conpiderable amount of work. We know from observation what
weights little children will tug about and lift when left to themselves.
Frequently, a babe twelve or fifteen months old will hang on to a limb
with both hands, sustaining its own weight, from thirty to sixtj
sccondft. As the infant grows older it8 strength increases rapidly.
o. However, it is not contended that children are more than
children in this discussion ; but I will endeavor to show that, physical-
ly and mentally, healthy children are able to do much more work than
educators generally give them credit for, and that in consequence of
this erroneous conception, the child at school, in very many instances,
is kept doing nothing laboriously, and that doing nothing laboriously is
OTHER ERRORS IN TEACHING. 161
the " dry-rot '' that bangs like a blight over our schools, darkens our
instraction, and benumbs the mental faculties of many children.
Neither is it safe to conclude that the child's brain at the age of seven,
having nearly reached its growth so far as size and shape are involved,
that it is capable of performing any very great or prolonged mental effort
requiring considerable expenditure of nervous energy. In fact, as an
organ capable of doing work, its co-efficient must be represented by a
small fraction if in normal conditions at maturity, the co-efficient be
unity. At this early age those internal changes in structural develop-
ment and the formation of active nerve centres with the corresponding
increase in the deposition of gray matter, have not occurred, and the
brain is soft and watery.
Bat the error, as I conceive it, is that the present educational treat-
ment of children is weak and puerile, and that not even half credit is
accorded them on their actual working power. If their brains were
" wet dough," the most of the present educational diet would be too
thin for them.
To maintain the proposition, I will refer to a few feasts that educa-
tional doctors have prepared for small school children, and ask you to
inspect carefully the bills of fare, and then decide at your leisure.
Foolishness of Teaching,
'* One thumb and one thumb are how many thumbs ? " This is a
weighty problem in primary arithmetic. The mental effort required
by the abstract nature of the proposition for the six year old to grasp
the relationship existing between one thumb and another one thumb
involves at the outset otherness, plurality, and thumbship totality.
This is more than a common question ; it is decidedly uncommon, as a
little reflection must convince any one. First, there is the idea of a
thumb. A thumb may be of any conceivable kind. Thumb is the
genus: some species are comical and chubby in shape ; others, blunt,
winding, and hypothetical ; not a few slender, snaky, and sinister ;
while many are good, solid, honest thumbs. From one thumb first
comes the percept, and from an extended tour in the thumb region the
general concept is obtained. But this is somewhat in advance of the
real issue, which involves two thumbs only. Suppose the child knows
an ordinary thumb, or even a common scrub thumb, when he sees it.
This acquisition is so much positive knowledge, — a working capital, so
to speak, in thumb stock. It is the initial point in thumb problems.
162 THE NATIONAL EDUCATIONAL ASSOCIATION.
The mind must invariably revert to this centre and then strike out,
as the spokes from a hub, in search of new percepts. But we must
trace the process more minutely. One thumb ! What a word -'* one
thumb ! " The pupil looks at one of his thumbs. He beholds it as a
thumb, simple, naked, and perhaps — clean. Yet it is a thumb, flesh
and blood. He puts it into his mouth and is not mistaken. Next he
glances around. Another thumb is not hard to find. It is seized up-
on and, mentally speaking, it is placed in juxtaposition with thumb
number one. Reduction is the third step in this tremendous process.
A slight displacement of nerve-cells, a tremulous vibratory motion, a
recognition of the aforesaid motion and the combustion of a very small
quantity of brain fuel, and the reduction and transfornaation are com-
plete, the two* thumbs become double and single, the abstract forna of
which is one thumb + one thumb = two thumbs, whence, qvod erat
demonstrandum; or the proposition is completely established that
somebody is otherwise. This is a great forward movement in incipi-
ent thought. It is a grand discovery in the direction of helping tlie
child to find himself even from the ends of his thumbs to the tips of his
So far the work has been synthetic ; now it is analytic. Tlie two
thumbs must be torn asunder, and each examined separately and all
likenesses and difierences carefully observed. This, technically, is
called " clinching the nail."
