Popular Science Monthly/Volume 11/October 1877/Specimens of Educational Literature


AMERICA is unquestionably preëminent in educational matters. It has more schools and a greater variety of schools than any other country on the face of the earth. Some of these schools are extremely remarkable. You cannot match them elsewhere. They thrive only upon the freest soil, untrammeled by effete conventionalities. Throughout the West and South they spring up abundantly, as if in proportion to the fertility of the land. The New England and Middle States are too much tied down to routine and tradition to produce such rare developments of the intellect. Such schools deserve to be more widely known and more generally appreciated. We propose to help some of them to a broader fame, by printing a few extracts from their circulars and catalogues.

First in order-let us take some clippings from a little pamphlet issued by a school in Faribault, Minnesota. This circular is remarkable for its clear expression of views upon a variety of educational topics, and for the suggestions it offers concerning real school discipline. Here are a few of the wise regulations:

"Scholars with any contagious trouble or disease are not allowed in the school till cleaned, or till their disease is beyond danger.

"If a snow-storm is up, the teacher takes the privilege to dismiss the school earlier in the afternoon than it otherwise would have been.

"It is not allowed to scholars to jump on to or hang to teams except on the way to or from school, and then only with the permission of the driver.

"Anything belonging to the school-house or to the scholars, broken, torn, or damaged, must be paid or restored by the scholar or scholars who have done it, as well as by those who were accessory to it.

"Where a punishment is in order it will be applied whether a scholar's parent or any visitors are present or not."

And so on for about twelve pages. The remarkably concise and exact wording: of these valuable rules must attract the attention of every teacher. The circular closes with a four-page essay upon "The Affairs of Education," from which a few slips may be culled. The author holds that it is very unwise to be "lenient, indulgent, unconcerned, or superficial, in school-keeping," and considers it extremely wrong to resort to "a false show of unmasticated, unprepared, unfit, and undigested accumulation of stuff and. material, producing neither educational bone, or muscle, or nerve, and. crammed in, drummed in, or infused, as with a funnel, in a hurry, or in the worry and flurry of an unquiet, unconcerted school."

Who, understanding this, can doubt it? Or who can doubt that the confidence of the pupils in the teacher "renders them more apt to conceive how much they are bound in gratitude to parents and teacher, and to get aware of the depth of the contrast and abyss of their real course and nature of action and that what it should be, and thus makes them more studious to be grateful and to advance their own interests as scholars?"

The teacher of this school, like most other Germans, believes in systematic thoroughness. "But," says he, "this does not mean that in the system that promotes perception, thorough thinking and reasoning, understanding, memory, self-reliance, deceitless ennobling enlightenment, and well-digesting progress, a scholar gets along slowly over the ground or through the books; on the contrary, while it excludes headway on the skip and jump, as each point is completely learned and mastered, it makes the next depending on this so much easier and more quickly grasped, and in a short time, what puzzles and discourages others, becomes to him the greatest delight; and thus he progresses from point to point, from page to page, from combining to combining the known with the unknown, the former unlocking and explaining the latter, and so he moves faster and faster, leaving the half-tutored, unsteady fustians far back in the distance."

The last citation which I shall make from this document might be construed into a rap at myself:

"It would be malicious folly without self-respect, to detach parts of this circular from their dependent connection with others that explain their spirit and application, and then to pervert their true construction; hence it is not intended for such persons," etc.

On second thoughts, however, this passage can refer only to those who have criticised the school and made light of its methods. "Let the galled jade wince, our withers are unwrung." We can only express our admiration for such an extraordinary "well of English undefiled," and for the profundity of the ideas contained in it.

Another school of peculiar interest is the Mars Hill Academy, near Florence, Alabama. The "permanent circular" of this institution, now before me, bears date 1872, and contains many points worthy of quotation. The merits of the school are well emphasized by the following paragraph:

"J. M. Cunningham, of Hamburg, Tennessee, boarded one son and two daughters at the Institution during the first session. During the second session he boarded one son and four daughters there. He seemed to regret his inability to do more for the school, but considered little Emma, the baby, rather too small to send to a boarding-school. He thinks, however, that the school is a good one, and deems it the duty of those who are blessed with more children than himself, to lend a more helping hand. He is a man whose judgement and patronage are both valuable.

