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The Teacher by Jacob Abbott

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* * * * *








With Engravings.


Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand eight
hundred and fifty-six, by


in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Southern District of
New York.


This book is intended to detail, in a familiar and practical manner, a
system of arrangements for the organization and management of a school,
based on the employment, so far as is practicable, of _Moral
Influences_, as a means of effecting the objects in view. Its design is,
not to bring forward new theories or new plans, but to develop and
explain, and to carry out to their practical applications such
principles as, among all skillful and experienced teachers, are
generally admitted and acted upon. Of course it is not designed for the
skillful and experienced themselves, but it is intended to embody what
they already know, and to present it in a practical form for the use of
those who are beginning the work, and who wish to avail themselves of
the experience which others have acquired.

Although moral influences are the chief foundations on which the power
of the teacher over the minds and hearts of his pupils is, according to
this treatise, to rest, still it must not be imagined that the system
here recommended is one of persuasion. It is a system of
authority--supreme and unlimited authority--a point essential in all
plans for the supervision of the young; but it is authority secured and
maintained as far as possible by moral measures. There will be no
dispute about the propriety of making the most of this class of means.
Whatever difference of opinion there may be on the question whether
physical force is necessary at all, every one will agree that, if ever
employed, it must be only as a last resort, and that no teacher ought to
make war upon the body, unless it is proved that he can not conquer
through the medium of the mind.

In regard to the anecdotes and narratives which are very freely
introduced to illustrate principles in this work, the writer ought to
state that, though they are all substantially true--that is, all except
those which are expressly introduced as mere suppositions, he has not
hesitated to alter very freely, for obvious reasons, the unimportant
circumstances connected with them. He has endeavored thus to destroy the
personality of the narratives without injuring or altering their moral

From the very nature of our employment, and of the circumstances under
which the preparation for it must be made, it is plain that, of the many
thousands who are in the United States annually entering the work, a
very large majority must depend for all their knowledge of the art,
except what they acquire from their own observation and experience, on
what they can obtain from books. It is desirable that the class of works
from which such knowledge can be obtained should be increased. Some
excellent and highly useful specimens have already appeared, and very
many more would be eagerly read by teachers, if properly prepared. It is
essential, however, that they should be written by experienced
teachers, who have for some years been actively engaged and specially
interested in the work; that they should be written in a very practical
and familiar style, and that they should exhibit principles which are
unquestionably true, and generally admitted by good teachers, and not
the new theories peculiar to the writer himself. In a word, utility and
practical effect should be the only aim.


Source of enjoyment in teaching.--The boy and the steam-engine.--His
contrivance.--His pleasure, and the source of it.--Firing at the
mark.--Plan of clearing the galleries in the British House of
Commons.--Pleasure of experimenting, and exercising intellectual and
moral power.--The indifferent and inactive teacher.--His subsequent
experiments; means of awakening interest.--Offenses of pupils.
--Different ways of regarding them.

Teaching really attended with peculiar trials and difficulties.--1.
Moral responsibility for the conduct of pupils.--2. Multiplicity of the
objects of attention.

Objects to be aimed at in the general arrangements.--Systematizing the
teacher's work.--Necessity of having only one thing to attend to at a

1. Whispering and leaving seats.--An experiment.--Method of regulating
this.--Introduction of the new plan.--Difficulties.--Dialogue with
pupils.--Study-card.--Construction and use.
2. Mending pens.--Unnecessary trouble from this source.--Degree of
importance to be attached to good pens.--Plan for providing them.
3. Answering questions.--Evils.--Each pupil's fair proportion of
time.--Questions about lessons.--When the teacher should refuse to
answer them.--Rendering assistance.--When to be refused.
4. Hearing recitations.--Regular arrangement of
them.--Punctuality.--Plan and schedule.--General exercises.--Subjects to
be attended to at them.

General arrangements of government.--Power to be delegated to
pupils.--Gardiner Lyceum.--Its government.--The trial.--Real republican
government impracticable in schools.--Delegated power.--Experiment with
the writing-books.--Quarrel about the nail.--Offices for
pupils.--Cautions.--Danger of insubordination.--New plans to be
introduced gradually.

The three important branches.--The objects which are really most
important.--Advanced scholars.--Examination of school and scholars at
the outset.--Acting on numbers.--Extent to which it may be
carried.--Recitation and Instruction.

1. Recitation.--Its object.--Importance of a thorough examination of the
class.--Various modes.--Perfect regularity and order necessary.
--Example.--Story of the pencils.--Time wasted by too minute an
attention to individuals.--Example.--Answers given simultaneously to
save time.--Excuses.--Dangers in simultaneous recitation.--Means of
avoiding them.--Advantages of this mode.--Examples.--Written answers.
2. Instruction.--Means of exciting
interest.--Variety.--Examples.--Showing the connection between the
studies of school and the business of life.--Example from the
controversy between general and state governments.--Mode of illustrating
it.--Proper way of meeting difficulties.--Leading pupils to surmount
them.--True way to encourage the young to meet difficulties.--The boy
and the wheel-barrow.--Difficult examples in arithmetic.

Proper way of rendering assistance.--(1.) Simply analyzing intricate
subjects.--Dialogue on longitude.--(2.) Making previous truths perfectly
familiar.--Experiment with the multiplication table.--Latin Grammar

3. General cautions.--Doing work _for_ the scholar.--Dullness.--Interest
in _all_ the pupils.--Making all alike.--Faults of pupils.--The
teacher's own mental habits.--False pretensions.

First impressions.--Story.--Danger of devoting too much attention to
individual instances.--The profane boy.--Case described.--Confession of
the boys.--Success.--The untidy desk.--Measures in consequence.
--Interesting the scholars in the good order of the school.--Securing a
majority.--Example.--Reports about the desks.--The new College
building.--Modes of interesting the boys.--The irregular class.--Two
ways of remedying the evil.--Boys' love of system and regularity.
--Object of securing a majority, and particular means of doing
it.--Making school pleasant.--Discipline should generally be
private.--In all cases that are brought before the school, public
opinion in the teacher's favor should be secured.--Story of the
rescue.--Feelings of displeasure against what is wrong.--The teacher
under moral obligation, and governed, himself, by law.--Description of
the _Moral Exercise_.--Prejudice.--The scholars' written remarks, and
the teacher's comments.--The spider.--List of subjects.--Anonymous
writing.--Specimens.--Marks of a bad scholar.--Consequences of being
behindhand.--New scholars.--A satirical spirit.--Variety.

Treatment of individual offenders.--Ascertaining who they are.--Studying
their characters.--Securing their personal attachment.--Asking
assistance.--The whistle.--Open, frank dealing.--Example.--Dialogue with
James.--Communications in writing.

The American mechanic at Paris.--A Congregational teacher among
Quakers.--Parents have the ultimate right to decide how their children
shall be educated.

Agreement in religious opinion in this country.--Principle which is to
guide the teacher on this subject.--Limits and restrictions to religious
influence in school.--Religious truths which are generally admitted in
this country.--The existence of God.--Human responsibility.--Immortality
of the soul.--A revelation.--Nature of piety.--Salvation by
Christ.--Teacher to do nothing on this subject but what he may do by the
common consent of his employers.--Reasons for explaining distinctly
these limits.

Particular measures proposed.--Opening exercises.--Prayer.--Singing.
--Direct instruction.--Mode of giving it.--Example; arrangement of the
Epistles in the New Testament.--Dialogue.--Another example; scene in the
woods.--Cautions.--Affected simplicity of language.--Evils of
it.--Minute details.--Example; motives to study.--Dialogue.--Mingling
religious influence with the direct discipline of the school.--Fallacious
indications of piety.--Sincerity of the teacher.

Reason for inserting the description.--Advantage of visiting schools,
and of reading descriptions of them.--Addressed to a new scholar.--Her
personal duty.--Study-card.--Rule.--But one rule.--Cases when this rule
maybe waived.--1. At the direction of teachers.--2. On extraordinary
emergencies.--Reasons for the rule.--Anecdote.--Punishments.--Incidents

2. Order of daily exercises.--Opening of the school.--Schedules.--Hours
of study and recess.--General exercises.--Business.--Examples.--Sections.

3. Instruction and supervision of
pupils.--Classes.--Organization.--Sections.--Duties of superintendents.

4. Officers.--Design in appointing them.--Their names and
duties.--Example of the operation of the system.

5. The court.--Its plan and design.--A trial described.

6. Religious instruction.--Principles inculcated.--Measures.--Religious
exercises in school.--Meeting on Saturday afternoon.--Concluding

Time lost upon fruitless schemes.--Proper province of ingenuity and
enterprise.--Cautions.--Case supposed.--The spelling class; an
experiment with it; its success and its consequences.--System of
literary institutions in this country.--Directions to a young teacher on
the subject of forming new plans.--New institutions; new
schoolbooks.--Ingenuity and enterprise very useful, within proper
limits.--Ways of making known new plans.--Periodicals.--Family
newspapers.--Teachers' meetings.

Rights of committees, trustees, or patrons, in the control of the
school.--Principle which ought to govern.--Case supposed.--Extent to
which the teacher is bound by the wishes of his employers.

Plan of the chapter.--Hats and bonnets.--Injury to clothes.--Mistakes which
are not censurable.--Tardiness; plan for punishing it.--Helen's
lesson.--Firmness in measures united with mildness of manner.--Insincere
confession: scene in a class.--Court.--Trial of a case.--Teacher's
personal character.--The way to elevate the character of the
employment.--Six hours only to be devoted to school.--The chestnut
burr.--Scene in the wood.--Dialogue in school.--An experiment.--Series
of lessons in writing.--The correspondence.--Two kinds of
management.--Plan of weekly reports.--The shopping exercise.
--Example.--Artifices in recitations.--Keeping resolution notes of
teacher's lecture.--Topics.--Plan and illustration of the exercise.
--Introduction of music.--Tabu.--Mental analysis.--Scene in a class.

Embarrassments of young teachers in first entering upon their
duties.--Preliminary information to be acquired in respect to the
school.--Visits to the parents.--Making acquaintance with the
scholars.--Opening the school.--Mode of setting the scholars at work on
the first day.--No sudden changes to be made.--Misconduct.--Mode of
disposing of the cases of it.--Conclusion.




A most singular contrariety of opinion prevails in the community in
regard to the _pleasantness_ of the business of teaching. Some teachers
go to their daily task merely upon compulsion; they regard it as
intolerable drudgery. Others love the work: they hover around the
school-room as long as they can, and never cease to think, and seldom to
talk, of their delightful labors.

