Part 3 out of 6
I will tell you what it is."
So the boys were dismissed for the day; the pleasant countenance and
cheerful tone of the teacher conveying to them the impression that they
were engaging in the common effort to accomplish a most desirable
purpose, in which they were to receive the teacher's help, not that he
was pursuing them, with threatening and punishment, into the forbidden
practice into which they had wickedly strayed. Great caution is,
however, in such a case, necessary to guard against the danger that the
teacher, in attempting to avoid the tones of irritation and anger,
should so speak of the sin as to blunt his pupils' sense of its guilt,
and lull their consciences into a slumber.
At the appointed time on the following day the subject was again brought
before the school, and some plans proposed by which the resolutions now
formed might be more certainly kept. These plans were readily and
cheerfully adopted by the boys, and in a short time the vice of
profaneness was, in a great degree, banished from the school.
I hope the reader will keep in mind the object of the above
illustration, which is to show that it is the true policy of the teacher
not to waste his time and strength in contending against _such
accidental instances_ of transgression as may chance to fall under his
notice, but to take an enlarged and extended view of the whole ground,
endeavoring to remove _whole classes of faults_--to elevate and improve
By these means, his labors will not only be more effectual, but far more
pleasant. You can not come into collision with an individual scholar, to
punish him for a mischievous spirit, or even to rebuke him for some
single act by which he has given you trouble, without an uncomfortable
and uneasy feeling, which makes, in ordinary cases, the discipline of a
school the most unpleasant part of a teacher's duty. But you can plan a
campaign against a whole class of faults, and put into operation a
system of measures to correct them, and watch from day to day the
operation of that system with all the spirit and interest of a game. It
is, in fact, a game where your ingenuity and moral power are brought
into the field, in opposition to the evil tendencies of the hearts which
are under your influence. You will notice the success or the failure of
the means you may put into operation with all the interest with which
the experimental philosopher observes the curious processes he guides,
though your interest may be much purer and higher, for he works upon
matter, but you are experimenting upon mind.
Remember, then, as for the first time you take your new station at the
head of your school, that it is not your duty simply to watch with an
eagle eye for those accidental instances of transgression which may
chance to fall under your notice. You are to look over the whole ground.
You are to make yourself acquainted, as soon as possible, with the
classes of character and classes of faults which may prevail in your
dominions, and to form deliberate and well-digested plans for improving
the one and correcting the other.
And this is to be the course pursued not only with great delinquencies,
such as those to which I have already alluded, but to every little
transgression against the rules of order and propriety. You can correct
them far more easily and pleasantly in the mass than in detail.
To illustrate this principle by another case. A teacher, who takes the
course I am condemning, approaches the seat of one of his pupils, and
asks to see one of his books. As the boy opens his desk, the teacher
observes that it is in complete disorder. Books, maps, papers,
play-things, are there in promiscuous confusion, and, from the impulse
of the moment, the displeased teacher pours out upon the poor boy a
torrent of reproach.
"What a looking desk! Why, John, I am really ashamed of you! Look!"
continues he, holding up the lid, so that the boys in the neighborhood
can look in; "see what a mass of disorder and confusion. If ever I see
your desk in such a state again, I shall most certainly punish you."
The boys around laugh, very equivocally, however, for, with the feeling
of amusement, there is mingled the fear that the angry master may take
it into his head to inspect their domains. The boy accidentally exposed
looks sullen, and begins to throw his books into some sort of
arrangement, just enough to shield himself from the charge of absolutely
disobeying the injunction that he has received, and there the matter
Another teacher takes no apparent notice of the confusion which he thus
accidentally witnesses. "I must take up," thinks he to himself, "the
subject of order before the whole school. I have not yet spoken of it."
He thanks the boy for the book he borrowed, and goes away. He makes a
memorandum of the subject, and the boy does not know that the condition
of his desk was noticed; perhaps he does not even know that there was
any thing amiss.
A day or two after, at a time regularly appropriated to such subjects,
he addresses the boys as follows:
"In our efforts to improve the school as much as possible, there is one
subject which we must not forget. I mean the order of the desks."
The boys all begin to open their desk lids.
"You may stop a moment," says the teacher. "I shall give you all an
opportunity to examine your desks presently.
"I do not know what the condition of your desks is. I have not examined
them, and have not, in fact, seen the inside of more than one or two. As
I have not brought up this subject before, I presume that there are a
great many which can be arranged better than they are. Will you all now
look into your desks, and see whether you consider them in good order?
Stop a moment, however. Let me tell you what good order is. All those
things which are alike should be arranged together. Books should be in
one place, papers in another, and thus every thing should be classified.
Again, every thing should be so placed that it can be taken out without
disturbing other things. There is another principle, also, which I will
mention: the various articles should have _constant_ places, that is,
they should not be changed from day to day. By this means you soon
remember where every thing belongs, and you can put away your things
much more easily every night than if you had every night to arrange them
in a new way. Now will you look into your desks, and tell me whether
they are, on these three principles, well arranged?"
The boys of most schools, where this subject had not been regularly
attended to, would nearly all answer in the negative.
"I will allow you, then, some time to-day, fifteen minutes to arrange
your desks, and I hope you will try to keep them in good order
hereafter. A few days hence I shall examine them. If any of you wish for
assistance or advice from me in putting them in order, I shall be happy
to render it."
By such a plan, which will occupy but little more time than the
irritating and useless scolding which I supposed in the other case, how
much more will be accomplished. Such an address would of itself,
probably, be the means of putting in order, and keeping in order, at
least one half of the desks in the room, and following up the plan in
the same manner and in the same spirit with which it was begun would
secure the rest.
I repeat it, therefore, make it a principle in all cases to aim as much
as possible at the correction of those faults which are likely to be
general by _general measures_. You avoid by this means a vast amount of
irritation and impatience, both on your own part and on the part of your
scholars, and you produce twenty times the useful effect.
3. The next principle which occurs to me as deserving the teacher's
attention in the outset of his course is this:
Interest your scholars in doing something themselves to elevate the
moral character of the school, so as to secure a _decided majority who
will, of their own accord, co-operate with you._
Let your pupils understand, not by any formal speech which you make to
that effect, but by the manner in which, from time to time, you
incidentally allude to the subject, that you consider the school, when
you commence it, as _at par_, so to speak--that is, on a level with
other schools, and that your various plans for improving and amending it
are not to be considered in the light of finding fault, and punishing
transgressions, and controlling evil propensities, so as just to keep
things in a tolerable state, but as efforts to improve and carry
forward the institution to a still higher state of excellence. Such is
the tone and manner of some teachers that they never appear to be more
than merely satisfied. When the scholars do right, nothing is said about
it. The teacher seems to consider that a matter of course. It does not
appear to interest or please him at all. Nothing arouses him but when
they do wrong, and that only excites him to anger and frowns. Now in
such a case there can, of course, be no stimulus to effort on the part
of the pupils but the cold and heartless stimulus of fear.
Now it is wrong for the teacher to expect that things will go right in
his school as a matter of course. All that he can expect _as a matter of
course_ is, that things should go on as well as they do ordinarily in
schools--the ordinary amount of idleness, the ordinary amount of
misconduct. This is the most that he can expect to come as a matter of
course. He should feel this, and then all he can gain which will be
better than this will be a source of positive pleasure; a pleasure which
his pupils have procured for him, and which, consequently, they should
share. They should understand that the teacher is engaged in various
plans for improving the school, in which they should be invited to
engage, not from the selfish desire of thereby saving him trouble, but
because it will really be happy employment for them to engage in such an
enterprise, and because, by such efforts, their own moral powers will be
exerted and strengthened in the best possible way.
In another chapter I have explained to what extent, and in what manner,
the assistance of the pupils may be usefully and successfully employed
in carrying forward the general arrangements of the school. The same
_principles_ will apply here, though perhaps a little more careful and
delicate management is necessary in interesting them in subjects which
relate to moral discipline.
One important method of accomplishing this end is to present these
plans before the minds of the scholars as experiments--moral
experiments, whose commencement, progress, and results they may take a
great interest in witnessing. Let us take, for example, the case alluded
to under the last head--the plan of effecting a reform in regard to
keeping desks in order. Suppose the teacher were to say, when the time
had arrived at which he had promised to give them an opportunity to put
the desks in order,
"I think it would be a good plan to keep some account of our efforts for
improving the school in this respect. We might make a record of what we
do to-day, noting the day of the month and the number of desks which may
be found to be disorderly. Then, at the end of any time you may propose,
we will have the desks examined again, and see how many are disorderly
then. We can thus see how much improvement has been made in that time.
Should you like to adopt the plan?"
If the boys should appear not much interested in the proposal, the
teacher might, at his own discretion, waive it. In all probability,
however, they would like it, and would indicate their interest by their
countenances, or perhaps by a response. If so, the teacher might
"You may all examine your desks, then, and decide whether they are in
order or not. I do not know, however, but that we ought to appoint a
committee to examine them; for perhaps all the boys would not be honest,
and report their desks as they really are."
"Yes, sir;" "yes, sir," say the boys.
"Do you mean that you will be honest, or that you would like to have a
There was a confused murmur. Some answer one, and some the other.
"I think," proceeds the teacher, "the boys will be honest, and report
their desks just as they are. At any rate, the number of dishonest boys
in this school can not be so large as materially to affect the result.
I think we had better take your own statements. As soon as the desks are
all examined, those who have found theirs in a condition which does not
satisfy them are requested to rise and be counted."
The teacher then looks around the room, and selecting some intelligent
boy who has influence among his companions, and whose influence he is
particularly desirous of enlisting on the side of good order, says,
"Shall I nominate some one to keep an account of the number?"
"Yes, sir," say the boys.
"Well, I nominate William Jones. How many are in favor of requesting
William Jones to perform this duty?"
"It is a vote. William, I will thank you to write upon a piece of paper
that on the 8th of December the subject of order in the desks was
brought up, and that the boys resolved on making an effort to improve
the school in this respect. Then say that the boys reported all their
desks which they thought were disorderly, and that the number was
thirty-five; and that after a week or two, the desks are to be examined
again, and the disorderly ones counted, that we may see how much we have
improved. After you have written it you may bring it to me, and I will
tell you whether it is right."
"How many desks do you think will be found to be disorderly when we come
to make the examination?"
The boys hesitate.
The teacher names successively several numbers, and asks whether they
think the real number will be greater or less. He notices their votes
upon them, and at last fixes upon one which seems to be about the
general sense of the school. Then the teacher himself mentions the
number which he supposes will be found to be disorderly. His estimate
will ordinarily be larger than that of the scholars, because he knows
better how easily resolutions are broken. This number, too, is recorded,
and then the whole subject is dismissed.
