Amazing articles on just about every subject...


School Management - Moral Training

( Originally Published 1897 )



The Need of Moral Education.-The highest aim of education is the formation of character. Sound ethical training, no doubt, calls for the due cultivation of the intellectual and physical faculties, as well as the development of the emotional nature. Mere physical and intellectual power may, however, do harm if achieved regardless of moral training. Morality is essential to the welfare of the State. History affords numerous illustrations of the disastrous results that follow when the intellect is sharpened, but the moral nature neglected. The rapid growth of knowledge among the community, and the increased power which intellectual attainments give, render the question of national ethics more and more pressing on public attention. The extension of commerce, the growth of industries, the spread of democratic institutions, and the dependence of individuals and communities upon one another, make it imperative that principles of righteousness should form an essential part of every child's education. The numerous opportunities presented to persons of sharp intelligence for the sudden acquisition of wealth, the facilities for gaining political power, and the temptations to which young men of mere shrewdness are exposed, show that if training in right action is ignored in a system of popular education, ruin may come to the State in spite of our much-valued civilization. The money value of mere sharpness is strikingly apparent, and the intense passion for gain is noticeable on every side. The rapid growth of cities has, no doubt, increased the efforts to do good, but it has also stimulated the worst forces of the times. The altered relations of the working-classes to other sections of the community, have created serious social disturbances. The rapidity with which intellectual power has supplanted physical force, has given the man of brains extraordinary influence among his fellows, and has made the outlook, though on the whole encouraging, yet in many respects alarming. Every day brings its disclosures of untruthfulness, dishonesty and corruption. Intemperance and profanity are prevalent ; defaulters and gamblers exist; and scandals in public life are not unknown. It is idle in the face of crimes brought to the public gaze by means of the press, and in view of what the courts reveal, to deny the urgent need of training in morality. The changed conditions of our day demand that ethical instruction should be given by the school, as well as by the home and the Church. The time has gone by when the family could suffice for its own needs either commercially or educationally. The separation of Church and State has rendered it necessary for the latter to discharge some of the functions at one time assumed by the former. The responsibility of the parent is still the same, and the vitalizing office of the Church is no less essential than formerly; but more than ever the ordinary citizen is accustomed to look to the school as the great agency of modern times for effective assistance in the moral, as well as in the intellectual, development of his children.

Unjust Charges-Admitting the prevalence of evils which perplex, but which should not discourage society, and admitting the responsibility which must be shared by the school with other educational agencies, charges are frequently made against the Public School which are grossly unfair. The imputation that the school is greatly at fault is too serious to be passed over. If training in right action is lost sight of by teachers, we may look for a future of national disaster or ruin such as befalls every people who depart from righteousness. The frequency with which crimes are committed by persons who have a fair intellectual education, and the resorts to the tricks of the sharper by many graduates of our schools, are mentioned as proofs that knowledge is not the blessing it has been claimed to be. The Public Schools are said to be sadly deficient in ethical training. It is contended that they turn out loose upon society thousands whom they have helped to make sharp rogues ; that they give pupils the impression that passing examinations is a sure equipment for duty ; and that they inspire children with an ambition for attaining place and wealth as the great aim of life. Hence comes the occasional clamor for the addition to the curriculum of formal ethical training, and for the incorporation of religion with the traditional three " R's" of the Public School course.

The science of education has to do with all knowledge, and it is yet very imperfectly understood; but the average rate-payer regards himself as fully competent to settle problems which are so complex in their nature that they baffle the efforts of the greatest statesmen. For every evil that afflicts the community some persons are ready with a remedy. Too often the imperfections of the school are regarded as the only source of prevailing troubles. More attention to some subject of the curriculum is often assumed as all that is needed to make the people wise, happy, prosperous and moral. It is a fact that no human agency is more beset by advocates of plausible nostrums than the Public Schools, and while investigation and fair criticism should always be welcomed, any remedies not founded on sound pedagogical principles should be rejected.