Sometimes this problem assumes a more logical interpretation. Not
long since, I heard a square-bodied, square-headed, red-haired young-
ster deliver himself of the following bit of eloquence upon the
** thumbs," which was proposed to him in this form: — If you have one
thumb on your right hand and one thumb on your left hand, how many
thumbs have you on both hands ?
Sp£ECH : — Since I have one thumb on my right hand and one thumb
on my left hand, I have as many thumbs on my rig^/U hand and on my
left hand as the sum of the thumbs on both hands, which is two
thumbs. Therefore, I have as many thumbs on my right hand and on
my left hand as the sum of the thumbs on both hands, or two thumbs.
The argument was conclusive, and the orator stuck up his thumbs as
evidence of his real knowledge of the subject '* on hands."
Of late years more vapid nonsense has found its way into primary
arithmetical teaching than in any other branch of our common school
course. Thumbs, holes, shoe-pegs, bunches of sticks, beans, grains of
corn, and numerous other devices, pictures, and silly exercises, have
OTHER ERRORS IN TEACHING. 163
been resorted to as aids in this elementary work, and to cap the
climax, a gang of erratic comets have darkened instruction and hob-
bled the children by hedging them in with over weights.
Id olden times mailed knights when clad in armor were so weighted
down that when thrown to the ground they were as helpless as turtles
turned on their backs on a level floor. This *' turtle work*' is what is
the matter with much of the arithmetical teaching in the schools of the
The little child of six or seven summers can stand flat-footed and
jump three or four feet, yet ho must walk as it were with his feet tied
together and wear a narrow sack-slip lest he break away from thumbs,
pegs, pictures, and learn how to handle numbers. Instead of think-
ing and telling numbers, he must do numbers. Bosh!
Did you ever teach a little three or four year old to count ? Did you
ever teach arithmetic to little children ? Did you ever teach them how
to translate their word language into arithmetical characters, and note
the length of time it required for them to make the transition ? Did
rou then put them to their best working licks and observe how much
they could do without injury to themselves ? Ilave you looked closely into
the number work so sharply outlined in school reports and little arith-
metics for the sole use and benefit of little children during their first,
second, and third years in school ? Have you ? How did it impress
you? JBonest Indian^^SLud no dodging ? Have you meandered over
the arithmetical charts as a second course in this mental bill of fare ?
How did you relish the aroma thereof? Were you a youngster again,
would you like to be stall-fed on it as a regular figured diet daily for
half your schoolboy life ? Does not the very thought suggest woods,
butterflies, fishing, swimming, and fighting ^^ bumble-bees '' in the
clover fields ? Is it not bitterer than '' Rue-tea '' ?
Again, have you examined a score or more of primary arithmetics
recently issued, and then wondered if it would require thirty months
of childhood to absorb the contents of any one ? Did the result of
the examination leave an impression upon your mind that it was a
very little work long drawn out? I know that nearly all these books
are real pretty books, elegantly illustrated, beautifully printed, large
type, but a delusion and a snare inside. The authors are not to blame.
They made the books under a misapprehension of the child^s ability, —
a misapprehension of educational teaching which assumes a thorough
acquaintance of the child on paper instead of the real child himself.
Let us press this question still nearer home. Teacher, listener, how
164 THE NATIONAL EDUCATIONAL ASSOCIATION.
long did it take you to count from one to ten ? From ten to a hun-
dred ? From a hundred to a thousand ? Speak out in meeting ! You
will not be hurt! How many months and years did it take for you to
learn the figures from to 9 ? Tell me truly, did these stupendous
efi'orts knock all your brains into a lump from which recovery now is
doubtful ? Do you remember the minute, yea even the very instant,
when it flashed across your mind, the difference between the spoken
word '* ten," the written word ''ten," and the ''10"? Didn't you
know this long before it was told to you ?
Philosophers have sopped with Socrates, ripped with Euripides,
cantered with Themistocles, but when it comes to a little child's dying
with Arabides, slow, tortuous poisoning, it is really too much for hu-
manity to endure ! Are our little children little fools ? Is there not a
presumption on the other side? Have we not about reached the
extreme limit of all this hampering, and doing, and coddling business ?
