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UNAPPRECIATED FACTORS IN EDUCATION.
PRINCIPAL AUSTIN, OF ALMA LADIES' COLLEGE, ST. THOMAS,
Some of the finest and most potent factors in the work of education are not enumerated in the curricula of the colleges, and are not appreciated as they should be by parents and educators. Like the odor of the rose, like the flavor of old wine, they are too delicate to be measured by common standards and they are too nearly allied to the spiritual to be rightly estimated in this material age. Yet they are among the forces that build character and give it grace and beauty and contribute most largely to life's enjoyment. We refer particularly to the effects of environment; the personal influence of the teacher and fellow student; the refining influences of music and art; and the transforming power of Christian truth and of the Christian spirit upon human character. We have long since passed the period when knowledge was considered education. To-day it is looked upon as an instrument of spiritual development; and the truth is dawning upon the educational world that it is but one of many important instruments of true culture. The best educators are now agreed that, however valuable it may be to know the truth, it is even more important to feel the truth and to love it. It is of greater importance to be brought into sympathy and fellowship with truth in nature and art than to accumulate any number of facts. Yet how many parents in sending their children to school and college fix their attention almost exclusively upon the acquisition of knowledge as the one aim and purpose of college training. Probably the fact that promotion in the college course is determined solely by tests which are supposed to measure, more or less accurately, the amount of knowledge acquired, has done much to unduly exalt knowledge and to correspondingly depress other factors of education. The written examination is responsible for this worship of facts which too largely pervades all our educational work.
Parents and educators would do well to remember that the work of educating the youth is not left solely to the schools and colleges. These are, at best, but incidents in nature's great educational process which begins at the cradle and ends at the grave. They should reflect, also, on the fact that it is but a very small part of the education received at college which is outlined in the curriculum or which can be even crudely estimated in the examination hall. The finer products of educational work are all beyond the reach of the examiner.
True education, which is symmetrical character building, is never secured until truth is felt and loved and lived, as well as known. Truth brought into the realm of feeling and affection, truth loved and utilized in life, develops the entire nature. Some men with much knowledge have very little education, because the truth has reached and affected only the intellectual nature. On the other hand, some men with small attainments are highly educated because the truth acquired has been loved and practised. The trend of educational thought is toward greater emphasis upon training and environment as essential factors in character building
Our surroundings, especially in youth, have much to do with the development of our taste and the cultivation of our love of the beautiful in nature and in art. All schools and colleges should be located where nature charms the senses and calls forth the æsthetic feeling. Schools should embody in their architecture, in the plan of their grounds and in all their internal and external arrangement, those great principles of order, adaptation and beauty which we hope to see embodied in the lives of the students. Insensibly, but none the less powerfully and permanently, do beautiful surroundings elevate thought, refine the feelings and develop the taste. Knowledge acquired under such surroundings has greater educative power, contributes more largely to life's enjoyment and is, in every way, more valuable to the student than knowledge acquired in the absence of such environment. The time is speedily coming when parents and educators will place a higher estimate upon this as a factor of true culture.
The personality of the teacher enters as an inseparable element into all instructions given or received. His habits, his aim, and especially his spirit,—all that combination of qualities we denominate character — form a potent and well-nigh irresistible factor in the work of education. " What difference," the unreflecting parent may ask, “who teaches my boy mathematics and natural sciences ?” In the exact sciences, it is true the form of the instruction given must be the same, yet even here the personality of the teacher forms a large factor in the work of instruction. The teacher is something more than a pipe through which the stream of instruction flows, or a book whose silent pages record the truth. He is a living magnet, drawing all his pupils toward himself and powerfully affecting them by the unconscious influence of his character. This personal element is largely increased in all instruction in which there is free play for the expression of the teacher's own views, the manifestation of his likes and dislikes and the revelation of the true self. Especially is the teacher's influence augmented when to the associations of the class-room is added the intimate commingling of daily life in a school where teachers and pupils reside. The teacher's personality is here a power almost irresistible for good or ill. No student can remain unchanged in thought, feeling and spirit, amidst such surroundings. Next to the influence of the teacher, and in some cases surpassing it, is that of the fellow student and especially the college “ chum”. The attractive force which matured character always exerts over the young, the influence of example and precept, and the prevailing spirit of the school, will mould and fashion the student's character, whether consciously or unconsciously, into a form it could not otherwise have assumed. The graduate of such a school carries away not only the diplomas and honors won, but also a thousand threads of thought and feeling woven into the warp of character by the associations of school life. These factors of personal influence spiritual and intangible though they be — are among the dominant forces that form character and give it grace and beauty.
