Popular Education

Download 0.92 Mb.
Size0.92 Mb.
  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   22
Popular Education

Produced by Jonathan Ingram, Meredith Bach and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive/American Libraries.)

[Transcriber's Note:

The use of ~'s around a word signifies that the word was spaced out in the original l i k e t h i s.]






Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand eight hundred and fifty, by IRA MAYHEW, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the District of Michigan.

State of Michigan:

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, } Lansing, February 27th 1849. }

HON. IRA MAYHEW, Superintendent of Public Instruction:

SIR: I am instructed by the House of Representatives to transmit to you the following preamble and resolution, and to respectfully inform you that the same were this day unanimously adopted by the House.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. W. HOVEY, Clerk of the House of Representatives.

Whereas, In the opinion of this House, a Manual on the subject of Popular Education, embracing such considerations as shall have a tendency to arouse the popular mind to a due appreciation of the importance--in a political, social, moral, and religious point of view--of securing to every child in all our borders a good common school education, together with such instructions to citizens and teachers as shall constitute a directory to the highest improvement of which our primary schools are susceptible, is a desideratum; therefore,

Resolved, by the House of Representatives of the State of Michigan: That the Hon. IRA MAYHEW, the present Superintendent of Public Instruction in this state, be requested to prepare for publication, in book form, the various matters set forth in his public Lectures, delivered by request of the Legislature, in the Hall of the House, during the present session, together with such other matter as, in his judgment, would tend to the further improvement of our system of public instruction; to the end that the necessary information in regard to this subject may be diffused throughout the state and nation.

* * * A Preamble and Resolution similar to the preceding were likewise adopted by the Senate.


Who is sufficient for these things? is a question which any one may well ask when sitting down to the preparation of a treatise on popular education. The author of this work would have shrunk from the undertaking, but from deference to the judgment of the honorable body that unanimously invited its preparation. He has also been encouraged not a little by many kind friends, one of whom, distinguished for his labors in the department of public instruction, writing from New England, says, "I rejoice at your good beginnings at the West. You have a noble and inspiring field of action. 'No pent-up Utica contracts your powers.' I beseech you, fail not to fill it with your glorious educational truth, though you should pour out your spirit and your life to do so."

The duties required by law of the Superintendent of Public Instruction in the State of Michigan are comparatively few. The author, however, five years ago, and soon after entering upon the discharge of those duties, undertook voluntary labors for the purpose of awakening a deeper interest with all classes of the community in behalf of common schools, and of inspiring confidence in their redeeming power, when improved as they may be, constituting, as they do, the only reliable instrumentality for the proper training of the rising generation. These labors, which were hailed as promising great usefulness, and which were prosecuted in every county of the state, were every where received with unexpected favor, and constitute the foundation of the present volume. Many of the subjects then discussed are here greatly amplified.

Among the lectures referred to in the resolution under which this work has been undertaken, was one on the "Michigan School System." But as the Convention for the revision of the Constitution of this state is now in session, it has been deemed advisable to omit, in this connection, the extensive consideration of the details of that system. This may constitute the theme of a small manual which shall hereafter appear.

In the present volume the author has endeavored so to present the subject of popular education, which should have reference to the whole man--the body, the mind, and the heart--and so to unfold its nature, advantages, and claims, as to make it every where acceptable. Nay, more, he would have a good common education considered as the inalienable right of every child in the community, and have it placed first among the necessaries of life. For the better accomplishment of his object, he has freely drawn from the writings of practical educators, his aim being usefulness rather than originality. This course has been adopted, in some instances, for the sole purpose of enforcing the sentiments inculcated by the authority of the names introduced. Acknowledgments have generally been made in the body of the work. These may have been unintentionally omitted in some instances, and especially in those portions of the work which were written several years ago, and the sources whence information was drawn are now unknown.

An examination of the table of contents, and especially of the index at the end of the volume, will show the range of subjects considered, and their adaptation to the wants and necessities, I may say, of the several classes of persons named in the title-page, for whose use it was undertaken. Written, as it has been, for Parents and Teachers, and for Young Persons of both sexes, it is what its title implies--a treatise on Popular Education--and is equally applicable to the wants of families and schools in every portion of our wide-spread country.

