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The History and Science of Teaching

1894 — American Association of Educators of Colored Youth, Baltimore MD


Since it has been my experience to hear expressions conceived by conflicting minds as to the import of the word “discussion,” I, before entering upon the subject as assigned by the committee on program of this august association, deem it prudent to state briefly the idea formed in my mind.

Discussion in the connection here used denotes merely the investigation of a subject to elicit truth; and it can be profitably conducted independent of the views expressed by the previous speaker. Under the above definition I endeavor to direct the subject.

In a literal sense, history is a record of past occurrences; likewise, science means simply knowledge. Although each part of the compound subject can be expanded and treated separately as a distinct topic, yet they are so closely allied by nature, that for convenience and brevity no violence is committed in the merging of the two into one.

Since teaching is the act of exhibiting or communicating so as to impress on the mind the knowledge of that of which the person was before ignorant, there are necessarily many diversified divisions of conveying such instruction. In the school of nature and of art, by home training and social contact, through newspapers and books, from the pulpit and the rostrum, and by means of the stage with its varieties and by our travels we learn much; and, each avenue being an important factor in the acquisition of knowledge, each alone would afford ample material for discussions under the above heading and definitions.

The earlier forms of education were among the Chinese, the Indian, the Egyptian and the Jews. Little is known about any of them except the Jews. Upon good authority we affirm that the Greeks were the first to teach education as a science. A full account both of their ordinary practice and of the ideal schemes  sketched by Plato and Aristotle has been handed down to us. The main subjects of education among the Greeks, until the time of Alexander, were music and gymnastics. Next to music comes the art of drawing, which encourages and develops a sense of the beautiful. Music, grammar, rhetoric, philosophy, arithmetic, geometry and astronomy were in the Greek curriculum, but there was no special teaching of languages nor of history. The earliest teaching was by myths, and not much was taught till the seventh year of age. Boys went to school in the early morning and a second time alter breakfast. They were accompanied through the streets by a faithful servant who had charge of their moral supervision. There were occasional holidays, and the hot time of the year was given up to vacation. Their methods of instruction were very similar to ours, and both the Greeks and the Romans regarded six hours a day as the proper limit of study.

A writer of merit tells us that Cato was the first Roman writer on education, and that although his treatise has been lost its contents may be inferred from other sources. Such inference is that Cato valued the reputation of a good husband and father above that of a good senator, a pagan example that is worthy of imitation, as a principle, for the education of the 19th century. Me kept strict discipline in his house, and his sons were brought up in the rude activity of out-door life. At the same time he taught them the great deeds of their country’s history, and he preserved with the strictest purity the reverence which is due to the young. He recommended country life as the parent of brave soldiers and sturdy citizens. Cato opposed with all his might the new Greek learning, and saw in it the coming destruction of the State.

Very different are the principles of Cicero, who stands as the first of the union of Greek and Roman thought and learning. Cicero took care that his sons should practice, not only philosophy but eloquence, under Greek masters. He cared little for natural science, and was supremely ignorant of it; but he followed his Greek masters in regarding politics as the queen of sciences, that to which all others tended.

The latin fathers, Tertullian, Cyprian, Jerome and Augustine, would have no thing to do with the heathen writers, a new education, they said, must be formed of a purely Christian character to supply Christian wants.

To the age of the fathers succeeded the age of the school-men, and to the period in which they flourished the education of the middle ages belongs. The discipline in these schools was very harsh, and rough, and the rod was the only means of persuasion. The natural results were that the pupils grew up unruly and ill-behaved The principal effect which the school-men had on education was to determine the form in which instruction should begin. They, however, had a considerable indirect influence in arousing a dissatisfaction with dogmas which were in capable of proof, and in preparing the way for the reformation. Their movements terminated in a reformation in religion and in learning.

Erasmus, Luther and Melancton were votaries of the new education, but it is said that the man who systematized the curriculum of humanistic education was John Sturm. The ground work of the whole system was language; hence their ideal education, being the study of words, was deceptive. Bacon organized a new method of interrogating nature; he formed a sketch of the sciences, showing exactly what point of advance each of them had reached in his own day, and in this he showed his enlightenment by arranging pedagogies, or the science of education as a department of psychology. The secret which he discovered encouraged men to interpret nature, and to learn her secrets by careful inquiry and experience.

