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Every school comprising pupils old enough to read should have its library, small it may be, yet large enough to contain some of our chief American classics. Even when provision for libraries cannot be made from the school fund, the efforts of the teachers and pupils, if aided by the superintendents, will secure them. The selection of books for the school library should be made by the superintendent, or, at any rate, should be subject to his approval. In the Houston high school, in Texas, an admirable little library has been gathered, mainly by the efforts of the students of the school, directed by the teachers and superintendent. It has been found an excellent plan there to allow students, not otherwise occupied, to devote their time to reading some book from the library. The privilege thus accorded has not only raised the tone of the mental life of the school, but also, proved a useful aid in discipline.
III. The superintendent, aiding the faithful teacher, may do much to foster the habit in pupils of reading good books at home.
If the school does its work well, it gives to the pupil far more than a mere mechanical knowledge of the art of reading : it implants in him the love of reading. All poetry, all eloquence, all history, all philosophy are open to him who has formed the love of reading and the habit of reading wisely. Was not Fénelon right when exclaimed, “If all the wealth of both the Indies and the crowns of all the throned heads in Europe were laid at my feet, in exchange for my love of reading, I would spurn them all ” ?
I have made no allusion to the use of supplementary readers in diffusing good literature in the schools. Their use meets to some extent the demands of this growing spirit. But more is needed. The reading of the masters in thought and style can not long be relegated to a secondary place in the real American university-the common school. Nor have I mentioned the occasional devices adopted to promote acquaintance with good literature, such as the excellent custom of commemorating the birthdays of our most famous literary men by appropriate exercises, and the memorizing of short selections with the names and dates of the authors. I do not underrate the value of such exercises, but I would enter my protest against the claim of such exercises to be a worthy substitute for the continuous reading and study of the works which have shed on this life of ours whatever of sweetness and light it possesses.
IV. The superintendent, in licensing teachers, should require adequate knowledge of literature, especially of our own literature, as a condition of granting certificates.
No man or woman possesses the true spirit of teaching who is not imbued, to some extent at least, with the love of good literature. The children should “drink from a living stream, not from a shallow and stagnant pool!”
These are some of the ways in which, it seems to me, the superintendent may promote the use of good literature in the schools. If ne be himself a lover of good literature, his success will be certain, and his reward passing sweet. For good literature is “the blossom and fragrance of all human knowledge, thought, emotions, passions, and language." From this source come the noblest and highest enjoyment, and the ripest and finest culture.
Superintendent Dougherty, of Peoria, opened the discussion.
Literature is the efflorescence and fruitage of all human thought. But for Homer, Troy and all her heroes would long since have been forgotten; Greece and Rome derived their chief glory from their philosophers and orators; the brightest era in English history derives greater lustre from the literature of Spenser, Shakespeare, and Bacon than from the martial and civil triumphs of Elizabeth. Literature, therefore, has claims that no intelligent being can afford to disregard. Natural development depends upon proper food. The superintendent must have a care that the school points the proper way to the pupil; that it guides his choice of books; that it secures the proper results of his reading. He must see that the school makes it a part of its definite work to mould this side of the pupil's intellectual growth as that of any other side. Good books may be read in a manner to confuse the young mind, and an inordinate amount of good reading may deaden perception. Against these dangers the superintendent must provide. Renan and Arnold say Americans read more than any other people, but are lacking in intelligence, while Carlyle says: “ The l'nited States has succeeded in producing more bores in a given number of years than any other people that has ever existed." By intelligence they mean open-mindedness, free-mindedness, ability to see the beauties that lie around us. Americans lack these, they say. Is the criticism just? If so, how are we to correct this fault. An acquaintance with the best thoughts in literature is suggested. Let us not simply read what is best, but make ourselves familiar with it. He who is thoroughly acquainted with Shakespeare or Emerson will have a wonderful access of that intelligence which may be defined open-mindedness. But to secure this intelligence, a long acquaintance with the author is necessary. We must learn to love the poet before we can understand him. A great book is as rare as the most heroic type of man, and is much less easily recognized. The few which the world has accepted as really great are the ones with which we should seek to have our pupils become familiar.