With all its imperfections, of which no one can be more sensible than the author, this volume is given to the public, with the hope that it may contribute, in some degree, to advance the work of general education in the United States, but more especially in the State of Michigan.


Monroe, Mich., July 4th, 1850.



In what does a correct Education consist? Page 13


The Importance of Physical Education 28


Physical Education--The Laws of Health 44


The Laws of Health--Philosophy of Respiration 81


The Nature of Intellectual and Moral Education 111


The Education of the Five Senses 146


The Necessity of Moral and Religious Education 193


The Importance of Popular Education 224 Education dissipates the Evils of Ignorance 226 Education increases the Productiveness of Labor 253 Education diminishes Pauperism and Crime 286 Education increases human Happiness 311


Political Necessity of National Education 325 The Practicability of National Education 353


The Means of Universal Education 362 Good School-houses should be provided 372 Well-qualified Teachers should be employed 410 Schools should continue through the Year 440 Every Child should attend School 442 The redeeming Power of Common Schools 454

INDEX. 461




I call that education which embraces the culture of the whole man, with all his faculties--subjecting his senses, his understanding, and his passions to reason, to conscience, and to the evangelical laws of the Christian revelation.--DE FELLENBERG.

From the beginning of human records to the present time, the inferior animals have changed as little as the herbage upon which they feed, or the trees beneath which they find shelter. In one generation, they attain all the perfection of which their nature is susceptible. That Being without whose notice not even a sparrow falls to the ground, has provided for the supply of their wants, and has adapted each to the element in which it moves. To birds he has given a clothing of feathers; and to quadrupeds, of furs, adapted to their latitudes. Where art is requisite in providing food for future want, or in constructing a needful habitation, as in the case of the bee and the beaver, a peculiar aptitude has been bestowed, which, in all the inferior races of animals, has been found adequate to their necessities. The crocodile that issues from its egg in the warm sand, and never sees its parent, becomes, it has been well said, as perfect and as knowing as any crocodile.

Not so with man! "He comes into the world," says an eloquent writer, "the most helpless and dependent of living beings, long to continue so. If deserted by parents at an early age, so that he can learn only what the experience of one life may teach him--as to a few individuals has happened, who yet have attained maturity in woods and deserts--he grows up in some respect inferior to the nobler brutes. Now, as regards many regions of the earth, history exhibits the early human inhabitants in states of ignorance and barbarism, not far removed from this lowest possible grade, which civilized men may shudder to contemplate. But these countries, occupied formerly by straggling hordes of miserable savages, who could scarcely defend themselves against the wild beasts that shared the woods with them, and the inclemencies of the weather, and the consequences of want and fatigue; and who to each other were often more dangerous than any wild beasts, unceasingly warring among themselves, and destroying each other with every species of savage, and even cannibal cruelty--countries so occupied formerly, are now become the abodes of myriads of peaceful, civilized, and friendly men, where the desert and impenetrable forest are changed into cultivated fields, rich gardens, and magnificent cities.

"It is the strong intellect of man, operating with the faculty of language as a means, which has gradually worked this wonderful change. By language, fathers communicated their gathered experience and reflections to their children, and these to succeeding children, with new accumulation; and when, after many generations, the precious store had grown until memory could contain no more, the arts of writing, and then of printing, arose, making language visible and permanent, and enlarging illimitably the repositories of knowledge. Language thus, at the present moment of the world's existence, may be said to bind the whole human race of uncounted millions into one gigantic rational being, whose memory reaches to the beginnings of written records, and retains imperishably the important events that have occurred; whose judgment, analyzing the treasures of memory, has discovered many of the sublime and unchanging laws of nature, and has built on them all the arts of life, and through them, piercing far into futurity, sees clearly many of the events that are to come; and whose eyes, and ears, and observing mind at this moment, in every corner of the earth, are watching and recording new phenomena, for the purpose of still better comprehending the magnificence and beautiful order of creation, and of more worthily adoring its beneficent Author.

