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making due provision for sports a necessary part of school equipment; and it will require some effort on the part of those who appreciate the national significance of sports to indoctrinate and awaken the public mind to a realization of their importance. In making this assertion I am not unmindful of the great whoop-and-burrah of modern college athletics. But it must be remembered that there are more than one hundred and fifty children in the elementary schools where there is one young person in college; and also that play is a necessity for the children. Besides it should not be forgotten that even in colleges not one student in ten takes any direct part in college athletics. The rooters' are much more numerous than the runners.
It is to be feared that many of our so-called practical school boards, were they to wander over the forty acre cricket field of Eton and see opportunity for hundreds of boys to play simultaneously, would conclude that the authorities of such a school were poor managers. But against such a possible conclusion could be brought the testimony and enthusiasm of the rulers of England. Wellington's well-known remark that Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton voices the earnest sentiment of all Etonians, whether "oppidans” or “collegers.”
There was a time in the development of our country when almost every town and village had in immediate proximity "commons," "fields," or vacant lots where boys met, and where “three old cat,” “town-ball," "bull-pen," and many other spunk-begetting games were engaged in. But in the main these conditions have changed, and in the larger cities nothing remains worthy the name of a playground. Even the village boys are hard pressed to find a place where they dare let themselves out and, at the same time, avoid “'trespassing.”
It is very clear that as time goes on these opportunities for boys will further decrease, unless those whose business it is to minister to the development of vigorous, valorous character will opportunely estimate the need and straightway supply it.
From measurements recently made by the principals of the various schools of San Francisco, I have found that the average amount of playground furnished per child in the schools of that city is 17 3 square feet. This means that if all of the playgrounds belonging to the city schools were united into one common ground, and all of the children were to play on this ground at the same time, they would have less space for play than all authorities agree they should have for study in a schoolroom. A closer study of the measurements reveals the fact that ninety-one per cent of all the children in the city schools have access to playgrounds which, if combined, would allow but fourteen and one half square feet of space to each child. The same degree of crowding in a schoolroom would allow an average attendance of fifty-three children in a room twenty-four feet wide by thirty-two feet long; a condition which would not be tolerated in any intelligent community.
The last statements are made possible by the fact that larger schools in the most populous districts have less space to devote to playgrounds than the smaller, and generally outlying, schools. There is here not only a suggestion of continued encroachment, but also the plain fact that those children who have the least opportunity for outdoor sports at home are also those who are denied it most effectually at school.
The figures given, while actually stating the average allowance of square feet of playground to each pupil, exaggerate the usefulness of the grounds; for the measurements have included not only the playgrounds proper, but all of the space within the lot outside of the school buildings. It must be held in mind, therefore, that a considerable amount of this space represents narrow passage ways and unused corners, where children cannot play with any degree of earnestness. I have presented these facts concerning existing conditions in San Francisco not for the sake of specific fault-finding, but merely for the sake of illustration; for it is my impression that San Francisco is no worse off in this particular than are most of the cities of the country of her class.
Some weeks ago, the writer tried his best to join unreservedly into the sports of some hundreds of school boys who were eagerly striving to have fun in a school lot of the prevailing size; but he found his attention so distracted with balls flying in all directions and in such close proximity to his head, that he could not even develop enough interest in his part of the game to do it with any zest. And he noticed that most of the boys likewise played in a half hearted way. The fact is, had they allowed themselves any sort of freedom and abandon in their efforts, neighboring windows and many small boys would have suffered, and then the teachers would have stopped the game.