Unfortunately, there are too many of the former class, and the first
object which, in this work, I shall attempt to accomplish, is to show my
readers, especially those who have been accustomed to look upon the
business of teaching as a weary and heartless toil, how it happens that
it is, in any case, so pleasant. The human mind is always essentially
the same. That which is tedious and joyless to one, will be so to
another, if pursued in the same way, and under the same circumstances.
And teaching, if it is pleasant, animating, and exciting to one, may be
so to all.

I am met, however, at the outset, in my effort to show why it is that
teaching is ever a pleasant work, by the want of a name for a certain
faculty or capacity of the human mind, through which most of the
enjoyment of teaching finds its avenue. Every mind is so constituted as
to take a positive pleasure in the exercise of ingenuity in adapting
means to an end, and in watching the operation of them--in accomplishing
by the intervention of instruments what we could not accomplish
without--in devising (when we see an object to be effected which is too
great for our _direct_ and _immediate_ power) and setting at work some
_instrumentality_ which may be sufficient to accomplish it.

[Illustration: Steam Engine]

It is said that when the steam-engine was first put into operation,
such was the imperfection of the machinery, that a boy was necessarily
stationed at it to open and shut alternately the cock by which the steam
was now admitted and now shut out from the cylinder. One such boy, after
patiently doing his work for many days, contrived to connect this
stop-cock with some of the moving parts of the engine by a wire, in such
a manner that the engine itself did the work which had been intrusted to
him; and after seeing that the whole business would go regularly
forward, he left the wire in charge, and went away to play.

Such is the story. Now if it is true, how much pleasure the boy must
have experienced in devising and witnessing the successful operation of
his scheme. I do not mean the pleasure of relieving himself from a dull
and wearisome duty; I do not mean the pleasure of anticipated play; but
I mean the strong interest he must have taken in _contriving and
executing his plan_. When, wearied out with his dull, monotonous work,
he first noticed those movements of the machinery which he thought
adapted to his purpose, and the plan flashed into his mind, how must his
eye have brightened, and how quick must the weary listlessness of his
employment have vanished. While he was maturing his plan and carrying it
into execution--while adjusting his wires, fitting them to the exact
length and to the exact position--and especially when, at last, he began
to watch the first successful operation of his contrivance, he must have
enjoyed a pleasure which very few even of the joyous sports of childhood
could have supplied.

It is not, however, exactly the pleasure of exercising _ingenuity in
contrivance_ that I refer to here; for the teacher has not, after all, a
great deal of absolute _contriving_ to do, or, rather, his _principal
business_ is not contriving. The greatest and most permanent source of
pleasure to the boy, in such a case as I have described, is his feeling
that he is accomplishing a great effect by a slight effort of his own;
the feeling of _power_; acting through the _intervention of
instrumentality_, so as to multiply his power. So great would be this
satisfaction, that he would almost wish to have some other similar work
assigned him, that he might have another opportunity to contrive some
plan for its easy accomplishment.

Looking at an object to be accomplished, or an evil to be remedied, then
studying its nature and extent, and devising and executing some means
for effecting the purpose desired, is, in all cases, a source of
pleasure; especially when, by the process, we bring to view or into
operation new powers, or powers heretofore hidden, whether they are our
own powers, or those of objects upon which we act. Experimenting has a
sort of magical fascination for all. Some do not like the trouble of
making preparations, but all are eager to see the results. Contrive a
new machine, and every body will be interested to witness or to hear of
its operation. Develop any heretofore unknown properties of matter, or
secure some new useful effect from laws which men have not hitherto
employed for their purposes, and the interest of all around you will be
excited to observe your results; and, especially, you will yourself take
a deep and permanent pleasure in guiding and controlling the power you
have thus obtained.

This is peculiarly the case with experiments upon mind, or experiments
for producing effects through the medium of voluntary acts of others,
making it necessary that the contriver should take into consideration
the laws of mind in forming his plans. To illustrate this by rather a
childish case: I once knew a boy who was employed by his father to
remove all the loose small stones, which, from the peculiar nature of
the ground, had accumulated in the road before the house. The boy was
set at work by his father to take them up, and throw them over into the
pasture across the way. He soon got tired of picking up the stones one
by one, and so he sat down upon the bank to try to devise some better
means of accomplishing his work. He at length conceived and adopted the
following plan: He set up in the pasture a narrow board for a target,
or, as boys would call it, a mark, and then, collecting all the boys of
the neighborhood, he proposed to them an amusement which boys are always
ready for--firing at a mark. The stones in the road furnished the
ammunition, and, of course, in a very short time the road was cleared;
the boys working for the accomplishment of their leader's task, when
they supposed they were only finding amusement for themselves.

Here, now, is experimenting upon the mind--the production of useful
effect with rapidity and ease by the intervention of proper
instrumentality--the conversion, by means of a little knowledge of human
nature, of that which would have otherwise been dull and fatiguing labor
into a most animating sport, giving pleasure to twenty instead of
tedious labor to one. Now the contrivance and execution of such plans is
a source of positive pleasure. It is always pleasant to bring even the
properties and powers of matter into requisition to promote our designs;
but there is a far higher pleasure in controlling, and guiding, and
moulding to our purpose the movements of mind.

It is this which gives interest to the plans and operation of human
governments. Governments can, in fact, do little by actual force. Nearly
all the power that is held, even by the most despotic executive, must be
based on an adroit management of the principles of human nature, so as
to lead men voluntarily to co-operate with the leader in his plans. Even
an army could not be got into battle, in many cases, without a most
ingenious arrangement, by means of which half a dozen men can drive,
literally drive, as many thousands into the very face of danger and
death. The difficulty of leading men to battle must have been, for a
long time, a very perplexing one to generals. It was at last removed by
the very simple expedient of creating a greater danger behind than there
is before. Without ingenuity of contrivance like this, turning one
principle of human nature against another, and making it for the
momentary interest of men to act in a given way, no government could

I know of nothing which illustrates more perfectly the way by which a
knowledge of human nature is to be turned to account in managing human
minds than a plan which was adopted for clearing the galleries of the
British House of Commons many years ago, before the present Houses of
Parliament were built. There was then, as now, a gallery appropriated to
spectators, and it was customary to require these visitors to retire
when a vote was to be taken or private business was to be transacted.
When the officer in attendance was ordered to clear the gallery, it was
sometimes found to be a very troublesome and slow operation; for those
who first went out remained obstinately as close to the doors as
possible, so as to secure the opportunity to come in again first when
the doors should be re-opened. The consequence was, there was so great
an accumulation around the doors outside, that it was almost impossible
for the crowd to get out. The whole difficulty arose from the eager
desire of every one to remain as near as possible to the door, _through
which they were to come back again_. Notwithstanding the utmost efforts
of the officers, fifteen minutes were sometimes consumed in effecting
the object, when the order was given that the spectators should retire.

The whole difficulty was removed by a very simple plan. One door only
was opened when the crowd was to retire, and they were then admitted,
when the gallery was opened again, through _the other_. The consequence
was, that as soon as the order was given to clear the galleries, every
one fled as fast as possible through the open door around to the one
which was closed, so as to be ready to enter first, when that, in its
turn, should be opened. This was usually in a few minutes, as the
purpose for which the spectators were ordered to retire was in most
cases simply to allow time for taking a vote. Here it will be seen
that, by the operation of a very simple plan, the very eagerness of the
crowd to get back as soon as possible, which had been the _sole cause of
the difficulty_, was turned to account most effectually to the removal
of it. Before, the first that went out were so eager to return, that
they crowded around the door of egress in such a manner as to prevent
others going out; but by this simple plan of ejecting them by one door
and admitting them by another, that very eagerness made them clear the
passage at once, and caused every one to hurry away into the lobby the
moment the command was given.

The planner of this scheme must have taken great pleasure in witnessing
its successful operation; though the officer who should go steadily on,
endeavoring to remove the reluctant throng by dint of mere driving,
might well have found his task unpleasant. But the exercise of ingenuity
in studying the nature of the difficulty with which a man has to
contend, and bringing in some antagonist principle of human nature to
remove it, or, if not an antagonist principle, a similar principle,
operating, by a peculiar arrangement of circumstances, in an antagonist
manner, is always pleasant. From this source a large share of the
enjoyment which men find in the active pursuits of life has its origin.

The teacher has the whole field which this subject opens fully before
him. He has human nature to deal with most directly. His whole work is
one of experimenting upon mind; and the mind which is before him to be
the subject of his operation is exactly in the state to be most easily
and pleasantly operated upon. The reason now why some teachers find
their work delightful, and some find it wearisomeness and tedium itself,
is that some do and some do not take this view of the nature of it. One
instructor is like the engine-boy, turning, without cessation or change,
his everlasting stop-cock, in the same ceaseless, mechanical, and
monotonous routine. Another is like the little workman in his brighter
moments, arranging his invention, and watching with delight the
successful and easy accomplishment of his wishes by means of it. One is
like the officer, driving by vociferations, and threats, and
demonstrations of violence, the spectators from the galleries. The other
like the shrewd contriver, who converts the very desire to return, which
was the sole cause of the difficulty, to a most successful and efficient
means of its removal.

These principles show how teaching may, in some cases, be a delightful
employment, while in others its tasteless dullness is interrupted by
nothing but its perplexities and cares. The school-room is in reality a
little empire of mind. If the one who presides in it sees it in its true
light; studies the nature and tendency of the minds which he has to
control; adapts his plans and his measures to the laws of human nature,
and endeavors to accomplish his purposes for them, not by mere labor and
force, but by ingenuity and enterprise, he will take pleasure in
administering his little government. He will watch, with care and
interest, the operation of the moral and intellectual causes which he
sets in operation, and find, as he accomplishes his various objects with
increasing facility and power, that he will derive a greater and greater
pleasure from his work.

Now when a teacher thus looks upon his school as a field in which he is
to exercise skill, and ingenuity, and enterprise; when he studies the
laws of human nature, and the character of those minds upon which he has
to act; when he explores deliberately the nature of the field which he
has to cultivate, and of the objects which he wishes to accomplish, and
applies means judiciously and skillfully adapted to the object, he must
necessarily take a strong interest in his work. But when, on the other
hand, he goes to his employment only to perform a certain regular round
of daily toil, undertaking nothing and anticipating nothing but this
dull and unchangeable routine, and when he looks upon his pupils merely
as passive objects of his labors, whom he is to treat with simple
indifference while they obey his commands, and to whom he is only to
apply reproaches and punishment when they do wrong, such a teacher never
can take pleasure in the school. Weariness and dullness must reign in
both master and scholars when things, as he imagines, are going right,
and mutual anger and crimination when they go wrong.