Now, of course, no reader of these remarks will understand me to be
recommending, by this imaginary dialogue, a particular course to be
taken in regard to this subject, far less the particular language to be
used. All I mean is to show by a familiar illustration how the teacher
is to endeavor to enlist the interest and to excite the curiosity of his
pupils in his plans for the improvement of his school, by presenting
them as moral experiments, which they are to assist him in
trying--experiments whose progress they are to watch, and whose results
they are to predict. If the precise steps which I have described should
actually be taken, although it would occupy but a few minutes, and would
cause no thought and no perplexing care, yet it would undoubtedly be the
means of awakening a very general interest in the subject of order
throughout the school. All would be interested in the work of
All would watch, too, with interest the progress and the result of the
experiment; and if, a few days afterward, the teacher should
accidentally, in recess, see a disorderly desk, a good-humored remark
made with a smile to the by-standers, "I suspect my prediction will turn
out the correct one," would have far more effect than the most severe
reproaches, or the tingling of a rap over the knuckles with a ratan.
I know from experience that scholars of every kind can be led by such
measures as these, or rather by such a spirit as this, to take an active
interest, and to exert a most powerful influence in regard to the whole
condition of the institution. I have seen the experiment successful in
boys' schools and in girls' schools, among very little children, and
among the seniors and juniors at college.
In one of the colleges of New England a new and beautiful edifice was
erected. The lecture-rooms were fitted up in handsome style, and the
officers, when the time for the occupation of the building approached,
were anticipating with regret what seemed to be the unavoidable
defacing, and cutting, and marking of the seats and walls. It was,
however, thought that if the subject was properly presented to the
students, they would take an interest in preserving the property from
injury. They were accordingly addressed somewhat as follows:
"It seems, young gentlemen, to be generally the custom in colleges for
the students to ornament the walls and benches of their recitation-rooms
with various inscriptions and caricatures, so that after the premises
have been for a short time in the possession of a class, every thing
within reach, which will take an impression from a penknife or a trace
from a pencil, is covered with names, and dates, and heads, and
inscriptions of every kind. The faculty do not know what you wish in
this respect in regard to the new accommodations which the trustees have
now provided for you, and which you are soon to enter. They have had
them fitted up for you handsomely, and if you wish to have them kept in
good order, we will assist you. If the students think proper to express
by a vote, or in any other way, their wish to keep them in good order,
we will engage to have such incidental injuries as may from time to
time occur immediately repaired. Such injuries will, of course, be done;
for, whatever may be the wish and general opinion of the whole, it is
not to be expected that every individual in so large a community will be
careful. If, however, as a body, you wish to have the building preserved
in its present state, and will, as a body, take the necessary
precautions, we will do our part."
The students responded to this appeal most heartily. They passed a vote
expressing a desire to preserve the premises in order, and for many
years, and, for aught I know, to the present hour, the whole is kept as
a room occupied by gentlemen should be kept. At some other colleges, and
those, too, sustaining the very highest rank among the institutions of
the country, the doors of the public buildings are sometimes _studded
with nails as thick as they can possibly be driven, and then covered
with a thick coat of sand dried into the paint, as a protection from the
knives of the students!!_
The particular methods by which the teacher is to interest his pupils in
his various plans for their improvement can not be fully described here.
In fact, it does not depend so much on the methods he adopts as upon the
view which he himself takes of these plans, and the _tone and manner in
which he speaks of them to his pupils_.
A teacher, for example, perhaps on the first day of his labors in a new
school, calls a class to read. They pretend to form a line, but it
crooks in every direction. One boy is leaning back against a desk;
another comes forward as far as possible, to get near the fire; the rest
lounge in every position and in every attitude. John is holding up his
book high before his face to conceal an apple from which he is
endeavoring to secure an enormous bite. James is, by the same sagacious
device, concealing a whisper which he is addressing to his next
neighbor, and Moses is seeking amusement by crowding and elbowing the
little boy who is unluckily standing next him.
"What a spectacle!" says the master to himself, as he looks at this sad
display. "What shall I do?" The first impulse is to break forth upon
them at once with all the artillery of reproof, and threatening, and
punishment. I have seen, in such a case, a scolding and frowning master
walk up and down before such a class with a stern and angry air,
commanding this one to stand back, and that one to come forward,
ordering one boy to put down his book, and scolding at a second for
having lost his place, and knocking the knees of another with his ruler
because he was out of the line. The boys scowl at their teacher, and,
with ill-natured reluctance, they obey just enough to escape punishment.
Another teacher looks calmly at the scene, and says to himself, "What
shall I do to remove effectually these evils? If I can but interest the
boys in reform, it will be far more easy to effect it than if I attempt
to accomplish it by the mere exercise of my authority."
In the mean time things go on during the reading in their own way. The
teacher simply _observes_. He is in no haste to commence his operations.
He looks for the faults; watches, without seeming to watch, the
movements which he is attempting to control. He studies the materials
with which he is to work, and lets their true character develop itself.
He tries to find something to approve in the exercise as it proceeds,
and endeavors to interest the class by narrating some fact connected
with the reading, or making some explanation which interests the boys.
At the end of the exercise he addresses them, perhaps, as follows:
"I have observed, boys, in some military companies, that the officers
are very strict, requiring implicit and precise obedience. The men are
required to form a precise line." (Here there is a sort of involuntary
movement all along the line, by which it is very sensibly straightened.)
"They make all the men stand erect" (at this word heads go up, and
straggling feet draw in all along the class), "in the true military
posture. They allow nothing to be done in the ranks but to attend to
the exercise" (John hastily crowds his apple into his pocket), "and thus
they regulate every thing in exact and steady discipline, so that all
things go on in a most systematic and scientific manner. This discipline
is so admirable in some countries, especially in Europe, where much
greater attention is paid to military tactics than in our country, that
I have heard it said by travelers that some of the soldiers who mount
guard at public places look as much like statues as they do like living
"Other commanders act differently. They let the men do pretty much as
they please. So you will see such a company lounging into a line when
the drum beats, as if they took little interest in what was going on.
While the captain is giving his commands, one is eating his luncheon,
another is talking with his next neighbor. Part are out of the line;
part lounge on one foot; they hold their guns in every position; and, on
the whole, present a very disorderly and unsoldier-like appearance.
"I have observed, too, that boys very generally prefer to _see_ the
strict companies, but perhaps they would prefer to _belong_ to the lax
"No, sir;" "No, sir," say the boys.
"Suppose you all had your choice either to belong to a company like the
first one I described, where the captain was strict in all his
requirements, or to one like the latter, where you could do pretty much
as you pleased, which should you prefer?"
Unless I am entirely mistaken in my idea of the inclinations of boys, it
would be very difficult to get a single honest expression of preference
for the latter. They would say with one voice,
"I suppose it would be so. You would be put to some inconvenience by the
strict commands of the captain, but then you would be more than paid by
the beauty of regularity and order which you would all witness. There is
nothing so pleasant as regularity, and nobody likes regularity more than
boys do. To show this, I should like to have you now form a line as
exact as you can."
After some unnecessary shoving and pushing, increased by the disorderly
conduct of a few bad boys, a line is formed. Most of the class are
pleased with the experiment, and the teacher takes no notice of the few
exceptions. The time to attend to _them_ will come by-and-by.
"Hands down." The boys obey.
"There; there is a very perfect line."
"Do you stand easily in that position?"
"I believe your position is the military one now, pretty nearly; and
military men study the postures of the human body for the sake of
finding the one most easy; for they wish to preserve as much as possible
of the soldiers' strength for the time of battle. I should like to try
the experiment of your standing thus at the next lesson. It is a very
great improvement upon your common mode. Are you willing to do it?"
"Yes, sir," say the boys.
"You will get tired, I have no doubt; for the military position, though
most convenient and easy in the end, is not to be learned and fixed in
practice without effort. In fact, I do not expect you will succeed the
first day very well. You will probably become restless and uneasy before
the end of the lesson, especially the smaller boys. I must excuse it, I
suppose, if you do, as it will be the first time."
By such methods as these the teacher will certainly secure a majority in
favor of all his plans. But perhaps some experienced teacher, who knows
from his own repeated difficulties with bad boys what sort of spirits
the teacher of district schools has sometimes to deal with, may ask, as
he reads this,
"Do you expect that such a method as this will succeed in keeping your
school in order? Why there are boys in almost every school whom you
would no more coax into obedience and order in this way than you would
persuade the northeast wind to change its course by reasoning."
I know there are. And my readers are requested to bear in mind that my
object is not to show how the whole government of the school may be
secured, but how one important advantage may be gained, which will
assist in accomplishing the object. All I should expect or hope for, by
such measures as these, is _to interest and gain over to our side the
majority_. What is to be done with those who can not be reached by such
kinds of influence I shall endeavor presently to show. The object now is
simply to gain the _majority_--to awaken a general interest, which you
can make effectual in promoting your plans, and thus to narrow the field
of discipline by getting those right who can be got right by such
Thus securing a majority to be on your side in the general
administration of the school is absolutely indispensable to success. A
teacher may, indeed, by the force of mere authority, so control his
pupils as to preserve order in the schoolroom, and secure a tolerable
progress in study, but the progress will be slow, and the cultivation of
moral principle must be, in such a case, entirely neglected. The
principles of duty can not be inculcated by fear; and though pain and
terror must in many instances be called in to coerce an individual
offender, whom milder measures will not reach, yet these agents, and
others like them, can never be successfully employed as the ordinary
motives to action. They can not produce any thing but mere external and
heartless obedience in the presence of the teacher, with an inclination
to throw off all restraint when the pressure of stern authority is
We should all remember that our pupils are but for a very short time
under our direct control. Even when they are in school the most untiring
vigilance will not enable us to watch, except for a very small portion
of the time, any one individual. Many hours of the day, too, they are
entirely removed from our inspection, and a few months will take them
away from us altogether. Subjecting them, then, to mere external
restraint is a very inadequate remedy for the moral evil to which they
are exposed. What we aim at is to bring forward and strengthen an
internal principle which will act when both parent and teacher are away,
and control where external circumstances are all unfavorable.
I have thus far, under this head, been endeavoring to show the
importance of securing, by gentle measures, a majority of the scholars
to cooperate with the teacher in his plans. The particular methods of
doing this demand a little attention.
(1.) The teacher should study human nature as it exhibits itself in the
school-room by taking an interest in the sports and enjoyments of the
pupils, and connecting, as much as possible, what is interesting and
agreeable with the pursuits of the school, so as to lead the scholars to
like the place. An attachment to the institution, and to the duties of
it, will give the teacher a very strong hold upon the community of mind
which exists there.
