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It is an hypocrisy that cannot long withstand the searching glance of children. Language to be dignified must be stripped of these affectations. The mere matter of laughter is no trifling thing. It is an index of character. There is the rude and boisterous noise sometimes palmed off for laughter. Then there is the succession of rasping hacks which to be laughter at all should be sand-papered. Then there is the giggle-well there's no gift that can't be perverted. Then there is the horse-laugh, useful perhaps in illustrating the doctrine of evolution, but sadly out of its period in the school-room. It should be fossilized and placed where it belongs among the horse fossils in Marsh's Collection. Then there is the conventional grin that doesn't mean anything-which unless checked leads to idiocy. There are people who put on their smiles just as they do their clothes. A genuine smile is born in the heart—these mere-surface indications are heartless. Then there is real laughterhearty laughter full of joy and rest and peace. There is laughter as gurgling, clear, and sparkling as the water flowing down from heaven in the mountain stream--and flowing just as freely, too-laughter that is the most musical music in the world-laughter that is not made but just comes and you take it in. There is too much laughter that doesn't mean anything. You can't create laughter, any more than you can create a sunbeam, but you can put the spurious coin out of circulation.
Behavior, deportment is one of the fine arts and I have sometimes thought that to American youth it was one of the lost arts. I would like to see the teachers of the land heading the column in search of that which is lost. Heathen Japan recently sent some of its youths to Christian America to be educated in its learning and civilization. The boys sent have been quick to learn and ready to pay proper respect and deference to their superiors in age and wisdom. Four of them attended the Hartford High School and excited the admiration of a community long suffering from the rudeness of its children. So singular did it seem that they should be sent here to learn of our manners and civilization that Mark Twain sounded the alarm by rushing into print with the declaration of his suspicion that the real motives of the Japanese were concealed and that their true object was a horrible conspiracy to teach Young America good manners. For a child one hundred
old it must be confessed that Young America has rather bad manners. I long to see the day when Young America shall cease to be the synonym for rudeness, impertinence, impudence, clownishness, slovenliness, and general contempt for right behavior. It would do well enough to sow wild oats if there were no harvest. But the seed scattered by our youth now will spring up and ripen into a harvest to be garnered many years hence. The wayward child gives place to the broken old man. There is a rudeness in our youth which comes naturally as a result from the want of dignified means of physical exercise. Boys are turned into a bare lot and are expected to be civil. There are just three things they can do. They can punch one another. Neither is it always a “punch with care.” They can tear down the fence and things, and the fence and things suffer. They can halloo. Boys who do these things don't grow civil in a hurry. To them politeness in the school-room is one thing, and civility in the school yard quite another. They see no necessary connection between the two. Freedom from the restraints of the school-room means lawlessness. The idea they have is that control must come from without not from within. The ordinary recess is made use of as a powerful engine of disorder. You have, all, in public assemblies, seen, heard, and felt boys thus trained. Is it any wonder that they hoot, punch every body, and make a racket generally? There is an intimate connection between the sports of a nation and its manners. They mutually exert an influence on each other. The wild song, and still wilder dance are characteristic of barbarous and half-civilized countries. You can not expect the highest forms of civilization to spring up in an atmosphere of cock-fighting and bull-baiting. The age of chivalry bad its jousts and tournaments where the gallant Knight strove for the wreath to be received from his fair lady's hand.
As one step toward a better culture, there should be a reform in the recreation of schools. Recess as it is generally known is a nuisance and should be abated. It is evil and that continually. It serves no purpose that could not better be accomplished in some other way. Intelligent exercise is needed-needed as a positive means of discipline for our bodies. There are too many crooked people in the world. A crooked man can't be dignified, graceful, nor commanding: You regard it as an anomaly when you find a straight man in a crooked body. A boy who crooks himself over his desk cannot grow up into a graceful man. Golden russets don't fall from crab-apple trees. Our boys need to learn to put their feet down and their heads up. While I do
not believe in the dignity that consists in a stiff neck and a perpendicular backbone, I do insist that man should stand and walk erect among his fellow-men. What honesty is in the moral world, so is erectness in the physical world. You compliment a man morally and physically when you say he is straight. I suppose that truth is a moral straight line. We want the kind of lifting and inspiration that will raise the boys “from a dead level into a living perpendicular.” A boy properly trained feels a sort of kinship to all that is noble. The true function of the teacher is to make the young feel akin to what is above them. But then this can not be done by working on the outside alone. True dignity is from within. Good manners are simply the bud and blossom of the generous sympathy and kindly feelings of the human heart. When the sympathies and emotions are carefully nurtured they blossom out into manifestations of grace and beauty, and ripen into deeds of kindness and love. Artificial flowers may be pretty, but they never bear fruit.