"It might be very interesting to show here, in minute detail, how the arts of civilization have progressed in accordance with the gradual increase of man's knowledge of the universe; but it would lead too far from the main subject." The preceding sketch may remind us of the low condition of man in a state of ignorance and barbarism, and of the high condition to which he may be brought by cultivation. We possess a material and an immaterial part, mutually dependent on each other. On one hand, we may well say to corruption, Thou art my father; and to the worm, Thou art my mother and my sister. On the other hand, the Psalmist says of man, Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels.

In the Scriptures we learn the origin and history of man--the subject of education. He was created in the image of his Maker. It was his delightful employment, in innocency, to dress the beautiful garden in which he dwelt. Presently we learn he transgressed. His subsequent career becomes infelicitous. In the earlier history of the human race, the days of his pilgrimage were protracted several hundred years. In process of time, because of the prevalence of sin, a universal deluge swept away the entire family of man, save one--a preacher of righteousness--and those of his household. Subsequently his days were shortened to three score years and ten. Much of this time is consumed in helpless infancy, in sleep, and in securing the necessary means of supporting animal life. This, it would seem, is calamity enough; but not so. Man finds himself beset with temptations on every side, to deepen and perpetuate his degradation, by giving reign to unbridled passion.

But a Light has shined upon his dark pathway, pointing him to a brighter country, and beckoning him thither. Under these adverse circumstances, it becomes the duty of the Educator to unfold the opening energies of his youthful charge; to mold their plastic character, and to assist their efforts in the recovery of that which was lost, and in the attainment of immortality and eternal life.

These are strong views, I am aware; but nothing less would be adequate to the nature and wants of man. In these views I am fully sustained by nearly every writer of any distinction in Europe and America. In a volume of prize essays on the expediency and means of elevating the profession of the educator in society, published in London, under the direction of the central society of education, one of the writers, introducing a quotation from an American author, says, I can not resist the pleasure of quoting a few of Alcott's brief sentences, by way of conclusion to the present division of the argument. The voice that has been sent athwart the Atlantic may find an echo in some British bosoms.

These are its words: "Education includes all those influences and disciplines by which the faculties of man are unfolded and perfected. It is that agency that takes the helpless and pleading infant from the hands of its Creator, and, apprehending its entire nature, tempts it forth, now by austere, and now by kindly influences and disciplines, and thus molds it at last into the image of a perfect man; armed at all points to use the body, nature, and life for its growth and renewal, and to hold dominion over the fluctuating things of the outward. It seeks to realize in the soul the image of the Creator. Its end is a perfect man. Its aim, through every stage of influence, is self-renewal. The body, nature, and life are its instruments and materials. Jesus is its worthiest ideal--Christianity its purest organ. The Gospels are its fullest text-book--genius is its inspiration--holiness its law--temperance its discipline--immortality its reward."

Says Dr. Howe, in a lecture before the American Institute of Instruction, "Education should have for its aim the development and greatest possible perfection of the whole nature of man: his moral, intellectual, and physical nature. My beau ideal of human nature would be a being whose intellectual faculties were active and enlightened; whose moral sentiments were dignified and firm; whose physical formation was healthy and beautiful: whoever falls short of this, in one particular--be it in but the least, beauty and vigor of body--falls short of the standard of perfection. To this standard, I believe, man is approaching; and I believe the time will soon be when specimens of it will not be rare."

The following thoughts are drawn from a treatise on the "Mental Illumination and Moral Improvement of Mankind," by that very judicious and celebrated writer, Dr. Dick, of Scotland. The education of human beings, considered in its most extensive sense, comprehends every thing which is requisite to the cultivation and improvement of the faculties bestowed upon them by the Creator. It ought to embrace every thing that has a tendency to strengthen and invigorate the animal system; to enlighten and expand the understanding; to regulate the feelings and dispositions of the heart; and, in general, to direct the moral powers in such a manner as to render those who are the subjects of instruction happy in themselves, useful members of society, and qualified for entering upon the scenes and employments of a future and more glorious existence.