For the most part, these boys were unconscious of what they were missing for they had never had room to let themselves out. The street or some unwholesome alleyway had furnished them their only playground and, consequently, their play had never been free, easy, and complete. At many schools nowadays, the boys are permitted to use in the school-grounds only the soft gas balls originally made for the nursery. Neither are they allowed the use of a bat, but must content themselves by striking the ball with their half closed hands. Recently I watched a game of baseball played in this way, and, during my observations, the ball was not “handed” (I was about to say batted, at any time more than forty feet from the striker despite the fact that many supposedly vigorous hits were made. As I looked on, I wondered how much more those boys would love their school, and how much greater would be their sense of personal power, could they be allowed to scatter out properly on a level turf, and with a shapely ash club do their unhindered best to knock the very cover off of a real ball. I said a moment ago that fun could not be defined, but I am sure that there is an element of conscious power in a boy's fun.
It is only our reasonable service to make better provision for our children's education than we received at the hands of our fathers. Anything short of this would be a necessary failure, A community dominated with any other notion will in the long run prove to be an unsafe dwelling place. It is not enough to labor diligently to satisfy the present needs of a community. Those who go no further than this are necessarily lax in the performance of their civic duties.
The County Institute*.
PROF. M. V. O'SHEA. No one will deny that the question of the proper training of the teacher has in these last years received due attention at the hands alike of the specialist and of the layman. There has been, and is still, interminable disputation regarding the sort of equipment one should possess who aspires to "guide the tender thought, to teach the young idea how to shoot.” This is a capital topic to give occupation to those who delight in the game of logomachy; for where matters are so involved and principles so obscure there is opportunity for combatants to appear to have great wit, and no one is able to prove the contrary. Some hold that the teacher is born and not made; that instinct and not art wins success in the schoolroom. One brilliant layman puts it in this way: "Teaching is like fighting; all you have to do is to get your enemy into a corner and then give it to him’’; but, unfortunately, he passes of the stage without soliloquizing upon the methods of driving pupils into a corner.
There are others who think a pedagog needs most instruction in the use of his educational material, and they do not attach so much importance to a thoro mastery of the material itself. Give us method, they say, and we shall not be crying for anything else. The wishes of this last group have been gratified, in a measure at least, in the past, for some of the institutions that are pleased to call themselves training schools have turned out a product full of method but empty of substance.
It is worthy of remark that in all this waste of discussion about the training of teachers, scarcely any regard has been paid to the needs of those who wield the rod in rural schools. Perhaps it is a fortunate thing, however. since there have been going forward certain enterprises which are calculated to equip the common school teacher more perfectly for his work. The establishment of county training schools is certain to exercise a vast influence upon the work of the little red schoolhouse. But the county institute is still the principal instrument by means of which the mind and heart of callow youth are molded into forms of sympathy and keenness and appreciation, which forms of intellect and disposition alone will fit in with situations presented in the schoolroom. It is to be feared, however, that this molding is often done by an unpracticed hand, and that the result is but crude and unsbapely.
Not long since the writer was an attendant upon certain phases of the work carried on at a county institute, and all he heard was some talk about rules of grammar, devices for shortening processes of calculation, regulations for suppressing the spontaniety of the young, and instructions how to make contracts so that the teacher would be sure to get her money. Between the periods devoted to these serious matters the county superintendent, the book agents, and any other wanderer that happened in, made their appeals to the attention and sympathies of the teachers present.
* This article has an added interest on account of the fact that Prof. M. V. O'Shea will be one of the speakers at Pacific Grove.
The effect of all this upon the minds and hearts of the unfortunate pedagogs was not such as one could grow enthusiastic over, if facial expression counts for anything. Their dull, heavy countenances betokened an utter lack of interest in what was going on, or failing to go on, perhaps. The feelings were not touched, and matters appertaining to the nature and modes of fashioning a child's life at different ages was not even hinted at by instructors. There was no Promethean fire in the speakers or in the listeners. The lecturers had nothing to give, so that the teachers imbibed nothing, and there was really nothing going forward. That institute was ready for interment.