Let us give our pupils intelligence in its fine sense. Let us banish the idea that knowledge is simply a means to get money. Let us teach that great scholars and authors are far above the men of money; that it is best to have a cultivated mind, though you be a beggar forever.
impress upon our pupils that England is more in our thoughts, hopes, and loves, for her Shakespeare, and Milton, and Wordsworth, and Gladstone, than for all her cotton manufacturies and foundries. So doing we shall have prepared them for the highest citizenship.
Supt. Solomon Palmer, of Alabama.* I have been in this city two whole days trying to take in this Association in its vast numbers, various departments, and wonderful exhibit, devoting all my spare moments to trying, but in vain, to get my return ticket stamped, so I might see more of the school exhibit in the exposition building so creditable to the schools of America. This effort has been too great for one coming from the genial clime of a gulf State to this sultry city, and the result is that I am sick this afternoon, so feeble that I can scarcely stand; but for this fact I would take pleasure in discussing the admirable paper just read by Mr. Hancock. I will, however, say that I was well pleased with the paper and endorse it heartily in its entirety. The subject of school supervision is important, yes, of vital importance to the public school system of the United States. It is this supervision that serves as a connecting link, a bond of union, between the school and the source from which financial support is derived. Without supervision we cannot long hope to have the support and hearty co-operation of the State, the county, or school district which supplies the money. Supervision in a sparsely settled country like ours, is desirable to secure efficiency in school management and instruction; without it we would have but little progress in developing and perfecting our school system.
In Alabama, unlike most States, the county superintendent is appointed by the state superintendent, and the township su perintendent by the county superintendent. This is not very democratic, but works very well, as the whole responsibility is lodged in the state superintendent. He endeavors to select men who will not only work in harmony with himself, but who will labor to make his administration a success by improving the condition of the public schools. It is to be regretted that the salaries paid county superintendents are so small that they can devote but little time to the visitation of the schools. I hope in the near future this evil will be remedied, and the county superintendent required to devote his whole time to securing greater efficiency in the public schools of his county. I am glad to be able to say there is no disposition among our people, as in some States, to dispense with the services of a county superintendent, without which no school system in this country can be complete. I regret the absence of Dr. Buchanan. If present, I know he would give you a valuable speech on this important subject.
President Young, when introducing Mrs. Rickoff, said: “She has done more than any other woman in the world to introduce good literature into our schools.”
• Reported by the secretary.
Mrs. Rickoff. Books provide us companionship for hours of loneliness, solace for pain and sorrow, and—if they are of the right stuff-stimulus and encouragement for our most refining and uplifting activities, and are often the inspiration to our noblest deeds. Such books are in the mind when one thinks of literature.
Literature, as distinguished from other subjects of school study, may then be said to be that which deals with the affairs of life, and as such becomes a prime factor in moral education.
When we recollect that, of the multitudes of children who enter our schools each year, a very large majority leave school at the age of twelve or thirteen years, it is borne in upon us with wonderful force how doubly important are all questions relating to the lower schools, and especially this one that has so great a bearing upon the formation of character.
Object lessons and oral teaching open gates for the inflow and the outflow of original thought; strength-giving discipline comes from the application and individual effort that some studies require; and manual training is a saving help in the growth of character, but that which is, and will be, the most fascinating, all-pervading, and far-reaching influence on the character development of the young is the literature they read.
Of the thousands of children who leave school so early, to earn their living as they must, how few will spend their small leisure in continuing their school studies ? But how many of them will sit up late at night, and hide away in corners in the day time, to devour stories of wild adventure and romance ? And of these stories, how many contain high ideals, grand and true lessons in living? And of these unfortunate young readers, how many have their brains stimulated far beyond natural and healthful development, and their tastes vitiated ?
A child's reading needs to be on the plane of his ability to comprehend what is read, and this ability is limited by the circle that represents his general development, with a very large allowance for the out-puttings his imagination may make beyond this limiting circle. And it is just here, I think, that a serious mistike is often made in the selection of reading matter for children.
The now well-thumbed theory which represents the development of a child's mind by the circles of yearly growth of a tree may be improved upon. Have you ever taken a chip from a beech tree stump and noticed how easily the layers may be broken apart? It is not so with a child's mind. From each circle of his growth go out innumerable little feelers, eagerly seeking for more knowledge and binding all into a solid whole; and the food given to these feelers determines the character of the new growth and modifies the whole.
The out-puttings of a child's imagination correspond to a very large number of these feelers; and therefore, while a child should be given