Young Men before Education
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The growth of this institution under the charge of its originator was described seven years ago in this Magazine, since which time it has attracted the attention of leading thinkers upon education and race problems in this and other countries, and become widely known as an exponent of the value of manual-labor training in education of men and women-certainly as far as the black race is concerned. Twelve years have proved its mission in the South to be no “fool’s errand.” Eastern school to continue the education begun at St. Augustine.
It was fortunate not only for these poor prisoners, it maybe, but for the whole Indian than question, that the officer under whose charge they were put, and who had assisted in their capture, Captain R. H. Pratt, of the Tenth Cavalry, U.S.A., was a mail with room in his nature for the united strength and humanity which are at the bottom of this work, whose results have placed him at the head of the most important single movement ever made in. be half of Indian education.
Delicate womanly hands of both North and South, enlisted by the captain’s earnestness, freely joined to help his work when the dark minds were roused to some curiosity as to the mystery of the gay-colored alphabet he had hung on their prison wall. And when, at the end of three years, the United States decided to send the prisoners home, some would not let go their work. The War Department’s permission was secured for as many of the prisoners to remain as were willing to go to school, and could be provided for by private benevolence. Twenty-two of the youngest thus staid, and of these seven-teen were received at Hampton Institute, on request of Captain Pratt, for the sake of its industrial training.
It was not, therefore, in utter dismay treat the inmates of Hampton were roused from their slumbers one April night by a Steamboat’s war-whoop, heralding the midnight raid of sixty ex-warriors upon their peaceful shores, and hastened out to meet the invaders with hot coffee instead of rifle-balls, to welcome some of them as new students, and bid the rest godspeed to their homes in Indian Territory.
The bearing of the new effort upon the whole question of Indian management was early recognized at Washington. By special act of Congress authorizing the Secretary of War to detail au army officer for special duty with regard to Indian education, Captain Pratt’s valuable assistance was secured in inaugurating the work at Hampton. The Indian Commissioner, the Secretaries of War and the Interior and the President were among the most interested visitors to the Indian class-rooms and workshops, and have given the enterprise all the sympathy and patience for preliminary steps. A peripatetic class was thus devised to relieve the tedium of the school-room, and had, to speak literally and figuratively, quite a run. It usually began with leap-frog, and then went gaily on to find its ” books in the running brooks, sermons in stones,” etc. Geography is taught with molding sand and iron raised dissecting maps; arithmetic at first with blocks. The Indians are particularly fond of each, and the advanced class is quite expert in adding up columns of figures as long as a ledger page, and equal to practical problems of every-day trade and simple business accounts.
Thus helped by willing hands, red, white, and black, and joined from time to time by companions, from their own and other tribes, till they now number over seventy, the Indian students have been two years on the new road, and Hampton now has contrasts to show as convincing, if not as dramatic, as those of St. Augustine. It is difficult, indeed, to associate the gaunt young gamins that. sat about in listless heaps two
years ago with the bright, busy groups of boys and girls at study or play, or singing over their work.
The effort has been for a natural, all-round growth rather than a rapid one. Books, of course, are for a long time of no avail, and object-teaching, pictures, and blackboards take their place, with every other device that ingenuity is equal to, often on the spur of the moment, to keep up the interest and attention of the undisciplined minds that, with the best intentions and strong desire to know English.
Nothing, however, can equal the charm of the printed page. It has the old mystery of “the paper that talks.” “If I can not read when I go home,” said a young brave, “my people will laugh at me.” The gratitude of the St. Augustines over their first test-book in geography was touching. Reading, writing, and spelling are taught together by the word method and charts. Later, attractive little primaries have been very useful, and unbound numbers of children’s magazines, such as are used in the Quincy schools. Most of the Dakotas can now read at sight as simple English as is found in these, and are beginning to take pleasure in reading or in listening to easy versions of our childhood classics of Robinson Crusoe, and Christopher Columbus, and George Washington with his little hatchet. One of their teachers who tried the hatchet story on them in preparation for the 22d of February says: ” Such attentive listeners I never saw before. They were perfectly enraptured. They understood everything, even to the moral. A few days after this I was annoyed by talking in the class. When I asked who did it, every one blamed his neighbor. I said, `Now, boys, don’t tell a lie. Who will be a George Washington?’ Two boys at once stood up and said, ‘We did it.”‘