Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 50.djvu/640

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620
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

"CONFESSIONS" OF A NORMAL-SCHOOL TEACHER.
By MARY HALL LEONARD.

IN this age of frank subjective expression when we are taken into the confidence of so many interesting personalities, when authors write their "reminiscences" or recall their "literary passions," when men of business recount the steps by which they climbed the ladder of success, and when even the public-school teachers have found a welcome for their "confessions" in the literary magazines, it seems good to me also, having been a normal-school teacher from the first (that is, having spent most of the years since, a girl in my teens, I graduated at a State normal school, in teaching in similar institutions of different sections of the country), to set forth in order a few of the things that are surely believed by the members of our craft.

It is currently reported that we normal-school people are not an erudite class; that there are many things in the philosophies of heaven and earth that are not included in the horizon of our mental vision. Indeed, we have heard this so many times that it begins to seem like a "chestnut" to our indurated ears. Brethren of the college and out of the college, when next you feel moved to characterize our mental status, please tell us something new.

As to the charge itself we have no desire to enter into controversy regarding it. We have a high respect for knowledge, especially of the real kind. We prefer this to the sort possessed by a certain fabled princess of one of Henry James's novels, who had been told all the facts in the universe, but had never in her life perceived anything. For this latter kind of "knowledge" we are not perhaps so greedy as some, while recognizing that "information" also has its value and uses.

But we confess, jointly and severally, to a measure of truth in the indictment. There are halls in the temple of knowledge where the feet of some of us have never trod; there are shrines at which some of us have never worshiped. Friend Critic, forgive us if we sometimes question whether you yourself have tasted of every "apple" that grows upon the tree of knowledge, unless by proxy as it were, after the manner of the fabled princess aforesaid.

We are inclined to the belief that native ability and persistent effort have more to do with the acquisition of mental power than the question of what seat of learning one studies in. Much that a student thinks he learns while acquiring a so-called "education" is only "skin-deep," and has little appreciable effect upon the after-efforts of life. But if a mind of good ability has learned how to study, and has a strong desire for improvement and is ex-