William Hawley Smith.

Walks abroad and talks about them online

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There is Mary Martin, the beautiful little brunette
who sits in the back seat, and whom the whole school,
male and female, raves over, but who cannot get on in
her number work, though she tries ever so hard to do so.
I saw this girl (and her name is legion) in a school that I
visited last week. She was thirteen, and in the A grade in
the grammar room. Her class was working in fractions,
and she, poor thing, was doing her level best to keep
within hailing distance of them.

In a bit of work that I gave to the class, I had occa-
sion, by way of illustration, to ask them to add together
•| and \. It was a simple thing, the like of which they had
been doing off and on, for the last three years. The
pupils were at their desks, each with pencil and paper,
and each working alone.

As soon as I uttered the problem I slipped down
among the children and glanced at their workings as I
went. The most of them were making quick work of the
poor little snip of an example, and some of them had the
result before I could get to them. But when I got down
to my poor little girl who was born short on this "lay" I
found this: "1 + 1:^1 !"

Now you have seen this same, haven't you — yes a
thousand times? You have had such cases in your own


school many times, doubtless. And if you have, what
have you done about them? That is what I want to know,
and what I should like to have you answer to yourself, at

I can tell you what has been done with such cases in
most of the graded schools oi this county, for the last
twenty years. The fact of the shortage of this poor girl
has been ignored; or, rather, perhaps, it has been held
that there was no such shortage, and that the girl could
be made to master what she had no head for.

And on this basis she has been worked, and ground,
and kept after school to learn her lessons, and put back
into a lower grade, all along the line, because she couldn't
keep up with her class in this or that particular study.

Listen. Great Heavens !

Or, worse than this, in many cases teachers have set
such children down as fools — to use a word which seems
pretty strong here, but which I have known many teachers
to use in such cases. But I want to say that these child-
ren are not fools; or, anyhow, they are often wiser than
are the teachers who try to teach them regardless of
what God intended they should learn.

For instance, in the case of the little girl I have just
spoken of, her teacher told me that she excelled in gram-
mar and in history, but that she was so dull in numbers
that she desparicd of ever getting her through her grade
work !

Hang the grade work ! ( Please excuse that exple-
tive. Great situations require strong language to express

And, pray, what excuse can any one offer for tor-
menting one of God's little ones for the mere sake of
having her pass in a grade? It was the gentle Jesus who
said something about millstones and certain men's necks,


and a good strong rope, and the bottom of the sea, and
all occupying the same space at the same time !

Brethren and sisters, will you think of these things,
and reflect where you and I would now be if the above
sort of justice had been meted out to us! What a multi-
tude of millstones there would now be in deep water,

Well, but you say, what are you going to do about it?
We cannot let pupils go as they please. There must be
some order, some method, some regularity, or we shall
have nothing but chaos in our school rooms.

To which I say yes, we must have order, and method,
and regularity, and all \.\\7it,jiist as far as it can serve our
purpose, and ?io further. We cannot afford to have these
things ad ex re mis, or we shall have them i?i extremis/

What shall we do then, with these " born short "

Why, use our common sense, that is all. Treat these
children in these respects, and in school, just as we treat
them in other respects and out of school, that is all. The
matter is just as easy of solution as that, when you come
right down to it in a sensible way.

Just look out there on the play ground, pjease, where
the children are having things their own way. Do you
see that little cripple boy with a group of his mates about
him? Poor fellow, he was born short in the matter of a
spinal column, and has a pitiful hump on his back. Do
you think he could ever be developed into a successful
runner, and compete with his mates on such a basis?
Why, even the children know better than that, and out of
deference to his feelings they will not even refer to a rac-
ing game in the presence of his infirmity!

And yet, as God lives, *****! am ashamed
to blot this white paper on which I am writing by setting


down what is sometimes done in the name of the grade,
not only in the presence of, but to the mentally hunch-
backed and sightless and deaf — the little ones who are
born short!

And we can take care of these children, even in our
public schools, and do for them somewhere near what
ought to be done, if we only set ourselves to the task.
Indeed, the very children at play put us to shame if we
cannot, and do not, do this. I must not stop here (for this
paper is now too long) to tell you how to do this, in detail.
If you cannot find a way yourself you had better drop out
of the profession, for there are still unsunk millstones and
ropes, and at the bottom of the sea there is yet room for
those who offend God's little ones who are born short.

Work your children faithfully and vigorously where
they are " long " and strong, and help them as best you
can where they are " short" and weak; and whatever you
do or do not do, I beg of you not to waste your own time,
and torture your victims, by trying to develop in them,
severally, powers and capabilities which they can never

It is not true that what any man has done every man
can do. And yet the old maxim: "What man has done
man can do " is generally so translated to our children,
and the courses of study in our common schools are fash-
ioned as if this old saw were one of the ten command-

But things are not going to be always as they now
are. WxWyon see what j'

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Online LibraryWilliam Hawley SmithWalks abroad and talks about them → online text (page 9 of 16)