« AnteriorContinuar »
seminary. By this arrangement the seminarists have only one principal object in view at once, which with all men, except those gifted with extraordinary genius, is the only way of rising above mediocrity in any branch of knowledge and its applications. Besides this, the latter arrangement offers another important advantage: the seminarists are not appointed to the management of schools at too early an age. As they enter the seminary on the completion of the sixteenth year, their instruction, if it be only a two-years' course, is terminated at the completion of the eighteenth year, which is reasonably considered to be an age at which it would not be prudent to intrust to them the management of a school. At this time of life one or two years make a great difference in maturing the mind and giving it more steadiness and judgment. It is true that, according to the laws, the seminarists are not to be employed as schoolmasters immediately on leaving the seminary; but as the number of individuals trained in the seminaries for the instruction of the lower classes is not yet quite equal to the demand, up to this moment they have generally entered a school as teachers immediately on leaving the seminary, and consequently are no longer under such strict superintendence as persons of that age ought to be. Whenever the term in the seminaries lasts three years, they commonly complete their twentieth year before they are employed in this manner.
This term of three years, as already mentioned, is divided between two objects-the completion of their own knowledge, and the acquisition of the means of imparting it to children. The first forms their principal if not their exclusive occupation during the
first two years of their stay in the seminary, and the last year is appropriated to the attainment of the art of teaching.
In most of the Prussian seminaries, and in all the larger ones, the seminarists are divided into two or three classes for the sake of instruction. But in the smaller seminaries they are all instructed in one class, which is the case in the seminary at Königsberg. But it is intended that such arrangements shall shortly be made, that the seminarists shall be divided into two classes, because it is evident that this arrangement will greatly promote their progress. For this reason we cannot lay before the reader a complete scheme of instruction arranged according to the classes; and we must limit our observations to the different subjects taught in the seminaries, to the extent to which they are carried, and to the mode in which they are taught. Though religion forms one of the principal parts of education, it is not instruction in religious dogmas which is principally kept in view; for it is reasonably supposed that persons who have completed their sixteenth year of age, and have previously had the best kind of education. which can be obtained in the elementary schools, must be acquainted with these dogmas. But it is not thought sufficient for a teacher to know them and to understand their meaning and import. He must be able to explain them to others, to apply them to practical life, and to exhibit religious feelings in his own conduct and behaviour. With this view the first object is to excite and maintain religious feelings in his mind, and to confirm his religious habits. It is attempted to effect this partly by instruction and advice, partly by the mode of life established in the seminary, and by reading regular prayers,
There are very many useful purposes to which a set of black boards like these may be applied, all of which the circumstances of the school and the matured judgment of the experienced teacher will point out to him. He may also, with advantage to his pupils, adopt the monitorial system in cases of reviewing a lesson which has been already recited to himself in geography, spelling, and in the more simple and mechanical parts of knowledge, as has been already remarked.
But we do not feel willing to say to any, Adopt the system of mutual instruction in full, since it is the very best that has been ever devised." For we should then
be saying what we cannot bring ourselves to believe. What then is the course, or the system, which, as a whole, may be safely and advantageously introduced into our schools? We will briefly explain our views on this subject, and then bring our remarks to a close. In the first place, we believe that the most beneficial course which can be followed, is, that the number of scholars in our public schools should be lessened, or that the number of teachers should be increased. Of the two alternatives we should prefer the latter, and have come to the belief that a method somewhat similar to that recently adopted for the management of the Boston public schools would prove satisfactory and beneficial. That is to say, in the regular organization of a school we would give, as assistants to the principal teacher, one or two or more adults, and as many younger assistants as the exigencies of the school would require. These latter should be persons who had been regularly through the whole course of instruction in the same school in which they were appointed to teach, and under the tuition of the same teacher whose helps they were ap
pointed to be. If we were to take our choice between half a dozen of such young teachers, and one or even two ushers, we should infinitely prefer the former, even at a greater expense. But that they may be obtained at a less is unquestionably true; and of their becoming very competent and skilful we have not the least doubt, particularly if kept in employ for three or four successive years. Such persons, by thus serving an apprenticeship at the business of instruction, in the positive necessity of which we have the fullest belief, would become infinitely better qualified for the profession than any of our young men, fresh and green from the embrace of Alma Mater. We would be understood as meaning that they should pursue a systematic course of instruction and of study, aside from their regular and daily service as teachers, and that these studies should be directed with a view to the particular situation in which they might be expected to teach. Such an experiment has been made, and has resulted in entire success; and we can see no reason why the method might not be adopted in every school in the country.
We had intended to say something upon the comparative efficacy of the system of mutual instruction when applied to our common schools, academies, and high schools, and when to our colleges; and to show, that, in our belief, less danger and difficulty are to be apprehended in the latter than in the former application of it. But we feel that we have already trespassed too far upon your time and patience. That some immediate and thorough reform, in these high seasons of reform, is loudly demanded for our common schools, we must all be persuaded. What method of reform shall prove at once the most expedient, the most expeditious, and
the most salutary, can, we are persuaded, be best determined by the united wisdom and experience of the assembled instructors of the country. The present is a most propitious opportunity for the discussion of the entire subject. That this may be but the commencement of a long-continued series of numerous, of useful, and of harmonious "gatherings of ourselves together " is our ardent wish; and that they may result in the rapid improvement of each and of every establishment in which we are engaged, and in the wide diffusion of the blessings of universal education, is our most fervent petition.