"Now, whenever you hear any person talk so, you may be sure that her
opinion on any subject is worth nothing at all. She forms opinions in
one case without grounds, and it depends merely upon accident whether
she does or not in other cases."
"Why is it that so many of our countrymen _are_, or seem to be,
prejudiced against the unfortunate children of Africa? Almost every _large
white_ boy who meets a _small black_ boy insults him in some way or other."
"It is so hard to _overcome_ prejudices, that we ought to be careful how
we _form_ them."
"When I see a new scholar enter this school, and she does not happen to
suit me exactly in her ways and manners, I very often get prejudiced
against her; though sometimes I find her a valuable friend after I get
acquainted with her."
"There is an inquiry I should like very much to make, though I suppose
it would not be quite right to make it. I should like to ask all those
who have some particular friend in school, and who can recollect the
impression which the individual made upon them when they first saw her,
to rise, and then I should like to inquire in how many cases the first
impression was favorable, and in how many unfavorable."
"Yes, sir;" "Yes, sir."
"Do you mean you would like to have the inquiry made?"
"All, then, who have intimate friends, and can recollect the impression
which they first made upon them, may rise."
[About thirty rose; more than two thirds of whom voted that the first
impression made by the persons who had since become their particular
friends was unfavorable.]
"This shows how much dependence you can justly place on first
"It was the next Monday morning after I had attained the wise age
of four years that I was called up into my mother's room, and told that
I was the next day going to school.
"I called forth all my reasoning powers, and with all the ability of a
child of four years, I reasoned with my mother, but to no purpose. I
told her that I _hated_ the school-mistress then, though I had never
seen her. The very first day I tottered under the weight of the mighty
fool's-cap. I only attended her school two quarters; with prejudice I
went, and with prejudice I came away.
"The old school-house is now torn down, and a large brick house takes
the place of it. But I never pass by without remembering my teacher. I
am prejudiced to [against] the very spot."
"Is it not right to allow prejudice to have influence over our minds as
far as this? If any thing comes to our knowledge with which wrong
_seems_ to be connected, and one in whom we have always felt confidence
is engaged in it, is it not right to allow our prejudice in favor of
this individual to have so much influence over us as to cause us to
believe that all is really right, though every circumstance which has
come to our knowledge is against such a conclusion? I felt this
influence, not many weeks since, in a very great degree."
"The disposition to judge favorably of a fraud in such a case would not
be prejudice; or, at least, if it were so, it would not be a sufficient
ground to justify us in withholding blame. Well-grounded confidence in
such a person, if there was reason for it, ought to have such an effect,
but not prejudice."
The above may be considered as a fair specimen of the ordinary
operation of such an exercise. It is taken as an illustration, not by
selection, from the large number of similar exercises which I have
witnessed, but simply because it was an exercise occurring at the time
when a description was to be written. Besides the articles quoted above,
there were thirty or forty others which were read and commented on. The
above will, however, be sufficient to give the reader a clear idea of
the exercise, and to show what is the nature of the moral effect it is
calculated to produce.
The subjects which may be advantageously brought forward in such a way
are, of course, very numerous. They are such as the following:
1. DUTIES TO PARENTS. - Anecdotes of good or bad conduct at home.
Questions. Cases where it is most difficult to obey. Dialogues between
parents and children. Excuses which are often made for disobedience.
2. SELFISHNESS. - Cases of selfishness any of the pupils have observed.
Dialogues they have heard exhibiting it. Questions about its nature.
Indications of selfishness.
3. FAULTS OF THE SCHOOL. - Any bad practices the scholars may have
observed in regard to general deportment, recitations, habits of study,
or the scholars' treatment of one another. Each scholar may write what
is his own greatest trouble in school, and whether he thinks any thing
can be done to remove it. Any thing they think can be improved in the
management of the school by the teacher. Unfavorable things they have
heard said about it out of school, though without names.