This remarkably italicized passage shows at once that Mars Hill Academy believes in the coeducation of the sexes. In another portion of the circular, however, we learn that, although the boys and girls are frequently brought into the presence of each other, the strictest care is taken "that all observe a proper distance." Furthermore, every pupil signs an elaborate pledge never to "seek or accept a private or secret conversation or correspondence with any pupil of the opposite sex from my own, and that I will never receive a proposition for such correspondence or conversation, or anything tending thereto, without immediately committing the same to the principal," and so forth, and so forth, and so on. Thus we see that coeducation, at least in this school, can hardly be considered dangerous. The morality of the scholars is also advanced by a Scriptural exercise of an hour in length every morning before breakfast. Here is a part of the result:

"At our last examination we examined the Bible class before the public for one hour without one unsatisfactory answer being given, and might have continued the examination with honor to all the members for four hours. They could tell with ease the number of books in the old Bible; the number of books in the New Testament; the number of chapters in each; the number of chapters written by various writers; the name and order of every book in the entire Bible; the number of chapters in every book in the entire Bible; the origin and meaning of the names of the books; the history of the creation in detail; the history of the first family; the history of the flood; the history of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the twelve patriarchs, etc.; the history of the Egyptian bondage and deliverance; the number and order of the plagues of Egypt; the history of Sodom and Gomorrah; the beautiful, thrilling, story of the Cross, etc."

But the crowning glory of the school is to be found in the certificate given to every student at the end of his or her course. It is described thus:

"To every pupil, great and small, will be presented a very elegant certificate, containing a concise statement of the progress of the pupil, with the name. State, county, and post-office, of the same. These certificates are very beautiful; they are beautifully printed in four colors. In the centre is a representation of the earth, showing the equator, tropics, and polar circles. Around the horizon of the northern hemisphere is printed in green, 'Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.' The southern hemisphere is bounded by—'Fear God, and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.' Within this circle is beautifully arranged the following certificate:

"'This is to certify that M——, of —— county, ——, a good, kind, obedient, moral, studious, courteous, worthy, and honorable pupil of Mars Hill Academy, near Florence, Alabama, has attained a high degree of proficiency in ————, and is hereby recommended to the public as eminently worthy the confidence and esteem of every member of any community in which h— lot may e'er be cast, if future life does not corrupt h—.'

"This is surrounded by four hearts, two in red and two in green, and eight beautiful, appropriate illustrations. The words Faith, Hope, Charity, and Heaven, are printed in green and red within the hearts, in Greek, Latin, and English. Surrounding the heart on the north is the motto, 'Labor conquers all things,' in three languages. The name of the Institution on the south in three languages. In large and beautiful variegated characters the name and location of the Institution appear on the top and bottom of the certificate. All the space not otherwise filled is occupied by most beautiful and appropriate passages of Scripture. The whole is surrounded by a neat border, ends with the benediction of the Principal, and will be presented to each and every pupil, elegantly framed, so that it may be worthy of a conspicuous place in the most fashionable parlor. Size of frame, sixteen by eighteen Inches."

Who, after reading this, does not long to possess just such a certificate?

All things considered, the most remarkable specimen of educational literature yet issued is the catalogue of Neophogen College, at Gallatin, Tennessee. This catalogue has no rival: it can never be excelled, and probably will never be equaled. It begins with a map of Sumner County, wherein the college is situated. Then come four woodcuts representing "honor-students," young gentlemen, a likeness of the college-president, John M. Walton, LL. D., and then four more effigies of "honor-students," young ladies. These woodcuts are unique. The next feature of interest in this pamphlet is the page devoted to the Faculty. Here the predominating name is Walton; it occurs no less than five times, although apparently but three individual Waltons are indicated. There are also a number of blanks indicating vacant professorships, not waiting, of course, for endowments, but for men of sufficient ability to fill them. Among these blanks we find the title of "Professor and Master, School of Phrenology, Physiognomy, and Hygiene." What a pity that so important a chair should be empty! But we find some compensation for this misfortune when we see near the bottom of the list the name of an estimable lady inserted as "Mistress of Cuisine and Hygiene."