Is it not foolishness in teaching when children are set to doing over
and over again what they already know, and have known ere they
darkened a schoolhouse door ?
To give a pointed illustration I will copy a few exercises from a new-
1 + 4 = ? 19 + 1 = ?
4 + 5 = ? 13 + 7 = ?
34 3 = ? 17 + 2 = ?
11 + 1 == ?
Suppose the pupil learns that 1 + 4 r^ 5, or 4 + 1 = 5, what more
can he get out of it by following that line of thought ? But if we vary
the question and then put it in this form, namely, find all the numbers,
taking two at a time, that will make five, and the question develops
thought. The child mind sees five as an aggregate of several numbers,
and breaks it to pieces. From finding two numbers it may be broken
into three or more numberc*, not limiting the separation always to
Lest any one should infer that I am opposed to illustrations and
various devices needful to give pupils a clear understanding of a sub-
ject, I always employ them as aids, but will not make or use them as
the chief end of teaching. I oppose that practice which would require
a lecturer on homicide, before a class of legal students, to kill a person
in order to show what murder is, and this school-fetich has been carried
so far and illustrated so much and so poorly — that intellectual murder
follows as a corollary.
OTHER ERRORS IN TEACHING, 165
Teachers of young children, especially, must be explorers. They
should find out what the little children know as well as what they
don't know. Take an inventory of each child's capital stock. It may
be a confused mass, yet not altop^ether useless, and much of it available
for working purposes. Scattered among this rubbish is considerable
positive information. Pick it out and utilize it. While exploring in
this lumber room, use your eyes and your common sense, and do not
forget that you were once a child and had childish thoughts. Live over
again your childhood. It differs but little from that of the children of
It was broadly intimated that the current method in vogue in most
graded schools pursued in teaching primary arithmetic, is a stupefying
and deadening process. Unless the truthfulness of this statement can
be verified, I am guilty of wilful misrepresentation and should be
denounced as a teacher of false and mischievous doctrines.
For years there has been a very general complaint that the pupils of
most schools were making very slow progress in arithmetic. The
allegation is not contradicted by the facts. Is there, then, an ex-
planation of this phenomenon ? I believe there is, and that it is not
a very difficult matter to trace the cause to its origin. Some dozen or
more years ago, a hue and cry was raised throughout the country
against the pernicious practice of teaching mental arithmetic, and as
an offset, books were made, and mental arithmetic as a separate, in-
dependent, essential course of study, was eliminated, and with its
ejectment came troops of primary books for the little folks, and com-
bination books for the larger ones. Teachers and school authorities
went wild over the grand discovery, and a great deal of substantial
arithmetical teaching vanished in smoke, and to-day we are reaping the
result of that educational error.
No combination book can take the place of the mental arithmetic,
I care not how well the book may be peppered and salted with "selected
and original problems." The two will not work well together. A
critical examination of how pupils solve the two classes of problems is
a suflScient reason why the methods are not the same and can not be
reduced to the same process. In short, mental arithmetic is the logic
of the common branches. There is no other substitute.
To tear a system to pieces is an easy matter, but to rear another and
a better one in its place is what is expected from one who has demolished
the former. So far my work has been destructive ; now it must be
166 THE NATIONAL EDUCATIONAL ASSOCIATION.
If the child does not know how to count, he must he taught. Let
him count objects, the pupils in the schoolroom, etc. A few days will
BuflSce to teach those who do not know, to count to 100. With count-
ing, carry forward writing and reading numbers. There are only 10
forms to learn, and they are more easily learned than any six letters
of the alphabet.
Let this work be followed by oral and written drills, sharply and
rapidly given in the fundamental processes of arithmetic each day.