The charges referred to spring sometimes from prejudice, but more frequently from careless observation or wrong deduction. They are so often repeated by those who might be assumed to possess good judgment, that they become dangerous. Some persons have called for the authorization of suitable text-books in ethics, or the regular use of the Bible in the teaching of morals, while others go so far as to condemn any system of education that is not controlled by Church influences. Now, it must be at once asserted that it is very unfair to make the school the scapegoat for all the evils that are rampant in society. The school is not the only agency upon which rests the responsibility of promoting morality. The teacher cannot go into the streets and by-ways and compel children to come within the range of his influence. He cannot visit the homes of his pupils and counteract the bad training of those who have reached positions of parental authority without realizing its responsibilities. He cannot always implant principles of obedience, truthfulness, honesty, courtesy and charity, in the minds of children who, from their infancy, have been furnished with examples of an opposite kind. It is too much to expect during the short time which the average child remains in school that the teacher's influence will overcome the bad associations too often met on the streets, the vile literature so readily procured, the wickedness of the low theatre, the degrading effects of the saloon sustained by public opinion, the example of fast young men, and the hundred other evils that pollute the currents of life in all large cities. It cannot be denied that the school has its duty to perform, and that it may become in future a far more effective means of promoting morality, but it is unreasonable to expect teachers to be able to stamp out evils which society constantly tolerates. The school should, no doubt, be the efficient ally of every agency that helps to make righteousness the dominant force in the community. It is safe to say that, in spite of the alleged defects of the school every parent who is not relegating his own duties to the Church or to some other agency, finds no more effective support in promoting morality than the well-qualified school teacher.

The Personality of the Teacher.-A teacher of high moral character is the chief requisite of moral training. "As is the teacher so is the school," is a maxim which applies as much to the power of the teacher to impress his own moral qualities, as to the ability he wields to inspire with his own intellectual power. In the early life of the child there is shown a remarkable power of imitation and a readiness to incorporate in his own nature whatever is exhibited in the conduct of those by whom he is surrounded. The deportment of pupils towards their teachers and towards one another, the kindly way or the uncouth manner, the attention or listlessness, the polite words or the rude reply, are all daily in wrought in permanent outline and unfading colors into the warp and woof of which the habits are thoughtlessly formed. A teacher should exemplify in his own character all he would have his pupils become. That strict adherence to honesty and truthfulness, that close application to duty and regard for life's opportunities, that calmness of manner in periods of disturbance, and that spirit of Christian unselfishness which he is desirous of cultivating as traits in the character of each pupil, he must possess as essential elements of his own qualifications. A high standard of living is demanded of the teacher, not only for its direct influence upon the young, but also for the added power which his words of counsel give. The child naturally looks to him for guidance, and if he finds in the teacher a spirit of reverence, sincerity, honesty, truthfulness, industry and unselfishness, he is disposed to practise these virtues himself. The teacher, whether good or Lad, leaves his everlasting imprint on every child placed under his care. He can hide nothing from the child's power of intuition. Whatever the teacher is becomes immortal through the souls of his pupils. Of all lessons, the best is the living lesson. Example is always better than precept. The Christian teacher will not hide his light. If placed in charge of a school, it matters little to what Church he adheres. No need for him to give lessons in the Bible, creed or catechism ; he is the real text-book. If he has formed his kinship with the Divine, and has recognized the source of the highest inspiration for his duties, he will be a living epistle, known and read of all.

The life of the teacher outside of school must be in keeping with the moral principles he tries to inculcate. It is idle for him to expect his pupils to profit by his moral instruction, if truthfulness, honesty, temperance, prudence and diligence, are not characteristics by which he is known to the community. Dr. Arnold, in writing of the qualifications desirable in a teacher, said, " The qualifications which I deem essential to the due performance of a master's duties here may, in brief, be expressed as the spirit of a Christian and a gentleman. . . . He should study things ' lovely and of good report ;' that is, he should be public spirited, liberal, and enter heartily into the interests, honor, and general respectability and distinction of the society which he has joined."

