Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/309

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305
THE AMERICAN PUBLIC SCHOOL

solidarity, makes children feel themselves to be social units, favors the impulse to activity arising from mere mass, is vital to the state. The marching together, singing together, playing together (provided the play be judiciously organized) is a splendid stimulus to social and civic life, impossible to be done away with. Along with this, however, and all the more strongly because of this, the individuality of the child must be nourished, promoted and developed by every rational means. Within the range of his powers all health, virtue and capacity are within him as the germ is within the seed. The teacher's business is to stimulate, to encourage and also to prune, these elemental forces. This can not be done by instruction given by wholesale, but only through genuine education acting directly upon the individual child.

Shall teachers, then, be converted into nursery governesses, one to each pupil? That extreme would be worse than the other. Under a right plan of public education, however, no teacher would have charge of more than twenty pupils; and no teacher would have charge of any at all unless, by temperament, by understanding of child nature, by a thorough professional training, he or she were fitted to make out of every one of those twenty pupils the most that can be made. Such professionally trained teachers, with classes limited to a proper size, would not simply instruct, they would really educate their pupils by giving them the tools of knowledge, not as dead processes, but as living means to illimitable ends. Out of the common, elementary studies, with no loss but with great gain in form, they would develop the content of literature, of power of expression, of sober reasoning, of world interest, of nature interest, of social and civic responsibility; and. upon these fundamental studies they would lay the solid foundations of self-reliance, self-knowledge, self-respect. They would do this, moreover, not through dependence upon text-books, routine, and uniform lessons; nor, on the other hand, would they do it by excursions into psychological subtleties or by pandering to their pupils' and their own self-consciousness. They would do it as every intelligent, human man or woman who has the "faculty" of teaching and who has been taught to teach, knows how to appeal to the differing nature of each child, making him see the common fact from his special point of view and assimilate it to his personality, thereby building up by sure degrees his individual character.

Such teaching—and this is no vision; it has been demonstrated again and again—would make most children eager to go to school, impatient to learn, greedy of every new chance of mental and moral growth. Out of such an atmosphere would come a race of artisans and business men—better still, of citizens—such as the world has not yet seen. It would be a really efficient race of working men, neither wasting time and materials, nor shirking what they have to do; for they would