[Illustration: School Master]

Scholars never can be successfully instructed by the power of any dull
mechanical routine, nor can they be properly governed by the blind,
naked strength of the master; such means must fail of the accomplishment
of the purposes designed, and consequently the teacher who tries such a
course must have constantly upon his mind the discouraging,
disheartening burden of unsuccessful and almost useless labor. He is
continually uneasy, dissatisfied, and filled with anxious cares, and
sources of vexation and perplexity continually arise. He attempts to
remove evils by waging against them a useless and most vexatious warfare
of threatening and punishment; and he is trying continually _to drive_,
when he might know that neither the intellect nor the heart are capable
of being driven.

I will simply state one case, to illustrate what I mean by the
difference between blind force and active ingenuity and enterprise in
the management of school. I once knew the teacher of a school who made
it his custom to have writing attended to in the afternoon. The school
was in the country, and it was the old times when quills, instead of
steel pens, were universally used. The boys were accustomed to take
their places at the appointed hour, and each one would set up his pen in
the front of his desk for the teacher to come and mend them. The teacher
would accordingly pass around the school-room, mending the pens, from
desk to desk, thus enabling the boys, in succession, to begin their
task. Of course, each boy, before the teacher came to his desk, was
necessarily idle, and, almost necessarily, in mischief. Day after day
the teacher went through this regular routine. He sauntered slowly and
listlessly through the aisles, and among the benches of the room,
wherever he saw the signal of a pen. He paid, of course, very little
attention to the writing, now and then reproving, with an impatient
tone, some extraordinary instance of carelessness, or leaving his work
to suppress some rising disorder. Ordinarily, however, he seemed to be
lost in vacancy of thought, dreaming, perhaps, of other scenes, or
inwardly repining at the eternal monotony and tedium of a teacher's
life. His boys took no interest in their work, and of course made no
progress. They were sometimes unnecessarily idle, and sometimes
mischievous, but never usefully or pleasantly employed, for the whole
hour was passed before the pens could all be brought down. Wasted time,
blotted books, and fretted tempers were all the results which the system

The same teacher afterward acted on a very different principle. He
looked over the field, and said to himself, "What are the objects which
I wish to accomplish in this writing exercise, and how can I best
accomplish them? I wish to obtain the greatest possible amount of
industrious and careful practice in writing. The first thing evidently
is to save the wasted time." He accordingly made preparation for mending
the pens at a previous hour, so that all should be ready, at the
appointed time, to commence the work together. This could be done quite
as conveniently when the boys were engaged in studying, by requesting
them to put out their pens at an appointed and _previous_ time. He sat
at his table, and the pens of a whole bench were brought to him, and,
after being carefully mended, were returned, to be in readiness for the
writing hour. Thus the first difficulty, the loss of time, was obviated.

"I must make them _industrious_ while they write," was his next thought.
After thinking of a variety of methods, he determined to try the
following: he required all to begin together at the top of the page, and
write the same line, in a hand of the same size. They were all required
to begin together, he himself beginning at the same time, and writing
about as fast as he thought they ought to write in order to secure the
highest improvement. When he had finished his line, he ascertained how
many had preceded him and how many were behind. He requested the first
to write slower, and the others faster; and by this means, after a few
trials, he secured uniform, regular, systematic, and industrious
employment throughout the school. Probably there were, at first,
difficulties in the operation of the plan, which he had to devise ways
and means to surmount; but what I mean to present particularly to the
reader is, that he was _interested in his experiments_. While sitting in
his desk, giving his command to _begin_ line after line, and noticing
the unbroken silence, and attention, and interest which prevailed (for
each boy was interested to see how nearly with the master he could
finish his work), while presiding over such a scene he must have been
interested. He must have been pleased with the exercise of his almost
military command, and to witness how effectually order and industry, and
excited and pleased attention, had taken the place of listless idleness
and mutual dissatisfaction.

After a few days, he appointed one of the older and more judicious
scholars to give the word for beginning and ending the lines, and he sat
surveying the scene, or walking from desk to desk, noticing faults, and
considering what plans he could form for securing more and more fully
the end he had in view. He found that the great object of interest and
attention among the boys was to come out right, and that less pains were
taken with the formation of the letters than there ought to be to secure
the most rapid improvement.

But how shall he secure greater pains? By stern commands and threats? By
going from desk to desk, scolding one, rapping the knuckles of another,
and holding up to ridicule a third, making examples of such individuals
as may chance to attract his special attention? No; he has learned that
he is operating upon a little empire of mind, and that he is not to
endeavor to drive them as a man drives a herd, by mere peremptory
command or half angry blows. He must study the nature of the effect that
he is to produce, and of the materials upon which he is to work, and
adopt, after mature deliberation, a plan to accomplish his purpose
founded upon the principles which ought always to regulate the action
of mind upon mind, and adapted to produce the _intellectual effect_
which he wishes to accomplish.

In the case supposed, the teacher concluded to appeal to emulation.
While I describe the measure he adopted, let it be remembered that I am
now only approving of the resort to ingenuity and invention, and the
employment of moral and intellectual means for the accomplishment of his
purposes, and not of the measures themselves. I am not sure the plan I
am going to describe is a wise one; but I am sure that the teacher,
while trying it, must _have been interested in his intellectual
experiment._ His business, while pursued in such a way, could not have
been a mere dull and uninteresting routine.

He purchased, for three cents apiece, two long lead pencils--an article
of great value in the opinion of the boys of country schools--and he
offered them, as prizes, to the boy who would write most carefully; not
to the one who should write _best_, but to the one whose book should
exhibit most appearance of _effort_ and _care_ for a week. After
announcing his plan, he watched with strong interest its operation. He
walked round the room while the writing was in progress, to observe the
effect of his measure. He did not reprove those who were writing
carelessly; he simply noticed who and how many they were. He did not
commend those who were evidently making effort; he noticed who and how
many they were, that he might understand how far, and upon what sort of
minds, his experiment was successful, and where it failed. He was taking
a lesson in human nature--human nature as it exhibits itself in
boys--and was preparing to operate more and more powerfully by future

The lesson which he learned by the experiment was this, that one or two
prizes will not influence the majority of a large school. A few of the
boys seemed to think that the pencils were possibly within their reach,
and _they_ made vigorous efforts to secure them; but the rest wrote on
as before. Thinking it certain that they should be surpassed by the
others, they gave up the contest at once in despair.

The obvious remedy was to _multiply_ his prizes, so as to bring one of
them within the reach of all. He reflected, too, that the real prize, in
such a case, is not the value of the pencil, but the _honor of the
victory_; and as the honor of the victory might as well be coupled with
an object of less, as well as with one of greater value, the next week
he divided his two pencils into quarters, and offered to his pupils
eight prizes instead of two. He offered one to every five scholars, as
they sat on their benches, and every boy then saw that a reward would
certainly come within five of him. His chance, accordingly, instead of
being one in twenty, became one in five.

Now is it possible for a teacher, after having philosophized upon the
nature of the minds upon which he is operating, and surveyed the field,
and ingeniously formed a plan, which plan he hopes will, through his own
intrinsic power, produce certain effects--is it possible for him, when
he comes, for the first day, to witness its operations, to come without
feeling a strong interest in the result? It is not possible. After
having formed such a plan, and made such arrangements, he will look
forward almost with impatience to the next writing-hour. He wishes to
see whether he has estimated the mental capacities and tendencies of his
little community aright; and when the time comes, and he surveys the
scene, and observes the operation of his measure, and sees many more are
reached by it than were influenced before, he feels a strong
gratification, and it is a gratification which is founded upon the
noblest principles of our nature. He is tracing, on a most interesting
field, the operation of cause and effect. From being the mere drudge,
who drives, without intelligence or thought, a score or two of boys to
their daily tasks, he rises to the rank of an intellectual philosopher,
exploring the laws and successfully controlling the tendencies of mind.

It will be observed, too, that all the time this teacher was performing
these experiments, and watching with intense interest the results, his
pupils were going on undisturbed in their pursuits. The exercises in
writing were not interrupted or deranged. This is a point of fundamental
importance; for, if what I should say on the subject of exercising
ingenuity and contrivance in teaching should be the means, in any case,
of leading a teacher to break in upon the regular duties of his school,
and destroy the steady uniformity with which the great objects of such
an institution should be pursued, my remarks had better never have been
written. There may be variety in methods and plan, but, through all this
variety, the school, and every individual pupil of it, must go steadily
forward in the acquisition of that knowledge which is of greatest
importance in the business of future life. In other words, the
variations and changes admitted by the teacher ought to be mainly
confined to the modes of accomplishing those permanent objects to which
all the exercises and arrangements of the school ought steadily to aim.
More on this subject, however, in another chapter.

I will mention one other circumstance, which will help to explain the
difference in interest and pleasure with which teachers engage in their
work. I mean the different views they take _of the offenses of their
pupils_. One class of teachers seem never to make it a part of their
calculation that their pupils will do wrong, and when, any misconduct
occurs they are discontented and irritated, and look and act as if some
unexpected occurrence had broken in upon their plans. Others understand
and consider all this beforehand. They seem to think a little, before
they go into their school, what sort of beings boys and girls are, and
any ordinary case of youthful delinquency or dullness does not surprise
them. I do not mean that they treat such cases with indifference or
neglect, but that they _expect_ them, and _are prepared for them_. Such
a teacher knows that boys and girls are the _materials_ he has to work
upon, and he takes care to make himself acquainted with these materials,
_just as they are_. The other class, however, do not seem to know at all
what sort of beings they have to deal with, or, if they know, do not
_consider_. They expect from them what is not to be obtained, and then
are disappointed and vexed at the failure. It is as if a carpenter
should attempt to support an entablature by pillars of wood too small
and weak for the weight, and then go on, from week to week, suffering
anxiety and irritation as he sees them swelling and splitting under the
burden, and finding fault _with the wood_ instead of taking it to
himself; or as if a plowman were to attempt to work a hard and stony
piece of ground with a poor team and a small plow, and then, when
overcome by the difficulties of the task, should vent his vexation and
anger in laying the blame on the ground instead of on the inadequate and
insufficient instrumentality which he had provided for subduing it.


It is, of course, one essential part of a man's duty, in engaging in any
undertaking, whether it will lead him to act upon matter or upon mind,
to become first well acquainted with the circumstances of the case, the
materials he is to act upon, and the means which he may reasonably
expect to have at his command. If he underrates his difficulties, or
overrates the power of his means of overcoming them, it is his
mistake--a mistake for which _he_ is fully responsible. Whatever may be
the nature of the effect which he aims at accomplishing, he ought fully
to understand it, and to appreciate justly the difficulties which lie in
the way.

