Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

pose of seeing it in relation to the mental processes it involves. To be sure, the time required for the professional view of it will be less if the general school shall have done well the work it has undertaken. But we may still question if there has not been loss of time and energy in divorcing these two aspects of the subject in time and attention. The school for general culture emphasizes the product of the mental act; that is, the knowledge. It takes no notice, or at best, gives only incidental attention to the act which with its attending conditions makes the acquisition. The normal school is not less careful that the knowledge shall be acquired, but it makes the process which results in the acquisition the chief object of attention and emphasis. If this last element in the process is, as has been held, peculiar to the normal school, if it is also necessary to the teacher's knowledge of the subject, and not important when general educational ends are sought, what valid reason can be assigned for separating in time what is denoted the academic study of the subject from its professional phases? It is true that the teacher's view of the subject involves deeper reflection and a higher degree of abstraction and self-consciousness, and the subject, as knowledge, may be studied at an earlier age than the subject as process; but this distinction disappears when the student is ready to enter the normal school.

This supposition will bring us face to face with the question: A young man of eighteen is a graduate of a good high school or academy. He wishes to devote the next five years to making the most thorough preparation possible for the work of teaching. Recognizing the necessity for a liberal scholarship and also for a sound professional training, he is unable to decide whether to give four years to an academic course in the college, and follow this by a year's strictly professional training in a normal school, or elsewhere; or to spend the full five years in a normal school, whose curriculum covers, substantially, the range of academic work given in a college, and in addition carries along with this a line of distinctively professional instruction. Let the terms of the comparison be clearly understood. The standard for admission to the normal school is equal to that for admission to the college. If this does not represent the actual situation, it in nowise atfects the argument. The instructors in the one are equal in ability, scholarship, experience, and skill, to those in the other. What shall be the young man's choice? These considerations, to my thinking, will require him to give the five years to the normal-school course.

First: The normal school will put an emphasis and stress on the organization of the subject, whatever it may be, that the general school, as a rule, attaches less importance to. We may admit, indeed we must assert, that for the highest ends of general education, the method in the subject, the inherent logical order or disposition of the subject-matter, should be considered and mastered. The general school may give this; it should give it. The normal school must give it. It is constrained by its function and purpose to make this a prominent subject of study. It is necessary to any intelligent teaching

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

of the subject; but general education may accomplish its object in a fair degree without this.

Second: In a normal school every subject is to be taught as an illustration and exemplification of the doctrines of education and method, which are the exclusive subject of study in the strictly professional subjects of the course. The doctrines set forth in pure psychology, ethics, methods or applied psychology, philosophy of education, and pure philosophy, find in the every-day instruction in the academic phase of the normal-school work complete illustration and exemplification. No other procedure affords as this does the opportunity to make each phase of the work strengthen and reënforce the other. It is economical of time and energy, and moreover, must result in a view of the subject that would otherwise be acquired with difficulty.

Third: To study an academic subject in the atmosphere created by the presence of a large number of persons pursuing the same end, is itself a reënforcement of the individual's own power. This rests on a well-known fact of mind. Two children in the kindergarten, if set to work together, will display a great deal more invention than would be shown in the combined results of separate and individual work.

Fourth: In the normal school the student puts himself into the attitude of the teacher while studying a given subject. He assumes a teacher's mental attitude toward everything he takes up. He is thus led to consider every subject as an educational agency or instrument. He reflects on its value as means of acquiring useful knowledge, knowledge to be turned to account in the after-life of the student; he weighs the subject in respect of its worth in the more strictly disciplinary view as fitted to strengthen, develop, and invigorate the mental faculties; he thinks of its ethical value as suited to open to the student some phase of society or the rational world he lives in. It is one of the chief aims of instruction in an academic subject in the normal school to lead the student to a mastery of it as an educational instrument or means.

