Maria Sanford, who was a history professor at Swarthmore at the time, gave this address at the August 10, 1875, session of the Pennsylvania Teachers’ Association meeting.1 Whitney reports that she would frequently lecture on this topic at teachers’ institutes.2
Lessons in Manners and Morals
I do not need to prove by labored argument that good manners and good morals are valuable; the fact is conceded by all. Nor is it necessary to show that teaching morals and manners is part of the legitimate work of the school-room. This point has in theory long been admitted; it has been orthodox doctrine from the times of the fathers; and the skepticism of our own day, which has questioned all things and denied the most ancient traditions, has still recognized as sound the theory that children should be taught not only how to think but also how to live. Nor is it an obsolete doctrine, forgotten, crowded out by present, vital issues. The moral bearing of education is constantly kept before us; we are urged to educate the masses that they may make not wiser but better men and women; and the strong argument for compulsory education is the prevention of crime. Where we fail, is in the practical application of the doctrine we profess to believe.
We present the subject at our institutes, discuss it at our conventions, but there, alas! we leave it. Like the Civil Service Reform among the politicians, it is in the platform but not in the practice. 3Civil service reform was one of the major policy issues in the late 19th century. The period’s political contests were characterized by broad popular participation, encouraged, in part, by the hope of being awarded patronage positions, and financed by office-holders’ kickbacks to party bosses. I do not deny that some spasmodic attempts at moral culture are made by most of us, but I believe that we all follow too closely the example of the old minister who, firstly, took a text; secondly, departed from his text; and thirdly, kept away from it.Continue reading “Lessons in Manners and Morals”