After a long (and to the general reader uninteresting) list of students, with their marks for "application," "punctuality," and "deportment" appended, we come to a few pages of text. Here we learn much of the character and position of Neophogen. We are informed, for example, that it is a "National University," being "centrally located between the North and the South, the East and
PSM V11 D737 John M Walton.jpg
President of Neophogen College.—(From the Catalogue.)

the West." Besides, "it is within a few hours' ride of Epperson, Red, Castalian, or Tyree Springs. Any kind of mineral water can be had at the College, if desired."

But piecemeal quoting is useless; we need a longer sample of this descriptive part of the catalogue. Let us take a page at once, with all its headings:

"The Two Cumberlands,

with banks and crests adorned by the noblest monarchs of the forest, and embracing the lovely valley between, make the land of the poet's dream and the home of the artist's heart.

"Health and Wealth

are here combined with 3,500 citizens, who cannot be surpassed for intelligence and refinement.

"No Parallel

can be found (estimating the population) to the ten first-class turnpikes leading into this little city of enterprise. These fine roads are valuable auxiliaries to
PSM V11 D738 Honor students of neophogen college.jpg
Honor-Students of Neophogen College.—(From the Catalogue.)
the school, for they can be made to contribute to the health and pleasure of both the students and the faculty.

"The Scenery

is most beautiful and romantic. In a single glance, from a central point, the eye surveys an ellipse, the circumference of which is 150 miles; and 'outstretching in loveliness'—the lawn, the woodland, the meadow, the town spread out beneath, the gushing rills, the flowing rivers, the farm-houses scattered here and there, the rugged cliffs—all make up a landscape which is at once picturesque and sublime. The future home of Neophogen was not selected without canvassing the advantages and inducements offered at all the most noted points in our country.

"The Community.

"We claim for the citizens of Gallatin and vicinity that true virtue and magnanimity found alone in the most refined society.

"Here, identity is lost in public spirit. Here, a studious observance of the rights of others is ever manifested. Here, the principles fostered by those noble old pioneers are infused into the minds of their successors.

"Here are the descendants of those worthy spirits—the Winchesters, Trousdales, Jacksons, Peytons, Wynnes, Halls, Guilds, Turners, Barrys, Heads, Blackmores, Lauderdales, Bledsoes, Babers, Aliens, Bennets, Blounts, Elliotts, Odoms, Dismukes, Blythes, Millers, Donelsons, Williamses, Boyerses, Bates, Montgomerys. Smiths, Duffys, Boddies, Glovers, Alexanders, Waltons, Kirkpatricks, Deshas, Blues, Winstons, Tomkinses, Houses, Hallums, Eascoes, Bakers, Greens, Stuarts, Wilsons, Wallaces, Moores, Joyners, Buggs, Franklins, Cantrells, Looneys, Hassells, Harrises, Malones, Pattersons, Parkers, Kings, Johnsons, Shutes, Guthries, Cottons, Branhams, Douglases, Bells, Tyrees, Martins, McCoins, Harts, Cages, with many other names worthy of emulation, and the half is not told.

"While we studiously ignore the idea of aristocracy and nobility, our minds are pleasantly associated with dignity and purity."

All this information is evidently just what a careful parent would require. The healthiness of a college town, and the character of its people, must be important to every father having a child to educate. As for the qualifications of the professors, the following passage is sufficiently suggestive:

"What is the duty of many, is generally neglected by all. Here is continued and special stimulus to president and professors; here are no easy and assured positions, with fixed and positive salaries, but they depend upon the patronage, prosperity, and reputation of the institution. That this should be so, is too obvious for comment. A very little knowledge of human nature is necessary to see why. To each teacher it is plain, the greater the labor, the greater the reward."

This passage is also instructive: "Learned men who have failed in business are tendered every inducement to take a life-home here. We intend to take the most active measures, and use every exertion, to raise a large life-fund for the relief of unfortunate literary men. Let them have homes, and the society of congenial spirits."

After the "curriculum," in which many studies are laid down with numerous text-books for each, comes a list of optional studies, with the extra prices affixed. Here we find "music on harp" quoted at $30, and "comparative philology" at 17.50. Italian, French, Spanish, and German, are ten dollars each; so that comparative philology may be regarded as given at a wholesale price. Languages are so much cheaper in a bunch than they are singly.

