by Nora A. Smith
"The nature of an educational system is determined by the manner in which it is begun."
The question for us to decide to-day is not how we can interest people in and how illustrate the true kindergarten, for that is already done to a considerable extent; but, how we can convince school boards, superintendents, and voters that the final introduction of the kindergarten into the public school system is a thing greatly to be desired. The kindergarten and the school, now two distinct, dissimilar, and sometimes, though of late very seldom, antagonistic institutions,--how will the one affect, or be affected by the other?
As to the final adoption of the kindergarten there is a preliminary question which goes straight to the root of the whole matter. At present the state accepts the responsibility of educating children after an arbitrarily fixed age has been reached. Ought it not, rather, if it assumes the responsibility at all, to begin to educate the child when he needs education?
Thoughtful people are now awaking to the fact that this regulation is an artificial, not a natural one, and that we have been wasting two precious years which might not only be put to valuable uses, but would so shape and influence after-teaching that every succeeding step would be taken with greater ease and profit. We have been discreet in omitting the beginning, so long as we did not feel sure how to begin. But we know now that Froebel's method of dealing with four or five year old babies, when used by a discreet and intelligent person, justifies us in taking this delicate, debatable ground.
So far, then, it is a question of law--a law which can be modified just as soon and as sensibly as the people wish. Before, however, that modification can become the active wish of the people, its importance must be understood and its effects estimated. Could it be shown that after-education will be hindered or in any way rendered more difficult by the kindergarten, clearly all efforts to introduce it must cease. Were it merely a matter of indifference, something that would neither make nor mar the after-work of schools, then it would remain a matter of choice or fancy, for individual parents to decide as they like; but, if it can be shown that the work of the kindergarten will lay a more solid foundation, or trace more direct paths for the workers of a later period, then it behooves us to give it a hearty welcome, and to work out its principles with zealous good will: and "working out" its principles means, not accepting it as a finality--a piece of flawless perfection--but as a stepping-stone which will lead us nearer to the truth. If it is a good thing, it is good for all; if it is truth, we want it everywhere; but if this new department of education and training is to gain ground, or accomplish the successful fruition of its wishes, there must be perfect unity among teachers concerning it. If they all understood the thing itself, and understood each other, there could be no lack of sympathy; yet there has been misunderstanding, conflict occasionally, and some otherwise worthy teachers have used the kindergarten as a sort of intellectual cuttle-fish to sharpen their conversational bills upon.
Of course I am not blind to the fact that after we have determined that we ought to have the kindergarten, there are many questions of expediency: suitable rooms, expense of material, salaries, assistants, age of children at entrance, system of government, number of children in one kindergarten; and greatest of all, but least thought of, strangely, the linking together of kindergarten and school, so that the development shall be continuous, and the chain of impressions perfect and unbroken.
Suffice it to say that it has been done, and can be done again; but it needs discretion, forethought, tact, earnestness, and unimpeachable honesty of administration, for unless we can depend upon our school boards and kindergartners implicitly, counting upon them for wise co÷peration, brooding care, and great wisdom in selection of teachers, the experiment will be a failure. We have risks enough to run as it is; let us not permit our little ones, more susceptible by reason of age than any we have to deal with now,--let us not permit them to become victims of politics, rings, or machine teaching.
The kindergarten is more liable to abuse than any other department of teaching. There is no ground in the universe so sacred as this. But the difference between primary schools is just as great, only, unfortunately, we have become used to it; and the kindergarten being under fire, so to speak, must be absolutely ideal in its perfection, or it is ruthlessly held up to scorn.
There is a tremendous awakening all over the country with regard to kindergarten and primary work, and this is well, since the greatest and most fatal mistakes of the public school system have been made just here; and the time is surely coming when more knowledge, wisdom, tact, ingenuity, forethought, yes, and money, will be expended in order to meet the demands of the case. The time is coming when the imp of parsimony will no longer be mistaken for the spirit of economy; when a woman possessed of ordinary human frailty will no longer be required to guide, direct, develop, train, help, love, and be patient with sixty little ones, just beginning to tread the difficult paths of learning, and each receiving just one sixtieth of what he craves. The millennium will be close at hand when we cease to expect from girls just out of the high school what Socrates never attempted, and would have deemed impossible.