Comenius, a reformer of the realistic education says ‘‘man can only become man by education.” He establishes four classes of schools: (1) The mother’s school in every house; (2) The national school in every town; (3) The gymnasium in every town; (4) The university in every country or large province. Comenius laid such stress on the importance of a carefully arranged programme that in Hungary he received pupils only once a year. The object of the Realists and Humanists was to make the scholar and the man of learning. We should therefore expect to find a third branch of education, one whose object was to form the whole man, and which, although it did not neglect either letters or sciences, was inclined to believe that these might be learned without interfering with the free growth of man’s nature. This branch is called by the name of Naturalists. It is so called because they set before themselves as the chief good the development of the entire nature, and not merely the intellect or any part of it.

Montaign is entirely a naturalist and is outspoken. One of his longest essays is entitled “On the Education of Children.” “The object of education,” says Montaign, “is to form man, not to breed a grammarian or a logician, but a complete gentleman.” He recommends travelling, physical exercise, elegant manners and history. Says Montaign, “After having taught what will make man more wise and good, he may then be entertained with the elements of logic, physics, geometry and rhetoric, and the science which he shall then himself most incline to, his judgment being beforehand formed and fit to choose, he will quickly make his own.”

Browning says, “The systematizing of the Jesuits and of their curriculum, for which Ranke praises them, was borrowed from John Sturm, and marred in the stealing. If Sturm is responsible for the predominance of a narrow classical education in our higher schools, the Jesuits are responsible for giving that education a more frivolous and more effeminate turn.”

Herbert is regarded as the founder of modern pedagogics. In the list of German philosophers he is classed as the founder of modern German psychology, and is said to have been the first to see that a national system of education must be founded on a true psychology, and, indeed, that it is impossible to form a scheme of education complete in all its branches until we have arrived at a certain knowledge of the true basis of ethics and psychology. The method which begins by educating the senses, and which through them works on the intellect, must be considered as derived from the teaching of Pestalozzi. Poor and without learning he tried to reform the science of the world. His education was limited to the common branches only, but his influence extends to the higher branches, and is very potent and far reaching. The kindergarten of Froebel is only the particular development of a portion of the general scheme of Pestalozzi. The great discovery made by Froebel of means to employ the spontaneous activities of children, has given a cast to all primary school exercises. Joy, life, liberty and a development of the constructive and inventive genius, are notice able features of the primary school.

Every reform that has ever been inaugurated has had its advocates as well as its opponents. When the discoveries of Pestalozzi reached America, there was doubt and hesitancy as to their acceptance, and it was said, “There can be no advance upon what we already have.” The latent power, however, that lay in the new ideas was seen by a number of eastern gentlemen, among whom was Horace Mann, and they went forth as apostles of the new faith. Immediately upon the election of Mr. Mann, in 1837, to the position of secretary of the Board of Education of Mass., began the wide sweeping reform of which those here assembled are exponents.

Having given you a short sketch of the history and science of teaching as culled from the ideals of earthly models, we will now turn our attention to the history and science of teaching as recorded in the Bible. The former contains errors attributed to human prejudice and pride, while the latter has been preserved in its purity, by the hand of God, through all the ages. From the Bible we get the history of the patriarchs and prophets and other holy men of old. We learn how they struggled through discouragements like our own, how they fell under temptations as we have fallen, and yet took heart again and conquered, through the grace of God. The Lord Himself directed the education of Israel. God had commanded the Hebrews to teach their children His requirements, and to make them acquainted with all His dealings with their fathers. He taught them how to train their children so that they might avoid the idolatry and wickedness of the heathen nations. Deut. xi; 18-19. Obedience was to be awarded with a blessing and dis obedience was to receive a curse. Deut. xi; 26-2S.