Teachers, however, very often overlook this. A man comes home from his
school at night perplexed and irritated by the petty misconduct which he
has witnessed, and been trying to check. He does not, however, look
forward and endeavor to prevent the occasions of such misconduct,
adapting his measures to the nature of the material upon which he has to
operate, but he stands, like the carpenter at his columns, making
himself miserable in looking at it after it occurs, and wondering what
to do.

"Sir," we might say to him, "what is the matter?"

"Why, I have such boys I can do nothing with them. Were it not for
_their misconduct_, I might have a very good school."

"Were it not for their misconduct? Why, is there any peculiar depravity
in them which you could not have foreseen?"

"No; I suppose they are pretty much like all other boys," he replies,
despairingly; "they are all hair-brained and unmanageable. The plans I
have formed for my school would be excellent if my boys would only
behave properly."

"Excellent plans," might we not reply, "and yet not adapted to the
materials upon which they are to operate! No. It is your business to
know what sort of beings boys are, and to make your calculations

Two teachers may therefore manage their schools in totally different
ways, so that one of them may necessarily find the business a dull,
mechanical routine, except as it is occasionally varied by perplexity
and irritation, and the other a prosperous and happy employment. The one
goes on mechanically the same, and depends for his power on violence, or
on threats and demonstrations of violence. The other brings all his
ingenuity and enterprise into the field to accomplish a steady purpose
by means ever varying, and depends for his power on his knowledge of
human nature, and on the adroit adaptation of plans to her fixed and
uniform tendencies.

I am very sorry, however, to be obliged to say that probably the latter
class of teachers are decidedly in the minority. To practice the art in
such a way as to make it an agreeable employment is difficult, and it
requires much knowledge of human nature, much attention and skill. And,
after all, there are some circumstances necessarily attending the work
which constitute a heavy drawback on the pleasures which it might
otherwise afford. The almost universal impression that the business of
teaching is attended with peculiar trials and difficulties proves this.

There must be some cause for an impression so general. It is not right
to call it a prejudice, for, although a single individual may conceive a
prejudice, whole communities very seldom do, unless in some case which
is presented at once to the whole, so that, looking at it through a
common medium, all judge wrong together. But the general opinion in
regard to teaching is composed of a vast number of _separate_ and
_independent_ judgments, and there must be some good ground for the
universal result.

It is best, therefore, if there are any real and peculiar sources of
trial and difficulty in this pursuit, that they should be distinctly
known and acknowledged at the outset. Count the cost before going to
war. It is even better policy to overrate than to underrate it. Let us
see, then, what the real difficulties of teaching are.

It is not, however, as is generally supposed, _the confinement._ A
teacher is confined, it is true, but not more than men of other
professions and employments; not more than a merchant, and probably not
as much. A physician is confined in a different way, but more closely
than a teacher: he can never leave home: he knows generally no
vacation, and nothing but accidental rest.

The lawyer is confined as much. It is true there are not throughout the
year exact hours which he must keep, but, considering the imperious
demands of his business, his personal liberty is probably restrained as
much by it as that of the teacher. So with all the other professions.
Although the nature of the confinement may vary, it amounts to about the
same in all. On the other hand, the teacher enjoys, in reference to this
subject of confinement, an advantage which scarcely any other class of
men does or can enjoy. I mean vacations. A man in any other business may
_force_ himself away from it for a time, but the cares and anxieties of
his business will follow him wherever he goes. It seems to be reserved
for the teacher to enjoy alone the periodical luxury of a _real and
entire release from business and care_. On the whole, as to confinement,
it seems to me that the teacher has little ground of complaint.

There are, however, some real and serious difficulties which always
have, and, it is to be feared, always will, cluster around this
employment; and which must, for a long time, at least, lead most men to
desire some other employment for the business of life. There may perhaps
be some who, by their peculiar skill, can overcome or avoid them, and
perhaps the science of teaching may, at some future day, be so far
improved that all may avoid them. As I describe them, however, now, most
of the teachers into whose hands this treatise may fall will probably
find that their own experience corresponds, in this respect, with mine.

1. The first great difficulty which the teacher feels is a sort of
_moral responsibility for the conduct of others_. If his pupils do
wrong, he feels almost personal responsibility for it. As he walks out
some afternoon, wearied with his labors, and endeavoring to forget, for
a little time, all his cares, he comes upon a group of boys in rude and
noisy quarrels, or engaged in mischief of some sort, and his heart
sinks within him. It is hard enough for any one to witness their bad
conduct with a spirit unruffled and undisturbed, but for their teacher
it is perhaps impossible. He feels _responsible_; in fact, he is
responsible. If his scholars are disorderly, or negligent, or idle, or
quarrelsome, he feels _condemned himself_ almost as if he were himself
the actual transgressor.

This difficulty is, in a great degree, peculiar to a teacher. A
physician is called upon to prescribe for a patient; he examines the
case, and writes his prescription. When this is done his duty is ended;
and whether the patient obeys the prescription and lives, or neglects it
and dies, the physician feels exonerated from all responsibility. He
may, and in some cases does, feel _anxious concern_, and may regret the
infatuation by which, in some unhappy case, a valuable life may be
hazarded or destroyed. But he feels no _moral responsibility_ for
another's guilt.

It is so with all the other employments in life. They do, indeed, often
bring men into collision with other men. But, though sometimes vexed and
irritated by the conduct of a neighbor, a client, or a patient, they
feel not half the bitterness of the solicitude and anxiety which come to
the teacher through the criminality of his pupil. In ordinary cases he
not only feels responsible for efforts, but for their results; and when,
notwithstanding all his efforts, his pupils will do wrong, his spirit
sinks with an intensity of anxious despondency which none but a teacher
can understand.

This feeling of something very like _moral accountability for the guilt
of other persons_ is a continual burden. The teacher in the presence of
the pupil never is free from it. It links him to them by a bond which
perhaps he ought not to sunder, and which he can not sunder if he would.
And sometimes, when those committed to his charge are idle, or
faithless, or unprincipled, it wears away his spirits and his health
together. I think there is nothing analogous to this moral connection
between teacher and pupil unless it be in the case of a parent and
child. And here, on account of the comparative smallness of the number
under the parent's care, the evil is so much diminished that it is
easily borne.

2. The second great difficulty of the teacher's employments is _the
immense multiplicity of the objects of his attention and care_ during
the time he is employed in his business. His scholars are individuals,
and notwithstanding all that the most systematic can do in the way of
classification, they must be attended to in a great measure as
individuals. A merchant keeps his commodities together, and looks upon a
cargo composed of ten thousand articles, and worth a hundred thousand
dollars, as one; he speaks of it as one; and there is, in many cases, no
more perplexity in planning its destination than if it were a single box
of raisins. A lawyer may have a great many important cases, but he has
only one at a time; that is, he _attends_ to but one at a time. The one
may be intricate, involving many facts, and requiring to be examined in
many aspects and relations. But he looks at but few of these facts and
regards but few of these relations at a time. The points which demand
his attention come one after another in regular succession. His mind may
thus be kept calm. He avoids confusion and perplexity. But no skill or
classification will turn the poor teacher's hundred scholars into one,
or enable him, except to a very limited extent, and for a very limited
purpose, to regard them as one. He has a distinct and, in many respects,
a different work to do for every one of the crowd before him.
Difficulties must be explained in detail, questions must be answered one
by one, and each scholar's own conduct must be considered by itself. His
work is thus made up of a thousand minute particulars, which are all
crowding upon his attention at once, and which he can not group
together, or combine, or simplify. He must, by some means or other,
attend to them in all their distracting individuality. And, in a large
and complicated school, the endless multiplicity and variety of objects
of attention and care impose a task under which few intellects can long

I have said that this endless multiplicity and variety can not be
reduced and simplified by classification. I mean, of course, that this
can be done only to a very limited extent compared with what may be
effected in the other pursuits of mankind. Were it not for the art of
classification and system, no school could have more than ten scholars,
as I intend hereafter to show. The great reliance of the teacher is upon
this art, to reduce to some tolerable order what would otherwise be the
inextricable confusion of his business. He _must be systematic_. He must
classify and arrange; but, after he has done all that he can, he must
still expect that his daily business will continue to consist of a vast
multitude of minute particulars, from one to another of which the mind
must turn with a rapidity which few of the other employments of life
ever demand.

These are the essential sources of difficulty with which the teacher has
to contend; but, as I shall endeavor to show in succeeding chapters,
though they can not be entirely removed, they can be so far mitigated by
the appropriate means as to render the employment a happy one. I have
thought it best, however, as this work will doubtless be read by many
who, when they read it, are yet to begin their labors, to describe
frankly and fully to them the difficulties which beset the path they are
about to enter. "The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way." It
is often wisdom to understand it beforehand.



The distraction and perplexity of the teacher's life are, as was
explained in the last chapter, almost proverbial. There are other
pressing and exhausting pursuits, which wear away the spirit by the
ceaseless care which they impose, or perplex and bewilder the intellect
by the multiplicity and intricacy of their details; but the business of
teaching, by a pre-eminence not very enviable, stands, almost by common
consent, at the head of the catalogue.

I have already alluded to this subject in the preceding chapter, and
probably the majority of actual teachers will admit the truth of the
view there presented. Some will, however, doubtless say that they do not
find the business of teaching so perplexing and exhausting an
employment. They take things calmly. They do one thing at a time, and
that without useless solicitude and anxiety. So that teaching, with
them, though it has, indeed, its solicitudes and cares, as every other
responsible employment must necessarily have, is, after all, a calm and
quiet pursuit, which they follow from month to month, and from year to
year, without any extraordinary agitations, or any unusual burdens of
anxiety and care.

There are, indeed, such cases, but they are exceptions, and
unquestionably a considerable majority, especially of those who are
beginners in the work, find it such as I have described. I think it need
not be so, or, rather, I think the evil may be avoided to _a very great
degree_. In this chapter I shall endeavor to show how order may be
produced out of that almost inextricable mass of confusion into which so
many teachers, on commencing their labors, find themselves plunged.

The objects, then, to be aimed at in the general arrangements of schools
are twofold:

1. That the teacher may be left uninterrupted, to attend to one thing
at a time.

2. That the individual scholars may have constant employment, and such
an amount and such kinds of study as shall be suited to the
circumstances and capacities of each.

I shall examine each in their order.

1. The following are the principal things which, in a vast number of
schools, are all the time pressing upon the teacher; or, rather, they
are the things which must every where press upon the teacher, except so
far as, by the skill of his arrangements, he contrives to remove them.

1. Giving leave to whisper or to leave seats.
2. Distributing and changing pens.
3. Answering questions in regard to studies.
4. Hearing recitations.
5. Watching the behavior of the scholars.
6. Administering reproof and punishment for offenses as they occur.

