American Institute of Instruction.

Annual meeting: Proceedings, constitution, list of active members, and addresses online

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stitute to appropriate some part of that time usually appropriated to
debate, to hearing extemporaneous observations from such members
as shall be pleased to give them, respecting the best mode of exciting
the human mind to virtuous and vigorous improvement ; such speak-
ing being subject to the same rules of order as observed in debate.

At 10 o'clock, S. M. BuRNsiDE of Worcester delivered a lecture
on the Classification of Schools.

At half past 11 o'clock, Asa Rand, of Boston, delivered a lecture
on English Grammar and Composition.

In meeting of the Institute, Mr Pike made a verbal report, that the
dissertation on the Method of Teaching Children the Meaning of
Words, be referred to the committee of Arrangements.

Voted, That individuals virho may intend to propose anything for
exhibition at the next anniversary, or to propose any subject for con-
sideration, either to the Directors or the Institute, be and are hereby
requested to communicate such intention to the Recording Secretary
on or before the first of August next.

Voted, That the members of the Institute be earnestly solicited to
furnish such hints in relation to the exercises of the present session,
and such propositions for those of the next year, as may most effectual-
ly aid the committee of Arrangements and enable them to secure
such performances as may best subserve the objects of the Institute.

Monday JStftemoon, Aug, 27.

The Institute met according to adjournment. Mr Shaw intro-
duced a small box of Numbering Rods, and moved that it be referred
to a committee of tviro to report thereon. Messrs Shaw and Pike
were appointed that committee.

At half past 3, William H. Spear, of Roxbury, delivered a lecture
on the proper mode of conducting Recitations, and the utility of
Questions in text-books.

In meeting of the Institute, on motion of Mr Carter, Voted, That
the thanks of the Institute be respectfully tendered to Gideon F.
Thayer, the late Recording Secretary, for his very laborious and ac-
t^eptable services in facilitating the business and promoting the objects
of the Association^

At 5 o'clock, Lowell Mason gave a lecture with illustrations of
his method of teaching children Music.

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On motion of Mr Garter, Voted, That the thanks of the Insti-
tute be returned to Lowell Mason, for his interesting lecture on and
illustrations in vocal music.

The Institute then adjourned.

Tuesday Morning, Aug. 28, 1832.

The Institute met according to adjournment. Mr Shaw, from the
committee to whom was referred the box of Numbering Rods, made
a verbal report.

Resolved, That G. B. Emerson, J. G. Carter^ and C. Durgin be
a committee to draw up a report of the transactions of the Institute,
during its present session, for publication.

^ At 10 o'clock, Dr Spurzheim, of Germany^ delivered a lecture on

At half past 11, Elipha White, of John's Island, S. C. delivered a
lecture on the Condition and Prospects of Common Education in the
Southern States.

Mr SuLLiTAN, from the committee to whom were referred the Essays
on Penmanship, made a report, which, on motion of Mr Bailey, was
referred to the Censors to dispose of according to their discretion.

Mr Bailet asked and obtained leave to be excused from serving on
the Board of Censors. Adjourned.

The Institute met according to adjournment at 3 o'clock.

The Board of Censors having recommended the reading of the
Prize Essay on the Teaching of Penmanship, it was voted that said
Essay be read.

At half past 3 o'clock, Wm. B. Calhoun, of Springfield, delivered
a lecture on the duties of School Committees.

Resolved, That the thanks of the Institute be presented to Dr
Spurzheim, of Germany, for his interesting lecture on Education,
and that he be respectfully requested to furnish a copy for the press.

Resolved, That the thanks of the Institute be presented to Ebenb-
ZER Bailet, for his valuable and arduous services, as a member of the
Board of Censors since the establishment of the Institute.

Resolved, That the thanks of the Institute be presented to the gen-
tleman, who delivered the Introductory Address, and also to the seve-
ral lecturers, for their very acceptable, interesting, and useful per-

Voted, To recommend the common use of School Libraries.