(2.) Every thing which is unpleasant in the discipline of the school
should be attended to, as far as possible, privately. Sometimes it is
necessary to bring a case forward in public for reproof or punishment,
but this is seldom required. In some schools it is the custom to
postpone cases of discipline till the close of the day, and then, just
before the boys are dismissed at night, all the difficulties are
settled. Thus, day after day, the impression which is last made upon
their minds is received from a season of suffering, and terror, and
Now such a practice may be attended with many advantages, but it seems
to be, on the whole, unwise. Awing the pupils, by showing them the
painful consequences of doing wrong, should be very seldom resorted to.
It is far better to allure them by showing them the pleasures of doing
right. Doing right is pleasant to every body, and no persons are so
easily convinced of this, or, rather, so easily led to see it, as
children. Now the true policy is to let them experience the pleasure of
doing their duty, and they will easily be allured to it.
In many cases, where a fault has been publicly committed, it seems, at
first view, to be necessary that it should be publicly punished; but the
end will, in most cases, be answered if it is _noticed_ publicly, so
that the pupils may know that it received attention, and then the
ultimate disposal of the case may be made a private affair between the
teacher and the individual concerned. If, however, every case of
disobedience, or idleness, or disorder, is brought out publicly before
the school, so that all witness the teacher's displeasure and feel the
effects of it (for to witness it is to feel its most unpleasant
effects), the school becomes, in a short time, hardened to such scenes.
Unpleasant associations become connected with the management of the
school, and the scholars are prepared to do wrong with less reluctance,
since the consequence is only a repetition of what they are obliged to
see every day.
Besides, if a boy does something wrong, and you severely reprove him in
the presence of his class, you punish the class almost as much as you do
him. In fact, in many cases you punish them more; for I believe it is
almost invariably more unpleasant for a good boy to stand by and listen
to rebukes, than for a bad boy to take them. Keep these things,
therefore, as much as possible out of sight. Never bring forward cases
of discipline except on mature deliberation, and for a distinct and
(3.) Never bring forward a case of discipline of this kind unless you
are sure that public opinion will go in your favor. If a case comes up
in which the sympathy of the scholars is excited for the criminal in
such a way as to be against yourself, the punishment will always do more
harm than good. Now this, unless there is great caution, will often
happen. In fact, it is probable that a very large proportion of the
punishments which are ordinarily inflicted in schools only prepare the
way for more offenses.
It is, however, possible to bring forward individual cases in such a way
as to produce a very strong moral effect of the right kind. This is to
be done by seizing upon those peculiar emergencies which will arise in
the course of the administration of a school, and which each teacher
must watch for and discover himself. They can not be pointed out. I may,
however, give a clearer idea of what is meant by such emergencies by an
example. It is a case which actually occurred as here narrated.
In a school where nearly all the pupils were faithful and docile, there
were one or two boys who were determined to find amusement in those
mischievous tricks so common in schools and colleges. There was one boy,
in particular, who was the life and soul of all these plans. Devoid of
principle, idle as a scholar, morose and sullen in his manners, he was,
in every respect, a true specimen of the whole class of mischief-makers,
wherever they are to be found. His mischief consisted, as usual, in such
exploits as stopping up the keyhole of the door, upsetting the teacher's
inkstand, or fixing something to his desk to make a noise and interrupt
It so happened that there was a standing feud between the boys of his
neighborhood and those of another situated a mile or two from it. By his
malicious activity he had stimulated this quarrel to a high pitch, and
was very obnoxious to the boys of the other party. One day, when taking
a walk, the teacher observed a number of boys with excited looks, and
armed with sticks and stones, standing around a shoemaker's shop, to
which his poor pupil had gone for refuge from them. They had got him
completely within their power, and were going to wait until he should be
wearied with his confinement and come out, when they were going to
inflict upon him the punishment they thought he deserved.
The teacher interfered, and by the united influence of authority,
management, and persuasion, succeeded in effecting a rescue. The boy
would probably have preferred to owe his safety to any one else than to
the teacher whom he had so often tried to tease, but he was glad to
escape in any way. The teacher said nothing about the subject, and the
boy soon supposed it was entirely forgotten.
But it was not forgotten. The teacher knew perfectly well that the boy
would before long be at his old tricks again, and was reserving this
story as the means of turning the whole current of public opinion
against such tricks, should they again occur.
One day he came to school in the afternoon, and found the room filled
with smoke; the doors and windows were all closed, though, as soon as he
came in, some of the boys opened them. He knew by this circumstance that
it was roguery, not accident, which caused the smoke. He appeared not to
notice it, however, said he was sorry it smoked, and asked the
mischievous boy--for he was sure to be always near in such a case--to
assist him in putting up the wood of the fire more compactly. The boy
supposed that the smoke was understood to be accidental, and perhaps
secretly laughed at the dullness of his master.
In the course of the afternoon, the teacher ascertained by private
inquiries that his suspicions were correct as to the author of the
mischief. At the close of school, when the studies were ended, and the
books laid away, he said to the scholars that he wanted to tell them a
He then, with a pleasant tone and manner, gave a very minute, and, to
the boys, a very interesting narrative of his adventure two or three
weeks before, when he rescued this boy from his danger. He called him,
however, simply _a boy_, without mentioning his name, or even hinting
that he was a member of the school. No narrative could excite a stronger
interest among an audience of school-boys than such a one as this, and
no act of kindness from a teacher would make as vivid an impression as
interfering to rescue a trembling captive from such a situation as the
one this boy had been in.
The scholars listened with profound interest and attention, and though
the teacher said little about his share in the affair, and spoke of what
he did as if it were a matter of course that he should thus befriend a
boy in distress, an impression very favorable to himself must have been
made. After he had finished his narrative, he said,
"Now should you like to know who this boy was?"
"Yes, sir," "Yes, sir," said they, eagerly.
"It was a boy that you all know."
The boys looked around upon one another. Who could it be?
"He is a member of this school."
There was an expression of fixed, and eager, and increasing interest on
every face in the room.
"He is here now," said the teacher, winding up the interest and
curiosity of the scholars, by these words, to the highest pitch.
"But I can not tell you his name; for what return do you think he made
to me? To be sure it was no very great favor that I did him; I should
have been unworthy the name of teacher if I had not done it for him, or
for any boy in my school. But, at any rate, it showed my good wishes for
him; it showed that I was his friend; and what return do you think he
made me for it? Why, to-day he spent his time between schools in filling
the room with smoke, that he might torment his companions here, and give
me trouble, and anxiety, and suffering when I should come. If I should
tell you his name, the whole school would turn against him for his
The business ended here, and it put a stop, a final stop, to all
malicious tricks in the school. Now it is not very often that so fine an
opportunity occurs to kill, by a single blow, the disposition to do
willful, wanton injury, as this circumstance afforded; but the principle
illustrated by it, bringing forward individual cases of transgression in
a public manner, only for the sake of the general effect, and so
arranging what is said and done as to produce the desired effect upon
the public mind in the highest degree, may very frequently be acted
upon. Cases are continually occurring, and if the teacher will keep it
constantly in mind, that when a particular case comes before the whole
school, the object is an influence upon the whole, and not the
punishment or reform of the guilty individual, he will insensibly so
shape his measures as to produce the desired result.
(4.) There should be a great difference made between the _measures which
you take_ to prevent wrong, and the _feelings of displeasure which you
express_ against the wrong when it is done. The former should be strict,
authoritative, unbending; the latter should be mild and gentle. Your
measures, if uniform and systematic, will never give offense, however
powerfully you may restrain and control those subject to them. It is the
morose look, the harsh expression, the tone of irritation and
fretfulness, which is so unpopular in school. The sins of childhood are
by nine tenths of mankind enormously overrated, and perhaps none
overrate them more extravagantly than teachers. We confound the trouble
they give us with their real moral turpitude, and measure the one by the
other. Now if a fault prevails in school, one teacher will scold and
fret himself about it day after day, until his scholars are tired both
of school and of him; and yet he will _do_ nothing effectual to remove
it. Another will take efficient and decided measures, and yet say very
little on the subject, and the whole evil will be removed without
suspending for a moment the good-humor and pleasant feeling which should
prevail in school.
The expression of your displeasure on account of any thing that is wrong
will seldom or never do any good. The scholars consider it scolding; it
is scolding; and though it may, in many cases, contain many sound
arguments and eloquent expostulations, it operates simply as a
punishment. It is unpleasant to hear it. General instruction must indeed
be given, but not general reproof.
(5.) Feel that in the management of the school _you_ are under
obligation as well as the scholars, and let this feeling appear in all
that you do. Your scholars wish you to dismiss school earlier than usual
on some particular occasion, or to allow them an extra holiday. Show by
the manner in which you consider and speak of the question that your
main inquiry is what is _your duty_. Speak often of your responsibility
to your employers--not formally, but incidentally and naturally, as you
will speak if you feel this responsibility.
It will assist very much, too, in securing cheerful, good-humored
obedience to the regulations of the school, if you extend their
authority over yourself. Not that the teacher is to have no liberty from
which the scholars are debarred; this would be impossible. But the
teacher should submit, himself, to every thing which he requires of his
scholars, unless it is in cases where a different course is necessary.
Suppose, for instance, a study-card, like the one described in a
preceding chapter, is made so as to mark the time of recess and of
study. The teacher, near the close of recess, is sitting with a group of
his pupils around him, telling them some story. They are all interested,
and they see he is interested. He looks at his watch, and shows by his
manner that he is desirous of finishing what he is saying, but that he
knows that the striking of the bell will cut short his story. Perhaps
he says not a word about it, but his pupils see that he is submitting to
the control which is placed over them; and when the card goes up, and he
stops instantly in the middle of his sentence and rises with the rest,
each one to go to his own place, to engage at once in their several
duties, he teaches them a most important lesson, and in the most
effectual way. Such a lesson of fidelity and obedience, and such an
example of it, will have more influence than half an hour's scolding
about whispering without leave, or a dozen public punishments. At least
so I found it, for I have tried both.
Show then continually that you see and enjoy the beauty of system and
strict discipline, and that you submit to law yourself as well as
require submission of others.
(6.) Lead your pupils to see that they must share with you the credit or
the disgrace which success or failure in the management of the school
may bring. Lead them to feel this, not by telling them so, for there are
very few things which can be impressed upon children by direct efforts
to impress them, but by so speaking of the subject, from time to time,
as to lead them to see that you understand it so.
Repeat, with judicious caution, what is said of the school, both for and
against it, and thus endeavor to interest the scholars in its public
reputation. This feeling of interest in the institution may very easily
be awakened. It sometimes springs up spontaneously, and, where it is not
guided aright by the teacher, sometimes produces very bad effects upon
the minds of the pupils in rival institutions. When two schools are
situated near each other, evil consequences will result from this
feeling, unless the teacher manages it so as to deduce good
consequences. I recollect that in my boyish days there was a standing
quarrel between the boys of a town school and an academy which were in
the same village. We were all ready at any time, when out of school, to
fight for the honor of our respective institutions, each for his own,
but very few were ready to be diligent and faithful when in it, though
it would seem that that might have been rather a more effectual means of
establishing the point. If the scholars are led to understand that the
school is to a great extent their institution, that they must assist to
sustain its character, and that they share the honor of its excellence,
if any honor is acquired, a feeling will prevail in the school which may
be turned to a most useful account.
