Monday, August 06, 2007

Charles Henry Ham

CHAPTER I. THE IDEAL SCHOOL. (a vision that faded long ago.)

Its Situation.—Its Tall Chimney.—The Whir of Machinery and Sound of the Sledgehammer.—The School that is to dignify Labor.—The Realization of the Dream of Bacon, Rousseau, Comenius, Pestalozzi, and Froebel.—The School that fitly represents the Age of Steel. THE Ideal School is an institution which develops and trains to-usefulness the moral, physical,and intellectual powers of man. It is what Comenius called Humanity's workshop, and in America it is becoming the natural center of the Public School system.

The building, well designed for its occupancy, is large, airy, open to the light on every side, amply provided with all appliances requisite for instruction in the arts and sciences, and finished interiorly and exteriorly in the highest style of useful and beautiful architectural effects. The distinguishing characteristic of the Ideal School building is its chimney, which rises far above the roof, from whose tall stack a column of smoke issues, and the hum and whir of machinery is heard, and the heavy thud of the sledgehammer resounding on the anvil, smites the ear.

It is, then, a factory rather than a school? No. It is a school; the school of the future; the school that is to dignify labor; the school that is to generate power; the school where every sound contributes to the harmony of development, where the brain informs the muscle, where thought directs every blow, where the mind, the eye, and the hand constitute an invincible triple alliance. This is the school that Locke dreamed of, that Bacon wished for, that Rousseau described, and that Comenius, Pestalozzi, and Froebel struggled in vain to establish. It is, then, science and the arts in apotheosis. For if it be, as claimed, the Ideal school, it is destined to lift the veil from the face of Nature, to reveal her most precious secrets, and to divert to man's use all her treasures. Yes; it is to other schools what the diamond is to other precious stones—the last analysis of educational thought. It is the philosopher's stone in education; the incarnated dream of the alchemist, which dissolved earth, air, and water into their original elements, and recombined them to compass man's immortality. Through it that which has hitherto been impossible is to become a potential reality. In this building which resembles a factory or machine shop an educational revolution is to be wrought. Education is to be rescued from the domination of medieval ideas, relieved of the enervating influence of Grecian aestheticism, and confided to the scientific direction of the followers of Bacon, whose philosophy is common sense and its law, progress. The philosophy of Plato left in its wake a long line of abstract propositions, decayed civilizations, and ruined cities, while the philosophy of Bacon, in the language of Macaulay,"has lengthened life; mitigated pain; extinguished diseases; increased the fertility of the soil; given new securities to the mariner; spanned great rivers and estuaries with bridges of form unknown to our fathers; guided the thunderbolt innocuously from heaven
to earth; lighted up the night with the splendor of the day; extended the range of the human vision; multiplied the power of the human muscles; accelerated motion; annihilated distance; facilitated intercourse, correspondence, all friendly offices, all dispatch of business; enabled man to descend to the depths of the sea, to soar into the air, to penetrate securely into the noxious recesses of the earth, to traverse the land in cars which whirl along without horses, and the ocean in ships which run ten knots an hour against the wind. It is this beneficent work of Bacon that the Ideal school is to continue—the work of demonstrating to the world that the most useful thing is the most beautiful thing—discarding Plato, the apostle of idle speculation, and exalting Bacon, the minister of use.

In laying the foundations of education in labor it is dignified and education is ennobled. In such a union there is honor and strength, and long life to our institutions. For the permanence of the civil compact in this country, as in other countries, depends less upon a wide diffusion of unassimilated and undigested intelligence than upon such a thorough, practical education of the masses in the arts and sciences as shall enable them to secure, and qualify them to store up, a fair share of the aggregate produce of labor. If this school shall appear like a hive of industry, let the reader not be deceived. Its main purpose, intellectual development, is never lost sight of for a moment.

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