"The personality of the headmaster is everything. It is the ultimate source of power in the school, the central organ which sends out its life-giving currents through the whole organism. And let me here add that, if I am in favor of excluding direct religious teaching from our schools, I am not in favor of excluding religious influence. That, too, flows from the personality of the true master. For if he be reverent, a truly pious soul, humble in his estimate of self, not valuing his petty schoolmaster's authority on its own account, but using it lovingly as an instrument for higher ends, he will be sure to communicate of his spirit to his pupils, and by that spirit will open their hearts, better than by any doctrinal teaching he could give, to the reception of the highest spiritual truths."-Adler.

" As Milton would have the poet himself a poem, so the excellent. teacher of morals will be morality incarnate ; showing forth its gospel as well as its law in the daily exhibition of sweetness and light, he will be 'not virtuous, but virtue' itself ! How difficult, but how necessary, is such a preparation of the heart and will in a well-rounded instructor of children or of men, one does not need to reiterate to the teacher who has found his true vocation."-Gilman.

" Not the most eloquent exhortations to the erring and disobedient, though they be in the tongues of men or of angels, can move mightily upon your scholars' resolutions till the nameless, unconscious, but infallible pressure of a consecrated, earnest heart lifts its holy light into your eyes, hallows your temper, breathes its pleading benedictions into your tones, and authenticates your entire being with its open seal."-Huntington.

" The most vital element of governing power is a positive moral character and life. We thus come back in our analysis to the one essential fact of the school, the teacher; and we reach the one essential fact in the teacher, character. Through all the methods and measures of the school must run the vitalizing influence of the teacher's inner life. . . . If the writer had the power of making one law for the governing of American schools, and only one, and this in a single sentence--a law to be written over every school-room-door-he would have little difficulty in determining what it would be. It would be in about these words : No man or woman shall enter here as a teacher whose character and life are not fit models for the young to copy."-White.

Good Discipline Promotes Morality.-A poor disciplinarian is a poor teacher of morals. A pupil learns every-day morality as an art and not as a science. In early childhood the will and example of the parents are supreme in directing thought and in. securing action. The power of imitation is strong in infancy. Selfishness soon appears, and skill is essential in forming such habits as will cultivate a regard for the rights of others, and foster a spirit of self-control. Gradually the knowledge and reason of the child become factors that require careful attention, if right conduct is to be cultivated. Soon doing right may become a habit, and every successful effort in that direction strengthens the will and promotes moral training. The function of school government is training pupils in habits of self-control, so that they may become self-governing in conduct. Self-control implies self-denial, subordination of present to future good, resistance to temptation, and the cultivation of all those qualities which make virtue itself. Cases are constantly arising in the discipline of the school which, if dealt with calmly, seriously, and judiciously, promote habits of regularity, punctuality, accuracy, courtesy and many other valuable features of character. Ethical truths and maxims, expressed in a didactic form, often fail to make moral duties intelligible to a young pupil, or to bind his conscience. More effectively are his moral convictions strengthened by having his surroundings pure and healthful, by watching carefully his efforts to overcome temptations, and by cultivating his power to choose the right and to reject the wrong. A. good disciplinarian will see that all the arrangements of the school make it easy for pupils to do right. A moral man, if deficient in powers of discipline, will make a poor teacher of morals. Many a Christian father, from a lack of governing power, finds his son, instead of proving a blessing to him in old age, bring down his grey hairs with sorrow to the grave. The good example of a moral parent or teacher is not enough. Judgment and skill are essential in moral training. Heart power is valuable, but will power is also needed in that discipline which cultivates morality. Kindness is praiseworthy, but not when it becomes indulgence. A child properly trained grows up feeling that the observance of law is a duty. The discipline of a well-conducted school gives him a power which draws steadily in the direction of right action. Under such conditions his nature becomes accustomed to yield to right inclinations (Chapter VI.). The school that is exerting the best moral influence, is not the one in which most attention is given to religious instruction, but the one that is under the best discipline (Chapter VIII.).