Two points must be secured,— accuracy and rapidity. The down-
sitting and up-rising slate work must be largely avoided. It is copy-
ing, mostly, without ideas. However, all work put on slate, paper, or
blackboard should be neatly done. Concrete the exercises as much
as possible. In teaching the pupils to add, subtract, multiply and
divide, using small numbers at first, do not be afraid to introduce
fractions, both common and decimal; common during the first year
and decimals enough to use them, the second year. Two or three
recent primary arithmetics have incorporated fractions from the
beginning. The authors did wisely. To them I take off my hat and
Dull, mechanical work in numbers is of no educational value, and
yet two-thirds of all arithmetical work in graded, ungraded, private
schools, seminaries, and colleges, fall under this criticism. Children
are kept hammering year in and year out, on topics that long since
lost all their freshness. Eating " Limbergcr cheese and rusty mack-
erel'* for three years at a stretch, is the greatest variety compared to
the barren fields of numbers in which our little fellows are fed on
spoon-victuals dished up under the grandiloquent title of " solving
problems." Angels in heaven hang their heads at sight of such
desecration of sacred interests !
After such a course, a real teacher, with " long, sharp-pointed pegging
awls," is frequently kept busy for three months trying to locate a
single definite idea in a youngster's mind. Paul was floored on account
of having done certain matters of a trivial nature in "• all good con-
science." Would that a brilliant light might give the "do-lights" a
small foretaste of electric power before it is too late !
It grieves me to use such mild language, but experience leaches
vigorously and effectively at times.
When a pupil handles fractions in written and oral problems quickly
and accurately, he is prepared to begin mental arithmetic as a separate
and independent course of study. Prior to this time, his mental work
OTHER ERRORS IN TEACHING, 167
has been carried on without the use of the book. Tliere are usually
forty or fifty pages in the back of the mental arithmetics that have an
educational value. Mr. George Seymour "struck the nail on the
head" when he classified the problems in his mental arithmetic. Prof.
Brooks made a move in that direction ; but halted too soon.
It may be accepted as generally true that the pupil, good in mental
arithmetic, never has much trouble with the written arithmetic in any
phase of the work. The converse is not true.
Direction — for Mental Arithmetic Teaching : —
The teacher will read or state the problem once, slowly and distinct-
ly: the pupil gives the answer. The pupil or pupils reproduce the
problem, next the analysis, and, lastly, the conclusion. Long, tedious
analyses are to be avoided.
Pupils must not use pen or pencil in the preparation of a lesson :
they must not use the book when they recite.
A tremendous drill in mental arithmetic fits the pupil well for the
more advanced work and for beginning algebra.
The only test of first-class teaching is — that the entire class is good
—not a few favored ones.
President Calkins : — I have no doubt that the audience regrets as I
do that, owing to the lateness of the hour, this subject cannot now be
further discussed. We have one other very brief matter that demands
attention before adjournment — the report of the nominating committee,
which will be presented by Joseph L. Pickard, of Iowa, Chairman
of the Committee on -Nominations.
Mr. President: — Your Committee on Nomination have completed
their work and have to present to you their unanimous conclusion. [See
The President : — ^You have heard the report of the nominating commit-
tee, what is your pleasure ?
Mr. Hinsdale, of Ohio: — I move that it be accepted.
The motion was put, and the President announced that the report on
nominations had been unanimously accepted.
On motion it was voted that Mr. E. E. White, of Ohio, be directed to
deposit the ballot for the election of these officers, in view of the Const i -
tution which declares they shall be elected by ballot.
Mr. White, acting under this instruction of the Association, stated,
" That the duties have been performed and the persons named in the
168 THE NATIONAL EDUCATIONAL ASSOCIATION.
report of the nominating committee are respectively elected to their
positions, unanimously. [See list, page 13.]
The President : — The teller reports the unanimous election of the
respective officers nominated. I therefore declare that they have been
duly elected as officers of this Association for the ensuing year.
Adjourned until 8 P. M.
Thursday, July 15, 1886, 8 P. M.
Met pursuant to adjournment. President Calkins in the chair. Read-
ing of minutes, reports, etc.
The President : I have now the honor of introducing to the audience,
Col. William Preston Johnston, President of the Tulane University,
New Orleans, Louisiana, who will deliver an address on Education in
EDUCATION IN LOUISIANA.
BY WM. PRESTON JOHNSTON, PRESIDENT TULANE UNIVERSITY,
NEW ORLEANS, LA.
Teachers of the United States :
I pause, when I salute you by such a title, to do homage to the
tremendous idea embodied in it.