Look at Senator Stanford's famous Palo Alto stock farm. Each colt born into that favored community is placed in a class of twelve. These twelve colts are cared for and taught by four or five trained teachers. No man interested in the training of fine horses ever objects, so far as I know, to such expenditure of labor and money. The end is supposed to justify the means. But when the creatures to be trained are human beings, and when the end to be reached is not race-horses, but merely citizens, we employ a very different process of reasoning.
That this subject of early training is a vitally interesting one to thinking people cannot be denied. The kindergarten has become the fashion, you say, cynically. This is scarcely true; but it is a fact that the upper, the middle, and the lower classes among us begin to recognize the existence of children under six years of age, and realize that far from being nonentities in life, or unknown quantities, they are very lively units in the sum of progressive education.
When we speak of kindergarten work among the children of the poor, and argue its claims as one of the best means of taking unfortunate little Arabs from the demoralizing life of the streets, and of giving their aimless hands something useful to do, their restless minds something good and fruitful to think of, and their curious eyes something beautiful to look on, there is not a word of disapproval. People seem willing to concede its moral value when applied to the lower classes, but, when they are obliged to pay anything to procure this training for their own children, or see any prospect of what they call an already extravagant school system made more so by its addition, they become prolific in doubts. In other words, they believe in it when you call it philanthropy, but not when you call it education; and it must be called the germ of the better education, toward which we are all struggling, the nearest approach to the perfect beginning which we have yet found.
We see in the excellence of Froebel's idea, educationally considered, its only claim to peculiar power in dealing with incipient hoodlumism. It is only because it has such unusual fitness to child-nature, such a store of philosophy and ingenuity in its appliances, and such a wealth of spiritual truth in its aims and methods, that it is so great a power with neglected children and ignorant and vicious parents.
The principles on which Froebel built his educational idea may be summed up briefly under four heads. First, All the faculties of the child are to be drawn out and exercised as far as age allows. Second, The powers of habit and association, which are the great instruments of all education, of the whole training of life, must be developed with a systematic purpose from the earliest dawn of intelligence. Third, The active instincts of childhood are to be cultivated through manual exercise (chiefly creative in character), which is made an essential part of the training, and this manual exercise is to be valued chiefly as a means of self-expression. Fourth, The senses are to be trained to accuracy as well as the hand. The child must learn how to observe what is placed before him, and to observe it truly, an acquirement which any teacher of science or art will appreciate. To work out these principles, Froebel devised his practical method of infant education, and the very name he gave to the place where his play lessons were to be used marks his purpose. No books are to be seen in a kindergarten, because no ideas or facts are presented to the child that he cannot clearly understand and verify. The object is not to teach him arithmetic or geometry, though he learns enough of both to be very useful to him hereafter; but to lead him to discover truths concerning forms and numbers, lines and angles, for himself.
Thus in the play-lessons the teacher simply rules the order in which the child shall approach a new thing, and gives him the correct names which, henceforth, he must always use; but the observation of resemblances and differences (that groundwork of all knowledge), the reasoning from one point to another, and the conclusions he arrives at, are all his own; he is only led to see his mistake if he makes one. The child handles every object from which he is taught, and learns to reproduce it.
It is not enough to say that any ordinary system of object teaching in the hands of an ingenious teacher will serve the purpose or take the place of the kindergarten. People who say this evidently have no conception of Froebel's plan, in which the simultaneous training of head, heart, and hand is the most striking characteristic.