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Resolved, That the interesting transactions and punctual attend-
ance of the members of the Institute, during its present session, have
been such as to give the friends of the Association increased confi-
dence in its tendency and power to accomplish the great purposes of
the Institute.

Resolved, That, considering the principal remarks of Mr Calhoun,
in his lecture on the Duties of School Committees, would contribute
much to the general improvement of public schools, Mr Calhoun be
requested, in the name of the Institute, to prepare a pamphlet, con-
taining his remarks, and that it be published by the Government of
this Association.

Adjourned sine die,


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Wht are we here ? That the members of this Institute should
meet together to communicate the results of their reflections, and
impart the fruits of their observation and experience to each otheri
is indeed one of the main objects of your association. But vfhj
these open doors, this general invitation, this mixed assembly ?
And why this discourse from (me, who has not the honor to be of
your number, and who is not particularly acquainted with the sub-
ject of education in theory, nor at all conversant with it in practice ?
Unquestionably it was your purpose, that I should speak, not so much
for you, to any one of whom, on such atopic, it would rather be my
privilege to listen, as for those, who are assembled here by your mvi-
tation ; that I should present those general views, which though
trite and familiar, no doubt, to yourselves, are yet the most appro-
priate to so promiscuous an audience ; leaving the scientific investi-
gation of the several topics, which invite your attention at the
present session, with those, to whom they have respectively been
assigned, on due consideration of the peculiar means of information
possessed by each.

Gentlemen, a mighty revolution is going on round us ; involving
not only the fortunes of dynasties, the forms of governments and
the distribution of political power, but the whole structure and or-
ganization of society ; and destined to produce lasting and unal-
terable effects on the character and condition of our race. So great
is the abundance, and so general the difiusion of the means of sub-

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astence m ciyifized communities^ at the present day ; and such are
the facilities for acquiring and impartmg information on aU subjects,
tbat active and intelligent minds, in every condition, have now the
opportunity, as they always have the disposition, to set themselves to
thinking and communicating their thoughts to each other. The first
lesson they have learned is their own power, their command over that
public opinion, which rules the world. And accordingly opinion
no longer submits to authority. Nothing is left unquestioned. The
ancient landmarks have ceased to be respected for their antiquity.
Their very foundations are scrutinized. It is not enough now, to
say of any custom or establishment, that it was always so, or that
it was founded and maintained by the wisdom of our ancestors.
Men be^ to feel the truth of the maxim, that the respect, which
youth owes to age, is not due fix>m a generation to its predecessors.
It was the ancients, who lived in the infancy of the world. And
therefore they wanted that experience, from which, among indi-
viduals, age derives its authority. It is we, who live in its old age,
or rather, as we flatter ourselves, in its full maturity. And hence,
as we have more experience than they had, and do not admit, that
we have less ability, we claim the right to rejudge their judgments,
and to criticise and reform their institutions. The claim is in sub-
stance just. And when it is rightly understood and correctly exer-
cised, it will produce the greatest benefits. But when those, who
exercise it, assume that they are more capable of judging, not only
than any preceding generation, but than all generations, and espe-
cially when they shut their eyes to that very experience, on which
alone their clsdm to superiority is founded, it may, it must lead to
incalculable mischief.

The mysteries of learning also are regarded with aslittie respect,
as the audiority of antiquity. Although the adepts in science may
still use technical terms, in their intercourse with each other, and
indeed in most cases must do sfo, in order to speak with sufficient
accuracy, they are no longer permitted to palm off such terms upon
the public, thus ostentatiously veiling their knowledge, or sometimes
perchance their ignorance ; but are jusUy required, on all occasions,
to speak common sense in language intelUgible to their hearers.
Properiy applied, this too will produce immense advantage. The
general principles and grand results of a science, when stripped of

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^1 technicality and presented in a definite form to the common
judgment of mankind, are subjected to a new test of their truth
and value. Such intercourse, real intercourse between adepts in
any science and the public is highly useful to both. It tends to
prevent the former firom being entangled and lost in the mysteries
of technical subtlety, and acquaints the latter with the object and
character of the science, thus vindicating and recommending its
pursuit. When however, it is attempted to detail the specific pro-
cesses and precise rules of an abstruse science, by means of a mere
catechism, and to make a royal road to knowledge for all the world
to walk in, without care and without effort, the result and the whole
result is, that we exchange one sort of obscurity for another. We
get vagueness instead of mystery, and the pedantry of ignorance for
the pedantry of learning.