Teachers of the United States : I am here in obedience to yotir
behest, to contribute my grain of sand to the ant hill which we mortals
laboriously heap up — grain by grain — and call knowledge, or by some
name equally grand and equally vain.
I have labelled my grain of sand *' Education in Louisiana," lest
some among you may mistake me for a Pangnostic, come to teach you
some new truth, or the All-Truth which suffices. Yet my talk aims to
be but a bit of information, which the philosophers may, if they
please, take into account with their other data, and generalize upon.
I have a belief that one of the best ways to master a vast subject is
to take one part of it and learn to understand it intelligently in its
obvious bearings, and then another part, and then still another ; and if
we shall then put these known parts side by side in our minds and
compare them together, their resemblances and their diflferences, their
accidents and their essentials, we may come to discover the under-
lying principle which gives unity to the whole subject.
In my own teaching I have found that the History of Greece, and
Plutarch's Lives made an admirable segment of historical study to in-
flame the mind of youth. Then, if the student, passing along the
noble Appian Way. of Roman Legend and Institutions, would, by a
new road and a new gate, come to that life of feudal times, which is
so different in all its formal and spiritual aspects, he would find him-
self better prepared to understand Modern History than if he had
attempted to memorize all the catalogues of Chinese and Egyptian
dynasties, and to decipher the inscriptions of Assyrian and Babylonian
bricks, and to know the ceremonial institutions of all savage tribes,
and much more to boot. For in seeking the many, there is danger of
missing the much.
170 TEE NA TIONAL ED UCA TIONAL A880CIA TION.
May we not then, in this great subject of education, safely follow so
good a method ? If so, I shall be forgiven, if I take a question,
relatively not large in the broad field of thougUt, and bring to your
attention some facts, new to you, regarding it, to be compared and co-
ordinated with other larger data pertinent to education. A dragon-fly
will reveal wonders under the microscope — so it be a real insect, and
not a humbug. I bring you to-day a small matter for your micro-
scopes — Education in one of the United States. There are states to
be cited and quoted and boasted of as models, and their representatives
are not slow to avail themselves of the prerogative. But Louisiana is
not one of these. Her position is exceptional. When I was at Yale
College, that student who distinguished himself by taking the lowest
honor at the Junior Exhibition, received from his grateful classmates,
" A Wooden Spoon," — with appropriate remarks. Strange to say, he
was generally quite popular. Nobody was jealous of him. He was
always " a good fellow," even if a trifle shiftless and idle. And he
bore his honors meekly. Now Louisiana is the most illiterate state in
the Union ; and I therefore claim for her ^Hhe Wooden Spoon'^ in the
great Interstate Educational Exhibition.
But, pardon me yet another word about this college parable. Re-
member the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. The
Wooden Spoon man, who was the last at the distribution of honors in
college, was not always, nor often, last in the race and the battle of
life. If there was in him stuff for the making of a man, he not un-
frequently evinced the irony of fate, by proving that the last shall be
first. Jena was the forerunner of Sedan. Where strength abides,
overthrow is the spur to fispiration and the augury of success. Permit
me, therefore, to remind you, fortunate sister commonwealths, that
this country is but a young nation. We are as yet awarding mere
collegiate honors. The future is a long time. In its decades and
centuries and cycles, strange changes will occur. There are some
among us who believe that spiritual forces are stronger than matter ;
that "the heaviest battalion" theory, while true enough in its way, is
but the partial statement of a truth ; and that will-power and intelli-
gence and spiritual righteousness — the divine and eternal forces— do
evolve heavier battalions still against the so-called heaviest. There is
no last word here in this world.
Do not be astonished, then, if I tell you that there are men resolved
and banded together, and animated by a heroic enthusiasm, who are
determined that the Iftst shc^li he first. There are mep in Lpuisiana
EDUCATION IN LOUISIANA. 171
whom no prospect of worldly advantage, no fear of toil or unpopular-
ity, and no dearth of immediate results, can restrain or tire in a noble
ardor to lift that State from the Slough of Despond. The fiat has
gone forth. The awakening has begun. Already we see the evidences