« PreviousContinue »
familiar with the peculiarities of all systems he could come at once to the special point of interest in our own system which he wished to bring to the attention of the foreigner. To this ability is due the fact that Massachusetts secured a grand diploma of honor at the Vienna Exposition. At Paris, America carried off the lion's share of honor for its education. It received 121 awards, more than any other nation except France herself. He secured for us by his unremitting diligence twenty-eight gold medals, forty-four silver, and twenty-four bronze medals, besides twenty-five certificates of honorable mention. The French Directory distinguished him personally for his able efforts by creating him a “Chevalier of Honor " and an “Officer of Public Instruction" (with the insignia of gold palm and title of “Officer of the Academy”), while the ancient and venerable University of St. Andrews in Scotland gave him the degree of Doctor of Laws, “holding in regard," as the Senatus declared, “the high merits of Mr. Philbrick's work in the sphere of education."
The Belgian Inspector of Schools declared that at Vienna he learned more from Dr. Philbrick than from all other sources. The Japanese ministry make a similar strong acknowledgment of his aid to them in planting English schools in Japan. In foreign accounts of education in the United States, the Boston system always bears away the palm as the highest type of our national system of education. In the generous report of M. C. Hippeau on our education, in the very favorable report of Bishop Fraser, in the hostile exposition of Rev. James
H. Rigg, and finally in the accurate presentation of our system in Mr. Francis Adams' masterly work on The Free Schools of the United States, Boston stands foremost in a rank all by itself.
M. Buisson, French Commissioner to our Philadelphia Exposition, commends in high terms the Boston schools and pays equal honor to Mr. Philbrick. He commends the plans of the Boston school buildings and the civil behavior of the pupils. Mr. Philbrick's school reports were and are eagerly sought for hy all directors of educational systems, both here and in Europe. They find an author who discusses questions of education in the full light of existing practice everywhere.
These gratifying tokens of recognition of the subject of our eulogium suggest to us that there is a side to his personal character which has been dwelt on by those who have spoken here to-day before me, that has a national and even international significance. His conciliatory habit of mind, always endeavoring to see both sides of a question and always trying to do justice to opponents, was the basis of a cordial relation that grew up between himself and fellow-educators everywhere in this country and in Europe.
In private life his amiability was charming. He seemed to feel it his duty to encourage young men in the profession by kind words of appreciation wherever he could see any merit. In his official visits to the schools he made the teacher feel that he was a friend and “not a mere task-master trying to spy out defects.”
Through his labor on a programme of exercises for the
school he strove to break up the mechanical modes of drill which crept into the system. Inasmuch as education accomplishes its good things by repetition and drill, the best work of the teacher is continually liable to de. generate into lifeless routine. It is true that in habit and routine lies the force of moral education. What are regularity, punctuality, silence, and industry, the four cardinal virtues of school training, but mechanical habits when thoroughly learned, -- notwithstanding they lie at the basis all moral training whatsoever. The pupil must learn self-restraint and subjugate his caprice and wilfulness before he can become a thoroughly rational being. How to balance spontaneity and prescription is the constant problem in education, and this Dr. Philbrick knew better than any other man.
It must be acknowledged that the work of the school superintendent is, even at the best, nine tenths of it negative and preventive, to one tenth positive and constructive. He has constant need of vigilance to repress one-sided and injurious efforts, - to hold back even the good teachers, even the good members of the school committee, from extremes. An excellent superintendent appears to outsiders as though he were a mere balancewheel, or even a dead weight, hindering vital movement and adding no momentum himself.
But the superintendent must see the real healthy, vital movement of the system of schools, and, like a good physician, prevent congestions and inflammations in any of its parts. Occupied in this way for most of his time he can never receive his full meed of appreciation. He will
have bitter enemies in the schools and outside of the schools.
Happy, therefore, was Dr. Philbrick in his uncomplaining, unresenting disposition. Even in his last great trial, the gradual shutting down of darkness upon his eyesight, he was never known to complain, and only once indicated the great affliction which his blindness was to him. When he found that his eyesight failed to distinguish the large letters of a new Bible which had been purchased for his daily reading, the tears silently coursed down his cheeks, observed only by his faithful mate, no word indicating his deep sorrow.
His cheerfulness and courage in all emergencies was a perpetual fountain of strength to all his teachers and coworkers in the system of education wherein he performed his life work.
In taking leave of him after this brief and inadequate summary of the events which have made him so widely known and respected by educators at home and abroad, there comes into my mind the words that I love to quote from the prophet Daniel, - the words which are quoted in the epitaph on the tomb of Fichte in Berlin :
“The teachers shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars forever and ever."