This bold spirit of inquiry, which, when rightly directed, pro-
duces inestimable good, and, like every other power entrusted to
man, when abused, proportionate evil ; is, at this time, directed to
no subject more generally or more eagerly, than to our established
systems of education. The attempts which have been made, in
modern times, to bring about beneficial and permanent revolutions
in the political and civil organization of nations^ to dissolve society
into its elements and to reconstruct it on a better model, have
been attended with so much suffering and so little success, as to
convince reflecting men in general, that a thorough reform in the
whole structure of any community is not likely to be peacefiiUy and
completely accomplished, by the generation, in which it is first un-
dertaken, and that the mass of those, who have been trained up
with exclusive reference to one state of society, are hardly capable
of administering or enjoying one totally different ; and hence the
improvement of education has come to be regarded by many as the
first certain and safe step to all radical and permanent improvements
in the condition of men. Here it is, that he must take his stand,
who seeks at the present day to move the world.

Under these circumstances, it is a subject of congratulation for
us, that an Association has been established here, calculated and
competent, within the proper sphere of its influence, to direct the
spirit of inquiry on this important subject in the true path, and
invigorate it by united exertions. Who, while they are endeavoring

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6 MB gray's discourse.

to accumulate such knowledge of facts with regard to education^
as may deserve, when properly arranged and classified, to be con-
sidered as constituting a science, submit the general objects, principles
and results of their labors to the public in a form not only intelligi-
ble, but attractive ; and at the same time, subject those principles,
and the systems and processes, which are worthy of such exami-
nation, to strict scrutiny, and varied experiment, conducted by per-
sons competent for the task. Who mean, that the science to be
established by them, shall approve itself, in all its great features,
to the conmion judgment of mankind, and shal) also, even in its
minutest details, bear the test of the closest scientific investi-

An association, whose great object is to be practically useful, will
naturally first direct its attention to the prevalent errors of the day.
Among these, there are few more prominent, than the multiplicity
and variety of new schemes for education, and the extravagant im-
portance attached to many of them by their respective adherents.
It is probably owing to the intense interest felt in this subject, that
many, impatient of the slow process of accumulating facts by obser-
vation and experiment, the only one, by which a science, worthy
of the name, can be established, have published systems founded
on their own solitary experience, or on assumed principles. And
to the same cause we may ascribe the extravagant zeal, with which
those systems have often been supported. One practical disadvan-
tage resulting from this is, that it sometimes causes particular modes
and processes of education, which really possess intrinsic merit, to
be misapplied or carried beyond their just limits, thus immediately
producing inconvenience and tending ultimately to bring that merit
into question. To teach writing by means of the black board,
directing the pupil to copy, with his pen, the letters inscribed upon
it, reducing their size but preserving their proportions, seems to be a
misapplication of that useful irislrument. And however excellent
the system of mental arithmetic, as it is called, may be as a discipline
for the minds of children, surely they exaggerate its importance, who
would make it a complete substitute for the five good old rules. An-
other disadvantage occasioned by an undue attachment to general
systems is, that it tends to withdraw the attention too much from the
personal qualifications of teachers, which must always, or at least in

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the present state of the science, be far more important than the
mode of instruction. Let me not be understood to represent all
systems as equal or unimportant. The arguments, which have been
urged to that effect, are by no means satisfactory. True it is that
no system can counteract the diversities of natural talent, or pre-
vent the operation of those tinforeseen and uncontrollable accidents,
which occasionally defeat all our precautions. But what then ?
Since the seed is cast abroad on every variety of soil, it may some-
times fall among weeds, at the roadside, or upon the rock ; and
sometimes its fruit, even when it appears whitening for harvest,
may be destroyed by a secret defector by an unexpected calamity ;
and thus the toil of the husbandman may be rendered vain. But
who shall therefore say, that his art is futile ?