The school life of every child should be to him an education in the love of the beautiful. The school-room should be "a thing of beauty and a joy forever.” Order should reign there. I don't mean stillness. Stillness often means death. I mean system. Where system is not, beauty can not be. There should be order in the teacher's work, order in the pupils' work, order in the pupils' time, order everywhere. It is not necessary to make children automatons that move by the tick of the clock, and yet there is worse marching music than that. It is order directed by intelligence that is to be desired. When you see confusion in stores, in offices, in homes, the necessity of pleading for a change at school is apparent. When order degenerates into painful precision and stiffness, it ceases to be beautiful. Order to be useful should be servant and not master. The school-room should be made to appear at its best. The teacher should possess a transforming power suggestive of the magician's wand. Costly and elegant things are not necessary to make a room cosy and home-like. A few flowers and a few pictures measure the whole distance from barren stolidity to a lively appreciation of the beauty there is in things. The fur. niture should be made to look as well as possible. Sand-paper, varnish, and work accomplish wonders. They are indices of civilization. So are dust-brushes. A friend of mine whose business and pleasure it is to visit the schools of the State said to me some time ago that as he has entered school-rooms he has often been handed chairs already occupied by other-dust. The floor, too, is rather large for a scrap-basket and should never be used for that purpose.
When we consider that the young are forming tastes that are to reign in the country and in their future homes we can get a true idea of the power we wield in school. The average taste of the country does not level up to a higher standard than that inculcated in the schools. It is time an alarm were sounded when the metropolis of our State has to be coaxed to accept its Springer Music-Hall-and what is still worse—when it refuses absolutely the magnificent gift of the Sinton Forum unless it slides into its place along a way greased with bribes.
“If more and more we found the troth
Within our schools united,” we should oftener find homes where the stern duties and hard labors of life are softened by the charms of well-cultivated taste. There are too many children starving on littered floors, inkstained desks, flowerless windows, and naked walls. I would not have any body go into hysterics over a scrap of paper on the floor or a crack in the varnish or a desk spotted with ink. But then such things are liable to be carried to excess. I have seen teachers whose desks were perfect models of confusion. You could find anything on those desks from a rusty tin cup to Webster's Dictionary.
In many homes, the confusion is a legitimate outgrowth of disorder found in schools. A little taste is the lump of leaven needed to work a transformation in the lives of many whom we daily meet and whose welfare we should have at heart. It is the philosopher's stone that transforms everything it touches into gold. The dusty door yards and naked walls of many homes are simply school-rooms bare and flowerless set out in the world. Children love flowers and pictures. They love the beautiful. Give them a chance. The teachers should not do all. Set the little ones going and they will astonish you. Get them to work on the school yard. Help them to feel an ownership in it. If we are what we feel, think, and do, it is important that we feel, think, and do our best.
The government of a school is easier where the pupils have employment for their better selves. Surrounded by pictures and flowers, seized with a desire to be something better than he
has been, every sentiment of his better nature in action, a child serves but as a healthful stimulant to his teacher. That child is not tardy. He is no truant. He is no laggard. A child surrounded by right influences becomes alive to everything beautiful.
There are other school-rooms in which there reigns an atmosphere of death to the æsthetic nature. There are the hard bare walls, the dull, dry lessons, the ink-stained desks, the littered floor, the starving pupils "all sicklied o’er with the pale cast” not of thought but of the teacher. This is no fancy picture.
I would not have children made weak and effeminate by their school training. Boys should be boys and girls should be girls. They should be developed along the line of their capabilities. A lion is just as æsthetic as a lamb. If you attempt to make a lamb out of a lion, you spoil the lion and make a poor lamb. There are two classes of boys in whom I don't believe. One is the nice kind that haven't force enough to be bad, and the other is the bad kind that haven't force enough to be nice. The real • boys and girls are those who have force with capability to direct it in proper channels. With them a teacher is a wonderful guiding power. It is upon them that you see the effects of training, and the power of association is so great that they become to a certain degree like their teacher. Children day by day receive impressions which can never be effaced. Twenty centuries may not look down upon us as they did from the pyramids upon Napoleon's soldiers, but the eyes of a generation are upon us, closely watching, patiently learning unconsciously imitating. Be to them a revelation. Beyond the home the teacher is all the world to many children. And a child learns what is found in that world, and no more. “Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles?” Hawthorne in his Great Stone Face beautifully illustrates the education there is in merely looking upon and meditating upon what is beautiful. The Great Stone Face was a work of nature formed out of immense rocks on the steep side of a great mountain. It was said to typify all that is good, true, and beautiful in man, its features grandly impressed with the divinity originally stamped upon the race.
There was a tradition in that region that a child would be born there whose features in manhood would be an exact likeness of the Great Stone Face. A little boy Ernest, in love with the noble face grew up to manhood with the earn. est desire to see him of whom the face was merely the type.