A pretty large number of objects of attention and care, one would say,
to be pressing upon the mind of the teacher at one and the same
time--and _all the time_ too! Hundreds and hundreds of teachers in every
part of our country, there is no doubt, have all these crowding upon
them from morning to night, with no cessation, except perhaps some
accidental and momentary respite. During the winter months, while the
principal common schools in our country are in operation, it is sad to
reflect how many teachers come home every evening with bewildered and
aching heads, having been vainly trying all the day to do six things at
a time, while He who made the human mind has determined that it shall do
but one. How many become discouraged and disheartened by what they
consider the unavoidable trials of a teacher's life, and give up in
despair, just because their faculties will not sustain a six-fold task.
There are multitudes who, in early life, attempted teaching, and, after
having been worried, almost to distraction, by the simultaneous pressure
of these multifarious cares, gave up the employment in disgust, and now
unceasingly wonder how any body can like teaching. I know multitudes of
persons to whom the above description will exactly apply.

I once heard a teacher who had been very successful, even in large
schools, say that he could hear two classes recite, mend pens, and watch
his school all at the same time, and that without any distraction of
mind or any unusual fatigue. Of course the recitations in such a case
must be from memory. There are very few minds, however, which can thus
perform triple or quadruple work, and probably none which can safely be
tasked so severely. For my part, I can do but one thing at a time; and I
have no question that the true policy for all is to learn not _to do
every thing at once_, but so to classify and arrange their work that
_they shall have but one thing at once to do_. Instead of vainly
attempting to attend simultaneously to a dozen things, they should so
plan their work that only _one_ will demand attention.

Let us, then, examine the various particulars above mentioned in
succession, and see how each can be disposed of, so as not to be a
constant source of interruption and derangement.

1. _Whispering_ and _leaving seats_. In regard to this subject there
are very different methods now in practice in different schools. In
some, especially in very small schools, the teacher allows the pupils to
act according to their own discretion. They whisper and leave their
seats whenever they think it necessary. This plan may possibly be
admissible in a very small school, that is, in one of ten or twelve
pupils. I am convinced, however, that it is a very bad plan even here.
No vigilant watch which it is possible for any teacher to exert will
prevent a vast amount of mere talk entirely foreign to the business of
the school. I tried this plan very thoroughly, with high ideas of the
dependence which might be placed upon conscience and a sense of duty, if
these principles are properly brought out to action in an effort to
sustain the system. I was told by distinguished teachers that it would
not be found to answer. But predictions of failure in such cases only
prompt to greater exertions, and I persevered. But I was forced at last
to give up the point, and adopt another plan. My pupils would make
resolutions enough; they understood their duty well enough. They were
allowed to leave their seats and whisper to their companions whenever,
_in their honest judgment, it was necessary for the prosecution of their
studies_. I knew that it sometimes would be necessary, and I was
desirous to adopt this plan to save myself the constant interruption of
hearing and replying to requests. But it would not do. Whenever, from
time to time, I called them to account, I found that a large majority,
according to their own confession, were in the habit of holding daily
and deliberate communication with each other on subjects entirely
foreign to the business of the school. A more experienced teacher would
have predicted this result; but I had very high ideas of the power of
cultivated conscience, and, in fact, still have. But then, like most
other persons who become possessed of a good idea, I could not be
satisfied without carrying it to an extreme.

Still it is necessary, in ordinary schools, to give pupils sometimes
the opportunity to whisper and leave seats.[1] Cases occur where this is
unavoidable. It can not, therefore, be forbidden altogether. How, then,
you will ask, can the teacher regulate this practice, so as to prevent
the evils which will otherwise flow from it, without being continually
interrupted by the request for permission?

[Footnote 1: There are some large and peculiarly-organized schools in
cities and large towns to which this remark may perhaps not apply.]

By a very simple method. _Appropriate particular times at which all this
business is to be done_, and _forbid it altogether_ at every other time.
It is well, on other accounts, to give the pupils of a school a little
respite, at least every hour; and if this is done, an intermission of
study for two minutes each time will be sufficient. During this time
_general_ permission should be given for the pupils to speak to each
other, or to leave their seats, provided they do nothing at such a time
to disturb the studies of others. This plan I have myself very
thoroughly tested, and no arrangement which I ever made operated for so
long a time so uninterruptedly and so entirely to my satisfaction as
this. It of course will require some little time, and no little
firmness, to establish the new order of things where a school has been
accustomed to another course; but where this is once done, I know no one
plan so simple and so easily put into execution which will do so much
toward relieving the teacher of the distraction and perplexity of his

In making the change, however, it is of fundamental importance that the
pupils should themselves be interested in it. Their co-operation, or,
rather, the co-operation of the majority, which it is very easy to
obtain, is absolutely essential to success. I say this is very easily
obtained. Let us suppose that some teacher, who has been accustomed to
require his pupils to ask and obtain permission every time they wish to
speak to a companion, is induced by these remarks to introduce this
plan. He says, accordingly, to his school,

"You know that you are now accustomed to ask me whenever you wish to
obtain permission to whisper to a companion or to leave your seats; now
I have been thinking of a plan which will be better for both you and me.
By our present plan you are sometimes obliged to wait before I can
attend to your request. Sometimes I think it is unnecessary, and deny
you, when perhaps I was mistaken, and it was really necessary. At other
times, I think it very probable that when it is quite desirable for you
to leave your seat you do not ask, because you think you may not obtain
permission, and you do not wish to ask and be refused. Do you, or not,
experience these inconveniences from our present plans?"

The pupils would undoubtedly answer in the affirmative.

"I myself experience great inconvenience too. I am very frequently
interrupted when busily engaged, and it also occupies a great portion of
my time and attention to consider and answer your requests for
permission to speak to one another and to leave your seats. It requires
as much mental effort to consider and decide whether I ought to allow a
pupil to leave his seat, as it would to determine a much more important
question; therefore I do not like our present plan, and I have another
to propose."

The pupils are now all attention to know what the new plan is. It will
always be of great advantage to the school for the teacher to propose
his new plans from time to time to his pupils in such a way as this. It
interests them in the improvement of the school, exercises their
judgment, establishes a common feeling between teacher and pupil, and in
many other ways assists very much in promoting the welfare of the

"My plan," continues the teacher, "is this: to allow you all, besides
the recess, a short time, two or three minutes perhaps, every hour" (or
every half hour, according to the character of the school, the age of
the pupils, or other circumstances, to be judged of by the teacher),
"during which you may all whisper or leave your seats _without_ asking

Instead of deciding the question of the _frequency_ of this general
permission, the teacher may, if he pleases, leave it to the pupils to
decide. It is often useful to leave the decision of such a question to
them. On this subject, however, I shall speak in another place. It is
only necessary here to say that _this_ point may be safely left to them,
since the time is so small which is to be thus appropriated. Even if
they vote to have the general permission to whisper every half hour, it
will make but eight minutes in the forenoon. There being six half hours
in the forenoon, and one of them ending at the close of school, and
another at the recess, only _four_ of these _rests_, as a military man
would call them, would be necessary; and four, of two minutes each,
would make eight minutes. If the teacher thinks that evil would result
from the interruption of the studies so often, he may offer the pupils
_three_ minutes rest every _hour_ instead of _two_ minutes every _half
hour_, and let them take their choice; or he may decide the case
altogether himself.

Such a change, from _particular permission on individual requests_ to
_general permission_ at _stated times_, would unquestionably be popular
in every school, if the teacher managed the business properly. And by
presenting it as an object of common interest, an arrangement proposed
for the common convenience of teacher and pupils, the latter may be much
interested in carrying the plan into effect. We must not rely, however,
entirely upon their _interest in it_. All that we can expect from such
an effort to interest them, as I have described and recommended, is to
get a majority on our side, so that we may have only a small minority to
deal with by other measures. Still, _we must calculate on having this
minority, and form our plans accordingly_, or we shall be greatly
disappointed. I shall, however, in another place, speak of this
principle of interesting the pupils in our plans for the purpose of
securing a majority in our favor, and explain the methods by which the
minority is then to be governed. I only mean here to say that, by such
means, the teacher may easily interest a large proportion of the
scholars in carrying his plans into effect, and that he must expect to
be prepared with other measures for those who will not be governed by

You can not reasonably expect, however, that, immediately after having
explained your plan, it will at once go into full and complete
operation. Even those who are firmly determined to keep the rule will,
from inadvertence, for a day or two, make communication with each other.
They must be _trained_, not by threatening and punishment, but by your
good-humored assistance, to their new duties. When I first adopted this
plan in my school, something like the following proceedings took place.

"Do you suppose that you will perfectly keep this rule from this time?"

"No, sir," was the answer.

"I suppose you will not. Some, I am afraid, may not really be determined
to keep it, and others will forget. Now I wish that every one of you
would keep an exact account to-day of all the instances in which you
speak to another person, or leave your seat, out of the regular times,
and be prepared to report them at the close of the school. Of course,
there will be no punishment; but it will very much assist you to watch
yourselves, if you expect to make a report at the end of the forenoon.
Do you like this plan?"

"Yes, sir," was the answer; and all seemed to enter into it with spirit.

In order to mark more definitely the times for communication, I wrote,
in large letters, on a piece of pasteboard, "STUDY HOURS," and making a
hole over the centre of it, I hung it upon a nail over my desk. At the
close of each half hour a little bell was to be struck, and this card
was to be taken down. When it was up, they were, on no occasion whatever
(except some such extraordinary occurrence as sickness, or my sending
one of them on a message to another, or something clearly out of the
common course) to speak to each other; but were to wait, whatever they
wanted, until the _Study Card_, as they called it, was taken down.

"Suppose now," said I, "that a young lady has come into school, and has
accidentally left her book in the entry--the book from which she is to
study during the first half hour of the school. She sits near the door,
and she might, in a moment, slip out and obtain it. If she does not, she
must spend the half hour in idleness, and be unprepared in her lesson.
What is it her duty to do?"

"To go," "Not to go," answered the scholars, simultaneously.

"It would be her duty _not_ to go; but I suppose it will be very
difficult for me to convince you of it.

"The reason is this," I continued; "if the one case I have supposed were
the _only_ one which would be likely to occur, it would undoubtedly be
better for her to go; but if it is understood that in such cases the
rule may be dispensed with, that understanding will tend very much to
cause such cases to occur. Scholars will differ in regard to the degree
of inconvenience which they must submit to rather than break the rule.
They will gradually do it on slighter and slighter occasions, until at
last the rule will be disregarded entirely. We must therefore draw a
_precise line_, and individuals must submit to a little inconvenience
sometimes to promote the general good."

