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Art. V.—Shall Education By The State Be Exclusively Secular?
It is but too apparent that the Republic of the United States is passing through a transitional, if not, indeed, a revolutionary period. Questions of gravest import are coming before us for adjustment or readjustment; questions fundamental to the perpetuity of the nation, and freighted with its hopes and interests.
Among these questions none is more grave or vital than that of education in all its relations and applications; but especially is the relation of the nation or State to the education of its future citizens of pre-eminent importance. Shall the State educate its youth? Shall it employ ccmpulsory methods? To what extent shall State or national education be carried? Shall it embrace primary education only, or include secondary as well, or advance through all the grades of higher culture, even to the college and the university? And, more important still, what shall be the character of the State's educational work? Shall it be purely secular, or all inclusive, embracing the entire nature of its subjects and having respect to their entire fitness for future citizenship? These important questions cannot receive any extended consideration in the brief limits of this article. We can only give a hasty glance and a passing word to some of them in their specific form, but hope to elucidate certain fundamental principles relating to the generic question of What the State shall teach, or the education requisite for American citizenship.
It is, perhaps, needless to start the question, whether the State shall educate its youth at all. Popular education, under government patronage and support, is an established institution in the United States; an institution deeply rooted in the popular heart, and which will not be surrendered without a struggle. It is too late in the history of our government to discuss that question in its simple form. It is not, however, too late to inquire concerning the reasons which underlie this cherished institution, the foundation principles on which it rests. We may legitimately ask, then, what are the ends sought in our system of common-school education? The answer is neither difficult nor doubtful. Qualification for citizenship, preparation for the manifold duties of life, protection to the interests of society, the safety, perpetuity, and prosperity of the nation— these are the ends sought and believed to be secured by the education which the State maintains at public expense. If these are the acknowledged and unquestioned ends sought, it is certainly a legitimate and important question which presses with imperative force upon us, How are these ends best secured? If the State proposes to accomplish certain definite ends, and employs certain well-defined means for that purpose, its citizens, who are taxed for the object contemplated, have a right to inquire as to the adaptation of the means to the end; and whether the efcd is really secured by the agencies employed. Ilere, then, comes before us, properly and forcibly, the question as to the character of our common-school education: what it actually is, what it should be in order to justify the State in supporting it? It will be answered that the ends proposed are secured by imparting knowledge to youth that they may become intelligent. But such an answer is vague and partial, and quite unsatisfactory to thoughtful people. Sow much knowledge does it require to make a man a good and safe citizen? Does simple intelligence, meaning by the term an intellectual knowledge of certain branches of study, constitute all, or even the most important part, of education f Are the ends which the State seeks and which its safety demands realized by any such meager and partial methods of education? Does it follow that because a child can read and write, or has passed through a more extended literary course, he is thereby qualified for the solemn and responsible duties of society, and of becoming a personal and potent factor in the social and civil institutions of a great republic? This vital question, deeper and broader and graver than all others relating to education, is the question which in some form is being rapidly pressed to the front in our country, and demands immediate and thoughtful consideration. The question, when reduced to its more specific form, is this: Shall the education given by the State be purely and exclusively secular? The subject is not a theoretical one merely. In several localities it has taken a very decidedly practical form. It is before some of the State legislatures for discussion and decision. Local school boards have it on their hands, and some of them are pressing it to a speedy settlement. Teachers are called upon to adjust their daily work with this question ever before them. There is a party in every State, daily increasing in numerical strength, becoming more emphatic in its utterances, more pronounced in its attitude, whose avowed object is completely to secularize and atheize the State and the nation in all their work and in all their relations to State institutions and individual subjects. It is important that every intelligent citizen should have a thorough understanding of the subject, and be prepared for wise and prompt action in relation thereto. We do not propose to view the subject from the stand-point of a Christian minister, nor that of a devoted Protestant, nor even in the light of pure, nnsectarian Christianity. We prefer to discuss it upon other and lower grounds, and view it as a simple citizen, in the light of sound, worldly sense, of true philosophy, and of undeniable history. Without bigotry, without sectarian prejudices, without bias, assuming nothing but the common principles of morality and theistic or natural religion, let us approach this subject, seeking to know only what is truth, what is right, and wherein lies the greatest good for the greatest number.