The machinery of a well-managed school is a most powerful instrument for forming good habits in a pupil and for strengthening his will, so that he may overcome the evils to be met in the battles of life. Some of the sterner virtues which are much needed in this age, are especially fostered by a well-organized school. Such an institution draws pupils from all classes and conditions, and gives them a foretaste of those social and industrial relations for which they are to be prepared. The school is an epitome of society. Justice, forbearance, courtesy, and obedience to authority are drawn in as the breath of school life, when a good state of discipline is established. The school is a society or a community with interests common to all its members. It promotes, as no other agency can do, those altruistic virtues which characterize a Christian people. The various exercises of the day help to enthrone reason and will above desire and caprice, and thus tend to exalt the spiritual man above the natural man. That discipline is bad, and does not promote morality, which is secured only by the force of authority. That system of control which cultivates a spirit of obedience to law by means of intelligence, and which leads each pupil to subordinate his selfish interests to the general good, is more valuable to the State than the study of civics. It is not formal lessons in the duties of citizenship that is needed in school so much as that discipline which fashions the young into self-directing beings, which gives them rational conceptions of their duties to others, which trains them to industrious habits, and which promotes those other virtues that render them useful members of society. (See Duties of Teachers in Appendix).

The Moral Value of Good Teaching.-Bad intellectual training is a hindrance to ethical culture. The bad teacher of the subjects of the curriculum, even though he be a moral man, is a poor teacher of morality. The right direction of the will is inseparable from the cultivation of the understanding and the feeling. The acquisition of knowledge and the creation of a right disposition must proceed together. Any defect in the former affects the latter. In the management of the child perfect uniformity and consistency are required of the teacher. The law of conduct; the relations between cause and effect, the love of approbation, the desire for personal comfort, the force of habit and obedience to authority, are matters that come up in the ordinary work of the school. The demand for better moral training can be met only by providing better teaching. Skill in selecting illustrations for each lesson, in making use of judicious questions, in receiving answers from pupils, and in attending to the other features of a recitation, greatly affect the moral as well as the intellectual impulses of children. There can be no more erroneous opinion than that of supposing that the best intellectual teaching and the best moral teaching may be secured apart-one from the other. There is no neutral ground in human thoughts, words or actions. The moral disposition of the child is not a department of his nature, but the tone and attitude of his whole life. Every well-taught lesson in grammar, arithmetic, botany or Latin, is a force in the development of moral character.

To say that a teacher does his work well from an intellectual, but not from an ethical, point of view, is a contradiction. " As a man thinketh in his heart so is he," and " out of the heart the mouth speaketh," are sound pedagogical maxims. To train a child to act and speak rightly he must be trained to think rightly. This implies that the person giving the training should have power to direct thought. Habits make up character, but habit is developed by " doing," and this in turn calls for skill on the part of the one who directs. Good teaching stimulates, inspires, controls, and fixes mental action. If a thought or an act is right it leads up to what is good, true and beautiful. If wrong it leads down to falsehood, dishonesty, sin. The good teacher leads his pupils to think, to speak and to act correctly, and thus develops moral as well as intellectual tendencies. When a child is trained to form true conceptions, to arrange facts logically, to reason accurately, and to grasp the force of conclusions, he is thereby receiving moral training. Power of abstract thought and ability to form complex judgments are absolutely essential to the growth of right motives. To acquire a spirit of charity and liberality, intellectual culture is needed. Truthfulness requires as its basis the power to adjust the mind accurately to realities. Honesty is best promoted by imparting an intelligent conception of the rights of others. The will is most easily trained when knowledge and feeling are wisely brought into play. In short, intellectual training is organically related to character and conduct ; and that country is doing most to promote moral training in its schools, which is doing most to provide well-trained teachers.