Education not only effects, to a great degree, the life of a student in this world, but its influence extends beyond, and will be continued in the life to come. We will now consider the object of life so that we may more intelligently arrive at a solution of the proper methods to be employed in the full and perfect development of man. The first students, Adam and Eve, received instruction from the “Wondrous works of Him who is perfect in knowledge.” The laws and operations of nature, which have engaged the study of man for more than six thousand years, were opened to their minds by the Infinite Framer and Upholder of them all. So long as Adam and Eve remained loyal to the law, their capacity to know, to enjoy and to love would continually increase. They would be constantly gaining new treasures of knowledge, discovering fresh springs of happiness, and obtaining clearer and yet clearer conceptions of the immeasurable, unfailing love and wisdom of God. The lesson to be learned is that true happiness is not found in the indulgence of pride and luxury, but in the communion with God through his created works.

Our first parents, though created innocent and holy, were not placed beyond the possibility of wrong-doing. God made them free moral agents, with full liberty to yield or withhold obedience. We know the result of their choice. Their disobedience marred and well nigh obliterated the image of God in man. After the fall man was allowed a life of probation that he might, through Christ, be restored to the state of perfection in which he had been created.

The true object of education then, is to restore the image of God in the soul.

The great work of life is character building, and the law of God is a reflection of his character, from which we are to copy. A knowledge of God is the foundation of all true education. He who created man has provided for his development in body, and in mind and soul, hence real success in education depends upon the fidelity with which we carry out the Creator’s plan. Through obedience to God we secure his approval, eternal life, and the joys of the redeemed.

Says the apostle Paul, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the. man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

We must go then to the Bible, the word of’ God, for proper instruction. It is the most instructive history which men possess. There we learn of the past, how to improve the present, and how to secure future life.

All true science is in harmony with the word of God, and all false principles, false reasoning and sophistries, are the works of Satan. Knowledge and science must be vitalized by the spirit of God, in order to serve the noblest purposes of man. The science that teaches that man was evolved, by slow degrees of development, from the lower animals or vegetable life is not in teaching with the inspired words, because God said, “Let us make man in our image after our likeness: and let him have dominion over all the earth.” “So God created man in his own image.”

“For he spake and it was; he commanded, and it stood fast.” Therefore if we desire to attain the highest purpose of our being, we must accept the word of God in preference to false science.

The theory advanced, through supposed scientific research, of an indefinite period of time for the creation of the world is but another device of Satan to lead men from the truth. Such teaching is erroneous, because we find, in turning to the first chapter of Genesis, that the day was literal from beginning, and was composed of the morning and the evening then as now. In the same chapter we find that the sun was made to rule the day. 

In our inquiry for truth, must we accept the reasoning of pagans and skeptics that decides upon the immortality of the soul when the Bible tells us that God alone hath immortality? (I Tim. vi :15, 16.) Man must seek for immortality. (Rom. ii :6, 7.) It is the gift of God through Christ. II Tim. 1:10; Matt. vii: 13, 14: xix: 16, 17; John iii :15, 16,36; v: 39, 40; vi :40, 47, 54, 68; xvii :2; xx :31; Rom. v: 21; vi: 23; viii: 13; II Cor.  ii:16; II Tim. i :1 Titus i:2; I John iv:9; v:ll; Jude 21.

The words of God to men, which should receive our first attention, are neglected for the utterances of human wisdom. It is a weakness of the human family to put trust in the customs and traditions of the world. Those who have a thirst for knowledge need not drink of the fountains polluted by human prejudice and human pride when they are invited to become humble learners in the school of Christ. There we find the hidden treasure of truth that has long been buried beneath the rubbish of error, human tradition and opinions of men. Jer. xvii :5-8, 13, 14.

We find men teaching the conversion of the world and a temporal millenium. A large majority of mankind accepts the teaching, but such doctrine does not accord with the guide by which we are to steer aright. The Savior did not promise his ministers that all should believe their word. Matt. x:25; John xv: 19, 20; Acts xv :14.

Contrary to the conversion theory, a great spiritual declention among professing Christians is spoken of in Matt. xxiv: ll-13; I Tim. iv 1,2; II Tim. iii: l-5; iv 3, 4. Again, in II Tim. iii: 1-9; iv 3,4; I Tim. iv 1,2; Matt, xxiv 11-14; Luke xviii: 8, the last days are described as perilous, not glorious. A spirit of covetousness, and heaping up of earthly riches is what we may expect in the latter days. Luke xxi: 34-36; II Tim. iii: 2; Jas. V: 1-5.