At the close of the day I requested all in the school to rise. While
they were standing, I called them to account in the following manner:

"Now it is very probable that some have, from inadvertence or from
design, omitted to keep an account of the number of transgressions of
the rule which they have committed during the day; others, perhaps, do
not wish to make a report of themselves. Now as this is a common and
voluntary effort, I wish to have none render assistance who do not, of
their own accord, desire to do so. All those, therefore, who are not
able to make a report, from not having been correct in keeping it, and
all those who are unwilling to report themselves, may sit."

A very small number hesitatingly took their seats.

"I am afraid that all do not sit who really wish not to report
themselves. Now I am honest in saying I wish you to do just as you
please. If a great majority of the school really wish to assist me in
accomplishing the object, why, of course, I am glad; still, I shall not
call upon any for such assistance unless it is freely and voluntarily

One or two more took their seats while these things were saying. Among
such there would generally be some who would refuse to have any thing to
do with the measure simply from a desire to thwart and impede the plans
of the teacher. If so, it is best to take no notice of them. If the
teacher can contrive to obtain a great majority upon his side, so as to
let them see that any opposition which they can raise is of no
consequence and is not even noticed, they will soon be ashamed of it.

The reports, then, of those who remained standing were called for;
first, those who had whispered only once were requested to sit, then
those who had whispered more than once and less than five times, and so
on, until at last all were down. In such a case the pupils might, if
thought expedient, again be requested to rise for the purpose of asking
some other questions with reference to ascertaining whether they had
spoken most in the former or latter part of the forenoon. The number who
had spoken inadvertently, and the number who had done it by design,
might be ascertained. These inquiries accustom the pupils to render
honest and faithful accounts themselves. They become, by such means,
familiarized to the practice, and by means of it the teacher can many
times receive most important assistance.

In all this, however, the teacher should speak in a pleasant tone, and
maintain a pleasant and cheerful air. The acknowledgments should be
considered by the pupils not as confessions of guilt for which they are
to be rebuked or punished, but as voluntary and free reports of the
result of _an experiment_ in which all were interested.

Some will have been dishonest in their reports: to diminish the number
of these, the teacher may say, after the report is concluded,

"We will drop the subject here to-day. To-morrow we will make another
effort, when we shall be more successful. I have taken your reports as
you have offered them without any inquiry, because I had no doubt that a
great majority of this school would be honest at all hazards. They would
not, I am confident, make a false report even if, by a true one, they
were to bring upon themselves punishment; so that I think I may have
confidence that nearly all these reports have been faithful. Still it is
very probable that among so large a number some may have made a report
which, they are now aware, was not perfectly fair and honest. I do not
wish to know who they are; if there are any such cases, I only wish to
say to the rest how much pleasanter it is for you that you have been
honest and open. The business is now all ended; you have done your duty;
and, though you reported a little larger number than you would if you
had been disposed to conceal your faults, yet you go away from school
with a quiet conscience. On the other hand, how miserable must any boy
feel, if he has any nobleness of mind whatever, to go away from school
to-day thinking that he has not been honest; that he has been trying to
conceal his faults, and thus to obtain a credit which he did not justly
deserve. Always be honest, let the consequence be what it may."

The reader will understand that the object of such measures is simply
_to secure as large a majority as possible_ to make _voluntary_ efforts
to observe the rule. I do not expect that by such measures _universal_
obedience can be exacted. The teacher must follow up the plan after a
few days by other measures for those pupils who will not yield to such
inducements as these. Upon this subject, however, I shall speak more
particularly at a future time.

In my own school it required two or three weeks to exclude whispering
and communication by signs. The period necessary to effect the
revolution will be longer or shorter, according to the circumstances of
the school and the dexterity of the teacher; and, after all, the teacher
must not hope _entirely_ to exclude it. Approximation to excellence is
all that we can expect; for unprincipled and deceiving characters will
perhaps always be found, and no system whatever can prevent their
existence. Proper treatment may indeed be the means of their
reformation, but before this process has arrived at a successful result,
others similar in character will have entered the school, so that the
teacher can never expect perfection in the operation of any of his

I found so much relief from the change which this plan introduced, that
I soon took measures for rendering it permanent; and though I am not
much in favor of efforts to bring all teachers and all schools to the
same plans, this principle of _whispering at limited and prescribed
times alone_ seems to me well suited to universal adoption.

The following simple apparatus has been used in several schools where
this principle has been adopted. A drawing and description of it is
inserted here, as by this means some teachers, who may like to try the
course here recommended, may be saved the time and trouble of contriving
something of the kind themselves.

The figure _a a a a_ on the next page is a board about 18 inches by 12,
to which the other parts of the apparatus are to be attached, and which
is to be secured to the wall at the height of about 8 feet, and _b c d
c_ is a plate of tin or brass, 8 inches by 12, of the form represented
in the drawing. At _c c_, the lower extremities of the parts at the
sides, the metal is bent round, so as to clasp a wire which runs from
_c_ to _c_, the ends of which wire are bent at right angles, and run
into the board. The plate will consequently turn on this axis as on a
hinge. At the top of the plate, _d_, a small projection of the tin turns
inward, and to this one end of the cord, _m m_, is attached. This cord
passes back from _d_ to a small pulley at the upper part of the board,
and at the lower end of it a tassel, loaded so as to be an exact
counterpoise to the card, is attached. By raising the tassel, the plate
will of course fall over forward till it is stopped by the part _b_
striking the board, when it will be in a horizontal position. On the
other hand, by pulling down the tassel, the plate will be raised and
drawn upward against the board, so as to present its convex surface,
with the words STUDY HOURS upon it, distinctly to the school. In the
drawing it is represented in an inclined position, being not quite drawn
up, that the parts might more easily be seen. At _d_ there is a small
projection of the tin upward, which touches the clapper of the bell
suspended above every time the plate passes up or down, and thus gives
notice of its motions.


Of course the construction may be varied very much, and it may be more
or less expensive, according to the wishes of the teacher. In the first
apparatus of this kind which I used, the plate was simply a card of
pasteboard, from which the machine took its name. This was cut out with
a penknife, and, after being covered with marble-paper, a strip of white
paper was pasted along the middle with the inscription upon it. The wire
_c c_, and a similar one at the top of the plate, were passed through a
perforation in the pasteboard, and then passed into the board. Instead
of a pulley, the cord, which was a piece of twine, was passed through a
little staple made of wire and driven into the board. The whole was made
in one or two recesses in school, with such tools and materials as I
could then command. The bell was a common table bell, with a wire
passing through the handle. The whole was attached to such a piece of
pine board as I could get on the occasion. This coarse contrivance was,
for more than a year, the grand regulator of all the movements of the

I afterward caused one to be made in a better manner. The plate was of
tin, gilded, the border and the letters of the inscription being black.
A parlor bell-rope was carried over a brass pulley, and then passed
downward in a groove made in the mahogany board to which the card was

A little reflection will, however, show the teacher that the form and
construction of the apparatus for marking the times of study and of rest
may be greatly varied. The chief point is simply to secure the
_principle_ of whispering at definite and limited times, and at those
alone. If such an arrangement is adopted, and carried faithfully into
effect, it will be found to relieve the teacher of more than half of the
confusion and perplexity which would otherwise be his hourly lot. I have
detailed thus particularly the method to be pursued in carrying this
principle into effect, because I am convinced of its importance, and the
incalculable assistance which such an arrangement will afford to the
teacher in all his plans. Of course, I would not be understood to recommend
its adoption in those cases where teachers, from their own experience,
have devised and adopted _other_ plans which accomplish as effectually
the same purpose. All that I mean is to insist upon the absolute
necessity of _some_ plan, to remove this very common source of
interruption and confusion, and I recommend this mode where a better is
not known.

2. The second of the sources of interruption, as I have enumerated them,
is the distribution of pens and of stationery. This business ought, if
possible, to have a specific time assigned to it. Scholars are, in
general, far too particular in regard to their pens. The teacher ought
to explain to them that, in the transaction of the ordinary business of
life, they can not always have exactly such a pen as they would like.
They must learn to write with various kinds of pens, and when furnished
with one that the teacher himself would consider suitable to write a
letter to a friend with, he must be content. They should understand that
the _form_ of the letters is what is important in learning to write, not
the smoothness and clearness of the hair lines; and that though writing
looks better when executed with a perfect pen, a person may _learn_ to
write nearly as well with one which is not absolutely perfect. So
certain is this, though often overlooked, that a person would perhaps
learn faster with chalk, upon a black board, than with the best
goose-quill ever sharpened.

I do not make these remarks to show that it is of no consequence whether
scholars have good or bad pens, but only that this subject deserves very
much less of the time and attention of the teacher than it usually
receives. When the scholars are allowed, as they very often are, to come
when they please to change their pens, breaking in upon any
business--interrupting any classes--perplexing and embarrassing the
teacher, however he may be employed, there is a very serious obstruction
to the progress of the scholars, which is by no means repaid by the
improvement in this branch.

To guard against these evils, a regular and well-considered system
should be adopted for the distribution of pens and stationary, and when
adopted it should be strictly and steadily adhered to.

3. Answering questions about studies. A teacher who does not adopt some
system in regard to this subject will be always at the mercy of his
scholars. One boy will want to know how to parse a word, another where
the lesson is, another to have a sum explained, and a fourth will wish
to show his work to see if it is right. The teacher does not like to
discourage such inquiries. Each one, as it comes up, seems necessary;
each one, too, is answered in a moment; but the endless number and the
continual repetition of them consume his time and exhaust his patience.

There is another view of the subject which ought to be taken. Perhaps it
would not be far from the truth to estimate the average number of
scholars in the schools in our country at fifty. At any rate, this will
be near enough for our present purpose. There are three hours in each
session, according to the usual arrangement, making one hundred and
eighty minutes, which, divided among fifty, give about three minutes and
a half to each individual. If the reader has, in his own school, a
greater or a less number, he can easily correct the above calculation,
so as to adapt it to his own case, and ascertain the portion which may
justly be appropriated to each pupil. It will probably vary from two to
four minutes. Now a period of four minutes slips away very fast while a
man is looking over perplexing figures on a slate, and if he exceeds
that time at all in individual attention to any one scholar, he is doing
injustice to his other pupils. I do not mean that a man is to confine
himself rigidly to the principle suggested by this calculation of
cautiously appropriating no more time to any one of his pupils than such
a calculation would assign to each, but simply that this is a point
which should be kept in view, and should have a very strong influence in
deciding how far it is right to devote attention exclusively to
individuals. It seems to me that it shows very clearly that one ought
to teach his pupils, as much as possible, _in masses_, and as little as
possible by private attention to individual cases.