Incidental Moral Instruction.-The moral training given in school should be mainly incidental. Impressions are most lasting when made without formality. The incidental and every-day lessons in diligence, honor and truthfulness, imparted when some school experience in class or on the playground has prepared the minds of the pupils to receive them, are of more value in character-building than are the moral truths which some distant facts illustrate and teach. The proposal, sometimes made, to prescribe, for school purposes, a course of lessons in religion, or some text-book in ethics, arises, if the teacher is to use them, from a misconception of the way character is formed. Morality is no more to be taught by rote, nor in any other way by means of a book, than football or swimming. Doing good is the only way to become good. Familiar talks to young children on conduct have their value, but they should never take the form of lectures or labored sermons.

"Every Public School teacher is bound, then, I hold, to make the school hours a time for instruction in character, so far as this is compatible with the chief object of imparting the elements of knowledge. But this does not, by any means, necessarily imply that we should add a new branch to the course of study, which is often too full already of varied subjects, or that text-books of virtue or moral theory shall be put into the hands of children in order that they may learn to define elaborately and recite by rote the rules and distinctions of a formal morality. On the contrary, I can imagine few studies more dry, repulsive and ineffectual in reaching their proposed aim than such a study of morals ! In the highest degree it is true of instruction in this art of life that it should come direct from the teacher's lips and pure from the teacher's heart and example."-Gilman.

A school may have no formal teaching of rules of conduct or instruction in precepts, but it may have what is better-it may have a moral atmosphere from which the life of the child is unconsciously built up, in the same way as a plant or a tree. Books on ethics are, doubtless, valuable to the teacher. In fact, every educator will include in his professional reading some of the best works in moral science. Just as in the case of instruction, in drill or in gymnastics, where the pupils are not usually dependent on a text-book, the teacher will not fail to read on the subject of ethics some good treatise that deals with its principles. If it is not wise to use the Bible as a text-book in school, there is no reason why its precepts may not be appealed to in the ordinary work of the school. At all events, the Bible, as the highest court of appeal in settling questions of conduct, will always be within the reach of the teacher. In any case moral lessons should not, as a rule, be assigned a fixed place on the programme. The force of a moral precept depends almost entirely upon its adaptation to the time and circumstances. When the minds of children are open for the reception of the special truth, the good seed may be sown. With young pupils occasions of this kind will often occur, and short-very short-moral lessons may then be appropriate.

"Your Committee would mention, in this connection, instruction in morals and manners, which ought to be given in a brief series of lessons each year with a view to build up in the mind a theory of the conventionalities of polite and pure-minded society. If these lessons are made too long or too numerous, they are apt to become offensive to the child's mind. It is, of course, understood by your committee that the substantial moral training of the school is performed by the discipline rather than by the instruction in ethical theory. The child is trained to be regular and punctual, and to restrain his desire to talk and whisper-in these things gaining self-control day by day. The essence of moral behavior is self-control. The school teaches good behavior. The intercourse of a pupil with his fellows without evil words or violent actions is insisted on and secured. The high moral qualities of truth-telling and sincerity are taught in every class exercise that lays stress on accuracy of statement."-Report of Committee of Fifteen, Dr. W. T. Harris, Chairman.

