Page images
PDF
EPUB

Theoretically, we begin with what is oldest and farthest from us to explain all that follows in the course of time, but practically, in learning and in teaching, begin with what is nearest and best known and work back to what is less and less familiar.

As an illustration of what I mean by studying a fact historically, take the plural of the word foot. The boy or the girl learns in the elementary school that the plural of foot is feet and accepts it as an ultimate, inexplicable fact. But the man or woman in the College or University may ask why the plural is feet and not foots. I am afraid there are some very learned teachers of Latin and Greek who could not answer, except with a growl about the lawlessness of the English language. However it is explicable. Going back twelve hundred years, we find our present form fót, fét. Here seems to be an end of our search. But we can go further; for looking into the Old xon, the language as spoken by our forefathers in their old home on the Elbe before they settled in England, we find a plural in i, fóti. But it is a known law, holding good in all the Teutonic dialects, except the Gothic, that a or o is changed into e through the influence of i in the following syllable, hence fóti became féti. After a time, this final i, the true sign of the plural, was dropped, and then the modified e was considered the sign of the plural. This Umlaut is itself an ultimate fact, like gravitation in Physics, inexplicable in the present state of our knowledge. Whatever help to a right understanding of the constructions and inflections of modern English may be obtained from comparing them with the forms and laws of the Latin language, it is clear that vastly greater help may be obtained from studying them in the light of their own history.

The second instrument of fruitful study is comparison. This opens a vast field for investigation ; for we must compare our English tongue with all the cognate Aryan languages; but especially with German, Dutch, Danish, Icelandic, Gothic, -all the Teutonic tongues, old and new,-and with those languages with which it has come into contact during its long and wide-reaching history. English, the grandest language in the history of humanity, has the most extended affinities and historical connections.

As an example of an English form that can be explained only by comparison with a cognate dialect, take ed the sign of the past tense. No clue to the origin of this termination can be found in the English of any period. Our knowledge of Latin and Greek is again useless. In this case the Gothic will help us to the true explanation ; for it is simply a redu. plicated perfect of the verb do, did. Hence the Old English lufode is merely I love did, that is, I did love.

Thus studying English in its historical development and comparing it at every point with the languages with which it is connected by kinship or by contact, the student sees language in every form in which an Aryan tongue can appear, and may learn every important truth of linguistic science. Having learned English in this way and gotten a knowledge of French and German as collateral helps, the student will enjoy the best fruits of learning languages ;- ;-a liberal culture, a critical knowledge of his mother-tongue, an intelligent insight into the laws of language, and a key to what is best, usefulest, and most inspiring in literature.

But to learn the language in its living power, it is necessary to study it in its literature. The language is the body, the literature is its soul, they can be rightly understood only by studying them together. In a course of higher instruction in English, grammars, rhetorics, and histories of literature, are useful only for reference. It would be hard to invent a course of study more useless than that which fills the mind of the student with barren dates and facts in the lives of our great writers and with the opinions of other men about their works.

The student must go directly to the literature and study its master-pieces in their original forms-with the very spelling and punctuation of the authors. Study each work in the most thorough way; study every part, every sentence, every line, every word ; study every allusion, every illu stration, every figure; study every thought, every opinion, every argument; study every fact in the author's life, every fact in the history of h is time, that will help in any way to an understanding and appreciation of the work. No book of extracts should be used. A work of genius must be studied as a whole. If you can give but a few days to a writer, study some entire short work in preference to using extracts from larger works. A student will get far more profit out of Milton's Lycidas studied in this way, than from going through Paradise Lost, in the ordinary way.

Take a play of SHAKSPERE—what an instrument for the highest culture! How rich the rewards of diligent labor in this mine! What more inspiring thing is possible for a human mind than to be brought so near to the foremost mind of all this world's history? I am not disposed to undervalue the grand literatures of Greece and Rome; they mark the highest tide of human thought in the Old-World civilization; and yet, in their combined worth, they are out-valued by SHAKSPERE alone—without counting in the worth of CHAUCER, LANGLAND, SPENSER, Bacon, Hooker, Milton, POPE, WORDSWORTH, Tennyson-may the roll stretch out “to the crack of doom ?” How unwise in us in our anxiety to teach our children the languages of PLATO and CICERO, to leave them in ignorance of the language of their own forefathers! I trust the time will speedily come when no man or woman who is unable to read at sight a page of English of any age from ALFRED to Victoria will be considered liberally educated, whatever else he or she may know.

