Character Building In Education
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
WE hear a great deal about the sacredness and the responsibilities of motherhood. I wish we might say more about the sacredness and responsibility of the high office of teacher, recognizing the profession to be the highest of all professions, exacting a high standard in teachers, and then, appreciating the full dignity of their great mission, make teaching a grateful task.
I am sorry to say the social recognition of the teacher in America and the remunerative recognition are not what they should be when we consider the noble and imperative work to be done. Statistics show that the cleverest members of the profession have little more than enough for the mere necessities of life. Without much leisure to grow ahead of their students, without the money to purchase higher advantages, what wonder that teachers become too often and too soon mere guide-boards to text-books, until, first from necessity and then from will, teachers under these circumstances consent to routine and system, and soon lack freshness and inspiration, while education becomes a deadened and deadening process, lacking all vitalizing power to awaken the slumbering character which lies in every human being!
The wonderful kindergarten, with teachers who have been trained to think and originate, rests upon eternal foundations; its work is all directed to the unfoldment of soul-powers; its objective and subjective teaching makes it a grand power in the opening years of a child's life. If we can have no more, thank Heaven for this! But we must have more! It is the activity of the mind and heart which educates and determines character.
We are all familiar with the sentence, " Knowledge is power." Let us substitute for the word "knowledge" the word "character," and say, "Character is power," and we shall have a new goal and modify our methods. External conditions and circumstances over which we may have control rule the measure of our character, and decide the "quantity of being" each individual may appropriate to himself. To do this, first of all we should find out in what direction lie the abilities of each child. Its particular love of special occupations will be a good index to this. We are all conscious that we have powers within us which we can command easily; they seem to be waiting to be called out. This is the mission of education; it is introducing human beings to their native powers; it is teaching them the use of those powers as tools with which to build their lives and character.
To call forth, to draw out, then, the given abilities in such a way that each individual may find his or her right place in the world, and become of use to themselves, a comfort to others as well as to themselves. Adding thus to the harmony of the world would be the result of such an educating process, creating a heaven on earth, and a condition which does not leave the question debatable as to whether the training of character morally or the training of his intellectual life alone is of the greatest value.
A man may be smart with an intellectual education, but he can never be great without soul-culture.
Well it is for our future prospects that such excellent strides have been made by the kindergartens, the kitchen-gardens, the manual-training schools, and all the industrial schools which are at the base of true education. But the car of progress must run on the double track of theory and practice. After teaching the soul to use its own powers, to think boldly, clearly, grandly, and beneficially for its own welfare, it must be led to think of its value in the divine economy of all life; it must think, work, and live for the welfare of all mankind, or there will be no expansion of character. There can be no "quantity of being" if there is no proper use of the powers of the being-no proper exercise of the functions of the mind and life in out-ward forms. Without it there can be no development of the . spiritual being, any more than there is development of muscle in the arm which never moves itself.
As we claim that the first step in the development of the powers of life is in educating the soul to think and act for itself, so we claim that the second step, to insure an ever-increasing influx of powers, is in the use of those powers for others and for human progress. Such exercise will bring bright thoughts which have never been thought before; thoughts which will glitter as new coin from the treasury of heaven; thoughts ac-cording to the demands of the age and existing conditions, by which great mysteries shall be illuminated, and the problems of science, government, and sociology shall be solved.
Education should turn to practical ends, but while training men to practical things it should be done with a divine impulse, soul and body taking the training for harmonious action, love and wisdom creating the being whose force for good shall make the character strong. Then would business become moral and the world better.