(7.) In giving instruction on moral duty, the subject should generally
be taken up in reference to imaginary cases, or cases which are unknown
to most of the scholars. If this is done, the pupils feel that the
object of bringing up the subject is to do good; whereas, if questions
of moral duty are only introduced from time to time, when some
prevailing or accidental fault in school calls for reproof, the feeling
will be that the teacher is only endeavoring to remove from his own path
a source of inconvenience and trouble. The most successful mode of
giving general moral instruction that I have known, and which has been
adopted in many schools with occasional variations of form, is the
When the time has arrived, a subject is assigned, and small papers are
distributed to the whole school, that all may write something concerning
it. These are then read and commented on by the teacher, and become the
occasion of any remarks which he may wish to make. The interest of the
pupils is strongly excited to hear the papers read, and the instruction
which the teacher may give produces a deeper effect when ingrafted thus
upon something which originates in the minds of the pupils.
To take a particular case. A teacher addresses his scholars thus: "The
subject for the moral exercise to-day is _Prejudice_. Each one may take
one of the papers which have been distributed, and you may write upon
them any thing you please relating to the subject. As many as have
thought of any thing to write may raise their hands."
One or two only of the older scholars gave the signal.
"I will mention the kinds of communications you can make, and perhaps
what I say will suggest something to you. As fast as you think of any
thing, you may raise your hands, and as soon as I see a sufficient
number up, I will give directions to begin.
"You can describe any case in which you have been prejudiced yourselves
either against persons or things."
Here a number of the hands went up.
"You can mention any facts relating to antipathies of any kind, or any
cases where you know other persons to be prejudiced. You can ask any
questions in regard to the subject--questions about the nature of
prejudice, or the causes of it, or the remedy for it."
As he said this, many hands were successively raised, and at last
directions were given for all to begin to write. Five minutes were
allowed, and at the end of that time the papers were collected and read.
The following specimens, transcribed verbatim from the originals, with
the remarks made as nearly as could be remembered immediately after the
exercise, will give an idea of the ordinary operation of this plan.
"I am very much prejudiced against spiders and every insect in the known
world with scarcely an exception. There is a horrid sensation created by
their ugly forms that makes me wish them all to Jericho. The butterfly's
wings are pretty, but he is dreadful ugly. The is no affectation in this,
for my pride will not permit me to show this prejudice to any great degree
when I can help it. I do not fear the little wretches, but I do hate them.
"This is not expressed very well; the phrases '_to Jericho?_' and
'_dreadful ugly_' are vulgar, and not in good taste. Such a dislike,
too, is more commonly called an antipathy than a prejudice, though
perhaps it comes under the general head of prejudices."
"How may we overcome prejudice? I think that when we are prejudiced
against a person, it is the hardest thing in the world to overcome it."
A prejudice is usually founded on some unpleasant association
connected with the subject of it. The best way to overcome the
prejudice, therefore, is to connect some pleasant association with it.
For example (to take the case of the antipathy to the spider, alluded
to in the last article), the reason why that young lady dislikes spiders
is undoubtedly because she has some unpleasant idea associated with the
thought of that animal, perhaps, for example, the idea of their crawling
upon her, which is certainly not a very pleasant one for any body. Now
the way to correct such a prejudice is to try to connect some pleasant
thoughts with the sight of the animal.
I once found a spider in an empty apartment hanging in its web on the
wall, with a large ball of eggs which it had suspended by its side. My
companion and myself cautiously brought up a tumbler under the web, and
pressed it suddenly against the wall, so as to inclose both spider and
eggs within it. We then contrived to run in a pair of shears, so as to
cut off the web, and let both the animal and its treasure fall down into
the tumbler. We put a book over the top, and walked off with our prize
to a table to see what the spider would do.
At first it tried to climb up the side of the tumbler, but its feet
slipped on account of the smoothness of the glass. We then inclined the
glass so as to favor its climbing, and to enable it to reach the book at
the top. As soon as it touched the book, it was safe. It could cling to
the book easily, and we placed the tumbler again upright to watch its
It attached a thread to the book, and let itself down by it to the
bottom of the tumbler, and walked round and round the ball of eggs,
apparently in great trouble. Presently it ascended by its thread, and
then came down again. It attached a new thread to the ball, and then
went up, drawing the ball with it. It hung the ball at a proper distance
from the book, and bound it firmly in its place by threads running from
it in every direction to the parts of the book which were near, and then
the animal took its place quietly by its side.
Now I do not say that if any body had a strong antipathy to a spider,
seeing one perform such a work as this would entirely remove it, but it
would certainly soften it. It would _tend_ to remove it. It would
connect an interesting and pleasant association with the object. So if
she should watch a spider in the fields making his web. You have all
seen those beautiful regular webs in the morning dew ("Yes, sir;" "Yes,
sir"), composed of concentric circles, and radii diverging in every
direction. ("Yes, sir.") Well, watch a spider when making one of these,
or observe his artful ingenuity and vigilance when he is lying in wait
for a fly. By thus connecting pleasant ideas with the sight of the
animal, you will destroy the unpleasant association which constitutes
the prejudice. In the same manner, if I wished to create an antipathy to
a spider in a child, it would be very easily done. I would tie her hands
behind her, and put three or four upon her to crawl over her face.
"Thus you must destroy prejudices in all cases by connecting pleasant
thoughts and associations with the objects of them."
"I am very often prejudiced against new scholars without knowing why."
"We sometimes hear a person talk in this way: 'I do not like such or
such a person at all.'
"'Oh, I don't know; I do not like her at all. I can't bear her.'
"'But why not? What is your objection to her?'
"'Oh, I don't know; I have not any particular reason, but I never did
"Now, whenever you hear any person talk so, you may be sure that her
opinion on any subject is worth nothing at all. She forms opinions in
one case without grounds, and it depends merely upon accident whether
she does or not in other cases."
"Why is it that so many of our countrymen _are_, or seem to be,
prejudiced against the unfortunate children of Africa? Almost every _large
white_ boy who meets a _small black_ boy insults him in some way or other."
"It is so hard to _overcome_ prejudices, that we ought to be careful how
we _form_ them."
"When I see a new scholar enter this school, and she does not happen to
suit me exactly in her ways and manners, I very often get prejudiced
against her; though sometimes I find her a valuable friend after I get
acquainted with her."
"There is an inquiry I should like very much to make, though I suppose
it would not be quite right to make it. I should like to ask all those
who have some particular friend in school, and who can recollect the
impression which the individual made upon them when they first saw her,
to rise, and then I should like to inquire in how many cases the first
impression was favorable, and in how many unfavorable."
"Yes, sir;" "Yes, sir."
"Do you mean you would like to have the inquiry made?"
"All, then, who have intimate friends, and can recollect the impression
which they first made upon them, may rise."
[About thirty rose; more than two thirds of whom voted that the first
impression made by the persons who had since become their particular
friends was unfavorable.]
"This shows how much dependence you can justly place on first
"It was the next Monday morning after I had attained the wise age
of four years that I was called up into my mother's room, and told that
I was the next day going to school.
"I called forth all my reasoning powers, and with all the ability of a
child of four years, I reasoned with my mother, but to no purpose. I
told her that I _hated_ the school-mistress then, though I had never
seen her. The very first day I tottered under the weight of the mighty
fool's-cap. I only attended her school two quarters; with prejudice I
went, and with prejudice I came away.
"The old school-house is now torn down, and a large brick house takes
the place of it. But I never pass by without remembering my teacher. I
am prejudiced to [against] the very spot."
"Is it not right to allow prejudice to have influence over our minds as
far as this? If any thing comes to our knowledge with which wrong
_seems_ to be connected, and one in whom we have always felt confidence
is engaged in it, is it not right to allow our prejudice in favor of
this individual to have so much influence over us as to cause us to
believe that all is really right, though every circumstance which has
come to our knowledge is against such a conclusion? I felt this
influence, not many weeks since, in a very great degree."
"The disposition to judge favorably of a fraud in such a case would not
be prejudice; or, at least, if it were so, it would not be a sufficient
ground to justify us in withholding blame. Well-grounded confidence in
such a person, if there was reason for it, ought to have such an effect,
but not prejudice."
The above may be considered as a fair specimen of the ordinary
operation of such an exercise. It is taken as an illustration, not by
selection, from the large number of similar exercises which I have
witnessed, but simply because it was an exercise occurring at the time
when a description was to be written. Besides the articles quoted above,
there were thirty or forty others which were read and commented on. The
above will, however, be sufficient to give the reader a clear idea of
the exercise, and to show what is the nature of the moral effect it is
calculated to produce.
The subjects which may be advantageously brought forward in such a way
are, of course, very numerous. They are such as the following:
1. DUTIES TO PARENTS.--Anecdotes of good or bad conduct at home.
Questions. Cases where it is most difficult to obey. Dialogues between
parents and children. Excuses which are often made for disobedience.
2. SELFISHNESS.--Cases of selfishness any of the pupils have observed.
Dialogues they have heard exhibiting it. Questions about its nature.
Indications of selfishness.
3. FAULTS OF THE SCHOOL.--Any bad practices the scholars may have
observed in regard to general deportment, recitations, habits of study,
or the scholars' treatment of one another. Each scholar may write what
is his own greatest trouble in school, and whether he thinks any thing
can be done to remove it. Any thing they think can be improved in the
management of the school by the teacher. Unfavorable things they have
heard said about it out of school, though without names.
4. EXCELLENCES OF THE SCHOOL.--Good practices which ought to be
persevered in. Any little incidents the scholars may have noticed
illustrating good character. Cases which have occurred in which scholars
have done right in temptation, or when others around were doing wrong.
Favorable reports in regard to the school in the community around.
5. THE SABBATH.--Any thing the scholars may have known to be done on the
Sabbath which they doubt whether right or wrong. Questions in regard to
the subject. Various opinions they have heard expressed. Difficulties
they have in regard to proper ways of spending the Sabbath.
(8.) We have one other method to describe by which a favorable moral
influence may be exerted in school. The method can, however, go into
full effect only where there are several pupils who have made
considerable advances in mental cultivation.