It is a very common but absurd notion, and one that has been too long acted upon, that the education of youth terminates, or should terminate, about the age of thirteen or fourteen years. Hence, in an article on this subject in one of our encyclopedias, education is defined to be "that series of means by which the human understanding is gradually enlightened, between infancy and the period when we consider ourselves as qualified to take a part in active life, and, ceasing to direct our views to the acquisition of new knowledge or the formation of new habits, are content to act upon the principles we have already acquired."

This definition, though accordant with general opinion and practice, is certainly a very limited and defective view of the subject. In the ordinary mode of our scholastic instruction, education, so far from being finished at the age above stated, can scarcely be said to have commenced. The key of knowledge has indeed been put into the hands of the young; but they have never been taught to unlock the gates to the temple of science, to enter within its portals, to contemplate its treasures, and to feast their minds on the entertainments there provided. Several moral maxims have been impressed on their memories; but they have seldom been taught to appreciate them in all their bearings, or to reduce them to practice in the various and minute ramifications of their conduct. Besides, although every rational means were employed for training the youthful mind till the age above named, no valid reason can be assigned why regular instruction should cease at this early period.

Man is a progressive being; his faculties are capable of an indefinite expansion; the objects to which these faculties may be directed are boundless and infinitely diversified; he is moving onward to an eternal world, and, in the present state, can never expect to grasp the universal system of created objects, or to rise to the highest point of moral excellence. His tuition, therefore, can not be supposed to terminate at any period of his terrestrial existence; and the course of his life ought to be considered as nothing more than the course of his education. When he closes his eyes in death, and bids a last adieu to every thing here below, he passes into a more permanent and expansive state of existence, where his education will likewise be progressive, and where intelligences of a higher order may be his instructors; and the education he received in this transitory scene, if it was properly conducted, will found the ground-work of all his future progressions in knowledge and virtue throughout the succeeding periods of eternity.

There are two very glaring defects which appear in most of our treatises on education. In the first place, the moral tuition of youthful minds, and the grand principles of religion which ought to direct their views and conduct, are either entirely overlooked, or treated of in so vague and general a manner, as to induce a belief that they are considered matters of very inferior moment; and, in the business of teaching, and the superintendence of the young, the moral precepts of Christianity are seldom made to bear with particularity upon every malignant affection that manifests itself, and every minor delinquency that appears in their conduct, or to direct the benevolent affections how to operate in every given circumstance, and in all their intercourses and associations. In the next place, the idea that man is a being destined to an immortal existence, is almost, if not altogether overlooked. Volumes have been written on the best modes of training men for the profession of a soldier, of a naval officer, of a merchant, of a physician, of a lawyer, of a clergyman, and of a statesman; but I know of no treatise on this subject which, in connection with other subordinate aims, has for its grand object to develop that train of instruction which is most appropriate for man considered as a candidate for immortality. This is the more unaccountable, since, in the works alluded to, the eternal destiny of human beings is not called in question, and is sometimes referred to as a general position which can not be denied; yet the means of instruction requisite to guide them in safety to their final destination, and to prepare them for the employments of their everlasting abode, are either overlooked, or referred to in general terms, as if they were unworthy of particular consideration. To admit the doctrine of the immortality of the human soul, and yet to leave out the consideration of it, in a system of mental instruction, is both impious and preposterous, and inconsistent with the principle on which we generally act in other cases, which requires that affairs of the greatest moment should occupy our chief attention. If man is only a transitory inhabitant of this lower world; if he is journeying to another and more important scene of action and enjoyment; if his abode in this higher scene is to be permanent and eternal; and if the course of instruction through which he now passes has an important bearing on his happiness in that state, and his preparation for its enjoyments--if all this be true, then surely every system of education must be glaringly defective which either overlooks or throws into the shade the immortal destination of human beings.

If these sentiments be admitted as just, the education of the young becomes a subject of the highest importance. There can not be an object more interesting to Science, to Religion, and to general Christian society, than the forming of those arrangements, and the establishing of those institutions, which are calculated to train the minds of all to knowledge and moral rectitude, and to guide their steps in the path which leads to a blessed immortality. In this process there is no period in human life that aught to be overlooked. We must commence the work of instruction when the first dawning of reason begins to appear, and continue the process through all the succeeding periods of mortal existence, till the spirit takes its flight to the world unknown.