Certainly much has been done in the last ten years to encourage us. In the time of RICHARD the Second, in 1385, English was admitted into English schools as a teaching medium; the close of our century will witness its full admission into English and American schools as a teaching subject. The future historian will record the significant fact that in our age the boys and girls of England and America were for the first time instructed carefully in the great classics of their mother-tongue—that they knew Chaucer and SHAKSPERE and Bacon as the boys and girls of Greece knew Homer and SOPHOCLES and Plato.

Greek itself was admitted, as a subject of study, into the English Universities in the sixteenth century, only after a long and fierce battle between the Greeks and the Trojans of that day. “There were many then who from various points of view echoed the sentiment expressed by the Duke of Norfolk in 1540: I never read the Scripture,” said that adherent of the departing age, nor never will read it. It was merry in England before the new learning came up; yea, I would all things were as hath been in times past.Who could laugh at these words of a strangely-troubled spirit? Rather one might weep over them ; there is a certain pathos in the helpless embarrassment and despair they reflect; but one can see they were not wise, provident words; one can not regret that the

new learning came up." But not altogether unlike is the sentiment sometimes. heard in these days of like unsettlement and transition."

The old Duke of Norfolk is the prototype of many living men; from an undefined dread of the New, they cling to the Old, in helpless, despairing bewilderment. As the world spins swiftly down the grooves of change, they become dizzy and sigh for rest. They smile at the narrowmindedness of conservatives in other ages, but fail to see the same weakness in themselves.

“Surely the wise course now is,” says Mr. Hales, “not to set our faces against the incoming studies, but to do our best to regulate and order their admission. Let us give these strangers a judicious welcome. Let us frankly and generously examine what recommendations they have to advance for themselves. Let us banish utterly and forever from our minds the notion of finality in education. Let us recognize that all our efforts are but tentative, and that we are yet an immeasurable distance, not only from absolute perfection, but from that degree of perfection which is attainable. May it not be indeed that we are at present in an extremelyrudimentary stage of advancement in this momentous respect ?—that the question of education is yet in its veriest infancy? Perhaps we are yet at the very foot of the mountain, and have not really commenced the ascent, Not odder, it may be, in our eyes is the educational system of the Middle Ages than our present system will be according to the decisions of posterity. These possibilities should surely make us, not reckless revolutionists, but thoughtful, considerate reformers. The changes that are now making will in their turn perhaps be modified or superseded. There is no such thing as an educational canon which closes and is complete.”

Our King Arthur, the Spirit of the Age, commands us to fling far into the middle mere ” the brand Excalibur, the marvellously-wrought Greek tongue. Let us not, like the bold Sir BEDIVERE, clouded with our own conceits, betray our king, but while rem

membering the wonders of the brand and admiring its hast twinkling

“ with diamond sparks, Myriads of topaz-lights, and jacinth-work

Of subtlest jewelry,"
strongly wheel and throw it."

The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways,

Lest one good custom should corrupt the world."
The rising glories of the new era far outshine the splendors of the past.

“Then from the dawn it seem'd there came, but faint
As from beyond the limit of the world,
Like the last echo born of a great cry,
Sounds, as if some fair city were one voice
Around a king returning from his wars.

let us

Thereat once more he moved about, and clomb
E'en to the highest he could climb, and saw,
Straining his eyes beneath an arch of hand,
Or thought he saw, the speck that bare the king,
Down that long water opening on the deep
Somewhere far off, pass on and on,
From less to less and vanish into light.
And the new sun rose bringing the new year."

and go

"The Association adjourned until 8 o'clock P. M.

EVENING SESSION, WEDNESDAY, AUG. 15th, 1877. The Association was called to order at 8 o'clock, and the exercises were opened with music by Eichorn's Orchestra.

The Committee on visiting Mammoth Cave announced that the party would start Thursday night at 12 o'clock.

The Committee on nomination of officers to serve during the ensuing year reported as follows:

For President:-John HANCOCK, of Ohio.
For First Vice President:-H. A. M. HENDERSON, of Kentucky.