The following directions will help the teacher to carry these principles
into effect. When you assign a lesson, glance over it yourself, and
consider what difficulties are likely to arise. You know the progress
which your pupils have made, and can easily anticipate their
difficulties. Tell them all together, in the class, what their
difficulties will be, and how they may surmount them. Give them
directions how they are to act in the emergencies which will be likely
to occur. This simple step will remove a vast number of the questions
which would otherwise become occasions for interrupting you. With regard
to other difficulties, which can not be foreseen and guarded against,
direct the pupils to bring them to the class at the next recitation.
Half a dozen of the class might, and very probably would, meet with the
same difficulty. If they bring this difficulty to you one by one, you
have to explain it over and over again, whereas, when it is brought to
the class, one explanation answers for all.

As to all questions about the lesson--where it is, what it is, and how
long it is--never answer them. Require each pupil to remember for
himself, and if he was absent when the lesson was assigned, let him ask
his class-mate in a rest.

You _may_ refuse to give particular individuals the private assistance
they ask for in such a way as to discourage and irritate them, but this
is by no means necessary. It can be done in such a manner that the pupil
will see the propriety of it, and acquiesce pleasantly in it.

A child comes to you, for example, and says,

"Will you tell me, sir, where the next lesson is?"

"Were you not in the class at the time?"

"Yes, sir; but I have forgotten."

"Well, I have forgotten too. I have a great many classes to hear, and,
of course, great many lessons to assign, and I never remember them. It
is not necessary for me to remember."

"May I speak to one of the class to ask about it?"

"You can not speak, you know, till the Study Card is down; you may

"But I want to get my lesson now."

"I don't know what you will do, then. I am sorry you don't remember.

"Besides," continues the teacher, looking pleasantly, however, while he
says it, "if I knew, I think I ought not to tell you."

"Why, sir?"

"Because, you know, I have said I wish the scholars to remember where
the lessons are, and not come to me. You know it would be very unwise
for me, after assigning a lesson once for all in the class, to spend my
time here at my desk in assigning it over again to each individual one
by one. Now if I should tell _you_ where the lesson is now, I should
have to tell others, and thus should adopt a practice which I have

Take another case. You assign to a class of little girls a subject of
composition, requesting them to copy their writing upon a sheet of
paper, leaving a margin an inch wide at the top, and one of half an inch
at the sides and bottom. The class take their seats, and, after a short
time, one of them comes to you, saying she does not know how long an
inch is.

"Don't you know any thing about it?"

"No, sir, not much."

"Should you think _that_ is more or less than an inch?" (pointing to a
space on a piece of paper much too large).


"Then you know something about it. Now I did not tell you to make the
margins _exactly_ an inch and half an inch, but only as near as you
could judge?"

"Would _that_ be about right?" asks the girl, showing a distance.

"I must not tell you, because, you know, I never in such cases help
individuals; if that is as near as you can get it, you may make it so."

It may be well, after assigning a lesson to a class, to say that all
those who do not distinctly understand what they have to do may remain
after the class have taken their seats, and ask: the task may then be
distinctly assigned again, and the difficulties, so far as they can be
foreseen, explained.

By such means these sources of interruption and difficulty may, like the
others, be almost entirely removed. Perhaps not altogether, for many
cases may occur where the teacher may choose to give a particular class
permission to come to him for help. Such permission, however, ought
never to be given unless it is absolutely necessary, and should never be
allowed to be taken unless it is distinctly given.

4. Hearing recitations. I am aware that many attempt to do something
else at the same time that they are hearing a recitation, and there may
perhaps be some individuals who can succeed in this. If the exercise to
which the teacher is attending consists merely in listening to the
reciting word for word some passage committed to memory, it can be done.
I hope, however, to show in a future chapter that there are other and
far higher objects which every teacher ought to have in view in his
recitations, and he who understands these objects, and aims at
accomplishing them--who endeavors to _instruct_ his class, to enlarge
and elevate their ideas, to awaken a deep and paramount interest in the
subject which they are examining, will find that his time must be his
own, and his attention uninterrupted while he is presiding at a class.
All the other exercises and arrangements of the school are, in fact,
preparatory and subsidiary to this. Here, that is, in the classes, the
real business of teaching is to be done. Here the teacher comes in
contact with his scholars mind with mind, and here, consequently, he
must be uninterrupted and undisturbed. I shall speak more particularly
on this subject hereafter under the head of instruction; all I wish to
secure in this place is that the teacher should make such arrangements
that he can devote his exclusive attention to his classes while he is
actually engaged with them.

Each recitation, too, should have its specified time, which should be
adhered to with rigid accuracy. If any thing like the plan I have
suggested for allowing rests of a minute or two every half hour should
be adopted, it will mark off the forenoon into parts which ought to be
precisely and carefully observed. I was formerly accustomed to think
that I could not limit the time for my recitations without great
inconvenience, and occasionally allowed one exercise to encroach upon
the succeeding, and this upon the next, and thus sometimes the last was
excluded altogether. But such a lax and irregular method of procedure is
ruinous to the discipline of a school. On perceiving it at last, I put
the bell into the hands of a pupil, commissioning her to ring regularly,
having myself fixed the times, saying that I would show my pupils that I
could be confined myself to system as well as they. At first I
experienced a little inconvenience; but this soon disappeared, and at
last the hours and half hours of our artificial division entirely
superseded, in the school-room, the divisions of the clock face. I
found, too, that it exerted an extremely favorable influence upon the
scholars in respect to their willingness to submit readily to the
necessary restrictions imposed upon them in school, to show them that
the teacher was subject to law as well as they.

But, in order that I may be specific and definite, I will draw up a plan
for the regular division of time, for a common school, not to be
_adopted_, but to be _imitated_; that is, I do not recommend exactly
this plan, but that some plan, precise and specific, should be
determined upon, and exhibited to the school by a diagram like the

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A drawing on a large sheet, made by some of the older scholars (for a
teacher should never do any thing of this kind which his scholars can do
for him), should be made and pasted up to view, the names of the classes
being inserted in the columns under their respective heads. At the
double lines at ten and three, there might be a rest of two minutes, an
officer appointed for the purpose ringing a bell at each of the periods
marked on the plan, and making the signal for the _rest_, whatever
signal might be determined upon. It is a good plan to have the bell
_touched_ five minutes before each half hour expires, and then exactly
at its close. The first bell would notify the teacher or teachers, if
there are more than one in the school, that the time for their
respective recitations is drawing to a close. At the second bell the new
classes should take their places without waiting to be called for. The
scholars will thus see that the arrangements of the school are based
upon system, to which the teacher himself conforms, and not subjected to
his own varying will. They will thus not only go on more regularly, but
they will themselves yield more easily and pleasantly to the necessary

The fact is, children love system and regularity. Each one is sometimes
a little uneasy under the restraint which it imposes upon him
individually, but they all love to see its operation upon others, and
they are generally very willing to submit to its laws, if the rest of
the community are required to submit too. They show this in their love
of military parade; what allures them is chiefly the _order_ of it; and
even a little child creeping upon the floor will be pleased when he gets
his playthings in a row. A teacher may turn this principle to most
useful account in forming his plans for his school, in observing that
the teacher is governed by them too as well as they.

It will be seen by reference to the foregoing plan that I have marked
the time for the recesses by the letter R. at the top. Immediately after
them, both in the forenoon and in the afternoon, twenty minutes are
left, marked G., the initial standing for general exercise. They are
intended to denote periods during which all the scholars are in their
seats, with their work laid aside, ready to attend to whatever the
teacher may desire to bring before the whole school. There are so many
occasions on which it is necessary to address the whole school, that it
is very desirable to appropriate a particular time for it. In most of
the best schools I believe this plan is adopted. I will mention some of
the subjects which would come up at such a time.

1. There are some studies which can be advantageously attended to by the
whole school together, such as Punctuation, and, to some extent,

2. Cases of discipline which it is necessary to bring before the whole
school ought to come up at a regularly-appointed time. By attending to
them here, there will be a greater importance attached to them. Whatever
the teacher does will seem to be more deliberate, and, in fact, _will
be_ more deliberate.

3. General remarks, bringing up classes of faults which prevail; also
general directions, which may at any time be needed; and, in fact, any
business relating to the general arrangements of the school.

4. Familiar lectures from the teacher on various subjects. These
lectures, though necessarily brief and quite familiar in their form, may
still be very exact and thorough in respect to the knowledge conveyed.
When they are upon scientific subjects they may sometimes be illustrated
by experiments, more or less imposing, according to the ingenuity of the
teacher, the capacity of the older scholars to assist him in the
preparations, or the means and facilities at his command.[2]


[Footnote 2: In some of the larger institutions of the country the
teacher will have convenient apparatus at his disposal, and a room
specially adapted to the purpose of experiments. The engraving
represents a room at the Spingler Institute at New York. But let not the
teacher suppose that these special facilities are essential to enable
him to give instruction to his pupils in such a way. I have known a much
larger balloon than the one represented in the engraving to be
constructed by the teacher and pupils of a common country school from
directions in Rees's Cyclopedia, and sent up in the open air. The
aeronaut that accompanied it was a hen--poor thing!] The design of such
lectures should be to extend the _general knowledge_ of the pupils in
regard to those subjects on which they will need information in their
progress through life. In regard to each of these particulars I shall
speak more particularly hereafter, in the chapters to which they
respectively belong. My only object here is to show, in the general
arrangements of the school, how a place is to be found for them. My
practice has been to have two periods of short duration, each day,
appropriated to these objects: the first to the _business of the
school_, and the second to such studies or lectures as could be most
profitably attended to at such a time.

We come now to one of the most important subjects which present
themselves to the teacher's attention in settling the principles upon
which he shall govern his school. I mean the degree of influence which
the boys themselves shall have in the management of its affairs. Shall
the government of school be a _monarchy_ or a _republic?_ To this
question, after much inquiry and many experiments, I answer, a monarchy;
an absolute, unlimited monarchy; the teacher possessing exclusive power
as far as the pupils are concerned, though strictly responsible to the
committee or to the trustees under whom he holds his office.

While, however, it is thus distinctly understood that the power of the
teacher is supreme, that all the power rests in him, and that he alone
is responsible for its exercise, there ought to be a very free and
continual _delegation_ of power to the pupils. As much business as is
possible should be committed to them. They should be interested as much
as possible in the affairs of the school, and led to take an active part
in carrying them forward; though they should, all the time, distinctly
understand that it is only _delegated_ power which they exercise, and
that the teacher can, at any time, revoke what he has granted, and alter
or annul at pleasure any of their decisions. By this plan we have the
responsibility resting where it ought to rest, and yet the boys are
trained to business, and led to take an active interest in the welfare
of the school. Trust is reposed in them, which may be greater or less,
as they are able to bear. All the good effects of reposing trust and
confidence, and committing the management of important business to the
pupils will be secured, without the dangers which would result from the
entire surrender of the management of the institution into their hands.