The kindergarten is mainly distinguished from the later instruction of the school by making the knowledge of facts and the cultivation of the memory subordinate to the development of observation and to the appropriate activity of the child, physical, mental, and moral. Its aim is to utilize the now almost wasted time from four to six years, a time when all negligent and ignorant mothers leave the child to chance development, and when the most careful mother cannot train her child into the practice of social virtues so well as the truly wise kindergartner who works with her. "We learn through doing" is the watchword of the kindergarten, but it must be a doing which blossoms into being, or it does not fulfill its ideal, for it is character building which is to go on in the kindergarten, or it has missed Froebel's aim.
What does the kindergarten do for children under six years of age? What has it accomplished when it sends the child to the primary school? I do not mean what Froebel hoped could be done, or what is occasionally accomplished with bright children and a gifted teacher, or even what is done in good private kindergartens, for that is yet more; but I mean what is actually done for children by charitable organizations, which are really doing the work of the state.
I think they can claim tangible results which are wholly remarkable; and yet they do not work for results, or expect much visible fruit in these tender years, from a culture which is so natural, child-like, and unobtrusive that its very outward simplicity has caused it to be regarded as a plaything.
In glancing over the acquirements of the child who has left the kindergarten, and has been actually taught nothing in the ordinary acceptation of the word, we find that he has worked, experimented, invented, compared, reproduced. All things have been revealed in the doing, and productive activity has enlightened and developed the mind.
First, as to arithmetic. It does not come first, but though you speak with the tongues of men and angels, and make not mention of arithmetic, it profiteth you nothing. The First Gift shows one object, and the children get an idea of one whole; in the Second they receive three whole objects again, but of different form; in the Third and Fourth, the regularly divided cube is seen, and all possible combinations of numbers as far as eight are made. In the Fifth Gift the child sees three and its multiples; in fractions, halves, quarters, eighths, thirds, ninths, and twenty-sevenths. With the Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Gifts the field is practically unlimited.
Second, as to the child's knowledge of form, size, and proportion. His development has been quite extensive: he knows, not always by name, but by their characteristics, vertical, horizontal, slanting, and curved lines; squares, oblongs; equal sided, blunt and sharp angled triangles; five, six, seven and eight sided figures; spheres, cylinders, cubes, and prisms. All this elementary geometry has, of course, been learned "baby fashion," in a purely experimental way, but nothing will have to be unlearned when the pupil approaches geometry later in a more thoroughly scientific spirit.
Third, as to the cultivation of language, of the power of expression, we cannot speak with too much emphasis. The vocabulary of the kindergarten child of the lower classes is probably greater than that of his mother or father. You can see how this comes about. The teachers themselves are obliged to make a study of simple, appropriate, expressive, and explicit language; the child is led to express all his thoughts freely in proper words from the moment he can lisp; he is trained through singing to distinct and careful enunciation, and the result is a remarkably good power of language. I make haste to say that this need not necessarily be used for the purposes of chattering in the school.
The child has not, of course, learned to read and write, but reading is greatly simplified by his accurate power of observation, and his practice of comparing forms. The work of reading is play to a child whose eye has been thus trained. As to writing, we precede it by drawing, which is the sensible and natural plan. The child will have had a good deal of practice with slate and lead pencil; will have drawn all sorts of lines and figures from dictation, and have created numberless designs of his own.
If, in short, our children could spend two years in a good kindergarten, they would not only bring to the school those elements of knowledge which are required, but would have learned in some degree how to learn, and, in the measure of their progress, have nothing to unlearn.
Let those who labor, day by day, with inert minds never yet awakened to a wish for knowledge, a sense of beauty, or a feeling of pleasure in mental activity, tell us how much valuable school time they would save, if the raw material were thus prepared to their hand. "After spending five or six years at home or in the street, without training or discipline, the child is sent to school and is expected to learn at once. He looks upon the strange, new life with amazement, yet without understanding. Finally, his mind becomes familiar in a mechanical manner, ill-suited to the tastes of a child, with the work and exercises of primary instruction, the consequence being, very often, a feeble body and a stuffed mind, the stuffing having very little more effect upon the intellect than it has upon the organism of a roast turkey." The kindergarten can remedy these intellectual difficulties, beside giving the child an impulse toward moral self-direction, and a capacity for working out his original ideas in visible and permanent form, which will make him almost a new creature. It can, by taking the child in season, set the wheels in motion, rouse all his best, finest, and highest instincts, the purest, noblest, and most vivifying powers of which he is possessed.