Fifth: But perhaps the strongest reason for pursuing the academic subjects, so-called, in the normal school, and in immediate connection with the exclusively professional subjects is, that the conditions then exist, as under no other circumstances, for the analysis and study of the mental processes employed in mastering them. Next to a knowledge of the subject matter in the purely academic view, this is the most important element of a teacher's preparation for teaching the subject. It lies at the foundation of any scientific procedure in the school-room. If it is attempted to acquire this professional view of the subject some months or years after the academic work has been done, there is required a rethinking of a field of subject-matter which has faded more or less out of the memory, and is wanting in that freshness and clearness characterizing it at the time of acquisition. In addition, it may be claimed that the strongest logical association which knowledge has, is with the processes which acquired it; and it may be doubted, therefore, if a purely academic study of any subject ever results in the definite, clear and comprehensive understanding that is given by adding to this the reflective consideration of the processes involved.

The considerations adduced lead to the opinion that the normal-school must enlarge its course to cover the academic field required by the teachers whom it educates, and that it must treat these subjects persistently in the light of the educational doctrine it holds and teaches.

The limits set to this address preclude any treatment of the normal-school curriculum in its purely professional phase. It is enough to say that this must include a thoroughly reflective study of pure mind, mind in its application or method, science of education, and finally, of pure philosophy, which, as furnishing a rational theory of the world and of human life, gives the ultimate ground on which all educational doctrine rests.

EDUCATIONAL IDEAS IN DICKENS'S NOVELS.

F. LOUIS SOLDAN, ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI.

Hans Makart attempted in one of his paintings to express the general idea that pervades the works of Raphael. His painting shows a group of but three persons. There is the portrait of Raphael himself, pencil in hand, his eye intently fixed on the face and form of a young mother, who draws with gentle hand the veil from the face of her beautiful child which is slumbering in the cradle.

It is not difficult to understand the symbolism of Makart's group. The central idea of Raphael's art is, to unveil to the world the Divine in motherhood and childhood. Through the hand of the artist the genius within proclaims to the world without the divine mystery revealed in that human relationship. Raphael's work is the apotheosis of motherhood and childhood; it is this theme which shines from his greatest paintings.

The unveiling of the Divine in things human was the object of Dickens's noveli :tic art. He differs in this essentially from the other great novel-writers

His aim was not, to introduce the reader to the circles of high lite, and to open to him in story drawing-room doors closed to him in reality; his aim was not, to revive the romantic age of knight and crusader; it was not, to propose psychological puzzles and to unravel them in finely-woven plots of fiction. No; his eye dwelt with never-fading interest on the events of common-place life and every-day characters. Not the heights, but the depths of human existence formed the theme of his art. The warehouse, the counting-room, the street and the gutter supply him with heroes, with godlike men and women whose noble qualities ray out all the more strongly for the dark background of folly, sin and vice against which their images are thrown.

of his age.

The great novelist shows a tendency toward grotesqueness and exaggeration in drawing characters and relating events; but even this strong bias cannot diminish in the reader the feelings of reverence and sympathy when he sees Divine traits appear in the thoughts and actions of the humblest and lowliest of men. The sensation of the ludicrous, for instance, which the broadly grotesque farce of the adventures of Mr. Pickwick arouses in the reader is more and more overshadowed by the powerful pathos of the hero's actions. The Divine element appears when the hero forgets insult and injury and lifts up his down-trodden foe, poor Jingle, from misery and hopeless despair, concealing to others his benevolence with anxious care. Strong human foibles and absurdities become amiable weaknesses in a life consisting of the unpretending exercise of good-will toward all. The hero's life ennobles his surroundings. The grotesque is forgotten when in it a grandly noble soul unfolds itself. Neither Job Trotter nor Sam Weller can be justly accused of sentimentalism or hyperbole, but even they see distinctly the Divine element appear in the grotesque character whom they admire. When Mr. Pickwick had helped Job's master in his darkest hour, he had touched the soul of the scamp in the ‘one unselfish sentiment which it contained: in his devotion to his master and friend. Speaking of Mr. Pickwick, Job says: “I could serve that gentleman till I fell down dead at his feet.”

