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years, are not to be rejected nor lightly esteemed. They are a precious inheritance; but he who contents himself in idleness and ease, and neglects to put his inheritance to usury, will find that his riches are little better than shadows.
But there are other departments of study, in which the value of our acquisitions depends almost entirely upon the action of our own minds; and it is upon these branches that we depend, in a great degree, for intellectual growth. Here, then, I would apply most rigidly the rule — Never do for a pupil what he is capable of doing for himself.
Passive instruction is always attended with danger to the mental habits of pupils. A happy faculty of explaining and illustrating the principles of a lesson, is an exceedingly valuable gift; but it is a gift that is often exercised to the detriment of learners.
Whatever instruction we do attempt to impart orally, should be given in such a manner that it will not fail to find a lodgment in the mind of the pupil. It is not sufficient to illustrate principles by examples and then leave them. They may even be understood at the time, and yet not fully possessed. The learner must go through the process himself, to be sure he is master of it.
Five boys of a class had failed to solve a difficult example in their lesson. The teacher went to the black-board, and explained very carefully the manner in which the work was to be performed. He then turned to the pupils, and requested those that understood the explanation to manifest it. The five hands were all promptly raised. “ Well," said the teacher, removing his work from the board, "you may all perform it now on your slates.” The effort was made, but the result showed that only two of the five were able to perform the task. The others were perhaps right in saying that they understood the work, as the teacher explained it, step by step, on the board; but it was quite another thing to do it.
In our efforts to cultivate habits of self-reliance on the part of our pupils, one of the best and most feasible measures to which we can resort, is the practice of introducing frequent written reviews. Several topics are written distinctly on the blackboard, and the pupils are required to expand them as fully and accurately as possible. Each pupil is seated by himself, and furnished with pen and paper; but receives no assistance, direct or indirect, from either teacher or text-book. This mode of examining a class, accomplishes at least three highly important objects at the same time. It affords a thorough test of the pupil's knowledge of the subject; it is one of the best methods of cultivating freedom and accuracy in the use of language; and, what is of still more value in the discipline of the pupil's mind is, it throws him back upon himself.
There are too many teachers who seem to regard it as their chief business to exercise and develope their own minds, instead of attending to the minds of their pupils. There are teachers who even manage to sustain a very good degree of popularity in school and in the community, by a display of themselves. “ What stores of knowledge he possesses," says one. “ How beautiful his illustrations," says another. Such knowledge may serve for exhibition, but it will prove of little value in after-life. The pupil whose attainments at school are but the echo of what his teacher has learned, will be sure to become one of that large class of citizens whose opinions and actions are always governed by those who have the independence to think and act for themselves.
The theory of most teachers is better than their practice. It is easier to teach facts than principles; and easier to teach principles than to form correct habits of reasoning, and judging, and originating. Hence the constant and inevitable tendency is to fall
away from our own standard of duty. It is not enough for us to believe in the abstract, that the mere acquisition of knowledge is of little value compared with the formation of correct mental habits. We must impress this sentiment upon the minds and hearts of our pupils and of their parents. We must feel it and live it ourselves; and we must require our pupils to feel and live it also.
Let me say, in conclusion, it is all-important that we study the mental processes of our pupils. It is only by a careful analysis of the inward working of the pupil's mind, that we can learn how to adapt our instructions to his real wants. And let us also devote ourselves faithfully and constantly to the cultivation and improvement of our own mental habits, lest, while we attempt to guide others in the right way, we ourselves should be found wanting.
THE SCHOOL SYSTEM OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK.
BY JOSEPH MCKEEN,
OF NEW YORK CITY.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the American
Institute of Instruction : I PROPOSE to offer some remarks on the School System of the State of New York. This State, from its early settlement, its position, its numbers, and from various other causes, has in recent years attracted as much attention as any in the confederacy. Its school system, so far as it is a combined or consolidated system, has been often ill understood, and often misrepresented, both by friend and foe; the one considering it the best and the most liberal, and the other the worst and most arbitrary ever devised or established in a free country. I
propose to examine it under several aspects.
1. As seen at a distance.
2. Trace its History from the first school established in the state to this day.
3. Give some account of its School Fund, and means of support and growth.
4. Show what have been the impression and experience of those who have been working its machinery.
5. View it prospectively.
1. The perspective. It appears from a distance like a symmetrical colossal pyramid, with a broad base of the Tuscan order, with twelve thousand foundation stones; these representing the District Schools; unadorned columns, whose bases are on a level with the common path. It is accessible in thousands of places equally to all. This pyramid is graduated up by several successive steps to a considerable height; and then one large step is taken, and a new platform is superimposed of a richer and more polished material. The superstructure now rises, supported by two hundred and four Doric columns, which may represent the Academies, occupying many steps in the ascent. Then again comes a new platform, on which stand twelve columns of Corinthian beauty, representing the twelve Colleges of the State, crowned in excelsior, as one glorious edifice, one university, under twenty-one Regents, who dispense under the eye of the Superintendent, and the Governor of the State, reproofs or degrees in honor, as the case may require. The daguerreotype of this pyramid is beautiful. As seen in the morning