There is a good deal of time spent in the kindergarten on the cultivation of politeness and courtesy; and in the entirely social atmosphere which is one of its principal features, the amenities of polite society can be better practiced than elsewhere.
The kindergarten aims in no way at making infant prodigies, but it aims successfully at putting the little child in possession of every faculty he is capable of using; at bringing him forward on lines he will never need to forsake; at teaching within his narrow range what he will never have to unlearn; and at giving him the wish to learn, and the power of teaching himself. Its deep simplicity should always be maintained, and no lover of childhood or thoughtful teacher would wish it otherwise. It is more important that it should be kept pure than that it should become popular.
I have tried, thus, somewhat at length, to demonstrate that our educational system cannot be perfect until we begin still earlier with the child, and begin in a more childlike manner, though, at the same time, earnestly and with definite purpose. In trying to make manhood and womanhood, we sometimes treat children as little men and women, not realizing that the most perfect childhood is the best basis for strong manhood.
Further, I have tried to show that Froebel's system gives us the only rational beginning; but I confess frankly that to make it productive of its vaunted results, it must be placed in the hands of thoroughly trained kindergartners, fitted by nature and by education for their most delicate, exacting, and sacred profession.
Now as to compromises. The question is frequently asked, Cannot the best things of the kindergarten be introduced in the primary departments of the public school? The best thing of kindergartening is the kindergarten itself, and nothing else will do; it would be necessary to make very material changes in the primary class which is to include a kindergarten--changes that are demanded by radically different methods.
The kindergarten should offer the child experience instead of instruction; life instead of learning; practical child-life, a miniature world, where he lives and grows, and learns and expands. No primary teacher, were she Minerva herself, can work out Froebel's idea successfully with sixty or seventy children under her sole care.
You will see for yourselves that this simple, natural, motherly instruction of babyhood cannot be transplanted bodily into the primary school, where the teacher has fifty or sixty children who are beyond the two most fruitful years which the kindergarten demands. Besides, the teachers of the lower grades cannot introduce more than an infinitesimal number of kindergarten exercises, and at the same time keep up their full routine of primary studies and exercises.
Any one who understands the double needs of the kindergarten and primary school cannot fail to see this matter correctly, and as I said before, we do not want a few kindergarten exercises, we want the kindergarten. If teachers were all indoctrinated with the spirit of Froebel's method, they would carry on its principles in dealing with pupils of any age; but Froebel's kindergarten, pure and simple, creates a place for children of four or five years, to begin their bit of life-work; it is in no sense a school, nor must become so, or it would lose its very essence and truest meaning.
Let me show you a kindergarten! It is no more interesting than a good school, but I want you to see the essential points of difference:--
It is a golden morning, a rare one in a long, rainy winter. As we turn into the narrow, quiet street from the broader, noisy one, the sound of a bell warns us that we are near the kindergarten building.... A few belated youngsters are hurrying along,--some ragged, some patched, some plainly and neatly clothed, some finishing a "portable breakfast" thrust into their hands five minutes before, but all eager to be there.... While the Lilliputian armies are wending their way from the yard to their various rooms, we will enter the front door and look about a little.