There have been, in several cases, experiments made with reference to
ascertaining how far a government strictly republican would be
admissible in a school. A very fair experiment of this kind was made
some years since at the Gardiner Lyceum, in Maine. At the time of its
establishment, nothing was said of the mode of government which it was
intended to adopt. For some time the attention of the instructors was
occupied in arranging the course of study, and attending to the other
concerns of the institution; and, in the infant state of the Lyceum, few
cases of discipline occurred, and no regular system of government was

Before long, however, complaints were made that the students at the
Lyceum were guilty of breaking windows in an old building used as a
town-house. The principal called the students together, mentioned the
reports, and said that he did not know, and did not wish to know who
were the guilty individuals. It was necessary, however, that the thing
should be examined into, and that restitution should be made, and,
relying on their faithfulness and ability, he should leave them to
manage the business alone. For this purpose, he nominated one of the
students as judge, some others as jurymen, and appointed the other
officers necessary in the same manner. He told them that, in order to
give them time to make a thorough investigation, they were excused from
farther exercises during the day.

The principal then left them, and they entered on the trial. The result
was that they discovered the guilty individuals, ascertained the amount
of mischief done by each, and sent to the selectmen a message, by which
they agreed to pay a sum equal to three times the value of the injury

The students were soon after informed that this mode of bringing
offenders to justice would hereafter be always pursued, and arrangements
were made for organizing a _regular republican government_ among the
young men. By this government all laws which related to the internal
police of the institution were to be made, all officers were appointed,
and all criminal cases were to be tried. The students finding the part
of a judge too difficult for them to sustain, one of the professors was
appointed to hold that office, and, for similar reasons, another of the
professors was made president of the legislative assembly. The principal
was the executive, with power to _pardon_, but not to _sentence_, or
even _accuse_.

Some time after this a student was indicted for profane swearing; he was
tried, convicted, and punished. After this he evinced a strong hostility
to the government. He made great exertions to bring it into contempt,
and when the next trial came on, he endeavored to persuade the witnesses
that giving evidence was dishonorable, and he so far succeeded that the
defendant was acquitted for want of evidence, when it was generally
understood that there was proof of his guilt, which would have been
satisfactory if it could have been brought forward. For some time after
this the prospect was rather unfavorable, though many of the students
themselves opposed with great earnestness these efforts, and were much
alarmed lest they should lose their free government through the
perverseness of one of their number. The attorney general, at this
juncture, conceived the idea of indicting the individual alluded to for
an attempt to overturn the government. He obtained the approbation of
the principal, and the grand jury found a bill. The court, as the case
was so important, invited some of the trustees, who were in town, to
attend the trial. The parent of the defendant was also informed of the
circumstances and requested to be present, and he accordingly attended.
The prisoner was tried, found guilty, and sentenced, if I mistake not,
to expulsion. At his earnest request, however, to be permitted to remain
in the Lyceum and redeem his character, he was pardoned and restored,
and from that time he became perfectly exemplary in his conduct and
character. After this occurrence the system went on in successful
operation for some time.

The legislative power was vested in the hands of a general committee,
consisting of eight or ten, chosen by the students from their own
number. They met about once a week to transact such business as
appointing officers, making and repealing regulations, and inquiring
into the state of the Lyceum. The instructors had a negative upon all
their proceedings, but no direct and positive power. They could pardon,
but they could assign no punishments, nor make laws inflicting any.

Now such a plan as this may succeed for a short time, and under very
favorable circumstances; and the circumstance which it is chiefly
important should be favorable is, that the man who is called to preside
over such an association should possess such talents of _generalship_
that he can really manage the institution _himself_, while the power is
_nominally_ and _apparently_ in the hands of the boys. Should this not
be the case, or should the teacher, from any cause, lose his personal
influence in the school, so that the institution should really be
surrendered into the hands of the pupils, things must be on a very
unstable footing. And, accordingly, where such a plan has been adopted,
it has, I believe, in every instance, been ultimately abandoned.

_Real self-government_ is an experiment sufficiently hazardous among
men, though Providence, in making a daily supply of food necessary for
every human being, has imposed a most powerful check upon the tendency
to anarchy and confusion. Let the populace of Paris or of London
materially interrupt the order and break in upon the arrangements of the
community, and in eight-and-forty hours nearly the whole of the mighty
mass will be in the hands of the devourer, hunger, and they will be soon
brought to submission. On the other hand, a month's anarchy and
confusion in a college or an academy would be delight to half the
students, or else times have greatly changed since I was within college

Although it is thus evident that the important concerns of a literary
institution can not be safely committed into the hands of the students,
very great benefits will result from calling upon them to act upon and
to decide questions relative to the school within such limits and under
such restrictions as are safe and proper. Such a practice will assist
the teacher very much if he manages it with any degree of dexterity; for
it will interest his pupils in the success of the school, and secure, to
a very considerable extent, their co-operation in the government of it.
It will teach them self-control and self-government, and will accustom
them to submit to the majority--that lesson which, of all others, it is
important for a republican to learn.

In endeavoring to interest the pupils of a school in the work of
co-operating with the teacher in its administration, no little dexterity
will be necessary at the outset. In all probability, the formal
announcement of this principle, and the endeavor to introduce it by a
sudden revolution, would totally fail. Boys, like men, must be gradually
prepared for; power, and they must exercise it only so far as they are
prepared. This, however, can very easily be done. The teacher should say
nothing of his general design, but, when some suitable opportunity
presents, he should endeavor to lead his pupils to co-operate with him
in some particular instance.

For example, let us suppose that he has been accustomed to distribute
the writing-books with his own hand when the writing-hour arrives, and
that he concludes to delegate this simple business first to his
scholars. He accordingly states to them, just before the writing
exercise of the day on which he proposes the experiment, as follows:

"I have thought that time will be saved if you will help me distribute
the books, and I will accordingly appoint four distributors, one for
each division of the seats, who may come to me and receive the books,
and distribute them each to his own division. Are you willing to adopt
this plan?"

The boys answer "Yes, sir," and the teacher then looks carefully around
the room, and selects four pleasant and popular boys--boys who he knows
would gladly assist him, and who would, at the same time, be agreeable
to their school-mates. This latter point is necessary in order to secure
the popularity and success of the plan.

Unless the boys are very different from any I have ever met with, they
will be pleased with the duty thus assigned them. They will learn system
and regularity by being taught to perform this simple duty in a proper
manner. After a week, the teacher may consider their term of service as
having expired, and thanking them in public for the assistance they have
rendered him, he may ask the scholars if they are willing to continue
the plan, and if the vote is in favor of it, as it unquestionably would
be, each boy probably hoping that he should be appointed to the office,
the teacher may nominate four others, including, perhaps, upon the list,
some boy popular among his companions, but whom he has suspected to be
not very friendly to himself or the school. I think the most scrupulous
statesman would not object to securing influence by conferring office in
such a case. If difficulties arise from the operation of such a measure,
the plan can easily be modified to avoid or correct them. If it is
successful, it may be continued, and the principle may be extended, so
as in the end to affect very considerably all the arrangements and the
whole management of the school.

Or, let us imagine the following scene to have been the commencement of
the introduction of the principle of limited self-government into a

The preceptor of an academy was sitting at his desk, at the close of
school, while the pupils were putting up their books and leaving the
room. A boy came in with angry looks, and, with his hat in his hands
bruised and dusty, advanced to the master's desk, and complained that
one of his companions had thrown down his hat upon the floor, and had
almost spoiled it.

The teacher looked calmly at the mischief, and then asked how it

"I don't know, sir. I hung it on my nail, and he pulled it down."

"I wish you would ask him to come here," said the teacher. "Ask him

The accused soon came in, and the two boys stood together before the

"There seems to be some difficulty between you boys about a nail to hang
your hats upon. I suppose each of you think it is your own nail."

"Yes, sir," said both the boys.

"It will be more convenient for me to talk with you about this to-morrow
than to-night, if you are willing to wait. Besides, we can examine it
more calmly then. But if we put it off till then, you must not talk
about it in the mean time, blaming one another, and keeping up the
irritation that you feel. Are you both willing to leave it just where it
is till to-morrow, and try to forget all about it till then? I expect I
shall find you both a little to blame."

The boys rather reluctantly consented. The next day the master heard the
case, and settled it so far as it related to the two boys. It was easily
settled in the morning, for they had had time to get calm, and were,
after sleeping away their anger, rather ashamed of the whole affair, and
very desirous to have it forgotten.

That day, when the hour for the transaction of general business came,
the teacher stated to the school that it was necessary to take some
measures to provide each boy with a nail for his hat. In order to show
that it was necessary, he related the circumstances of the quarrel which
had occurred the day before. He did this, not with such an air and
manner as to convey the impression that his object was to find fault
with the boys, or to expose their misconduct, but to show the necessity
of doing something to remedy the evil which had been the cause of so
unpleasant an occurrence. Still, though he said nothing in the way of
reproof or reprehension, and did not name the boys, but merely gave a
cool and impartial narrative of the facts, the effect, very evidently,
was to bring such quarrels into discredit. A calm review of misconduct,
after the excitement has gone by, will do more to bring it into disgrace
than the most violent invectives and reproaches directed against the
individuals guilty of it at the time.

"Now, boys," continued the master, "will you assist me in making
arrangements to prevent the recurrence of all temptations of this kind
hereafter? It is plain that every boy ought to have a nail appropriated
expressly to his use. The first thing to be done is to ascertain whether
there are enough for all. I should like, therefore, to have two
committees appointed: one to count and report the number of nails in the
entry, and also how much room there is for more; the other to ascertain
the number of scholars in school. They can count all who are here, and,
by observing the vacant desks, they can ascertain the number absent.
When this investigation is made, I will tell you what to do next."

The boys seemed pleased with the plan, and the committees were
appointed, two members on each. The master took care to give the
quarrelers some share in the work, apparently forgetting, from this
time, the unpleasant occurrence which had brought up the subject.

When the boys came to inform him of the result of their inquiries, he
asked them to make a little memorandum of it in writing, as he might
forget the numbers, he said, before the time came for reading them. The
boys brought him, presently, a rough scrap of paper, with the figures
marked upon it. He told them he should forget which was the number of
nails, and which the number of scholars, unless they wrote it down.

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