Those fertile minds that conceived the county institute more than a half century ago thought it would be very helpful in giving teachers both a knowledge of what they were to teach, and how they were to teach it; and as reading, writing, spelling, and ciphering were the only branches of instruction in those days they were the ones that were taught in the institute. As time went on and the schools, like everything else, became more efficient, it was realized that academic training should be gotten somewhere else than in the week's institute; and the time was gradually takeu up wholly with instruction in method. The institute conductor went around from county to county with his pack of devices wrought out of his inner consciousness, or, what is more likely, gleaned from books that had been wrought out of some one else's inner consciousness; and these he crammed down the throats of the teachers for five days. Then, in the course of events, people began to lose faith in the value of this sort of instruction; if it made any impression upon teachers it was to render their work mechanical and artificial. And it was found wanting in the place where it should have been most in evidence, namely, in arousing in the heart of the teacher warm sympathy for the pupil. This view of the case is now gaining ground, tho it has not made much headway in certain parts of our country, the more's the pity.
It seems as if we had now reached the point where we can say, without any fear of overstating the matter, that there are certain things a teacher must possess himself of before he can be entrusted with the guiding of the tender thought. In the first place, he must have made his own the best thought which the race has produced, and which are incentives to the highest form of social life. One who has not absorbed into his own being the best that has been wrought out of the experience of the race as preserved for us in its great literature is not rightly equipped to shape the career of another. Can the blind lead the blind any more successfully in the spiritual than in the physical world? The teacher's function is to lead the young up to the highest point mankind has reached, not only in the knowledge of grammar and arithmetic, but in the broader things of the mind and heart, most of which lie outside of and beyond the purely mechanical studies. There is surely no need of dwelling upon this matter; everyone who reflects accepts it to-day, and realizes that the development of character in the large sense, the fitting of the man in harmonious relation to his fellows, and to the physical world about him, is the function of the school, and one who is not thus adjusted himself is surely incapable of helping another to attain adjustment in the best and most economical way.
Then again a teacher must have some insight into, and he must sympathize with, child life. He must see what are the springs of conduct at different epochs in the period of development; he ought to know to what great laws of growth are to be referred the varied phenomena of childhood; and, if he is to discharge his duty efficiently, he should know what experience the race has had in its treatment of the activities of the young in different ways. He ought to know how the wisest men in the world in respect of things educational regard the dictum that the child is an imp of the devil. Is this superstition or is it science? Is the spontaniety of the young to be indulged and guided, or to be repressed ? Should we try to make Maggie Tullivers or Lucy Deans of our children? Has the riot and madness of youth a place in development? or are these manifestations of adolescence obnoxious weeds that must be destroyed root and branch? A teacher must possess himself of what the race knows about childhood and youth, and the outcome of various attitudes toward them, the effects of a repressive, inhibitive environment, or of one that conserves and guides the native impulse of the young, or of one that indulges and takes no part at all in shaping the lives of chil
Then, there is need, of course, for the teacher to understand the best ways of fitting subjects to the minds of his pupils as the engineer fits a bridge to a chasm. There is a best way of doing all things, and this does not ordinarily lie open to the view of the uninitiated. The human mind is too infinitely complex to be read by him who runs. There are subtle laws that are discerned only by long, careful searching. One cannot teach the young idea how to shoot until he understands something about it and the way in which he can hold the beginner to acquire the art most skilfully and economically.
Now, in the course of five days, the customary length of a county institute, not much can be done for the teacher along these lines except to inspire her with the desire to achieve full participation in the life of humanity, and point out to her the way in which she may help herself. The function of the institute must be mainly inspirational and advisory; it must awaken ambitions to know both the child and the ideals of the race and indicate how these may be realized.
Recently I listened to a distinguished lecturer as he awakened in an institute an interest in George Eliot's writings. He did his work with a skillful hand, and left everyone longing to know more about those great books which arouse in the reader the best emotions, those which make one more loyal and true and helpful to his neighbor. And these aroused in the soul of the teacher become reflected in the soul of the child.
EDWIN D. MEAD, of New England Magazine: The public school is more impotant than all else as an engine of democracy. Education is simply another way of spelling democrary.