The windows are wide open at one end of the great room. The walls are tinted with terra cotta, and the woodwork is painted in Indian red. Above the high wood dado runs a row of illuminated pictures of animals,--ducks, pigeons, peacocks, calves, lambs, colts, and almost everything else that goes upon two or four feet; so that the children can, by simply turning in their seats, stroke the heads of their dumb friends of the meadow and barnyard.... There are a great quantity of bright and appropriate pictures on the walls, three windows full of plants, a canary chirping in a gilded cage, a globe of gold-fish, an open piano, and an old-fashioned sofa, which is at present adorned with a small scrap of a boy who clutches a large slate in one hand, and a mammoth lunch-pail in the other.... It is his first day, and he looks as if his big brother had told him that he would be "walloped" if he so much as winked.
A half-dozen charming girls are fluttering about; charming, because, whether plain or beautiful, they all look happy, earnest, womanly, full to the brim of life.
"A sweet, heart-lifting cheerfulness, Like spring-time of the year, Seems ever on their steps to wait."
... They are tying on white aprons and preparing the day's occupations, for they are a detachment of students from a kindergarten training school, and are on duty for the day.
One of them seats herself at the piano and plays a stirring march. The army enters, each tiny soldier with a "shining morning face." Unhappy homes are forgotten ... smiles everywhere ... everybody glad to see everybody else ... happy children, happy teachers ... sunshiny morning, sunshiny hearts ... delightful work in prospect, merry play to follow it.... "Oh, it's a beautiful world, and I'm glad I'm in it;" so the bright faces seem to say.
It is a cosmopolitan regiment that marches into the free kindergartens of our large cities. Curly yellow hair and rosy cheeks ... sleek blonde braids and calm blue eyes ... swarthy faces and blue-black curls ... woolly little pows and thick lips ... long arched noses and broad flat ones. Here you see the fire and passion of the Southern races, and the self-poise, serenity and sturdiness of Northern nations. Pat is here with a gleam of humor in his eye ... Topsy, all smiles and teeth,... Abraham, trading tops with Isaac, next in line,... Gretchen and Hans, phlegmatic and dependable,... Franšois, never still for an instant,... Christina, rosy, calm, and conscientious, and Duncan, as canny and prudent as any of his people. Pietro is there, and Olaf, and little John Bull.
What an opportunity for amalgamation of races, and for laying the foundation of American citizenship! for the purely social atmosphere of the kindergarten makes it a life-school, where each tiny citizen has full liberty under the law of love, so long as he does not interfere with the liberty of his neighbor. The phrase "Every man for himself" is never heard, but "We are members one of another" is the common principle of action.
The circles are formed. Every pair of hands is folded, and bright eyes are tightly closed to keep out "the world, the flesh," and the rest of it, while children and teachers sing one of the morning hymns:--
"Birds and bees and flowers, Every happy day, Wake to greet the sunshine, Thankful for its ray. All the night they're silent, Sleeping safe and warm; God, who knows and loves them, Will keep them from all harm.
"So the little children, Sleeping all the night, Wake with each new morning, Fresh and sweet and bright. Thanking God their Father For his loving care, With their songs and praises They make the day more fair."
Then comes a trio of good-morning songs, with cordial handshakes and scores of kisses wafted from finger-tips.... "Good-Morning, Merry Sunshine," follows, and the sun, encouraged by having some notice taken of him in this blind and stolid world, shines brighter than ever.... The song, "Thumbs and Fingers say 'Good-Morning,'" brings two thousand fingers fluttering in the air (10 x 200, if the sum seems too difficult), and gives the eagle-eyed kindergartners an opportunity to look for dirty paws and preach the needed sermon.