It is to provide a way by which teachers and pupils may write
anonymously for the school. This may be done by having a place of
deposit for such articles as may be written, where any person may leave
what he wishes to have read, nominating by a memorandum upon the article
itself the reader. If a proper feeling on the subject of good discipline
and the formation of good character prevails in school, many articles,
which will have a great deal of effect upon the pupils, will find their
way through such an avenue once opened. The teacher can himself often
bring forward in this way his suggestions with more effect than he
otherwise could do. Such a plan is, in fact, like the plan of a
newspaper for an ordinary community, where sentiments and opinions stand
on their own basis, and influence the community just in proportion to
their intrinsic merits, unassisted by the authority of the writer's
name, and unimpeded by any prejudice which may exist against him.
The following articles, which were really offered for such a purpose in
the Mount Vernon school, will serve as specimens to illustrate the
actual operation of the plan. One or two of them were written by
teachers. I do not know the authors of the others. I do not offer them
as remarkable compositions: every teacher will see that they are not so.
The design of inserting them is merely to show that the ordinary
literary ability to be found in every school may be turned to useful
account by simply opening a channel for it, and to furnish such teachers
as may be inclined to try the experiment the means of making the plan
clearly understood by their pupils.
MARKS OF A BAD SCHOLAR.
"At the time when she should be ready to take her seat at school, she
commences preparation for leaving home. To the extreme annoyance of
those about her, all is now hurry, and bustle, and ill-humor. Thorough
search is to be made for every book or paper for which she has occasion;
some are found in one place, some in another, and others are forgotten
altogether. Being finally equipped, she casts her eye at the clock,
hopes to be in tolerable good season (notwithstanding that the hour for
opening the school has already arrived), and sets out in the most
"After so much haste, she is unfitted for attending properly to the
duties of the school until a considerable time after her arrival. If
present at the devotional exercises, she finds it difficult to command
her attention even when desirous of so doing, and her deportment at this
hour is, accordingly, marked with an unbecoming listlessness and
"When called to recitations, she recollects that some task was assigned,
which, till that moment, she had forgotten; of others she had mistaken
the extent, most commonly thinking them to be shorter than her
companions suppose. In her answers to questions with which she should be
familiar, she always manifests more or less of hesitation, and what she
ventures to express is very commonly in the form of a question. In
these, as in all exercises, there is an inattention to general
instructions. Unless what is said be addressed particularly to herself,
her eyes are directed toward another part of the room; it may be, her
thoughts are employed about something not at all connected with the
school. If reproved by her teacher for negligence in any respects, she
is generally provided with an abundance of excuses, and however mild the
reproof, she receives it as a piece of extreme severity.
"Throughout her whole deportment there is an air of indolence and a want
of interest in those exercises which should engage her attention. In her
seat, she most commonly sits in some lazy posture--either with her
elbows upon her desk, her head leaning upon her hands, or with her seat
tipped forward or backward. When she has occasion to leave her seat, it
is in a sauntering, lingering gait--perhaps some trick is contrived on
the way for exciting the mirth of her companions.
"About every thing in which it is possible to be so, she is untidy. Her
books are carelessly used, and placed in her desk without order. If she
has a piece of waste paper to dispose of, she finds it much more
convenient to tear it into small pieces and scatter it about her desk,
than to put it in a proper place. Her hands and clothes are usually
covered with ink. Her written exercises are blotted and full of
THE CONSEQUENCES OF BEING BEHINDHAND.
"The following incident, which I witnessed on a late journey,
illustrates an important principle, and I will relate it.
"When our steam-boat started from the wharf, all our passengers had not
come. After we had proceeded a few yards, there appeared among the crowd
on the wharf a man with his trunk under his arm, out of breath, and with
a most disappointed and disconsolate air. The captain determined to stop
for him; but stopping an immense steam-boat, moving swiftly through the
water, is not to be done in a moment; so we took a grand sweep, wheeling
majestically around an English ship which was at anchor in the harbor.
As we came toward the wharf again, we saw the man in a small boat coming
off from it. As the steam-boat swept round, they barely succeeded in
catching a rope from the stern, and then immediately the steam-engine
began its work again, and we pressed forward, the little boat following
us so swiftly that the water around her was all in a foam.
"They pulled upon the rope attached to the little boat until they drew
it alongside. They then let down a rope, with a hook in the end of it,
from an iron crane which projected over the side of the steam-boat, and
hooked it into a staple in the front of the small boat. '_Hoist away_!'
said the captain. The sailors hoisted, and the front part of the little
boat began to rise, the stern plowing and foaming through the water,
and the man still in it, with his trunk under his arm. They 'hoisted
away' until I began to think that the poor man would actually tumble out
behind. He clung to the seat, and looked as though he was saying to
himself, 'I will take care how I am tardy the next time.' However, after
a while, they hoisted up the stern of the boat, and he got safely on
"_Moral_--Though coming to school a few minutes earlier or later may not
in itself be a matter of much consequence, yet the habit of being five
minutes too late, if once formed, will, in actual life, be a source of
great inconvenience, and sometimes of lasting injury."
There is at ------ a young ladies' school, taught by Mr. ------.
* * * * *
"But, with all these excellences, there is one fault, which I considered
a great one, and which does not comport with the general character of
the school for kindness and good feeling. It is the little effort made
by the scholars to become acquainted with the new ones who enter.
Whoever goes there must push herself forward, or she will never feel at
home. The young ladies seem to forget that the new-comer must feel
rather unpleasantly in the midst of a hundred persons to whom she is
wholly a stranger, and with no one to speak to. Two or three will stand
together, and instead of deciding upon some plan by which the individual
may be made to feel at ease, something like the following conversation
"_Miss X._ How do you like the looks of Miss A., who entered school
"_Miss Y._ I don't think she is very pretty, but she looks as if she
might be a good scholar.
"_Miss X._ She does not strike me very pleasantly. Did you ever see
such a face? And her complexion is so dark, I should think she had
always lived in the open air; and what a queer voice she has!
"_Miss Y._ I wonder if she has a taste for Arithmetic?
"_Miss X._ She does not look as if she had much taste for any thing. See
how strangely she arranges her hair!
"_Miss S._ Whether she has much taste or not, some one of us ought to go
and get acquainted with her. See how unpleasantly she feels!
"_Miss X._ I don't want to get acquainted with her until I know whether
I shall like her or not.
"Thus nothing is done to relieve her. When she does become acquainted,
all her first strange appearance is forgotten; but this is sometimes not
the case for several weeks. It depends entirely on the character of the
individual herself. If she is forward, and willing to make the necessary
effort, she can find many friends; but if she is diffident, she has much
to suffer. This arises principally from thoughtlessness. The young
ladies do not seem to realize that there is any thing for them to do.
They feel enough at home themselves, and the remembrance of the time
when they entered school does not seem to arise in their minds."
A SATIRICAL SPIRIT.
I witnessed, a short time since, a meeting between two friends, who had
had but little intercourse before for a long while. I thought a part of
their conversation might be useful, and I shall therefore relate it, as
nearly as I can recollect, leaving each individual to draw her own
For some time I sat silent, but not uninterested, while the days of
'Auld Lang Syne' came up to the remembrance of the two friends. After
speaking of several individuals who were among their former
acquaintances, one asked, 'Do you remember Miss W.? 'Yes,' replied the
former, I remember her as the fear, terror, and abhorrence of all who
knew her.' _I_ knew the lady by report, and asked why she was so
regarded. The reply was, 'Because she was so severe, so satirical in her
remarks upon others. She spared neither friend nor foe.'
"The friends resumed their conversation. 'Did you know,' said the one
who had first spoken of Miss W., 'that she sometimes had seasons of
bitter repentance for indulging in this unhappy propensity of hers? She
would, at such times, resolve to be more on her guard, but, after all
her good resolutions, she would yield to the slightest temptations. When
she was expressing, and apparently really _feeling_ sorrow for having
wounded the feelings of others, those who knew her would not venture to
express any sympathy, for, very likely, the next moment _that_ would be
turned into ridicule. No confidence could be placed in her.'
"A few more facts will be stated respecting the same individual, which I
believe are strictly true. Miss W. possessed a fine and well-cultivated
mind, great penetration, and a tact at discriminating character rarely
equaled. She could, if she chose, impart a charm to her conversation
that would interest and even fascinate those who listened to it; still,
she was not beloved. Weaknesses and foibles met with unmerciful
severity, and well-meaning intentions and kind actions did not always
escape without the keen sarcasm which it is so difficult for the best
regulated mind to bear unmoved. The mild and gentle seemed to shrink
from her; and thus she, who might have been the bright and beloved
ornament of the circle in which she moved, was regarded with distrust,
fear, and even hatred. This dangerous habit of making satirical remarks
was evinced in childhood; it was cherished; it 'grew with her growth,
and strengthened with her strength,' until she became what I have
Though such a satirical spirit is justly condemned, a little
good-humored raillery may sometimes be allowed as a mode of attacking
faults in school which can not be reached by graver methods. The teacher
must not be surprised if some things connected with his own
administration come in sometimes for a share.
"I was walking out a few days since, and not being particularly in
haste, I concluded to visit a certain school for an hour or two. In a
few minutes after I had seated myself on the sofa, the '_Study Card_'
was dropped, and the general noise and confusion indicated that recess
had arrived. A line of military characters, bearing the title of the
'Freedom's Band,' was soon called out, headed by one of their own
number. The tune chosen to guide them was Kendall's March.
"'Please to form a regular line,' said the lady commander. 'Remember
that there is to be no speaking in the ranks. Do not begin to step until
I strike the bell. Miss B., I requested you not to step until I gave the
"Presently the command was given, and the whole line _stepped_ for a few
minutes to all intents and purposes. Again the bell sounded. 'Some of
you have lost the step,' said the general. 'Look at me, and begin again.
Left! right! left! right!' The line was once more in order, and I
observed a new army on the opposite side of the room, performing the
same manoeuvres, always to the tune of 'Kendall's March.' After a time
the recess closed, and order was again restored. In about half an hour I
approached a class which was reciting behind the railing. 'Miss A.,'
said a teacher, 'how many kinds of magnitude are there?' _Miss A._
(Answer inaudible.) _Several voices._ 'We can't hear.' _Teacher._ 'Will
you try to speak a little louder, Miss A.?"
"Some of the class at length seemed _to guess_ the meaning of the young
lady, but _I_ was unable to do even that until the answer was repeated
by the teacher. Finding that I should derive little instruction from
the recitation, I returned to the sofa.
"In a short time the _propositions_ were read. 'Proposed, that the
committee be impeached for not providing suitable pens.' 'Lost, a
pencil, with a piece of India-rubber attached to it by a blue ribbon,'
"Recess was again announced, and the lines commenced their evolutions to
the tune of 'Kendall's March.' Thought I, 'Oh that there were a new tune
under the sun!'
"Before the close of school some compositions were read. One was
entitled 'The Magic King,' and commenced, 'As I was sitting alone last
evening, I heard a gentle tap on the door, and immediately a beautiful
fairy appeared before me. She placed a ring on my finger, and left me.'
