment.
We both of us here unite in gratitude towards that common ancestor who is still young in strength and beauty. But we must remember at this point that you are still living in the old family as an integral part of it. We have long since gone out from that family. But, while no one of us regrets our separate independence, we do not for a moment suppose that we have taken with us all the good things. In studying your own social and political forms we see that you who still hold fealty to the British flag, have preserved much that we may well imitate. Your union of central and local powers is more perfect than what we have yet achieved in the States. Our own history, beginning with a bloody revolution, has always shown a tendency in the people to dread the centralizing of power in the government. There is a deep jealousy, even at this late day, of centralized power. The consequence of this has been that we have never evolved that perfect balance between local and central powers. We behold in your Dominion a more perfect balance in this respect than we have been able to attain. We see this in your political government and in your schools. It is a great opportunity that we have, and we rejoice in the opportunity to study and learn from a fresh