It is Benny's birthday; five years old to-day. He chooses the songs he likes best, and the children sing them with friendly energy.... "Three cheers for Benny,--only three, now!" says the kindergartner.... They are given with an enthusiasm that brings the neighbors to the windows, and Benny, bursting with pride, blushes to the roots of his hair. The children stop at three, however, and have let off a tremendous amount of steam in the operation. Any wholesome device which accomplishes this result is worthy of being perpetuated.... A draggled, forsaken little street-cat sneaks in the door, with a pitiful mew. (I'm sure I don't wonder! if one were tired of life, this would be just the place to take a fresh start.) The children break into the song, "I Love Little Pussy, Her Coat is so Warm," and the kindergartner asks the small boy with the great lunch pail if he wouldn't like to give the kitty a bit of something to eat. He complies with the utmost solemnity, thinking this the queerest community he ever saw.... A broken-winged pigeon appears on the window-sill and receives his morning crumb; and now a chord from the piano announces a change of programme. The children troop to their respective rooms fairly warmed through with happiness and good will. Such a pleasant morning start to some who have been "hustled" out of a bed that held several too many in the night, washed a trifle (perhaps!), and sent off without a kiss, with the echo of a sick mother's wails, or a father's oaths, ringing in their ears!
After a few minutes of cheerful preparation, all are busily at work. Two divisions have gone into tiny, "quiet rooms" to grapple with the intricacies of mathematical relations. A small boy, clad mostly in red woolen suspenders, and large, high-topped boots, is passing boxes of blocks. He is awkward and slow. The teacher could do it more quietly and more quickly, but the kindergarten is a school of experience where ease comes, by and by, as the lovely result of repeated practice.... We hear an informal talk on fractions, while the cube is divided into its component parts, and then see a building exercise "by direction."
In the other "quiet room" they are building a village, each child constructing, according to his own ideas, the part assigned him. One of them starts a song, and they all join in--
"Oh! builders we would like to be, So willing, skilled, and strong; And while we work so cheerily, The time will not seem long."
"If we all do our parts well, the whole is sure to be beautiful," says the teacher. "One rickety, badly made building will spoil our village. I'm going to draw a blackboard picture of the children who live in the village. Johnny, you haven't blocks enough for a good factory, and Jennie hasn't enough for hers. Why don't you club together and make a very large, fine one?"
This working for a common purpose, yet with due respect for individuality, is a very important part of kindergarten ethics. Thus each child learns to subordinate himself to the claims and needs of society without losing himself. "No man liveth to himself" is the underlying principle of action.
Coming back to the main room we find one division weaving bright paper strips into a mat of contrasting color, and note that the occupation trains the sense of color and of number, and develops dexterity in both hands.
But what is this merry group doing in the farther corner? These are the babies, bless them! and they are modeling in clay. What an inspired version of pat-a-cake and mud pies is this! The sleeves are pushed up, showing a high-water mark of white arm joining little brown paws. What fun! They are modeling the seals at the Cliff House (for this chances to be a California kindergarten), and a couple of two-year-olds, who have strayed into this retreat, not because there was any room for them here, but because there wasn't any room for them anywhere else, are slapping their lumps of clay with all their might, and then rolling it into caterpillars and snakes. This last is not very educational, you say, but "virtue kindles at the touch of joy," and some lasting good must be born out of the rational happiness that surrounds even the youngest babies in the kindergarten.
The sand-table in this room represents an Italian or Chinese vegetable garden. The children have rolled and leveled the surface and laid it off in square beds with walks between. The planting has been "make believe,"--a different kind of seed in each bed; but the children have named them all, and labeled the various plats with pieces of paper, fastened in cleft sticks. A gardener's house, made of blocks, ornaments one corner, and near it are his tools,--watering-pot, hoe, rake, spade, etc., all made in cardboard modeling.
We now pass up-stairs. In one corner a family of twenty children are laying designs in shining rings of steel; and as the graceful curves multiply beneath their clever fingers, the kindergartner is telling them a brief story of a little boy who made with these very rings a design for a beautiful "rose window," which was copied in stained glass and hung in a great stone church, of which his father was the architect.
Another group of children is folding, by dictation, a four-inch square of colored paper. The most perfect eye-measure, as well as the most delicate touch, is needed here. Constant reference to the "sharp" angle, "blunt" angle, square corner and right angle, horizontal and vertical lines, show that the foundation is being laid for a future clear and practical knowledge of geometry, though the word itself is never mentioned.