Musical training and surroundings form another of the finer factors of education not yet duly appreciated. No education, whether in school, college or university, is complete without it. It is doubtful if the successful pursuit of any other branch of learuing requires more perfect development of all human powers. Addison observes that music is the only sensual gratification which can be indulged in to excess without injury to the moral and religious nature; and Beecher held that all good music was sacred if heard aright. It is the one art which can never by itself be made to minister to vice or to the debasement of humanity. Music should not only be taught as an essential branch of all education, it should permeate the atmosphere of all school life. Students should hear the best music daily and, if possible, come into contact with good musicians, so that a cultured taste and a passionate love for the heavenly art may be developed. Nearly all that is said of music may be repeated of fine art which beautifies home and hall and develops taste, judgment and emotion.
Another of the finer factors of education is what we may call inspiration - a thing very difficult to describe in itself, but the effects of which are so clearly observable in a multitude of lives. Some teachers have the power of imparting it, and some, with all their stores of knowledge, fail utterly to inspire their pupils. As a rule, no teacher who is not aspiring and progressive can reach and stir the latent powers of his pupils. It is a subtle quality which seems to spring from the depths of being and permeate every act, look and tone. Some schools excel in imparting this inspiration to their pupils; and I have a suspicion that it is not always the oldest, wealthiest or best equipped colleges that give their students most of this wholesome inspiration. I have known colleges where endowment and equipment were both small; where under-paid and over-worked teachers were engaged in a desperate struggle to keep the college craft afloat; where students somehow caught a high aim, a spirit of faith and of heroic endeavor that enabled them to make far more brilliant records in after life than was possible in their college days. Many a school more than makes up for its defects of equipment and inferior methods, by the courage, energy, will power and spirit of enterprise it imparts to its pupils, and the projectile force with which it sends them out into the activities of life.
If parents were wise, they would ask not only where their children can obtain most knowledge in the easiest way, and most comfort and refinement, but also where they will have the best environment and obtain most inspiration for that larger school of life when college days are ended. Contact with Christian people and with Christian truth is a factor of true culture so potent and valuable, and so truly educative of the spiritual nature that it is to be wondered at that any parents professing the Christian faith would for a moment consent to a system of education for their children that either ignored or minimized it.
ETHICS OF A VOCABULARY.
DR. FRANKLIN B. SAWVEL, GREENVILLE, PA.
A writer in a recent number of the Popular Science Monthly states “two truths, forming part of the imperative knowledge of the educational world. The first is, that children of civilized persons possess, in a marked degree, the characteristics of savages ; the second, that as human beings grow old they lose mental, moral and physical plasticity.”
He goes on to state further, that when we consider the facts that children possess much of the nature of savages; that savage nature prompts savage acts ; that the frequent performance of savage acts tends to produce savage habits; and that age tends to fix. habits by producing rigidity, the difficulty and the need of forming social characters in those of plastic age becomes apparent. How to supplant savage instincts by social instincts; how to produce moral natures, is the problem which educators of all kinds are called upon to solve." By producing, he further explains, he does not mean manufacturing them, but assisting or fostering their growth.
In the growth of morals, as in the growth of the body, the product depends much on the kind of food. Feeding constantly on harsh and revengeful ideas will produce harsh and revengeful conduct; conduct repeated fixes habit, and fixed habit is the only power in our possession by which we may hope to modify natures.
The list of words in the possession of an individual may be called his personal vocabulary. The number varies with different individuals, ranging from a few hundred to several thousand.
Few persons bestow sufficient care on the formation of an ideal vocabulary. The words needed to meet the practical demands of everyday life and the nomenclature of a profession or occupation are taken up rather as a necessity, with little, if any, thought of the reacting influence on character. That words exert a powerful influence over thought and feeling is certain ; and no influence is more constant in its operation.