« PreviousContinue »
It is, however, no part of Mr. Alcott's plan, to impart to the children a system of opinions. His idea is, to give their minds a spiritual direction; and he has perfect confidence that the laws of thought, and of feeling, will bring their unsophisticated natures to such truth as is needful for them. Thus, he sometimes even helps out, by his questions, views which he sees to be struggling in their minds for expression, although he deems them erroneous; for he believes error to involve within itself its own principle of decay, and to need but the Ithuriel touch of expression, to assume its own form, and of itself to fly away from the presence of truth.
Few persons will, perhaps, be able to understand and to sympathize with Mr. Alcott's entire course in this respect; for few do justice to the natural allegiance of the human soul to truth, and good; or appreciate how much more is to be hoped than feared, from giving complete liberty to the yet undepraved and unsophisticated spirit.
But there is another and more important reason, why Mr. Alcott's views are not to be
judged from what is said, or left unsaid, by him, in this record. It is this; that no part of it is so deficient as the part set down to him; the mechanical difficulty of keeping it involved, in both this and the former one, a necessity of sacrificing something. In the "Record of a School," every thing else was sacrificed in order to dwell on the details of the discipline, and to show how such a school could be conducted. In this instance, on the other hand, all details of school discipline are purposely omitted, and the chief object of attention is to give such answers of the children, and such questions of Mr. Alcott, as were immediately connected with them. His statements, illustrations, and personal application of principles, to the peculiarities of the various children, are, therefore, generally omitted. Nor could they be remembered afterwards in their original words; Mr. Alcott finding himself unable to, recall them. In some respects, too, his memory was at variance with the particulars of the Record; yet it was determined, on the whole, that the conversations should remain as they appeared to the recorder, who
professes to do full justice but to one idea of Mr. Alcott's, -The method of approaching children on spiritual subjects. This record is the transcript of a Fact, as faithfully given as the circumstances would allow.
A few circumstances will now be stated, to help the imagination and the understanding of the reader to the dramatic effect.
The cut preceding the first conversation. shows the position of the children in the school-room, while engaged in conversation. When Mr. Alcott asks a question, those who have answers hold up their hands; he then signifies to the children, successively, that they may speak. Sometimes he gives the sign for but one, sometimes for all, when all or a few reply, according as the answer is more or less general. By this means, time is given to collect their thoughts, and to put these into words, and the recorder is enabled to keep along.
Seven of the children, when the Conversations commenced, (October, 1835,) were between twelve and ten years of age; of these,
EMMA; SAMUEL R.; CHARLES; WILLIAM B.*;
Eight were between ten and seven years of age; of these, were
AUGUSTINE; FRANCIS; WILLIAM C.;
ANDREW; WELLES*; GEORGE K.; GEORGE B.; MARTHA; LUCY*; LUCIA; JOHN B.*; LEMUEL; ALEXANDER; JOSEPH*; SUSAN*; *HERBERT; * HILLMAN; and * W. AUGUStus.
Under the age of seven, were
JOHN D.; EDWARD C.; NATHAN; EDWARD J.; SAMUEL T.*; HALES; JOSIAH *; FRANK *;
* ELIZABETH; and * CORINNA.†
Thus it will be seen, that Mr. Alcott had to contend with the disadvantage of a fluctuating school. Nor was the attendance constant of those who did remain. Hardly one scholar was present at every conversation of the course,
Those to whose names stars are prefixed, entered school after the conversations commenced; those to whose names stars are affixed, left school generally during the summer.
a fact that should be taken into consideration in judging of results. A steady class would have done better justice to the plan. If there has been any success, it is reasonable to believe, that, with an animated and persevering coöperation on the part of parents, shown by making some effort, that, at least, there should be no conversation omitted, and that the children should be kept at school, during a whole course, all that Mr. Alcott hopes would have been realized, and the spirit of childhood proved to be identical with Christianity.
It is necessary to add, that, after the Record was nearly completed, Mr. Alcott proposed to the children to review the conversations, in order to ascertain their views of the subjects and passages which had been under their previous consideration. They were pleased with the proposition, and accordingly it was done. The plan was, that, as Mr. Alcott read, those who wanted to say any thing additional, or to suggest any changes of what they had said before, should hold up their hands; and that he himself should occasionally stop, and ask them questions on points that were not suffi