4. EXCELLENCES OF THE SCHOOL. - Good practices which ought to be
persevered in. Any little incidents the scholars may have noticed
illustrating good character. Cases which have occurred in which scholars
have done right in temptation, or when others around were doing wrong.
Favorable reports in regard to the school in the community around.
5. THE SABBATH. - Any thing the scholars may have known to be done on the
Sabbath which they doubt whether right or wrong. Questions in regard to
the subject. Various opinions they have heard expressed. Difficulties
they have in regard to proper ways of spending the Sabbath.
(8.) We have one other method to describe by which a favorable moral
influence may be exerted in school. The method can, however, go into
full effect only where there are several pupils who have made
considerable advances in mental cultivation.
It is to provide a way by which teachers and pupils may write
anonymously for the school. This may be done by having a place of
deposit for such articles as may be written, where any person may leave
what he wishes to have read, nominating by a memorandum upon the article
itself the reader. If a proper feeling on the subject of good discipline
and the formation of good character prevails in school, many articles,
which will have a great deal of effect upon the pupils, will find their
way through such an avenue once opened. The teacher can himself often
bring forward in this way his suggestions with more effect than he
otherwise could do. Such a plan is, in fact, like the plan of a
newspaper for an ordinary community, where sentiments and opinions stand
on their own basis, and influence the community just in proportion to
their intrinsic merits, unassisted by the authority of the writer's
name, and unimpeded by any prejudice which may exist against him.
The following articles, which were really offered for such a purpose in
the Mount Vernon school, will serve as specimens to illustrate the
actual operation of the plan. One or two of them were written by
teachers. I do not know the authors of the others. I do not offer them
as remarkable compositions: every teacher will see that they are not so.
The design of inserting them is merely to show that the ordinary
literary ability to be found in every school may be turned to useful
account by simply opening a channel for it, and to furnish such teachers
as may be inclined to try the experiment the means of making the plan
clearly understood by their pupils.
MARKS OF A BAD SCHOLAR.
"At the time when she should be ready to take her seat at school, she
commences preparation for leaving home. To the extreme annoyance of
those about her, all is now hurry, and bustle, and ill-humor. Thorough
search is to be made for every book or paper for which she has occasion;
some are found in one place, some in another, and others are forgotten
altogether. Being finally equipped, she casts her eye at the clock,
hopes to be in tolerable good season (notwithstanding that the hour for
opening the school has already arrived), and sets out in the most
"After so much haste, she is unfitted for attending properly to the
duties of the school until a considerable time after her arrival. If
present at the devotional exercises, she finds it difficult to command
her attention even when desirous of so doing, and her deportment at this
hour is, accordingly, marked with an unbecoming listlessness and
"When called to recitations, she recollects that some task was assigned,
which, till that moment, she had forgotten; of others she had mistaken
the extent, most commonly thinking them to be shorter than her
companions suppose. In her answers to questions with which she should be
familiar, she always manifests more or less of hesitation, and what she
ventures to express is very commonly in the form of a question. In
these, as in all exercises, there is an inattention to general
instructions. Unless what is said be addressed particularly to herself,
her eyes are directed toward another part of the room; it may be, her
thoughts are employed about something not at all connected with the
school. If reproved by her teacher for negligence in any respects, she
is generally provided with an abundance of excuses, and however mild the
reproof, she receives it as a piece of extreme severity.
"Throughout her whole deportment there is an air of indolence and a want
of interest in those exercises which should engage her attention. In her
seat, she most commonly sits in some lazy posture - either with her
elbows upon her desk, her head leaning upon her hands, or with her seat
tipped forward or backward. When she has occasion to leave her seat, it
is in a sauntering, lingering gait - perhaps some trick is contrived on
the way for exciting the mirth of her companions.
"About every thing in which it is possible to be so, she is untidy. Her
books are carelessly used, and placed in her desk without order. If she
has a piece of waste paper to dispose of, she finds it much more
convenient to tear it into small pieces and scatter it about her desk,
than to put it in a proper place. Her hands and clothes are usually
covered with ink. Her written exercises are blotted and full of
THE CONSEQUENCES OF BEING BEHINDHAND.
