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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/467

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NATIONAL NECESSITIES AND EDUCATION.

America, they have had appointed tests for the proof of color-sight, so that it may be determined, when a man applies for duties in which color-sights are required, whether he can distinguish color. If our design were in operation, no scholar would leave a school without being made fully acquainted with his particular failure or capacity for this and such like occupations.

5. We propose, finally, to use the time that we wish to extract from book-learning, in some, and indeed in a free degree, in the cultivation of certain of the more refined and pleasure-building arts. First among these we would place music, as the primitive of recreative pleasures. We observe that our children are well and happy when they can sing; we see men and women gathered together, and find the height of mirth and happiness when somebody gives a song or a tune. In the most refined society, music is the joy of life; in the lowest dens, men, hardly above animals, when they meet to be amused, sing. It may be that in all these positions the music is very bad, but it is there, and it extends through creation. Here, therefore, is the first recreation to be scientifically studied. Make a nation, we say, a musical nation, and think how you have harmonized it, socially, morally, healthfully. We can not begin to teach this recreation too early or too soundly.

We ought to begin by making the learning of notes in succession—the scale of musical chords—coincident with the learning of the alphabet. Next, the intervals should be taught, in a simple but careful way, so that melody may be acquired, and the art of sight-singing attained. From this elementary basis should follow the simplest forms of time, after which a plain melody could be read with as much ease as the reading of the first story-book. Simple part-songs, leading to endless delight, would succeed in exercise; and a true and natural language in sweet sounds would be the property, in one generation, of all the nation. In addition to music, we would, as a matter of course, introduce other pleasant recreations, such as dancing, gymnastics, and all those muscular games and exercises which, by discharging naturally the nervous force, relieve the mind of mischievous intents and provocatives to destructive habits.

This is the programme we would put before the nation, in respect to the grand revolution we consider necessary, of placing national education on the basis of national necessities. Should it be urged that what we-propose is too essentially physical or muscular, we answer that all education is, in the strict sense, physical and even muscular. Speech is muscular, expression is muscular, writing is muscular, composition is muscular, as much as mental. It is as purely a muscular act to decline a Greek verb as to walk across a tight-rope; only that the muscular movement, hardly so refined, is more obscure. We meet two men, one of whom is seen to move with ease and grace, the other with dullness and weight. We say, how accomplished the one, how un-