But the multiplicity and variety of the schemes suggested for
the improvement of education may be productive of much good,
if the operation of each be regarded as a series of experiments, of
which the precise results are to be observed and recorded as facts
conducive to the improvement of the science. And in this point
of view the zeal and enthusiasm, with which they are supported,
may be regarded as useful, tending to exhibit more completely
whatever of truth they contain, and to make their results, be their
character what it may, more conspicuous and decisive. A service
may be thus rendered to the world like that rendered to it by the
obstinate perseverance of the alchymist», which, though it did not
lead to the discovery of the philosopher's stone they sought for,
yet contributed not a little to the production of a treasure far more
precious to mankind, the science of chemistry.

So far is education from having yet attamed the character of a
science, that men, eminent men, are not yet agreed as to its object.
Milton proposes it as the aim of the scheme recommended by him,
^^ to fit a man to perform justly, skilfully and magnanimously all the
offices both private and public of peace and war.'' A glorious
vision, and well worthy of the lofty imagination of its author, but
incapable of being realized among any civilized people. The sav-
age may indeed master all the knowledge of his triT}e, and fit him-
self for all its offices. But as society becomes cultivated and re-
fined, the various offices of peace and war become more and more
numerous, diversified and difficult, till it is altogether impossible for

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8 MR okay's discourse.

any one man^ in the course of a long life^ to fit himself for thena
all, or even for any considerable portion of them. Reduced with-
in narrower limits, this scheme would be substantially the same, as
that, which proposes for its object, the complete and harmonious
development of all the faculties. If this be understood, in its ob-
vious sense, to mean, that the human faculties should be developed
in a certain fixed relation to each other, under all drcumstances,
and that a man should be trained up so as to become a perfectly
symmetrical being, entire and self-dependent, it seems hardly less
visionary than the plan of Milton. And to what end should this
be done, since the various avocations of diflferent individuals, by
calKng into exercise various faculties, must speedily destroy this
perfect symmetry in each. If however, we understand it, as per-
haps we should do, to mean only, that each faculty should be so
far developed, as to be capable at all times of healthy and vigorous
action, this is undoubtedly the first object of early education both
private and public. It may be and often is combined with that of
communicatmg the knowledge most important to be remembered.
But I do not know that this connexion is invariable, and that the
knowledge most likely to be useful in after life is that, which will,
in all cases, best exercise the faculties of youth. All analogy is
against such an assumption. In gymnastics, which are admitted to
develope and invigorate the powers of the body more uniformly
and efifectually than the ordinary occupations of life, much is learn-
ed, which there is no expectation of practising afterwards. And
besides, for two persons in similar situations and destined to the
same pursuit, the same knowledge must be equally useful, and yet
their minds, firom some difference original or acquired may need
very dififerent discipline. Let any man moreover reflect, how very
much of his habits of thought and of action, of study, of feeling,
and of self-control, can be traced back to the days of his boyhood ;
and how very little of his knowledge.

education, which accomplishes no more, than to bring
s of the body and the mind into a healthy state, is
pted to all times and places ; and has little else to do,
love improper restraints; since all these faculties, if
m pernicious influences and allowed free opportunity
, will grow up, in the ordinary course of nature, in a

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MB gray's discourse. 9

healthy and vigorous state, under almost any circumstances. If it
were possible to suppose^ that education should stop here, and send
forth its pupil with a healthy body and a healthy mind, but alto-
gether uninstructed, he would be equally fit, or rather equally un-
fit for any state of society. It must go further. It must qualify
him to hold a place in the particular community, in which his lot
is cast. Now in this view of education, is regard to be had mainly
to the benefit of the individual or to the benefit of society, to
his cultivation and improvement as an insulated being, or to the ad-
vantage of the community in which he lives ?