"The following incident, which I witnessed on a late journey,
illustrates an important principle, and I will relate it.
"When our steam-boat started from the wharf, all our passengers had not
come. After we had proceeded a few yards, there appeared among the crowd
on the wharf a man with his trunk under his arm, out of breath, and with
a most disappointed and disconsolate air. The captain determined to stop
for him; but stopping an immense steam-boat, moving swiftly through the
water, is not to be done in a moment; so we took a grand sweep, wheeling
majestically around an English ship which was at anchor in the harbor.
As we came toward the wharf again, we saw the man in a small boat coming
off from it. As the steam-boat swept round, they barely succeeded in
catching a rope from the stern, and then immediately the steam-engine
began its work again, and we pressed forward, the little boat following
us so swiftly that the water around her was all in a foam.
"They pulled upon the rope attached to the little boat until they drew
it alongside. They then let down a rope, with a hook in the end of it,
from an iron crane which projected over the side of the steam-boat, and
hooked it into a staple in the front of the small boat. '_Hoist away_!'
said the captain. The sailors hoisted, and the front part of the little
boat began to rise, the stern plowing and foaming through the water,
and the man still in it, with his trunk under his arm. They 'hoisted
away' until I began to think that the poor man would actually tumble out
behind. He clung to the seat, and looked as though he was saying to
himself, 'I will take care how I am tardy the next time.' However, after
a while, they hoisted up the stern of the boat, and he got safely on
"_Moral_ - Though coming to school a few minutes earlier or later may not
in itself be a matter of much consequence, yet the habit of being five
minutes too late, if once formed, will, in actual life, be a source of
great inconvenience, and sometimes of lasting injury."
There is at - - - a young ladies' school, taught by Mr. - - - .
* * * * *
"But, with all these excellences, there is one fault, which I considered
a great one, and which does not comport with the general character of
the school for kindness and good feeling. It is the little effort made
by the scholars to become acquainted with the new ones who enter.
Whoever goes there must push herself forward, or she will never feel at
home. The young ladies seem to forget that the new-comer must feel
rather unpleasantly in the midst of a hundred persons to whom she is
wholly a stranger, and with no one to speak to. Two or three will stand
together, and instead of deciding upon some plan by which the individual
may be made to feel at ease, something like the following conversation
"_Miss X._ How do you like the looks of Miss A., who entered school
"_Miss Y._ I don't think she is very pretty, but she looks as if she
might be a good scholar.
"_Miss X._ She does not strike me very pleasantly. Did you ever see
such a face? And her complexion is so dark, I should think she had
always lived in the open air; and what a queer voice she has!
"_Miss Y._ I wonder if she has a taste for Arithmetic?
"_Miss X._ She does not look as if she had much taste for any thing. See
how strangely she arranges her hair!
"_Miss S._ Whether she has much taste or not, some one of us ought to go
and get acquainted with her. See how unpleasantly she feels!
"_Miss X._ I don't want to get acquainted with her until I know whether
I shall like her or not.
"Thus nothing is done to relieve her. When she does become acquainted,
all her first strange appearance is forgotten; but this is sometimes not
the case for several weeks. It depends entirely on the character of the
individual herself. If she is forward, and willing to make the necessary
effort, she can find many friends; but if she is diffident, she has much
to suffer. This arises principally from thoughtlessness. The young
ladies do not seem to realize that there is any thing for them to do.
They feel enough at home themselves, and the remembrance of the time
when they entered school does not seem to arise in their minds."
A SATIRICAL SPIRIT.