‘No one serves him but I,' answered Sam. “I never heard, mind you, nor read of in story books, nor see in picters, any angel in tights and gaiters -not even in spectacles as I remember, though that may ha' been done for anythin' I know to the contrairey - but mark my words, Job Trotter, he's a regular thoroughbred angel for all that; and let me see the man as wentures to tell me he knows a better vun.'”

The grand theme of Dickens, the unveiling of the Divine in the lowliest forms of human life, can be traced in many if not all of his writings. In “Oliver Twist,” in the “Old Curiosity Shop,” in “ Bleak House,” in “ Barnaby Rudge,” it is shown that even an atmosphere of corruption, sin and crime, cannot always stifle the divine essence of the human soul.

He turned to the delineation of childhood in novel after novel with ever new delight. It was suffering, abused, downtrodden childhood, however, which had a fascination for him. It was there that he could show best that man might grow into a true image of the Divine in spite of circumstances of misery and poverty, of corrupt surroundings, of stinted, misguided, or tyrannical education. There are pictures of child-life, of educational folly or wisdom in nearly every one of his great novels, and it is ever the tender and loving task of our author to reveal the Divine in the child-soul, and to show that innate nobility dwells in the humblest and lowliest of the little world. Oliver Twist, brought up in coruption and crime, trained to be a thief, keeps his soul unsullied. Paul Dombey, brought up in selfishness, never knowing the loving care of a mother, remains a sweet and loving child. Strong manhood grows into being, in cases where there is a total absence of formal education.

[ocr errors]

Sam Weller, in his humble station, is a sharp-witted, intelligent, and honest lad; but — what was his education ? Here is his father's account of it, with Sam's commentary:

Wery glad to hear it, sir,' replied the old man; ‘I took a good deal of pains with his education, sir ; let him run in the streets when he was very young

and shift for his self. It's the only way to make a boy sharp, sir.' “Rather a dangerous process, I should imagine,' said Mr. Pickwick, with a smile.

“And not a very sure one neither,' added Mr. Weller jr.”

While Dickens has delineated child-life more fully and more frequently than any other novelist, yet we should in vain look for a theory of education or for positive educational principles. He is negative in the literary means which he employs, and uses exaggeration, caricature, irony and satire everywhere. Educational shams and follies are his subjects, not ideals of education. Happy child-life, good schools and good teachers have no place in his works. They lie outside of the self-appointed task of our novelist. He intended to correct sins of education and to remedy social evils by the force of strongly overdrawn description, which was sure to move, if not shoek, public sentiment. He never tells how education should proceed, but gives numerous examples of ways in which children should not be brought up. Yet, from his negative statements, from the follies and crimes which he scourges, we may infer the educational plan which he considers good and wise. Notwithstanding this tendency to exaggeration in his descriptions, there is a sufficiently close resemblance to reality to let the caricature at once suggest the image from which it is drawn. When Dickens described, in “Nicholas Nickleby,” the revolting scenes of Dotheboys Hall, a number of Yorkshire school-masters took offense and threatened the author with personal vengeance, each of them claiming that Squeers was intended for his own libelous portrait.

Dickens looked upon childhood with tender sympathy, and it had a peculiar attraction for him. It left him the widest scope for the employment of his favorite literary means, humor and pathos. There is hardly any of his works without some child-character or some thoughts on education. In some novels, as in “Oliver Twist,” he makes the child the principal person in the book. In “Dombey & Son,” Paul is the real hero; and when he passes away the interest dies out. The fascination of helpless, trustful, simple, artless childhood is so strong, that Dickens tried to perpetuate these qualities, in some of the lives which he describes, beyond the limits of childhood. This led him to create some unique characters, in which he tries how the attributes of childhood will fit the adult hero or heroine of the novel. Little Dorrit shows the delicate sweetness and simplicity of the child blended with the strong character of womanhood.

While other artists see the sublime in what is strong and grand, Dickens finds it in the small, insignificant, and lowly. He turns constantly to the

« PreviousContinue »