Page images

is with these very hidden language elements, thought elements — thus impressed upon all forms of matter; upon all substance, material and immaterial, with which we must first deal, both as we find them in nature and in their counterpart, early childhood, for here they must meet and mingle into intelligent expression or forever remain hidden to the higher vision of thought. All true language lessons must be based on this primal thought or failure is inevitable.

These language elements must be developed, harmonized, utilized, infused and transfused in and through the child thought, as food elements for thought and expression. This is what they are for, and we make a mistake in looking beyond them, or neglecting their impressive force in early childhood. Hence the barrenness both of thought and language when taught as a mere matter of words to which ideas must be attached afterwards.

Language is an affair of the soul; of thought, emotion, will ; and the universe is replete with these thought elements, whose special mission and purpose are to appeal to and to unfold both the thought and the most forceful expression of it. Neglecting these, we offend the most promising period of childhood. Language learned in mere lessons on language is, at best, but a feeble fabrication that falls to pieces when severely tested, and comes far short of real language culture. But when it is sought by the child as a medium of expression of thought engendered in the soul, it then becomes vital, energizing, forceful. It should grow with the growth of thought, fed and nourished by the language elements distributed throughout the entire world of condition and relation.

II. As a general agency for communication among all animated creatures. Language may be defined : Any means by which animals of the same, or even different species, may communicate their thoughts, feelings and purposes to one another.' nizes language proper as a purely psychical product, fed from without by natural and necessary elements and restricted to animate nature, constituting a medium of communication between man and man of the same and different nationalities ; between brute and brute of the same or different species; and then there is a general tie linking man and the brute creation together. It is no difficult matter for a close observer to understand and interpret the language of birds and domestic animals;

This recogand they, in their turn, understand us. The same is true of insects, reptiles and even fishes. So that “the whole round world” and all the things therein are bound together by one universal tie,- a language by which and through which they express their common relations, their properties, and their higher relations of thought, emotion and purpose ; and these, in their turn, are interpreted by all. It is the interpreter of the soul of the universe.

III. In a still more restricted sense, or as a merely human invention, language employs the higher artificial medium of spoken and written words, strengthened and embellished by gesticulation and facial expression, sometimes seen in an exaggerated form in extreme pain, or in extravagant pleasure, as in the cry or the laugh. And it is a curious physiological fact that both these emotions are expressed from the same point in the organs of speech, viz.,— the glottis, the great regulator or keyboard of all vocal utterances of emotion, as in anger, rage, sorrow, grief and despair, as well as in the more tender emotions, as pity, compassion, love, etc.

Here we have both the natural and the artificial elements, or notation of language to deal with ; and we must go to the bottom in this matter if we would develop the best language in childhood. The natural elements, as they exist in childhood, are the ones upon which the artificial are founded, and when properly treated constitute the surest guide in the development of forceful and refined speech. But the artificial in language is that which we most desire to cultivate, since true art excels mere rugged nature as the civilized excels the savage ; and since the dramatic, or the emotional in language, contains by no means the most refined and elegant or even the most desirable elements of expression. But it is the every-day language, so to speak, that we most desire to elevate, and I am not sure but it contains the finest touches of true art. The dramatic is the poppy style — so to speak — the sunflower, the roseblush, compared with the modest and refined beauty of the violet and the delicate fragrance of the heliotrope.

IV. Language as a process of evolution. Language is the efflorescence of thought, the flowering forth of those delicate conceptions of the human mind, begotten and born through the contingent and consentaneous action of perception and reason. And as the flower in the process of blooming reveals its inner truth to the world, in color, form and fragrance, so the expression of thought in human language reveals the inner truth and beauty of the soul. For when these delicate fibres of the soul are breathed upon by impressions from without, and impelled by that natural impulse for expression from within, they unfold their petals of truth and beauty to the world through language that sheds its benign influence upon all objects of environment. And as the richer the soil and the more perfect the flower, the more beautiful and brilliant and varied the colors and exquisite its form and fragrance, so, in the evolution of the language of childhood and youth, the more perfect the organism, and forceful the impressions, and thorough the culture, and active the processes of evolution or thinking, the more powerful, perfect and beautiful will the language or expression become.