There is one unhappy little boy in this class. He has broken the law in some way, and he has no work.
"That is a strange idea," said the woman visitor. "In my time work was given to us as a punishment, and it seemed a most excellent plan."
"We look at it in another way," said the kindergartner, smiling. "You see, work is really the great panacea, the best thing in the world. We are always trying to train the children to a love of industry and helpful occupation; so we give work as a reward, and take it away as a punishment."
We pass into the sunny upper hall, and find some children surrounding a large sand-table. The exercise is just finished, and we gaze upon a miniature representation of the Cliff House embankment and curving road, a section of beach with people standing (wooden ladies and gentlemen from a Noah's Ark), a section of ocean, and a perfect Seal Rock made of clay.
"Run down-stairs, Timmy, please, and ask Miss Ellen if the seals are ready." ... Timmy flies....
Presently the babies troop up, each carrying a precious seal extended on two tiny hands or reposing in apron. They are all bursting with importance.... Of course, the small Jonah of the flock tumbles up the stairs, bumps his nose, and breaks his treasure.... There is an agonized wail.... "I bust my seal!"... Some one springs to the rescue.... The seal is patched, tears are dried, and harmony is restored.... The animals are piled on the rocks in realistic confusion, and another class comes out with twenty-five paper fishes to be arranged in the waves of sand.
Later on, the sound of a piano invites us to witness the kindergarten play-time.
Through kindergarten play the child comes to know the external world, the physical qualities of the objects which surround him, their motions, actions, and reactions upon each other, and the relations of these phenomena to himself; a knowledge which forms the basis of that which will be his permanent stock in life. The child's fancy is healthily fed by images from outer life, and his curiosity by new glimpses of knowledge from the world around him.
There are plays and plays! The ordinary unguided games of childhood are not to be confounded for an instant with the genuine kindergarten plays, which have a far deeper significance than is apparent to the superficial observer. "Take the simplest circle game; it illustrates the whole duty of a good citizen in a republic. Anybody can spoil it, yet nobody can play it alone; anybody can hinder its success, yet no one can get credit for making it succeed."
The play is over; the children march back to their seats, and settle themselves to another period of work, which will last until noon. We watch the bright faces, cheerful, friendly chatter, the busy figures hovering over pleasant tasks, and feel that it has been good to pass a morning in this republic of childhood.
I have given you but a tithe of the whole argument, the veriest bird's-eye view; neither is it romance; it is simple truth; and, that being the case, how can we afford to keep Froebel and his wonderful influence on childhood out of a system of free education which has for its aim the development of a free, useful, liberty-loving, self-governing people? It is too great a factor to be disregarded, and the coming years will prove it so; for the value of such schools is no longer a matter of theory; they have been tested by experience, and have won favor wherever they have been given a fair trial But how important a work they have to do in our scheme of public education is clear only when we consider the conditions which our public schools must meet nowadays.
On the theory upon which the state undertakes the education of its youth at all--the necessity of preparing them for intelligent citizenship--a community might better economize, if economize it must, anywhere else than on the beginning. An enormous immigrant population is pressing upon us. The kindergarten reaches this class with great power, and increases the insufficient education within the reach of the children who must leave school for work at the age of thirteen or fourteen. It increases it, too, by a kind of training which the child gets from no other schooling, and brings him under influences which are no small addition to the sum total of good in his life.
The entire pedagogical world watches with interest the educational awakening of which the kindergarten has been the dawn. If people really want to make the experiment, if parents and tax-payers are anxious to have for their younger children what seems so beneficent a training, then let them accept no compromises, but, after taking the children at a proper age, see to it that they get pure kindergarten, true kindergarten, and nothing but kindergarten till they enter the primary school. Then they will be prepared for study, and begin it with infinite zest, because they comprehend its meaning. Having had that beautiful beginning, every later step will seem glad to the child; he will not see knowledge "through a glass darkly, but face to face," in her most charming aspect.
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