While we would bring clearly into view the nature of that education which is needful for man, considered as a candidate for immortality, we would by no means overlook those subordinate aims which have reference to his present condition, and the relations he sustains in this life. The two are so intimately connected, and sustain such a reciprocal relation to each other, that each is best secured by that system of training and in the use of those appliances by which the other is most successfully promoted. In training the rising generation for the proper discharge of their duty to themselves and to one another--as children, and subsequently as parents; as members of society and citizens of free and independent states--we at the same time best promote their interests as candidates for immortality. It is equally true that any system of education which omits to provide for man's highest and enduring wants as an immortal being, in a proportionate degree falls short of providing for his dearest interests and best good in this life.

The system of education which we should promote comprehends whatever may have any good influence in developing the mind, by giving direction to thought, or bias the motives of action. To lead infancy in the path of duty, to give direction to an immortal spirit, and to teach it to aspire by well-doing to the rewards of virtue, is the first step of instruction. To youth, education imparts that knowledge whose ways are usefulness and honor, and by due restraint and subordination, makes individual to intwine with public good in a just observance of laws, comprehending the path of duty. To manhood, it "leads him to reflect on the ties that unite him with friends, with kindred, and with the great family of mankind, and makes his bosom glow with social tenderness; it confirms the emotions of sympathy into habitual benevolence, imparts to him the elating delight of rejoicing with those who rejoice, and, if his means are not always adequate to the suggestions of his charity, soothes him at last with the melancholy pleasure of weeping with those who weep." To age, it gives consolation, by remembrance of the past, and anticipation of the future. Wisdom is drawn from experience, to give constancy to virtue; and amid all the vicissitudes of life, it enables him to repose unshaken confidence in that goodness which, by the arrangement of the universe, constantly incites him to perpetual progress in excellence and felicity. Education is the growth and improvement of the mind. Its great object is immediate and prospective happiness. That, then, is the best education which secures to the individual and to the world the greatest amount of permanent happiness, and that the best system which most effectually accomplishes this grand design. How far this is accomplished by the present systems of education is not easily determined, but that it fails in many important considerations can not admit of a doubt.

It is feared that, by a great majority, a wrong estimate is made of education. Is it not generally considered as a means which must be employed to accomplish some other purpose, and consequently made subservient and secondary to the employments of life? Is it not considered as being contained in books, and a certain routine of studies, which, when gone through with, is believed to be accomplished, and consequently laid by, to be used as interest may suggest or convenience demand? Education comprehends all the improvements of the mind from the cradle to the grave. Every man is what education has made him, whether he has drunk deep at the Pierian spring, or sipped at the humblest fountain. The philosopher, whose comprehensive mind can scan the universe, and read and interpret the phenomena of nature; whose heaven-aspiring spirit can soar beyond the boundaries of time, indulge in the anticipation of immortality, and discern in the past, the present, and the future the all-pervading spirit of benevolence, is equally the child of education with him whose soul proud science never taught to feel its wants, and know how little may be known.

As we have already said, man possesses a material and an immaterial part, mutually dependent on each other. These are so intimately connected, and sustain such a reciprocal relation to each other, that neither can be neglected without detriment to both. The body continually modifies the state of the mind, and the mind ever varies the condition of the body. Mental and physical training should, then, go together. That system of instruction which relates exclusively to either, is a partial system, and its fate must be that of a house divided against itself. Education has reference to the whole man. It seeks to make him a complete creature after his kind, giving to both mind and body all the power, all the beauty, and all the perfection of which they are capable.

Our systems of education have hitherto fallen far short of this high and only true standard. Education, in too many instances, has been confined, almost entirely, to either the physical, intellectual, or moral energies of men. With the greater part, it has been limited to the physical powers. No effort has been made to develop any but their bodily strength, animal passions, and instinctive feelings. Accordingly, the great mass of mankind are raised but little above inferior animals. They labor hard, and boast of their strength; gratify their passions, and glory in their shame; eat and drink, sleep and wake, supposing to-morrow will be like the present. They are scarcely aware of their rational, intellectual powers, much less of their ever-expanding and never-dying spirits; consequently they feel but imperfectly their responsibility, and are governed principally by the fear of human authority. They have been taught to fear or reverence nothing higher. Their education is confined to animal feeling--physical energies. They have no conception of any thing beyond. The whole intellectual world, and all hereafter, is narrowed down to the animal feeling of the present time. How erroneous! How badly educated! And what are we to anticipate when only the physical energies of men generally are thus developed? Why, surely, what we are beginning to witness--namely, physical power, trampling on all authority.