Other things being equal, the purity and perfection of the language or expression depend more upon the impression than upon any other one thing. This is the planting period of the soul, and what we plant we reap,- if tares, tares; if wheat, wheat; if weakness, weakness ; if strength, strength ; etc. This I conceive to be the one important feature in the formation and the cultivation of the language of the young. Not the set forms of expression, — the manipulated words, phrases and clauses that abound in many of our primary language books — but in the deepening, purifying and perfecting truthful impressions in the minds of young children through the medium of the eye, the ear and the hand; the three great impressible organs of the child; the avenues through which he receives more than nine-tenths of all his elements of thought ; his daily supplies of early impressions which are soon transmuted into early concepts and ideas ready for early expression. And I wonder that these senses do not receive more intelligent attention in these early periods. The culture the child needs here is not the plucking of the brain for the prematurely ripened fruit, even before it has time to fairly blossom ; nor yet to torture it with words before the things they signify are learned ; nor with the unmeaning forms and puzzling expressions before the thoughts they are intended to express are ripened for expression. But to stir the virgin soil of the mind in its yet unmeasured depths, with thought born of impressions from the beauty about it ; to fertilize the conceptions with observations of colors, forms and movements; and to enrich the understanding by experiment and thought till the soul is full to overflowing and all aglow with a desire to express,— to speak ; then the expression becomes a necessity and it must break forth ; then, but not till then, give it tongue and the language is alive; it is clear, strong, forceful. But Oh, the dull perception, the feeble concepts, the starved imagination, the weak understanding, the perverted judgment, the stupid reasoning, the blurred intellect of pupils fed on milk and water of many of our modern methods in language! It is the original thought born of close observation and careful study, not mere memorizing, that possesses the necessary stimulus and vigor to beget life and growth in the child. Language then becomes even more than a medium of thought. It is a thought fertilizer. It springs spontaneous from the glowing intellect and illumines and warms all the chambers of the soul.

Language, therefore, as a medium and spur to thought, feeling and purpose or will, is the product of three well defined, distinct though related processes, viz. :

1. Impressions for planting the thought germs — the percepts; the elements generating concepts in the mind.

2. Evolution, - or thinking; thought forming; thought adorning; thought completing.

3. Expression - or giving utterance to thought.

All these processes must be recognized in due form, measure and order, so that the language of childhood and youth may become strong, truthful, pure. There is no fitting substitute for these, nor for the order in which they are here presented. It is the law of nature, the law of growth; and it brooks no interference from men or methods.



HE National Educational Association will meet in Denver next

July,- from the 5th to the 12th. The railroad lines beyond Chicago will give round trip rates of one fare plus two dollars. It will be a most enjoyable trip, and a profitable meeting to all who can attend. Chairman Gove is just the man to make a notable success of this meeting, and he is determined to do so.

It will make every weary educator long to be there when he reads such words as these from Mr. Gove: “Such measures will be taken by Denver and Colorado as will insure a hearty welcome to the greatest educational assembly in the world. The excursions to the surrounding mountains and mountain parks; the comfort of the mountain hotels; the attractions and the exhilaration of life at from one to three miles above the sea ; the facilities for establishing study-camps and colonies. in mountain resorts, will all be tendered at such reasonable prices as will enable teachers and their friends to spend their entire vacation among the mountains.”


UR genial contemporary, the veteran journalist, J. B. Merwin

of St. Louis, who for twenty-five years has ably edited the American Journal of Education, writes us as follows concerning the live subject treated by Dr. Wm. A. Mowry in the last issue of EDUCATION :

“Prof. Wm. A. Mowry points out clearly the defects of the Tenure of Office for Superintendents in his most excellent article in EDUCATion for January. What we need is this draft of a form of law to cover this defect — who more competent to draft such a law than the author of the article. He would be a continent-wide benefactor if he would do this and so add largely to his already beneficent and effective work in the cause of public education.”

We should be glad to hear from others on this subject. Is it not time to push for such a law? What say our readers who are vitally interested in this subject ?


HE state of Mississippi, in its new constitution, provides that the

knowledge of reading and writing, or an intelligent understanding of the general principles of constitutional government, shall be henceforth a qualification for the suffrage in that state. This is the same provision made by Massachusetts, and, we think, at least one other New England state; with the addition of the “intelligent understanding.” aforesaid. The latter provision would seem to be

« PreviousContinue »