I witnessed, a short time since, a meeting between two friends, who had
had but little intercourse before for a long while. I thought a part of
their conversation might be useful, and I shall therefore relate it, as
nearly as I can recollect, leaving each individual to draw her own
For some time I sat silent, but not uninterested, while the days of
'Auld Lang Syne' came up to the remembrance of the two friends. After
speaking of several individuals who were among their former
acquaintances, one asked, 'Do you remember Miss W.? 'Yes,' replied the
former, I remember her as the fear, terror, and abhorrence of all who
knew her.' _I_ knew the lady by report, and asked why she was so
regarded. The reply was, 'Because she was so severe, so satirical in her
remarks upon others. She spared neither friend nor foe.'
"The friends resumed their conversation. 'Did you know,' said the one
who had first spoken of Miss W., 'that she sometimes had seasons of
bitter repentance for indulging in this unhappy propensity of hers? She
would, at such times, resolve to be more on her guard, but, after all
her good resolutions, she would yield to the slightest temptations. When
she was expressing, and apparently really _feeling_ sorrow for having
wounded the feelings of others, those who knew her would not venture to
express any sympathy, for, very likely, the next moment _that_ would be
turned into ridicule. No confidence could be placed in her.'
"A few more facts will be stated respecting the same individual, which I
believe are strictly true. Miss W. possessed a fine and well-cultivated
mind, great penetration, and a tact at discriminating character rarely
equaled. She could, if she chose, impart a charm to her conversation
that would interest and even fascinate those who listened to it; still,
she was not beloved. Weaknesses and foibles met with unmerciful
severity, and well-meaning intentions and kind actions did not always
escape without the keen sarcasm which it is so difficult for the best
regulated mind to bear unmoved. The mild and gentle seemed to shrink
from her; and thus she, who might have been the bright and beloved
ornament of the circle in which she moved, was regarded with distrust,
fear, and even hatred. This dangerous habit of making satirical remarks
was evinced in childhood; it was cherished; it 'grew with her growth,
and strengthened with her strength,' until she became what I have
Though such a satirical spirit is justly condemned, a little
good-humored raillery may sometimes be allowed as a mode of attacking
faults in school which can not be reached by graver methods. The teacher
must not be surprised if some things connected with his own
administration come in sometimes for a share.
"I was walking out a few days since, and not being particularly in
haste, I concluded to visit a certain school for an hour or two. In a
few minutes after I had seated myself on the sofa, the '_Study Card_'
was dropped, and the general noise and confusion indicated that recess
had arrived. A line of military characters, bearing the title of the
'Freedom's Band,' was soon called out, headed by one of their own
number. The tune chosen to guide them was Kendall's March.
"'Please to form a regular line,' said the lady commander. 'Remember
that there is to be no speaking in the ranks. Do not begin to step until
I strike the bell. Miss B., I requested you not to step until I gave the
"Presently the command was given, and the whole line _stepped_ for a few
minutes to all intents and purposes. Again the bell sounded. 'Some of
you have lost the step,' said the general. 'Look at me, and begin again.
Left! right! left! right!' The line was once more in order, and I
observed a new army on the opposite side of the room, performing the
same manoeuvres, always to the tune of 'Kendall's March.' After a time
the recess closed, and order was again restored. In about half an hour I
approached a class which was reciting behind the railing. 'Miss A.,'
said a teacher, 'how many kinds of magnitude are there?' _Miss A._
(Answer inaudible.) _Several voices._ 'We can't hear.' _Teacher._ 'Will
you try to speak a little louder, Miss A.?"
"Some of the class at length seemed _to guess_ the meaning of the young
lady, but _I_ was unable to do even that until the answer was repeated
by the teacher. Finding that I should derive little instruction from
the recitation, I returned to the sofa.
"In a short time the _propositions_ were read. 'Proposed, that the
committee be impeached for not providing suitable pens.' 'Lost, a
pencil, with a piece of India-rubber attached to it by a blue ribbon,'
"Recess was again announced, and the lines commenced their evolutions to
the tune of 'Kendall's March.' Thought I, 'Oh that there were a new tune
under the sun!'
"Before the close of school some compositions were read. One was
entitled 'The Magic King,' and commenced, 'As I was sitting alone last
evening, I heard a gentle tap on the door, and immediately a beautiful
fairy appeared before me. She placed a ring on my finger, and left me.'