But the degrees given at Neophogen afford one of the most interesting items concerning the college. They are eighteen or twenty in number, and among them some are of considerable novelty. For example:

"A. M. will be given to any male, and M. A. to any female, who, after having received A. B., shall also graduate in penmanship and book-keeping, phonography and mnemotechny, comparative philology, and Anglo-Saxon, and in French, or German, or Spanish; and to a B. S., completing these same (preceding) additional or extra studies, the degree of M. S. (Master or Mistress of Science).

"M. E. L. (Master or Mistress of English Language), to any student graduating in the schools of humanities, and of history and moral science; and in common-school written arithmetic, elementary algebra, geometry, and the trigonometries and mensuration; in political economy and metaphysics; in penmanship and book-keeping, phonography and mnemonics, comparative philology and Anglo-Saxon.

"B. A. LL. (Bachelor (or Maid) of Ancient Languages).

"B. M. LL. (Bachelor (or Maid) of Modern Languages).

"B. M. (Bachelor (or Maid) of Music), to .any graduate in music.

"B. M. and D., in Music and Drawing.

"B. M. and D. and P., in Music and Drawing, and Painting.

"B. F. A. (Bachelor (or Maid) of Fine Arts), to graduate in the three preceding, and also in wax-work."

But mere quotations cannot do full justice to this extraordinary catalogue. I will, therefore, give only a very few more, quite hurriedly, and leave the reader to seek for fuller details in the original document. Under the head of "specialties" a variety of studies are given, English, elocution, oratory, and typography, being made especially prominent. As for etiquette, this passage will speak for itself:

"It is not a matter of choice, but compulsion. The course of training in etiquette is, in great part, original. It has been said that manners make the man; if not true, they at least cannot be neglected. Here it is the theory with continued practice. We think we have the politest students in America. The salutation, the bow, the courtesy, the word, the tone, the look, the inflection—vocal and physical; the attitude, the hand, the feet, the spine, and the eye, are all observed and studied, and the students daily exercised in them."

Another passage of striking merit runs as follows:

"What has brought discredit upon diplomas of this age? What so greatly reduced the respectability of the word graduate in this age of nostrums and charlatanry? Anwser. Silly parents, and incompetent and unscrupulous teachers.

"Parents that are content to purchase the labeled casket without the jewels; parents that are in many cases deceived themselves, and in other cases willing to deceive. Some reason thus: 'I have children, my children must be graduates, it is respectable.' Crœsus speaks, or intimates unmistakably, and it is done. There must be radical reform here. Common, old-fashioned honesty demands it. It must not be. The vital interests of our country cry aloud against it.

"We must steer aloof from making these pinchbeck and galvanized scholars. This will be very pleasant to the eyes of all honest, earnest, and competent teachers. We are all presidents and professors these days; but we have an uncontrollable fancy for those noble old words, 'teacher' and 'school.' "

The social importance of coeducation is shown thus:

"The young ladies and gentlemen are permitted, we may say required, to have interviews in the drawing-rooms twice in each month. The refining, elevating, and stimulating effects of these evening associations, regulated by system and class rotation, must be seen to be appreciated."

The moment we consider that the young ladies wear "green-calico dresses and white aprons" for a school-uniform, we cannot doubt the impressiveness of these interviews. Further on we find that prizes are given at Neophogen for "neatness," "grace," "true modesty," and "etiquette;" and the names of the "fortunate winners" are appended. The catalogue closes with two pages of "opinions of the press." A single specimen will do to illustrate these:

"The teachers of Neophogen College have the highest national reputation, both as teachers and authors. It is the cheapest college of the kind in the world, and is the best one for the males and females of the North and the South. It is located in a beautiful section of the State, which was selected with great care."—Republican Banner (Nashville, Tenn.)

These extracts sufficiently indicate the remarkable character of Neophogen. Who, after reading them, can longer doubt that the South is in earnest in this great matter of education? Let the boastful educators of New England bow their heads, and humbly confess that they can never hope to parallel such schools as the Mars Hill Academy and Neophogen College!