Amid the many errors of human tradition, the greatest ignorance that now curses the human race is in regard to the binding chains of the law of God. Christ said, “If ye would enter life keep the commandments,” showing that obedience to the law of God is the condition upon which we get eternal life. The record of God’s dealing with men teaches us that it is His will for us to do just as He tells us. We find a breach in the law of God, and profane history traces it to its origin, the Roman Church. The Church has, through the ages, handed down to us the pagan idol, Sunday, as a substitution for the Sabbath, a day named by God, sanctified by Him and instituted as a memorial of His creative power. The supposed protestant Christian Church accepts this human institution, and is not satisfied in maintaining within herself her false conceptions of God’s law; but she, like Rome in the dark ages, has united with the State to force the consciences of men to accept the teachings of the Church. The Bible teaches that the religion of Jesus Christ is not a religion of force. Christ Himself said, “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words and believe not, I judge him not; for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me and receiveth not my words hath one that judgeth him the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” John xii: 46-48.

The professed protestants of this age teach that we must obey the government in matters of conscience; but it is souls like Luther, Cranmer, Ridley, Hooper, and thousands of noble men who were martyrs for the truth’s sake, who are the true protestants. They stood as faithful sentinels of truth, declaring that Protestantism is incapable of union with Romanism, but must be as far separated from the principles of the papacy as the east is from the west. Protestantism has imbibed the spirit of Romanism by setting up a doctrine of theocracy, and has thereby become apostate. Eze. xxi: 25-27; xvii: 1-21. Luke i: 31-33. Christ said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Therefore every theory of an earthly theocracy is a false one.

Every pretension to it is false, and only works destruction to the nation. The state of affairs in the government today is due to disobedience to God. The union of Church and Suite is not only unconstitutional, hut is also in direct opposition to the teachings of Christ. Jesus taught that government should not interfere with matters purely religious. When city, state or national governments make laws effecting religion and attempt to enforce them, it becomes our duty with Peter and John, Paul and Silas, Daniel and the three Hebrew children, and the martyrs in all ages; to answer in the words of inspiration, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Acts v :29.

We cannot assume an attitude of apparent indifference in this matter, fora choice is imperative. We must obey either God or government. If we go with church and government we shall receive the plagues that God is going to send upon them, — and if we stand by the principles taught in the scriptures we shall be persecuted by the government. Rev. xiii: 11-17; xiv: 6-12. Since we cannot avoid the consequences one way or the other we should choose wisely. Christ’s charge to the Apostles was as follows: “Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I forewarn you whom ye shall fear. Fear him which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you fear him.’’ Luke xii: 4,5.

Now, dear friends and co-laborers in the work of education, it may doubtless seem to some of you, that I have digressed from my subject, but I claim that I have presented truth in scope of my definitions, and therefore I have no apology to offer for my course. Teaching is a continuous act and we, as educators, are supposed to keep up with the procession of progress. The truths that I have presented from sacred records pertain not simply to our spiritual welfare, but they effect, to it great degree, our present life.

The subject of religious liberty is the issue of the day, and it is a duty we owe to ourselves, to the State, and to the nation to be well informed on matters concerning right government. We are not good American citizens unless we are loyal to the constitution, and we can more fully appreciate the importance of strict adherence to its principles when we keep before our minds the necessity for toleration to be embodied in its construction.

Prophetic students of the present age, compare the legislations of the national government for the past two or three years to the prophesies of Revelations, the xiii and xiv chapters, and thereby place the United States Government in prophecy. I have endeavored to bring before your minds truths that will call your attention, to these matters for further investigation, and I have also presented the principle by which we may always distinguish error from truth. Ponder these things well, and, as conscientious seekers after truth, let us imbibe all the instruction accessible, from whatever source, and by whomsoever presented.



Source: Library of Congress, Minutes of the American Association of Educators of Colored Youth, Session of 1894, held at Baltimore, Maryland, July 24, 25, 26, 27, 1894, Image 61.