Incidental instruction in morals calls for high qualifications on the part of the teacher. Wide scholarship, professional training, and the skill that is gained by experience, are important requisites (Chapter VII.). In no part of his duties will judgment, tact and commonsense be more in demand. The events of each day will continually furnish ample opportunities for introducing timely instruction and wholesome advice regarding matters that affect character. Instruction of this kind must be given without apparent effort, and with no departure from the ordinary duties. In the case of young children, the little incidents of the school-room may be employed to encourage, to stimulate and to strengthen the efforts to do right. With older pupils, the facts from biography or history, the inspiring thoughts from literature, the beauties and mysteries which science reveals, and the logic of mathematics, may be used without ostentation to build up moral excellence. A teacher is not prohibited from using, in their place, illustrations from the Bible. He must have little power as a teacher of morals who cannot turn to profitable account the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, that of the talents, that of the sower, or that of the prodigal. The history of Joseph, of Moses, of Daniel, or of Paul, is not beyond the use of a good teacher. After all that may be said in behalf of moral training, the need of the schools is teachers who have the requisite qualifications. The gentle admonition, the tender, loving rebuke, the word in season, will never be wanting to him whose strong sense of duty and steady desire to imitate the Great Teacher are joined to high academic and professional attainments.

Ethical Value of School Studies.-Study, by improving the knowledge, skill, power, and taste of pupils, is a valuable means of training in morals. All the subjects of the curriculum may be made serviceable for this purpose, but some branches especially may be taught with marked ethical effect.

The accuracy of expression, which is cultivated by language teaching, promotes veracity and checks tendencies to exaggeration. The gems of literature found in the school readers, if committed to memory, have a humanizing and elevating influence on children. The grandest feature of literature is its ethical side, and he is no true teacher who gives instruction in the subject without inspiring his pupils with a love for all that is beautiful, noble and true. A knowledge of literature will help to make persons happy, useful, intelligent, respectful and respectable. If it does not fit them for a future life, it helps them to illumine many of the dark places of the world, and gives them a better opportunity to prepare for a world to come.

Biography and history present examples of noble man-hood, exalted character, true courage, firm integrity, consorated usefulness and lofty patriotism. Both of these subjects, as well as geography, supply abundant matere for inspiring children with a love for their native land. its learning the history of the nation they ought to feel elation at its progress, its greatness,, its victories and its future. A child should realize the glorious inheritance that has been handed down from his forefathers, and should be stirred with a determination to defend the liberties of his country and to keep its honor untarnished. No disposition should be shown to foster that spirit of " jingoism" which dwarfs philanthropy, retards the march of civilization„ and engenders feelings of animosity between neighboring Lotions. The deeds of noble heroism revealed in the pages of history, the contests for righteousness waged through the centuries, and the triumphs of truth and justice, may, if properly taught, impress children with an admiration for what is moral in all that contributes to human or national greatness.

The study of mathematics is very valuable in developing habits of accuracy, and in showing the advantage of settled and permanent principles of conduct and procedure. Arithmetic gives vigor, freedom, and clearness to the mind, helps to bring the faculties under control, and puts a pupil continually on the alert. Its value in the cultivation of the logical faculty is well known to every experienced teacher. The study of mathematics is pre-eminent in training the mind to the habit of forming clear and definite conceptions, and of clothing these conceptions in exact and perspicuous language. Euclid is particularly valuable in this respect. The study of mathematics develops the power of upholding what is true, and of exposing what is false. The disciplinary measures necessary in teaching this department promote habits of accuracy, honesty, independence, perseverance, quickness of perception, and powers of deduction.

Natural science claims a place in the school not exclusively, as some suppose, on account of its utilitarian objects. It has a high ethical value in the unfolding of principles which have for their basis order and the investigation of law. The student of elementary science is led to weigh evidence carefully, to connect facts, to determine the natural sequence of events, to make simple experiments and to draw conclusions. The study of science cultivates the spirit of thoroughness, the faculty of perseverance, habits of self-reliance, patience in the presence of difficulty, and absolute loyalty to truth. Under the guidance and inspiration of a competent teacher, the laws of design and adaptation, which the study of nature reveals, will implant in the minds of children that reverence for the Creator which lies at the basis of religion. The student who looks into the mysteries of physical phenomena, who observes the beauty and grandeur of the world about him, who counts the pulse-beats and watches the ebb and flow of respiration in the human frame, is led to realize the tender solicitude which is exercised by a Power not visible to mortal eyes.



Home | More Articles | Email: info@oldandsold.com