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First Day's Proceedings.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 14, 1877.
The Normal Department was called to order by the President, Louis SOLDAN, of the St. Louis Normal School. S. H. WHITE, of Illinois, was chosen Vice-President, and GRACE C. BIBB, Secretary.
The President then read the following address:
In the apparent maze of heavenly bodies and in their restless gyrations the Greeks believed to have discovered such beautiful unity and harmony, that they imagined that the celestial orbs moved in the rhythmical flow of music: All was motion and melody, the greater and the lesser lights mingled their full voices in the Music of the Spheres.
In the seemingly conflicting elements of our social life, in the collisions of different interests, in the competition for commercial supremacy, in the struggle for political power, the thinking mind can see more than dissonance or discord. It can trace in these conflicts the working of an imperious power which crushes the struggle of the particular, when it resists the general law, and compels all things to move in accord with their universal truth. The collisions between individuality and rationality, between particular interests and the general good are never ending and never doubtful in their result. Out of dissolved discords arises harmony of greater beauty and through the din of collisions and conflicts we may hear the harmonious music of the spheres of social life.
The particular interest can find its existence only in the agreement with its universal.--Normal School interests are subordinate to General Education; education again is but one of the many elements of social life and is dependent on the latter, as the particular is on the universal. The study of the rational elements of society will reveal the tasks of education and the existence or non-existence of the necessity of modification and change. Not that education should be naught but a reflection of the social aspect of the day, or should follow in its footsteps wherever it moves. For in social life the irrational element appears prominent at times, and education that would conform with it would in itself become irrational and transitory. Nor will what unfolds itself as the truth, the rationale of society to-day be the truth of the future, since relative truth is progressive and changes with the varied hues of its object. Society hides her true face by assuming a Protean variety of forms, ever changing in time and space.
If social happiness consisted in having an abundant supply of all the necessaries of life, the development of commerce and industry of our century would seem to tend toward a reign of universal bliss. By the aid of machinery an incredible amount of creative work is accomplished and the net result of fifty years of machine labor may equal that of five hundred of former eras. The necessities of life, clothing, the materials for shelter and building, and the various articles of comfort are produced in superabundant quantities by comparatively little manual labor; Nature has showered upon us her full blessings in the richest crops which our fields have ever borne. And yet, instead of a reign of universal comfort and satisfaction, poverty begins to show her pale face in the streets of our cities and workingmen and laborers suffer want in forced idleness. Political economists have invented a name for the cause of this abnormal state and call it the consequence of over-production; but to assign superabundance of the products of industry as the cause of want is about as rational as to find in exuberance of crops a cause for famine.
No matter what the cause is, the fact of prevailing need and want is on record. These have led ill-advised masses to the crimes of riot and bloodshed and peaceful citizens had to shoulder the musket once more to protect their homes against an incendiary mob. Millions of property have been destroyed and a deep mark has been burned into the historical tablet of the day to remind the world, that while riots can and must be suppressed, there is a social problem connected with these scenes which cannot be cancelled except by being solved.
It would be as absurd to suppose that education can solve a problem of this magnitude single-handed, as to imagine that it can be dealt with without the aid of education. Education is certainly not the panacea for every possible social affliction, but, at the same time, it is by no means so impotent as some of its supercilious enemies have supposed. As it is one of the great instrumentalities of the state, although not the only one, the question arises, in how far can education aid in the solution of the social problem?
Investigation and experience must furnish the answer to this question in future, but the possibility of such an aid on the part of education can be demonstrated. For it cannot be doubted that among the causes of riot and bloodshed, ignorance is prominent. It is a significant fact that in scenes of violence and destruction the ignorant and illiterate furnish the principal actors. Let education do away with illiteracy and ignorance and such scenes will become less and less possible. Only ignorance can imagine a remedy against poverty in the destruction of wealth.
Education, besides enhancing the productive power of the individual, and thus assisting him in gaining the means of living, gives him greater adaptability to different avenues of life. When over-production has closed the doors of one pursuit, intelligence will open another.
It needed not the voice of violence to remind education of these problems, for it has been attempting for several years to help its pupils in the labor-struggle of life by embodying in school-systems studies of industrial importance and by founding agricultural and technological schools. Industrial drawing which is useful in every pursuit of life forms part of the
course of study in most of the city schools of the country. The necessity for the training of the hand besides that of the mind and heart has found ample recognition.
The Kindergarten in the way in which its idea has been received and carried out is another indication of this tendency. Aside from the general human culture which this institution gives by means of its objects, toys, games, and occupations, it trains the young eye by careful lessons on form and color and a great deal of manual skill and inventive power are acquired. Hence the industrial movement has taken the Kindergarten idea under its wings, recognizing, I fear, but one side of its significance.
Normal Schools should follow the delicate changes that are going on in education or rather inaugurate them themselves, by observing popular needs and rational demands, or, when any change has found its way into the common school, adjust their own work and make it harmonious with those institutions for which they educate the teachers. For the strength of Normal Schools lies in their close connection with the common school, which makes them not a luxury as some of the young statesmen of last year's growth opined, but a necessity without which the best interests of education would go to wreck and ruin in the hands of make-shift teachers. Normal Schools should keep in sympathy with the wants of the time, and not be slow in adopting and carrying out in practice what is rational and good.
Hence the problems which present themselves to Normal Schools in this respect are: "In how far shall the young teachers be prepared in regard to Art and Industrial Education"? and "In how far is the education of Kindergarten-Teachers to be considered by Normal Schools"?
Without attempting to answer these questions, it may be said that, aside from the value of drawing as an industrial study, there is no branch of learning that is able to add so much to the teacher's power of explanation, and to clearness of presentation, as the art of drawing; and that as far as the Kindergarten is concerned, a study of its system and methods is feasible even in Normal Schools that are not connected with a Kindergarten.