The next began, 'It is my week to write composition, but I do not know
what to say. However, I must write something, so it shall be a
dialogue.' Another was entitled the 'Magical Shoe,' and contained a
marvelous narration of adventures made in a pair of shoes more valuable
than the far-famed 'seven-league boots.' A fourth began, 'Are you
acquainted with that new scholar?' 'No; but I don't believe I shall like
her.' And soon the 'Magical Thimble,' the 'Magical Eye-glass,' &c., were
read in succession, until I could not but exclaim, 'How pleasing is
variety!' School was at length closed, and the young ladies again
attacked the piano. 'Oh,' repeated I to myself, '_how pleasing is
variety!_ as I left the room to the tune of Kendall's March."
By means like these, and others similar to them, it will not be
difficult for any teacher to obtain so far an ascendency over the minds
of his pupils as to secure an overwhelming majority in favor of good
order and co-operation with him in his plans for elevating the character
of the school. But let it be distinctly understood that this, and this
only, has been the object of this chapter thus far. The first point
brought up was the desirableness of making at first a favorable
impression; the second, the necessity of taking general views of the
condition of the school, and aiming to improve it in the mass, and not
merely to rebuke or punish accidental faults; and the third, the
importance and the means of gaining a general influence and ascendency
over the minds of the pupils. But, though an overwhelming majority can
be reached by such methods as these, all can not. We must have the
majority secured, however, in order to enable us to reach and to reduce
the others. But to this work we must come at last.
4. I am, therefore, now to consider, under a fourth general head, what
course is to be taken with _individual_ offenders whom the general
influences of the school-room will not control.
The teacher must always expect that there will be such cases. They are
always to be found in the best and most skillfully-managed schools. The
following suggestions will perhaps assist the teacher in dealing with
(1.) The first point to be attended to is to ascertain who they are. Not
by appearing suspiciously to watch any individuals, for this would be
almost sufficient to make them bad, if they were not so before. Observe,
however; notice, from day to day, the conduct of individuals, not for
the purpose of reproving or punishing their faults, but to enable you to
understand their characters. This work will often require great
adroitness and very close scrutiny, and you will find, as the results of
it, a considerable variety of character, which the general influences
above described will not be sufficient to control. The number of
individuals will not be great, but the diversity of character comprised
in it will be such as to call into exercise all your powers of vigilance
and discrimination. On one seat you will find a coarse, rough-looking
boy, who openly disobeys your commands and opposes your wishes while in
school, and makes himself a continual source of trouble and annoyance
during play-hours by bullying and hectoring every gentle and timid
schoolmate. On another sits a more sly rogue, whose demure and
submissive look is assumed to conceal a mischief-making disposition.
Here is one whose giddy spirit is always leading him into difficulty,
but who is of so open and frank a disposition that you will most easily
lead him back to duty; but there is another who, when reproved, will fly
into a passion; and then a third, who will stand sullen and silent
before you when he has done wrong, and is not to be touched by kindness
nor awed by authority.
Now all these characters must be studied. It is true that the caution
given in a preceding part of this chapter, against devoting undue and
disproportionate attention to such persons, must not be forgotten.
Still, these individuals will require, and it is right that they should
receive, a far greater degree of attention, so far as the moral
administration of the school is concerned, than their mere numbers would
appear to justify. This is the field in which the teacher is to study
human nature, for here it shows itself without disguise. It is through
this class, too, that a very powerful moral influence is to be exerted
upon the rest of the school. The manner in which such individuals are
managed, the tone the teacher assumes toward them, the gentleness with
which he speaks of their faults, and the unbending decision with which
he restrains them from wrong, will have a most powerful effect upon the
rest of the school. That he may occupy this field, therefore, to the
best advantage, it is necessary that he should first thoroughly explore
By understanding the dispositions and characters of such a class of
pupils as I have described, I do not mean merely watching them with
vigilance in school, so that none of their transgressions shall go
unobserved and unpunished. I intend a far deeper and more thorough
examination of character. Every boy has something or other which is good
in his disposition and character which he is aware of, and on which he
prides himself; find out what it is, for it may often be made the
foundation on which you may build the superstructure of reform. Every
one has his peculiar sources of enjoyment and objects of pursuit, which
are before his mind from day to day. Find out what they are, that by
taking an interest in what interests him, and perhaps sometimes
assisting him in his plans, you can bind him to you. Every boy is, from
the circumstances in which he is placed at home, exposed to temptations
which have perhaps had far greater influence in the formation of his
character than any deliberate and intentional depravity of his own;
ascertain what these temptations are, that you may know where to pity
him and where to blame. The knowledge which such an examination of
character will give you, will not be confined to making you acquainted
with the individual. It will be the most valuable knowledge which a man
can possess, both to assist him in the general administration of the
school and in his intercourse among mankind in the business of life. Men
are but boys, only with somewhat loftier objects of pursuit. Their
principles, motives, and ruling passions are essentially the same.
Extended commercial speculations are, so far as the human heart is
concerned, substantially what trading in jack-knives and toys is at
school, and building a snow fort, to its own architects, the same as
erecting a monument of marble.
(2.) After exploring the ground, the first thing to be done as a
preparation for reforming individual character in school is to secure
the personal attachment of the individuals to be reformed. This must not
be attempted by professions and affected smiles, and still less by that
sort of obsequiousness, common in such cases, which produces no effect
but to make the bad boy suppose that his teacher is afraid of him;
which, by the way, is, in fact, in such cases, usually true. Approach
the pupil in a bold and manly, but frank and pleasant manner. Approach
him as his superior, but still as his friend; desirous to make him
happy, not merely to obtain his good-will. And the best way to secure
these appearances is just to secure the reality. Actually be the boy's
friend. Really desire to make him happy--happy, too, in his own way, not
in yours. Feel that you are his superior, and that you must and will
enforce obedience; but with this, feel that probably obedience will be
rendered without any contest. If these are really the feelings which
reign within you, the boy will see it, and they will exert a strong
influence over him; but you can not counterfeit appearances.
A most effectual way to secure the good-will of a scholar is to ask him
to assist you. The Creator has so formed the human heart that doing good
must be a source of pleasure, and he who tastes this pleasure once will
almost always wish to taste it again. To do good to any individual
creates or increases the desire to do it.
There is a boy in your school who is famous for his skill in making
whistles from the green branches of the poplar. He is a bad boy, and
likes to turn his ingenuity to purposes of mischief. You observe him
some day in school, when he thinks your attention is engaged in another
way, blowing softly upon one which he has concealed in his desk for the
purpose of amusing his neighbors without attracting the attention of the
teacher. Now there are two remedies. Will you try the physical one? Then
call him out into the floor, inflict painful punishment, and send him
smarting to his seat, with his heart full of anger and revenge, to plot
some new and less dangerous scheme of annoyance. Will you try the moral
one? Then wait till the recess, and while he is out at his play, send a
message out by another boy, saying that you have heard he is very
skillful in making whistles, and asking him to make one for you to carry
home to a little child at your boarding-house. What would, in ordinary
cases, be the effect? It would certainly be a very simple application,
but its effect would be to open an entirely new train of thought and
feeling for the boy. "What!" he would say to himself, while at work on
his task, "give the master _pleasure_ by making whistles! Who would have
conceived of it? I never thought of any thing but giving him trouble and
pain. I wonder who told him I could make whistles?" He would find, too,
that the new enjoyment was far higher and purer than the old, and would
have little disposition to return to the latter.
I do not mean by this illustration that such a measure as this would be
the only notice that ought to be taken of such an act of willful
disturbance in school. Probably it would not. What measures in direct
reference to the fault committed would be necessary would depend upon
the circumstances of the case. It is not necessary to our purpose that
they should be described here.
The teacher can awaken in the hearts of his pupils a personal attachment
for him by asking in various ways their assistance in school, and then
appearing honestly gratified with the assistance rendered. Boys and
girls are delighted to have what powers and attainments they possess
brought out into action, especially where they can lead to useful
results. They love to be of some consequence in the world, and will be
especially gratified to be able to assist their teacher. Even if the
studies of a turbulent boy are occasionally interrupted for half an
hour, that he might help you arrange papers, or rule books, or
distribute exercises, it will be time well spent. Get him to co-operate
with you in any thing, and he will feel how much more pleasant it is to
co-operate than to thwart and oppose; and, by judicious measures of this
kind, almost any boy may be brought over to your side.
Another means of securing the personal attachment of boys is to notice
them, to take an interest in their pursuits, and the qualities and
powers which they value in one another. It is astonishing what an
influence is exerted by such little circumstances as stopping at a
play-ground a moment to notice with interest, though perhaps without
saying a word, speed of running, or exactness of aim, the force with
which a ball is struck, or the dexterity with which it is caught or
thrown. The teacher must, indeed, in all his intercourse with his
pupils, never forget his station, nor allow them to lay aside the
respect, without which authority can not be maintained. But he may be,
notwithstanding this, on the most intimate and familiar footing with
them all. He may take a strong and open interest in all their
enjoyments, and thus awaken on their part a personal attachment to
himself, which will exert over them a constant and powerful control.
(3.) The efforts described under the last head for gaining a personal
influence over those who, from their disposition and character, are most
in danger of doing wrong, will not be sufficient entirely to prevent
transgression. Cases of deliberate, intentional wrong will occur, and
the question will rise, What is the duty of the teacher in such an
emergency? When such cases occur, the course to be taken is, first of
all, to come to a distinct understanding on the subject with the guilty
individual. Think of the case calmly, until you have obtained just and
clear ideas of it. Endeavor to understand precisely in what the guilt of
it consists. Notice every palliating circumstance, and take as favorable
a view of the thing as you can, while, at the same time, you fix most
firmly in your mind the determination to put a stop to it. Then go to
the individual, and lay the subject before him, for the purpose of
understanding distinctly from his own lips what he intends to do. I can,
however, as usual, explain more fully what I mean by describing a
particular case, substantially true.
The teacher of a school observed himself, and learned from several
quarters, that a certain boy was in the habit of causing disturbance
during time of prayer, at the opening and close of school, by
whispering, playing, making gestures to the other boys, and throwing
things about from seat to seat. The teacher's first step was to speak of
the subject generally before the whole school, not alluding, however, to
any particular instance which had come under his notice. These general
remarks produced, as he expected, but little effect.
He waited for some days, and the difficulty still continued. Had the
irregularity been very great, it would have been necessary to have taken
more immediate measures, but he thought the case admitted of a little
delay. In the mean time, he took pains to cultivate the acquaintance of
the boy, to discover, and to show that he noticed, what was good in his
character and conduct, occasionally to ask some assistance from him, and
thus to gain some personal ascendency over him.