For Vice Presidents:–E. S. Joynes, Tenn.; Alex. Hogg, Texas; I. W ANDREWS, 0.; EDWARD Brooks, Pa.; G. A. CHASE, Ky.; R. D. SHANNON, Mo.; J. W. Hoyt, Wis.; S. S. GREENE, R. I.; J. H. SMART, Ind.; JAMES CRUIKSHANK, N. Y.; J. C. CORBIN, Ark.

For Secretary:~W. D. HENKLE, 0.
For Treasurer :-J. ORMOND Wilson, Washington, D. C.

Counsellors at Large :-John Eatox, Washington, D. C.; M. A. NEWELL, Maryland.

Counsellors :-C. C. Rounds, Me.; D. B. Hagar, Mass.; Mrs. M, A. STONE, Conn.; Mrs. Emma W. CRAIN, N. Y.; Miss GEORGIANA VAN AKIN, N. J.; W. H. G. ADNEY, Pa.; Thos. R. PRICE, Va.; C. K. NELSON, Md.; W. K. PENDLETON, W. Va.; John R. SAMPSON, N. C.; Wm. R. GARRETT, Tenn.; LEMUEL Moss, Ind.; J. L. PICKARD, III.; E. H. Cook, Ohio; C. Y. LACY, Minn.; A. ARMSTRONG, Iowa ; G. W. HILL, Ark.; J. A. RAINWATER, Miss.; Rufus C. BURLESox, Texas ; S. R. THOMPsox, Neb.; J. M. HARLEY, Indian Territory; Z. RICHARDS, Washington, D. C.; S. S. Laws, Mo.; W. H. BARTHOLOMEW, Kentucky. The following dispatch was received and read by Hon. J. ORMOND Wilsox:

WASHINGTON, D. C., Aug. 15, 1877. Hon. J. ORMOND Wilsox, Hall Educational Association, Louisville, Ky.

Impossible for me to leave. Please explain for me about International Congress.

JOHN EATON. A song was sung by Miss FRIEDENHEIM, of Louisville.

Prof. MAURICE KIRBY, of Henderson, Ky., was introduced and read the following address :

THE STUDY OF SOCIAL ECONOMY IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS. [This Address has not as yet been received. If received it will be published in another place. For page see Table of Contents.]

Music by Eichorn's Orchestra.

After some announcements by the President, Prof. W. R. GARRETT, of Nashville, Tenn., was introduced and read the following:

THE LIMITS OF EDUCATION. VR. PRESIDENT:

I shall not attempt to define or enumerate the limits of Edıxation; certainly, not to present any detailed curriculum of study in either the higher or lower departments; but, viewing the subject in a more general manner, I shall endeavor to point out the necessity of recognizing those limits which the character of our people and the nature of our institutions prescribe to Education in this country. Let us confine our attention chiefly to two of these limits. 1st, The limit of public sentiment may be considered as “the limit of demand," or "the subjective limit.” 2nd, The limit of instruction may be called “the limit of supply,” or “the objective limit.”

Before entering on this discussion, two other limits demand brief notice -brief, not because they lack in importance, but because all that could be said would be readily anticipated. These are: 1st, The pecuniary limit, or the limit of expense, and 2nd, the limit of time.

It is no new complaint among educators that the means at their command are inadequate to the work to be accomplished. The stringency of the times has greatly increased this difficulty, reaching private institutions by a diminution oi their patronage, and public institutions by a reduction of appropriations, and the application of the pruning knife. While much might be said to argue that this ought not to be the case, or to maintain that it will be temporary, it is none the less a present fact, a law to educators, and a limit to education. Not less imperative is the limit of time. * Parents and pupils cannot be induced to allot to education, either in number of years, or in their consecutive order, the time which instructors claim to be essential to a complete system. low far to obey this law, how far to resist it, or how to overcome the difficulty by a judicious location of the essential branches in the course of study presents to the teacher one, among his many difficult practical problems. In a country so wide in extent as ours, and differing so widely in soil, climate, and occupation, this question becomes local, and cannot be treated as a whole. In higher and endowed institutions, these limits of time and expense are to some extent in the hands of educators; yet even here learners begrudge the time consumed even more than the expense, and concessions must be made to their impatience and necessities. In common schools, these limits are entirely beyond the educator's control. In neither case, can they be ignored in devising an efficient, and useful system, and one within the reach of those who need it.

We come now to consider "the limit of public sentiment.” This limit may be called subjective, because it looks to the character and wants of the pupil, and the effects produced on his mind. It is also the limit of

« PreviousContinue »