If thus the demands of the time are apt to crowd new requirements into the already more than well-filled course of study of the Normal School, the question arises as to what studies are to give way when work of a new order is required. In hardly any other class of schools is there such a variance in regard to the selection of studies, as exists in Normal Schools. What some consider essential studies is regarded as superfluous by others. While in the opinion of some, Normal Schools should teach professional studies exclusively, others hold that they should be academies or colleges for teachers, considering both professional and culture studies. The difficulty in one direction would lie in the question whether, if a Normal School has many culture studies, the distinctive character of the school, as a special school is not interfered with by its transition to the form of an institution for general culture. Some of the exhibits of Normal Schools at the Centennial seemed to point that way.
It may be asserted, on the other hand, that the exclusion of all but professional studies from Normal Schools, would make the time of the course shorter than desirable and than necessary for an important part of the
work: the formation of teacherlike habits. These require time and the shorter a course of study the less deep will habits take root. It would be a meritorious undertaking to examine into the question, as to what studies are strictly essential in schools of this kind. The briefest expression for the necessary work would perhaps be: Anthropology and Didactics. The discussion of the subject "Should Normal Schools be Exclusively Professional Schools?" which is on to-day's programme will no doubt give consideration to this important question. At any rate, it seems reasonable to demand to have the professional studies made the most prominent ones and all others second to them. In this connection the question as to whether the common school studies should form part of Normal-School Work should be mentioned. A paper on this subject by Prof. Greenough of the R. I. State Normal School will be read before this department to
Education is not merely an art which may be acquired by imitation or routine work and long-continued practice in the school-room, but also a science in which experience combined with a knowledge of the permanent psychical, physical, and ethical conditions of man have led to definite and abiding principles. Education as a science is the corner-stone of all pedagogical progress; for by it we can rise on the stepping-stones of experience above the stand-points of the past. We can continue the educational work of our predecessors instead of being obliged to begin at the beginning again. The Science of education is the treasury which contains the thoughts of the wisest minds that have enlightened the earth.
For the establishment of Pedagogics as a science, the founding of educational departments in connection with colleges is of the greatest importance. A good beginning has been made, but it is rather to be hoped than to be expected that at some future time no leading college will be without a chair of didactics. The need of it is evident. A considerable number of college students devote themselves to teaching, and these should not be left without a knowledge of the first principles of their occupation. Education is too earnest a subject for the experimental vigor of the novice who lacks both pedagogical practice and science. I regret that Prof. FELLows whose experience on this subject is well known is prevented by sickness from presenting the paper which was placed on the programme of to-morrow.
As Normal Schools are interested in the education of teachers, they are also concerned in the teacher's social standing. For on it depends in a measure the class of applicants that presents itself for admission to the profession. The general commercial depression and the prostration of business interests have, of course, exercised their influence on the administration of school systems. Retrenchments became necessary and following the decline of wages in general, the salaries of teachers have been reduced almost everywhere. It is perhaps of little use now to discuss the question whether recourse to this means was wise or necessary, considering the fact that educational work is poorly paid at the very best. In almost every other occupation there are at least some instances in which an individual has risen to wealth or at least to a competency by honest effort and persistence. Where is such an instance on record in the pro
fession of the teacher? It seems that a calling that is not benefited by the rise of the commercial wave which brings treasures to all should neither be affected by the financial ebb. It appears a rather hard fate to place a profession in such a position that no change can bring it financial gain but any change may bring it financial loss.
It would not be worth while to speak of this matter if it merely affected the teacher personally, but, as it is, it touches also educational interests in general. For where the remuneration is hardly more than enough to pay for the necessaries of life, any reduction will lead to the curtailing of such expenses as are useful but not indispensable. And I dare say that the effect of any considerable reduction of salaries will show itself in the smaller number of books purchased, the materially decreased attendance of educational meetings, and the like by which the educational interests of the country are indirectly the losers. When the appliances and the apparatus of self-culture are placed beyond the reach of the teacher the schools are bound to suffer.
Another way in which the spirit of retrenchment has manifested itself, and in this direction I do not hesitate to say manifested itself in a way that is detrimental to the best interests of education, is the attack which Normal Schools have had to sustain in several of the States during the past year.
It will not be necessary to dwell on this at present, as we may expect a paper on this subject from Mr. C. C. ROUNDS, Principal of the State N. S. of Farmington, Maine. I beg leave, however, to point out one of the fallacies in the tirade against Normal Schools. I refer to the argument which opposes these institutions on the ground that they are an unnecessary expense to the State.
Absolute monarchy can exist without Education, arbitrary despotism cannot exist with it. Free institutions can find reliable security in universal education only.
States with their many centrifugal elements can be held together by but two factors: by the brutal force of armed power or by the intelligent will and free consent of their citizens. A free state governed by a popular vote that is not guided by intelligence will become the prey of audacious usurpers. In republics especially, universal education is not a matter of choice which may be voted "up or down" by local caprice, but it is the corner stone of national existence. Education and intelligence are dangerous in a country of slaves; their absence or their decline is pernicious in a country of freemen. Here a blow at education does not merely hurt the school or the teacher, but strikes at the very basis of democratic institutions. Take away this element and the free political structure is shattered; State and society will totter and sink into chaos. Unintelligent force is not creative but destructive whether it is found in nature or in the unbridled passions of the multitude. There is no institution of the modern state which can be stunted and despoiled without all the others being crippled or destroyed. State and society, school and family are the vital organs of modern existence. Wherever the blow falls it will touch the springs of life. To slight education is not to benefit but to injure the state.
It is very true that education swallows taxes, but it also helps to pro