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excite them to activity, is in incomparably greater danger of touching the wrong spring of action, than one unacquainted with music, is of touching the wrong key or chord of the most complicated musical instrument, then, ought not every one of those who are installed into the sacred office of teacher, to be "a workman who needeth not to be ashamed?" Surely, they should know, beforehand, how to touch the right spring, with the right pressure, at the right time.
There is a terrible disease that sometimes afflicts individuals, by which all the muscles of the body seem to be unfastened from the volitions of the mind, and then, after being promiscuously transposed, to be re-fastened; so that a wrong pair of muscles is attached to every volition. In such a case, the afflicted patient never does the thing he intends to do. If he would walk forwards, his will starts the wrong pair of muscles, and he walks backwards. When he would extend his right arm to shake hands with you, in salutation, he starts the wrong pair of muscles, thrusts out his left, and slaps or punches you. Precisely so is it with the teacher who knows not what faculties of his pupils to exercise, and by what objects, motives, or processes, they can be brought into activity. He is the will of the school; they are the body which that will moves; and, through ignorance, he is perpetually applying his will to the wrong points. What wonder, then, if, spending day after day in pulling at the wrong pairs of muscles, the teacher involves the school in inextricable disorder and confusion, and, at last, comes to the conviction that they were never made to go right?
But, says an objector, can any man ever attain to such knowledge that he can touch as he should this "harp of thousand strings?" Perhaps not, I reply; but ask, in my turn, Cannot every man
know better than he now does? Cannot something be done to make good teachers better, and incompetent ones less incompetent? Cannot something be done to promote the progress and to diminish the dangers of all our schools? Cannot something be done to increase the intelligence of those female teachers, to whose hands our children are committed, in the earliest and most impressible periods of childhood;-and thus, in the end, to increase the intelligence of mothers,-for every mother is ex officio a member of the College of Teachers? Cannot something be done, by study, by discussion, by practical observation,-and especially by the institution of Normal Schools,which shall diffuse both the art and the science of teaching more widely through our community, than they have ever yet been diffused?
My friends, you cannot go for any considerable distance in any direction, within the limits of our beloved Commonwealth, without passing one of those edifices professedly erected for the education of our children. Though rarely an architectural ornament, yet, always, they are a moral beauty, to the land in which we dwell. Enter with me, for a moment, into one of these important, though lowly mansions. Survey those thickly seated benches. Before us are clustered the children of to-day, the men of to-morrow, the immortals of eternity! What costly works of art; what splendid galleries of sculpture or of painting, won by a nation's arms, or purchased by a nation's wealth, are comparable in value, to the treasures we have in these children? How many living and palpitating nerves come down from parents and friends, and centre in their young hearts; and, as they shall advance in life, other living and palpitating nerves, which no man can number, shall go out from their bosoms to twine round other hearts, and to feel their throbs of pleasure or of pain, of rapture
or of agony! How many fortunes of others shall be linked with their fortunes, and shall share an equal fate. As yet, to the hearts of these young beings, crime has not brought in its retinue of fears, nor disappointment its sorrows. Their joys are joys, and their hopes more real than our realities; and, as visions of the future burst upon their imaginations, their eye kindles, like the young eagle's at the morning sunbeam. Grouping these children into separate circles, and looking forward, for but a few short years, to the fortunes that await them, shall we predict their destiny, in the terrific language of the poet :
"These shall the fury passions tear,
"Ambition this shall tempt to rise,
"The stings of Falsehood, those shall try,
or, concentrating our whole souls into one resolve, -high and prophetically strong, that our duty to these children shall be done, shall we proclaim, in the blessed language of the Savior;-"IT is NOT THE WILL OF YOUR FATHER WHICH IS IN HEAVEN. THAT ONE OF THESE LITTLE ONES Should PERISH.