One day, when every thing had gone smoothly and prosperously, the
teacher told the boy, at the close of the school, that he wished to talk
with him a little, and asked him to walk home with him. It was not
uncommon for the teacher to associate thus with his pupils out of
school, and this request, accordingly, attracted no special attention.
On the walk the teacher thus accosted the criminal:
"Do you like frank, open dealing, James?"
James hesitated a moment, and then answered, faintly,
"Most boys do, and I do, and I supposed that you would prefer being
treated in that way. Do you?"
"Well, I am going to tell you of one of your faults. I have asked you to
walk with me, because I supposed it would be more agreeable for you to
have me see you privately than to bring it up in school."
James said it would be more agreeable.
"Well, the fault is being disorderly at prayer-time. Now, if you like
frank and open dealing, and are willing to deal so with me, I should
like to talk with you a little about it, but if you are not willing, I
will dismiss the subject. I do not wish to talk with you now about it
unless you yourself desire it; but if we talk at all, we must both be
open, and honest, and sincere. Now, should you rather have me talk with
you or not?"
"Yes, sir, I should rather have you talk with me now than in school."
The teacher then described his conduct in a mild manner, using the style
of simple narration, admitting no harsh epithets, no terms of reproach.
The boy was surprised, for he supposed that he had not been noticed. He
thought, perhaps, that he should have been punished if he had been
observed. The teacher said, in conclusion,
"Now, James, I do not suppose you have done this from any designed
irreverence toward God, or deliberate intention of giving me trouble and
pain. You have several times lately assisted me in various ways, and I
know, from the cheerful manner with which you comply with my wishes,
that your prevailing desire is to give me pleasure, not pain. You have
fallen into this practice through thoughtlessness, but that does not
alter the character of the sin. To do so is a great sin against God, and
a great offense against good order in school. You see, yourself, that my
duty to the school will require me to adopt the most decided measures to
prevent the continuance and the spread of such a practice. I should be
imperiously bound to do it, even if the individual was the very best
friend I had in school, and if the measures necessary should bring upon
him great disgrace and suffering. Do you not think it would be so?"
"Yes, sir," said James, seriously, "I suppose it would."
"I wish to remove the evil, however, in the pleasantest way. Do you
remember my speaking on this subject in school the other day?"
"Well, my object in what I said then was almost entirely to persuade you
to reform without having to speak to you directly. I thought it would be
pleasanter to you to be reminded of your duty in that way. But I do not
think it did you much good. Did it?"
"I don't think I have played _so much_ since then."
"Nor I. You have improved a little, but you have not decidedly and
thoroughly reformed. So I was obliged to take the next step which would
be least unpleasant to you, that is, talking with you alone. Now you
told me when we began that you would deal honestly and sincerely with
me, if I would with you. I have been honest and open. I have told you
all about it so far as I am concerned. Now I wish you to be honest, and
tell me what you are going to do. If you think, from this conversation,
that you have done wrong, and if you are fully determined to do so no
more, and to break off at once, and forever, from this practice, I
should like to have you tell me, and then the whole thing will be
settled. On the other hand, if you feel about it pretty much as you have
done, I should like to have you tell me that too, honestly and frankly,
that we may have a distinct understanding, and that I may be considering
what to do next. I shall not be offended with you for giving me either
of these answers, but be sure that you are honest; you promised to be
The boy looked up in his master's face, and said, with great
"Mr T. I _will_ do better. I _will not_ trouble you any more."
I have detailed this case thus particularly because it exhibits clearly
what I mean by going directly and frankly to the individual, and coming
at once to a full understanding. In nine cases out of ten this course
will be effectual. For four years, with a very large school, I found
this sufficient in every case of discipline which occurred, except in
three or four instances, where something more was required. To make it
successful, however, the work must be done properly. Several things are
necessary. It must be deliberate; generally better after a little delay.
It must be indulgent, so far as the view which the teacher takes of the
guilt of the pupil is concerned; every palliating consideration must be
felt. It must be firm and decided in regard to the necessity of a
change, and the determination of the teacher to effect it. It must also
be open and frank; no insinuations, no hints, no surmises, but plain,
honest, open dealing.
In many cases the communication may be made most delicately and most
successfully in writing. The more delicately you touch the feelings of
your pupils, the more tender these feelings will become. Many a teacher
hardens and stupefies the moral sense of his pupils by the harsh and
rough exposures to which he drags out the private feelings of the heart.
A man may easily produce such a state of feeling in his schoolroom, that
to address even the gentlest reproof to any individual, in the hearing
of the next, would be a most severe punishment; and, on the other hand,
he may so destroy that sensitiveness that his vociferated reproaches
will be as unheeded as the idle wind.
If, now, the teacher has taken the course recommended in this
chapter--if he has, by his general influence in the school, done all in
his power to bring the majority of his pupils to the side of order and
discipline--if he has then studied, attentively and impartially, the
characters of those who can not thus be led--if he has endeavored to
make them his friends, and to acquire, by every means, a personal
influence over them--if, finally, when they do wrong, he goes plainly,
but in a gentle and delicate manner, to them, and lays before them the
whole case--if he has done all this, he has gone as far as moral
influence will carry him. My opinion is, that this course, faithfully
and judiciously pursued, will, in almost all instances, succeed; but it
will not in all; and where it fails, there must be other, and more
vigorous and decided measures. What these measures of restraint or
punishment shall be must depend upon the circumstances of the case; but
in resorting to them, the teacher must be decided and unbending.
The course above recommended is not trying lax and inefficient measures
for a long time in hopes of their being ultimately successful, and then,
when they are found not to be so, changing the policy. There should be,
through the whole, the tone and manner of _authority_, not of
_persuasion_. The teacher must be a _monarch_, and, while he is gentle
and forbearing, always looking on the favorable side of conduct so far
as guilt is concerned; he must have an eagle eye and an efficient hand,
so far as relates to arresting the evil and stopping the consequences.
He may slowly and cautiously, and even tenderly, approach a delinquent.
He may be several days in gathering around him the circumstances of
which he is ultimately to avail himself in bringing him to submission;
but, while he proceeds thus slowly and tenderly, he must come with the
air of authority and power. The fact that the teacher bases all his
plans on the idea of his ultimate authority in every case may be
perfectly evident to all the pupils, while he proceeds with moderation
and gentleness in all his specific measures. Let it be seen, then, that
the constitution of your school is a monarchy, absolute and unlimited;
but let it also be seen that the one who holds the power is himself
under the control of moral principle in all that he does, and that he
endeavors to make the same moral principle which guides him go as far as
it is possible to make it go in the government of his subjects.
In consequence of the unexampled religious freedom possessed in this
country, for which it is happily distinguished above all other countries
on the face of the earth, there necessarily results a vast variety of
religious sentiment and action. We can not enjoy the blessings without
the inconveniences of freedom. Where every man is allowed to believe as
he pleases, some will, undoubtedly, believe wrong, and others will be
divided, by embracing views of a subject which are different, though
perhaps equally consistent with truth. Hence we have among us every
shade and every variety of religious opinion, and, in many cases,
contention and strife, resulting from hopeless efforts to produce
A stranger who should come among us would suppose, from the tone of our
religious journals, and from the general aspect of society on the
subject of religion, that the whole community was divided into a
thousand contending sects, who hold nothing in common, and whose sole
objects are the annoyance and destruction of each other. But if we leave
out of view some hundreds, or, if you please, some thousands of
theological controversialists who manage the public discussions, and say
and do all that really comes before the public on this subject, it will
be found that there is vastly more religious truth admitted by common
consent among the people of New England than is generally supposed. This
common ground I shall endeavor briefly to describe; for it is very plain
that the teacher must, in ordinary cases, confine himself to it. By
common consent, however, I do not mean the consent of every body; I mean
that of the great majority of serious, thinking men.
But let us examine first, for a moment, what right any member of the
community has to express and to disseminate his opinions with a view to
the inquiry whether the teacher is really bound to confine himself to
what he can do on this subject with the common consent of his employers.
The various monarchical nations of Europe have been for many years, as
is well known, strongly agitated with questions of politics. It is with
difficulty that public tranquillity is preserved. Every man takes sides.
Now, in this state of things, a wealthy gentleman residing in one of
these countries is opposed to the revolutionary projects so constantly
growing up there, and being, both from principle and feeling, strongly
attached to monarchical government, wishes to bring up his children with
the same feelings which he himself cherishes. He has a right to do so.
No matter if his opinions are wrong. He ought, it will be generally
supposed in this country, to be republican. I suppose him to adopt
opinions which will generally, by my readers, be considered wrong, that
I may bring more distinctly to view the right he has to educate his
children as _he thinks_ it proper that they should be educated. He may
be wrong to _form_ such opinions; but the opinions once formed, he has a
right, with which no human power can justly interfere, to educate his
children in conformity with those opinions. It is alike the law of God
and nature that the father should control, as he alone is responsible,
the education of his child.
Now, under these circumstances, he employs an American mechanic, who is
residing in Paris, to come to his house and teach his children the use
of the lathe. After some time he comes into their little work-shop, and
is astonished to find the lathe standing still, and the boys gathered
round the Republican turner, who is relating to them stories of the
tyranny of kings, the happiness of republicans, and the glory of war.
The parent remonstrates. The mechanic defends himself.
"I am a Republican," he says, "upon principle, and wherever I go I must
exert all the influence in my power to promote free principles, and to
expose the usurpations and the tyranny of kings."
To this the monarchist might very properly reply,
"In your efforts to promote your principles, you are limited, or you
ought to be limited, to modes that are proper and honorable. I employ
you for a distinct and specific purpose, which has nothing to do with
questions of government, and you ought not to allow your love of
republican principles to lead you to take advantage of the position in
which I place you, and interfere with my plans for the political
education of my children."
Now for the parallel case. A member of a Congregational society is
employed to teach a school in a district occupied exclusively by
Friends--a case not uncommon. He is employed there, not as a religious
teacher, but for another specific and well-defined object. It is for the
purpose of teaching the children of that district _reading, writing,_
and _calculation_, and for such other purposes analogous to this as the
law providing for the establishment of district schools contemplated.
Now, when he is placed in such a situation, with such a trust confided
to him, and such duties to discharge, it is not right for him to make
use of the influence which this official station gives him over the
minds of the children committed to his care for the accomplishment of
_any other purposes whatever_ which the parents would disapprove. It
would not be considered right by men of the world to attempt to
accomplish any other purposes in such a case; and are the pure and holy
principles of piety to be extended by methods more exceptionable than
those by which political and party contests are managed?
There is a very great and obvious distinction between the general
influence which the teacher exerts as a member of the community and that
which he can employ in his school-room as teacher. He has unquestionably
a right to exert _upon the community, by such means as he shares in
common with every other citizen_, as much influence as he can command
for the dissemination of his own political, or religious, or scientific
opinions. But the strong ascendency which, in consequence of his
official station, he has obtained over the minds of his pupils, is
sacred. He has no right to use it for any purpose _foreign to the
specific objects_ for which he is employed, unless _by the consent,
expressed or implied_, of those by whom he is intrusted with his charge.