The education of others is confined principally to intellect. Not that their physical powers are not necessarily more or less developed, but that their attention is directed almost exclusively to intellectual attainments. From the earliest infancy their minds are taxed, though their bodies are neglected, and their souls forgotten. Nor is it unfrequent that their physical strength gives way under the constant pressure of intellectual studies. And thus they are subjected to all the evils of physical inability--the sufferings of living death, in consequence of an erroneous education. Besides, they are destitute of all those kinder feelings and sympathetic emotions which alone result from the cultivation of the moral susceptibilities, and become insensible to the more delicate affections of the soul, and elevating hopes of the truly virtuous. They have nothing on which to rest for enjoyment but intellectual attainments. And even these are small compared with what they might have been under a different course of education. Yet with what delight are the first developments of intellect discovered by the natural guardian of the infant mind! and with what anxious solicitude are they watched through advancing youth and manhood by those employed in their education. In either stage the development of intellect alone seems worthy of an effort. And yet, when carried to the utmost, what may we expect of one destitute of virtue, and without strength of body? Little to benefit himself or others. Like Columbus, Franklin, or La Place, he may employ his intellect in useful discoveries; or, like Hume, Voltaire, and Paine, to curse the world. In either case he may lead astray, and should never be trusted implicitly. As the bark on the ocean without compass or chart, that rides out the storm or sinks to the bottom, he may guide us in safety, or ruin us forever!

The education of others, again, is confined mostly to their moral energies. Those of the body are almost forgotten, only as nature forces their development upon the reluctant soul within. And those of intellect are deemed unworthy of a thought, except as necessary in the rudest stages of society; while the moral susceptibilities are cultivated to the utmost. They are brought into action in every situation. They are employed in private, in the social circle, and around the public altar. Nor are those employing them ever satisfied. They become fanatics--religious enthusiasts. They have zeal without knowledge, and seem resolved on bringing all to their standard. They enlist in the work all the sympathies of the soul--its tenderest sensibilities and most compassionate feelings. Without intellect to guide, and physical strength to sustain them, they sink under moral excitement, and become deranged: a result that might be anticipated from such an education; and one that is often developed, in some of its milder features, among the reformers of the day. Nor may you reason with them. Reckless of consequences and regardless of authority, they are not to be convinced or persuaded. They are right, and know they are right, for the plain reason that they know nothing else, and will not be diverted from their course. What degradation! Who would not shrink from such an education? the development of the moral energies merely? It never qualified men for the highest attainment--the utmost dignity of which they are susceptible.

Diversified as are the developments of human character, and dissimilar as they may appear to the careless observer, there are peculiar characteristics of men that render them similar to one another, and unlike every other being. In their natures, original susceptibilities, and ultimate destinies, they are alike. They are material, intellectual, and spiritual; animal, rational, and immortal. On these uniform traits of character education should be based. It should develop and strengthen the animal functions; classify and improve the rational faculties; and purify and elevate the spiritual affections in harmonious proportion and perfect symmetry.

The animal functions of the human system are to be developed and strengthened by education. Hitherto they have been assigned to the province of nature, and deemed foreign to the objects of education. But a more unphilosophical and dangerous theory has seldom been embraced, as the melancholy results abundantly testify. We shall therefore devote a chapter to physical education, which seems to lie at the foundation of the great work of human improvement; for, as we have seen, in the present state the mind can manifest itself only through the body; after which we shall proceed to the consideration of the other grand divisions of the great work of education.

Download 0.92 Mb.

Share with your friends:
  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   22

The database is protected by copyright ©sckool.org 2022
send message

    Main page