The next began, 'It is my week to write composition, but I do not know
what to say. However, I must write something, so it shall be a
dialogue.' Another was entitled the 'Magical Shoe,' and contained a
marvelous narration of adventures made in a pair of shoes more valuable
than the far-famed 'seven-league boots.' A fourth began, 'Are you
acquainted with that new scholar?' 'No; but I don't believe I shall like
her.' And soon the 'Magical Thimble,' the 'Magical Eye-glass,' &c., were
read in succession, until I could not but exclaim, 'How pleasing is
variety!' School was at length closed, and the young ladies again
attacked the piano. 'Oh,' repeated I to myself, '_how pleasing is
variety!_ as I left the room to the tune of Kendall's March."
By means like these, and others similar to them, it will not be
difficult for any teacher to obtain so far an ascendency over the minds
of his pupils as to secure an overwhelming majority in favor of good
order and co-operation with him in his plans for elevating the character
of the school. But let it be distinctly understood that this, and this
only, has been the object of this chapter thus far. The first point
brought up was the desirableness of making at first a favorable
impression; the second, the necessity of taking general views of the
condition of the school, and aiming to improve it in the mass, and not
merely to rebuke or punish accidental faults; and the third, the
importance and the means of gaining a general influence and ascendency
over the minds of the pupils. But, though an overwhelming majority can
be reached by such methods as these, all can not. We must have the
majority secured, however, in order to enable us to reach and to reduce
the others. But to this work we must come at last.
4. I am, therefore, now to consider, under a fourth general head, what
course is to be taken with _individual_ offenders whom the general
influences of the school-room will not control.
The teacher must always expect that there will be such cases. They are
always to be found in the best and most skillfully-managed schools. The
following suggestions will perhaps assist the teacher in dealing with
(1.) The first point to be attended to is to ascertain who they are. Not
by appearing suspiciously to watch any individuals, for this would be
almost sufficient to make them bad, if they were not so before. Observe,
however; notice, from day to day, the conduct of individuals, not for
the purpose of reproving or punishing their faults, but to enable you to
understand their characters. This work will often require great
adroitness and very close scrutiny, and you will find, as the results of
it, a considerable variety of character, which the general influences
above described will not be sufficient to control. The number of
individuals will not be great, but the diversity of character comprised
in it will be such as to call into exercise all your powers of vigilance
and discrimination. On one seat you will find a coarse, rough-looking
boy, who openly disobeys your commands and opposes your wishes while in
school, and makes himself a continual source of trouble and annoyance
during play-hours by bullying and hectoring every gentle and timid
schoolmate. On another sits a more sly rogue, whose demure and
submissive look is assumed to conceal a mischief-making disposition.
Here is one whose giddy spirit is always leading him into difficulty,
but who is of so open and frank a disposition that you will most easily
lead him back to duty; but there is another who, when reproved, will fly
into a passion; and then a third, who will stand sullen and silent
before you when he has done wrong, and is not to be touched by kindness
nor awed by authority.
Now all these characters must be studied. It is true that the caution
given in a preceding part of this chapter, against devoting undue and
disproportionate attention to such persons, must not be forgotten.
Still, these individuals will require, and it is right that they should
receive, a far greater degree of attention, so far as the moral
administration of the school is concerned, than their mere numbers would
appear to justify. This is the field in which the teacher is to study
human nature, for here it shows itself without disguise. It is through
this class, too, that a very powerful moral influence is to be exerted
upon the rest of the school. The manner in which such individuals are
managed, the tone the teacher assumes toward them, the gentleness with
which he speaks of their faults, and the unbending decision with which
he restrains them from wrong, will have a most powerful effect upon the
rest of the school. That he may occupy this field, therefore, to the
best advantage, it is necessary that he should first thoroughly explore
By understanding the dispositions and characters of such a class of
pupils as I have described, I do not mean merely watching them with
vigilance in school, so that none of their transgressions shall go