The parents who send their children to him to be taught to read, to
write, and to calculate, may have erroneous views of their duty as
parents in other respects. He _may know_ that their views are erroneous.
They may be taking a, course which the teacher _knows_ is wrong. But he
has not, on this account, a right to step in between the parent and
child, to guide the latter according to his own opinions, and to violate
the wishes and thwart the plans of the former.
God has constituted the relation between the parent and the child, and
according to any view which a rational man can take of this relation,
the parent is alone responsible for the guidance he gives to that mind,
so entirely in his power. He is responsible to God; and where our
opinions in regard to the manner in which any of the duties arising
from the relation are to be performed, differ from his, we have no right
to interfere, without his consent, to rectify what we thus imagine to be
wrong. I know of but one exception which any man whatever would be
inclined to make to this principle, and that is where the parent would,
if left to himself, take such a course as would ultimately make his
children _unsafe members of society._ The _community_ have a right to
interfere in such a case, as they in fact do by requiring every man to
provide for the instruction of his children, and in some other ways
which need not now be specified. Beyond this, however, no interference
contrary to the parent's consent is justifiable. Where parents will do
wrong, notwithstanding any persuasions which we can address to them, we
must not violate the principles of an arrangement which God has himself
made, but must submit patiently to the awful consequences which will in
some cases occur, reflecting that the responsibility for these
consequences is on the head of those who neglect their duty, and that
the being who makes them liable will settle the account.
Whatever, then, the teacher attempts to do beyond the _specific_ and
_defined_ duties which are included among the objects for which he is
employed, must be done _by permission_--by the voluntary consent,
whether tacit or openly expressed, of those by whom he is employed.
This, of course, confines him to what is generally common ground among
his particular employers. In a republican country, where all his patrons
are republican, he may, without impropriety, explain and commend to his
pupils, as occasion may occur, the principles of free governments, and
the blessings which may be expected to flow from them. But it would not
be justifiable for him to do this under a monarchy, or in a community
divided in regard to this subject, because this question does not come
within the objects for the promotion of which his patrons have
associated and employed him, and consequently he has no right, while
continuing their teacher, to go into it without their consent. In the
same manner, an Episcopal teacher, in a private school formed and
supported by Episcopalians, may use and commend forms of prayer, and
explain the various usages of that church, exhibiting their excellence,
and their adaptation to the purposes for which they are intended. He may
properly do this, because, in the case supposed, the patrons of the
school are _united_ on this subject, and their _tacit consent_ may be
supposed to be given. But place the same teacher over a school of
Friends, whose parents dislike forms and ceremonies of every kind in
religion, and his duty would be changed altogether. So, if a Roman
Catholic is intrusted with the instruction of a common district school
in a community composed of many Protestant denominations, it would be
plainly his duty to avoid all influence, direct or indirect, over the
minds of his pupils, except in those religious sentiments and opinions
which are common to himself and all his employers. I repeat the
principle. _He is employed for a specific purpose, and he has no right
to wander from that purpose, except as far as he can go with the common
consent of his employers._
Now the common ground on religious subjects in this country is very
broad. There are, indeed, many principles which are, in my view,
essential parts of Christianity, which are subjects of active discussion
among us. But, setting these aside, there are other principles equally
essential, in regard to which the whole community are agreed; or, at
least, if there is a dissenting minority, it is so small that it is
hardly to be considered. Let us look at some of these principles.
1. Our community is agreed that _there is a God._ There is probably not
a school in our country where the parents of the scholars would not wish
to have the teacher, in his conversation with his pupils, take this for
granted, and allude reverently to that great Being, with the design of
leading them to realize his existence and to feel his authority.
2. Our community are agreed that _we are responsible to God for all our
conduct._ Though some persons absurdly pretend to believe that the Being
who formed this world, if, indeed, they think there is any such Being,
has left it and its inhabitants to themselves, not inspecting their
conduct, and never intending to call them to account, they are too few
among us to need consideration. A difference of opinion on this subject
might embarrass the teacher in France, and in other countries in Europe,
but not here. However negligent men may be in _obeying_ God's commands,
they do almost universally in our country admit in theory the authority
from which they come, and believing this, the parent, even if he is
aware that he himself does not obey these commands, chooses to have his
children taught to respect them. The teacher will thus be acting with
the consent of his employers, in almost any part of our country, in
endeavoring to influence his pupils to perform moral duties, not merely
from worldly motives, nor from mere abstract principles of right and
wrong, but _from regard to the authority of God._
3. The community are agreed, too, in the belief of _the immortality of
the soul._ They believe, almost without exception, that there is a
future state of being to which this is introductory and preparatory, and
almost every father and mother in our country wish to have their
children keep this in mind, and to be influenced by it in all their
4. The community are agreed that _we have a revelation from Heaven._ I
believe there are very few instances where the parents would not be glad
to have the Bible read from time to time, its geographical and
historical meanings illustrated, and its moral lessons brought to bear
upon the hearts and lives of their children. Of course, if the teacher
is so unwise as to make such a privilege, if it were allowed him, the
occasion of exerting an influence upon one side or the other of some
question which divides the community around him, he must expect to
excite jealousy and distrust, and to be excluded from a privilege which
he might otherwise have been permitted freely to enjoy. There may, alas!
be some cases where the use of the Scriptures is altogether forbidden in
school; but probably in almost every such case it would be found that it
is from fear of its perversion to sect or party purposes, and not from
any unwillingness to have the Bible used in the way I have described.
5. The community are agreed, in theory, that _personal attachment to the
Supreme Being is the duty of every human soul;_ and every parent, with
exceptions so few that they are not worth naming, wishes that his
children should cherish that affection, and yield their hearts to its
influence. He is willing, therefore, that the teacher, of course without
interfering with the regular duties for the performance of which he
holds his office, should, from time to time, so speak of this duty, of
God's goodness to men, of his daily protection and his promised favors,
as to awaken, if possible, this attachment in the hearts of his
children. Of course, it is very easy for the teacher, if he is so
disposed, to abuse this privilege also. He can, under pretense of
awakening and cherishing the spirit of piety in the hearts of his
pupils, present the subject in such aspects and relations as to arouse
the sectarian or denominational feelings of some of his employers; but I
believe, if this was honestly and fully avoided, there are few, if any
parents in our country who would not be gratified to have the great
principle of love to God manifest itself in the instructions of the
school-room, and showing itself, by its genuine indications, in the
hearts and conduct of their children.
6. The community are agreed not only in believing that piety consists
primarily in love to God, but that _the life of piety is to be commenced
by penitence for past sins, and forgiveness, in some way or other,
through a Savior._ I am aware that one class of theological writers, in
the heat of controversy, charge the other with believing that Jesus
Christ was nothing more nor less than a teacher of religion, and there
are unquestionably individuals who take this view. But these
individuals are few. There are very few in our community who do not in
some sense look upon Jesus Christ as our _Savior_--our Redeemer; who do
not feel themselves _in some way_ indebted to him for the offer of
pardon. There may be here and there a theological student, or a
contributor to the columns of a polemical magazine, who ranks Jesus
Christ with Moses and with Paul. But the great mass of the fathers and
mothers, of every name and denomination through all the ranks of
society, look up to the Savior of sinners with something at least of the
feeling that he is the object of extraordinary affection and reverence.
I am aware, however, that I am approaching the limit which, in many
parts of our country, ought to bound the religious influence of the
teacher in a public school, and on this subject, as on every other, he
ought to do nothing directly or indirectly which would be displeasing to
those who have intrusted children to his care.
So much ground, it seems, the teacher may occupy, by common consent, in
this country, and it certainly is a great deal. It may be doubted
whether, after all our disputes, there is a country in the world whose
inhabitants have so much in common in regard to religious belief. There
is, perhaps, no country in the world where the teacher may be allowed to
do so much toward leading his pupils to fear God and to obey his
commands, with the cordial consent of parents, as he can here.
[Footnote 3: In speaking of this common ground, and in commenting upon
it, I wish not to be understood that I consider these truths as
comprising all that is essential in Christianity. Very far from it. A
full expression of the Christian faith would go far in advance of all
here presented. We must not confound, however, what is essential to
prepare the way for the forgiveness of sin with what is essential that a
child should understand in order to secure his penitence and
forgiveness. The former is a great deal, the latter very little.]
The ground which I have been laying out is common all over our country;
in particular places there will be even much more that is common. Of
course the teacher, in such cases, will be at much greater liberty. If a
Roman Catholic community establish a school, and appoint a Roman
Catholic teacher, he may properly, in his intercourse with his scholars,
allude, with commendation, to the opinions and practices of that church.
If a college is established by the Methodist denomination, the teacher
of that institution may, of course, explain and enforce there the views
of that society. Each teacher is confined only to _those views which are
common to the founders and supporters of the particular institution to
which he is attached._
I trust the principle which I have been attempting to enforce is fully
before the reader's mind, namely, that moral and religious instruction
in a school being in a great degree extra-official in its nature, must
be carried no farther than the teacher can go with the common consent,
either expressed or implied, of those who have founded, and who support
his school. Of course, if those founders forbid it altogether, they have
a right to do so, and the teacher must submit. The only question that
can justly arise is whether he will remain in such a situation, or go
and seek employment where a door of usefulness, here closed against him,
will be opened. While he remains, he must honestly and fully submit to
the wishes of those in whose hands Providence has placed the ultimate
responsibility of training up the children of his school. It is only for
a partial and specific purpose that they are placed under his care.
The religious reader may inquire why I am so anxious to restrain, rather
than to urge on, the exercise of religious influence in schools. "There
is far too little," some one will say, "instead of too much, and
teachers need to be encouraged and led on in this duty, not to be
restrained from it." There is, indeed, far too little religious
influence exerted in common schools. What I have said has been intended
to prepare the way for an increase of it. My view of it is this:
If teachers do universally confine themselves to the limits which I have
been attempting to define, they may accomplish within these limits a
vast amount of good. By attempting, however, to exceed them, the
confidence of parents is destroyed or weakened, and the door is closed.
In this way, injury to a very great extent has been done in many parts
of our country. Parents are led to associate with the very idea of
religion, indirect and perhaps secret efforts to influence their
children in a way which they themselves would disapprove. They transfer
to the cause of piety itself the dislike which was first awakened by
exceptionable means to promote it; and other teachers, seeing these evil
effects, are deterred from attempting what they might easily have
accomplished. Before, therefore, attempting to enforce the duty and to
explain the methods of exerting religious influence in school, I thought
proper distinctly to state with what restrictions and within what limits
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