This is the question. It seems to have been originally suggest-
ed by a consideration of the effect of what is called the division
of labor in mechanical pursuits, which is to render each individual
better fitted for his particular task, and less fitted for any other,
while the advantage resulting to society from this harmonious com-
bination of the labors of all is inconceivably greater than would
have been produced by the aggregation of the independent labors
of each. It is often understood, with too much reference to the
case, which suggested it, as a question between the general intel-
lectual improvement of the individual, and his attaining such skill
in his particular occupation, as may most advance the wealth of the
community. If it be thus understood, the whole aim of our sys-
tems and institutions should be to promote the improvement of the
individual. But this is altogether too narrow a view of the sub-
ject. It ought to be considered, on the one hand, that the individ-
ual is to be fitted, by education, not merely for his art or profession,
but for all his social duties ; and, on the other, that the advantage
of society does not consist in wealth alone, but in the improvement
and happiness of all its members ; and viewed in this light, the
diflference between aiming at the one and at the other becomes so
minute, as to be almost evanescent, and to render it a matter of
little practical importance how the question is decided.

It ought also to be considered, that the mind is not confined to
one narrow and precise path, in which alone it can move with ease
and safety ; but that it may iengage in any one of a multitude of
pursuits, and may exercise and iWprove mainly any one of its fac-
ulties, if not without diminishing that exact symmetry, which con-
stitutes idea] perfection, yet, at least, without impairing that healthy

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10 MR gray's discourse.

and vigorous action, which is the only practical good to be attained
under any system. Happy for us that it is so ; — for so various
are the states of society and the conditions of life, in which men
are placed, that occupations, at one time essential to the happiness,
and even to the safety of the individual and of the community, are
rendered entirely superfluous by a change of circumstances, and
other occupations calling into exercise and mainly developing dif-
ferent faculties become all-important.

Since then a great variety of pursuits, appropriate to all possi-
ble varieties of human condition, are all equally compatible with
the improvement and happiness of men considered as individuals,
this seems too indefinite an end to be proposed as the precise object
of a distinct science. The great aim therefore, as it seems to me,
of the science of education, at least of intellectual education, to
which my remarks on this occasion mainly refer, is to promote the
advantage of society, to train up men in the knowledge and to the
pursuits most useful to the community, in which they are destined
to live.

But what is useful knowledge ? And what are useful pursuits ?

No term has been more abused, in treating of education, than this

word Utility. In a large and liberal sense, it is indeed the whole

object of education. Men should be taught nothing but what is

useful, practically useful. And in reasoning from this principle, we

shall fall into no error, if we always use the word in this sense.

But if the term practically useful be confined, as it has sometimes

been, to those occupations, which tend to supply our physical wants

merely, then utility is not the sole, nor even the highest object of .

education. Undoubtedly, when the acquisition of the means of

subsistence comes into direct competition with the acquisition of

; else, so that one of them only can be enjoyed, the former

preferred, and every possible exertion must be made to

t. But to suppose, that our exertions are to terminate

to mistake the means of living for the end of life. We

leed have food, and shelter, and clothing, in order to live.

irefore do we live ? Surely not to accumulate more of

m we can possibly make use of There would be neither

)r enjoyment in this. Probably there never was a com-

in which all the efforts of its members were constantly

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MR GRAT's discourse. 11

requisite to supply their own physical wants. Certainly we are
not such a one. The dictate of nature to the individual is the
rule for society. He is impelled to satisfy his bodily wants by

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Online LibraryAmerican Institute of InstructionAnnual meeting: Proceedings, constitution, list of active members, and addresses → online text (page 2 of 17)