Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

grandfather clause.' A person with the right kind of grandfather does n't need to labor with the alphabet in order to be allowed to vote. It is assumed that he has certain hereditary qualities which are a good substitute for reading and writing.”

“ I think that there's a great deal in heredity,” I said.

Yes,” answered the Merry Devil, “ there's a great deal more in it than seems to come out.”

He then explained how he gained the confidence of the student and made his college days one long, bright dream.

“ He spends four care-free years without being troubled by a serious thought. When the time is up I make use of the psychological method of suggestion. I suggest to him that now he has an education. And he does n't know but he has, - he has been exposed to it.

“ The very elaboration of our educational scheme makes it easier for me to circumvent the educators. It was different with the ancient Persians, who taught their youth to ride, to shoot, and to speak the truth. It was hard to sophisticate so simple a curriculum. You could tell what an

a

educated man could do. If he habitually tumbled off his horse, and missed the mark, and told lies, you knew that he had n't been educated. But nowadays you can't tell what turn a man's education

may

have taken. “Only the other day I met a man who seemed to me the most unintelligent person I had met in many a month. I tried him on all sorts of subjects of common interest, and could not get the slightest response. There seemed to be a lack of sympathetic imagination and a singular aversion to general ideas. I soon learned the reason. He was about to take the last degree, which was to cut him off forever from the unlearned world. He had passed through a terrible ordeal and had for a year or two been subjected to cruel and unusual knowledge. He had taken a Trappist vow of silence upon all subjects unconnected with his Thesis, “Some Minor Mistakes in Algonkian Etymology.' He was reduced almost to a shadow because he was afraid that the mistakes he had discovered were n't small enough. He must find some mistakes that everybody else had overlooked, in order to prove his capacity for Original Research.”

“ That seems reasonable enough,” I said. “I suppose that he intends to go into original research as his life work, and that is excellent discipline for him. It is a great thing to have a part in the Advancement of Science.”

“ Advancement of Science! Fiddlesticks!” said the Merry Devil, “ he is n't going in for any more research after he finishes his thesis. What he wants to do is to teach in a good school, and people have the idea that an infallible test is the capacity for Original Research.”

“But I should think that teaching half-grown boys was quite different ; indeed involved almost exactly the opposite methods and talents. The capacity which the ordinary teacher most needs is that of making the rudiments interesting. He is not intent on finding something new, but it is his business to communicate ideas that are the common property of mankind. I should think that, after spending several years in minute study of some unfrequented bypath, he would not be very well fitted to conduct boys upon the main road, and make them interested in it. It would seem to me that he might lose something of the sense of proportion, which, after all, is quite an

essential thing. Would n't it have been better to have spent the time in getting a strong grasp upon the most essential things, so that he could thoroughly humanize and idealize what he had to teach ?”

“ You don't understand,” said the Merry Devil. “ The important thing is to set a high standard.”

Then he began to dance about the room, singing,

“Hi Diddle Diddle, the cat and the fiddle,

The cow jumped over the moon. “That was a high standard for the cow. It showed what she could do, even if she never tried to do it again. I suppose you may ask whether it added to her value as a plain family cow. Perhaps not, but it was interesting as a sporting proposition. From my point of view there is a great advantage in having the ambitious scholar avoid the habitable parts of the earth, and spend a few years in some arid spot. A little of this aridity gets into his manner. A schoolmaster who has kept to the main road is likely to seize upon the salient points, and to show the relations of one thing to another. Such a person is likely to have an undue influence over boys. They might be.

[ocr errors]

come as enthusiastic over scholarship as over football. Before you know it, you would be back to the puritanical ideas of Milton of a school where there are “such Lectures and Explanations upon every opportunity as may lead and draw them in willing obedience, enflamed with the study of Learning, and the admiration of Virtue, stirred

up with high hopes of living to be brave men and worthy Patriots, dear to God and famous to all ages. All the time the schoolmaster would be 'infusing into their young breasts such an ingenuous and noble ardor as would not fail to make many of them renowned and matchless men.' Does n't that sound hysterical ? Just think of inflaming them with the study of learning! I say

it's the business of the teacher to cool them off. It all comes back to the talk about learning to do things, not only skillfully but magnanimously. Is that what you want to encourage in schools that cost good money ?”

Magnanimity,” I said, “ is an excellent quality.”

“ There you are wrong," said the Merry Devil. “ Magnanimity is not a quality, it's a quantity, as you ought to know. It is, literally, big-minded

« AnteriorContinuar »