I. A complete secularization of our public instruction so as essentially to exclude moral and religious education would be thoroughly unphilmophical. To do this is to ignore the true end of education. What is that end? The united testimony of all recognized authority harmonizes with the judgment of all thoughtful persons in answering this question. Pestalozzi, whose place as an educator is universally recognized, and of whom it has been truly said that he has exerted a greater influence than any other man on education in England, America,, and the north of Europe, states as his first principle that "education relates to the whole man, and consists in the drawing, forth, strengthening, and perfecting all the faculties with which an all-wise Creator has endowed him, physical, intellectual, and moral." "Education," he says, "has to do with the hand, the head, and the heart." Herbert Spencer will surely not be charged with any bias toward Puritanism in matters of education, but he affirms that the one end of all true education is to learn "how to use all our faculties to the greatest advantage of ourselves and others," or, in other words, "how to live completely. And this, being the great thing needful for us to
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learn, is, by consequence, the great thing which education has to teach. To prepare us for complete living is the function which education has to discharge; and the only rational mode of judging of any educational course is to judge in what degree it discharges that function."
What an utter neglect of this true and philosophic end of education is manifest in a system that proposes only to furnish the mind with a few facts, or subject it to the discipline of a few intellectual processes. Such a system also ignores entirely the true nature of the child. It takes but the most partial and imperfect view of him. In the estimation of such a theory he is a being capable of learning combinations of figures, of chattering grammatical sentences, of remembering incidents and dates of history, and nothing more. That he is a moral being, that he has a conscience, that the awakening and culture of his moral nature is absolutely essential to all true development, that unless this is done no worthy end of education is ever realized and no real success in life is ever achieved, all this is forgotten or treated with supreme indifference, not to say contempt. The noblest part of our nature is thus untouched, its highest functions are never employed, and no appeal is ever made to its most inspiring motives. To expect any valuable results from such an unphilosophical and irrational process is to insult reason and defy logical sequences. As well might you attempt to execute a difficult piece of music upon an organ without touching its principal keys or employing its most important pipes; as well attempt to solve a trigonometrical problem without a knowledge of the multiplication table. You can as soon make a scholar out of a child by throwing a spelling book and grammar at his head, as you can make him a useful member of society by stuffing him with readers, geographies, and arithmetics.
This unnatural and unreasonable method strikes with paralyzing force the teacher, and prevents his accomplishing the very work he is aiming to do. What is the teacher's real work? again we ask. To aid the pupil in the development of a true character, to qualify him for a worthy life, to render him a proper subject for citizenship and society. How shall he accomplish this all-important work? Evidently by using the limited time he has to the best possible advantage; by touching every key in that marvelous organism which will respond to the touch, by appealing to every susceptibility and every motive, by awakening every dormant energy, and especially by calling into play those powers and emphasizing those duties most essential to genuine manhood and womanhood. The true teacher does this by bringing himself, his whole moral and intellectual being, into sympathetic contact with his pupil's entire being. Hence it depends upon the teacher himself, his character, his culture, his personal influence, more than upon his mechanical methods of teaching, as to what kind of education his pupils will receive. Thus the genuine teacher is more than all text-books, more than all apparatus and all methods, more than every thing else in the work of true education.
When Pestalozzi was carrying on his great work in the old convent of Stanz, "his whole school apparatus consisted of himself and his pupils." But that was immeasurably more than all the apparatus of modern times minus the mighty personality of the strong-souled teacher himself. Yet of what avail is this transcendent factor in all the work of education—the personal force of the teacher—if it is to be limited to drilling the pupil's mind with figures or stuffing it with facts; or, in other words, if all the moral and spiritual force of the teacher is to be deprived of its legitimate effect, and his work is circumscribed within the narrow and beggarly limits of purely secular studies? Developed, ennobled, made great himself and worthy of his position by reason of his communion with truth in all her vast domain, in the realms of nature, of life, of duty, of destiny, and of God, he cannot, forsooth, lift his pupils to these lofty altitudes, he must not speak of *hese solemn sublimities and sacred verities, because that would be transcending the province of the State, whose work is to teach its ward to read and spell and cipher.
Could any theory or process of education more completely stultify the teacher and stunt the pupil than this? With such a theory character is nothing in teacher or pupil; the teacher who can cram the most multiplication table and spelling book into the child's mind in a given time, by whatever method or mechanism, bears off the palm, and is the State's best educational agent. How belittling such a view of education is to the teacher, how subversive of the high and noble ends he ought to seek, and how utterly at variance with every principle of sound