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DEPARTMENT OF SUPERINTENDENCE OF THE NATIONAL ED
UCATIONAL ASSOCIATION, JANUARY 28, 1875.
The members met at the office of the Commissioner of Education and proceeded in a body to call on Hon. Columbus Delano, Secretary of the Interior, where Mr. J. Ormond Wilson, superintendent of public schools of the District of Columbia and president of the department of superintendence, spoke as follows:
MR. WILSON'S REMARKS.
Mr. SECRETARY: The department of superintendence of the National Educational Association is now holding a convention in this city to discuss educational subjects of importance. They are pleased this morning to call to pay their respects to you as the head of the Department in which the Bureau of Education is located.
They regard that Bureau and its chief officer as their head, and look to it for advice and go to it for the best experience of the country, in order that they may avoid evils and secure benefits.
We have to thank you for the courtesy which you have invariably extended to the Bureau. The head of the Bureau informs us that on all occasions you have exercised the power and authority vested in you with the greatest liberality.
SECRETARY DELANO'S REMARKS.
The Secretary of the Interior responded as follows:
I am very glad to meet you, gentlemen, and to learn that your interest in the work of general education still continues.
I do not ascribe to myself much credit for what is being accomplished by the Bureau connected with the Department under charge of General Eaton. What I have done has generally been suggested by that efficient officer, who is personally, as well as officially and profoundly, interested in the success of its operations.
I think I may avail myself of this occasion to say that every year adds to the evidences of the value of the operations of the Bureau.
I will also remark that the condition of affairs in many of the States under the observation of this Bureau furnishes abundant evidence of the propriety of its organization and the necessity for its continuance. As I have said to you on former occasions, the success of republican institutions, where suffrage is universal, must depend upon intelligence-not the intelligence of the few, but the intelligence of the many. And you will comprehend me when I say that there are sections of the country where it is extremely difficult to diffuse this knowledge and intelligence. And certainly not without your co-operation and assistance can we effect the dissemination of such intelligence in the localities to which I allude as is necessary for the welfare of our institutions.
I am very glad to meet you all again on this returning anniversary of your labors, and I hope that I myself, or some one better able to assist in the work you have in hand, will always be found here to co-operate with you.
From the Department of the Interior the members proceeded to Willard Hall, when the department was called to order by the president,
and the session opened with prayer by Rev. Dr. Butler, of Washington.
The president then introduced Professor J. Enthoffer, of the United States Coast-Survey Office, who arranged upon the stage some large diagrams illustrating his conception of the origin and discovery of written language and an analysis of our modern alphabet, made in accordance with his theory.
PROFESSOR ENTHOFFER'S ADDRESS.
Professor Enthoffer said:
Mr. PRESIDENT, LADIES, AND GENTLEMEN: I must first ask you to excuse my English. The subject to which I wish to call your attention, and which the diagrams on the stage illustrate, is the origin of the alphabet. I claim that
THE ORIGINAL LETTERS OF THE ALPHABET WERE NOT REPRESENTATIONS OF OBJECTS, BUT DIAGRAMS OF THE ORGANS OF SPEECH IN THE ACT OF FORMING SOUNDS.
The publication of my topographical atlas made it incumbent on me to furnish the engineer with copies for the descriptive portion of maps, not however in the old, careless manner, placing before the scholar copies good or bad which he had to copy. I was convinced that nobody can learn anything thoroughly by mere copying, those only being successful who possessed natural talents. My aim was to draw up rules of construction which would enable any one to attain to some degree of proficiency. For this purpose it was necessary to inquire whether the letters used in the descriptive portion of maps could be based on a uniform law of construction; and this seemed quite plausible, as the Roman letters presented such a marked geometrical character. This investigation showed the figures on page 55 as the basis of the whole alphabet. These geometrical and symmetrical figures were very surprising, for who would not, looking at them, be struck by the idea that the original alphabet might possibly have been invented by a mathematician? I did not hesitate a moment to get at the truth of this matter; but great was my astonishment when, in books on paleography, I found the most widely varying views regarding the origin of our alphabet: some derived it from the hieroglyphics; others from the Chaldeans; others from the Phenicians, and some even from the constellations of the zodiac; but nothing had led these inquirers further away from the truth than the names of the letters, seeing in them the picture of the object which had been adopted as the representative of some sound. This would then be the same system of idiographic writing as that of the Egyptians.
It is highly probable that the inventor of our original alphabet knew the hieroglyphics, at least from sight, but it is certainly not to be presumed that he thought of adopting either the construction of the Egyptian system of letters or the manner of shaping them. This is proved by the principle of the phonetic system, reduced to sixteen or twenty-two signs, in contradistinction to the Egyptian system, using eighty letters for writing proper names correctly.
The descendant of Shem viewed the matter in a totally different light; he did not intend to invent a secret writing, as that of the Egyptians had been, giving a mysterious power to the priestly caste, but wished to make letters the common property of all men, and in this he could only succeed if he could confine letters to the principal sounds of the human organ of speech. In this sublime simplicity the great thought, the thought of a genius shows itself, and to this simplicity alone it is to be ascribed that at present five hundred millions of men use the same alphabet, with but few alterations, and merely adding the signs for vowels. This invention of the alphabet was the most important result of the ancient world, and it is the foundation on which civilization began to build, through which alone perfect humanity can be reached if the human race is destined ever to reach that height of perfection.
All those noble agents which unite in furthering the education and instruction of the numan race work in the spirit of the originator of the alphabet. And therefore it will be of interest to you gentlemen, who have assembled here in such a sacred cause, to learn in what manner this great philosopher proceeded in firmly fixing the winged word, that no longer it should vanish in the air, but live and continue in assisting in the great work of elevating the human race.
I must inform this honored assembly that at present I can only explain the origin of our alphabet in brief outlines and with few words, and even these few remarks would not be justified before this convention if the discovery of the origin of our alphabet had not likewise had a practical result in furnishing a means of facilitating the instruction in reading and writing of the alphabet.
The chief object of the great philosopher was, above everything else, to dissect the words and find their component sounds. To substitute signs for these sounds was a question of only secondary interest. Any conventional signs would have answered this purpose, e. g., the circle with two diameters crossing each other for the figures from 0 to 9. It is very easy, however, for us to say any signs! as we are surrounded by all sorts of writings and drawings; but how different at a time when nothing of the kind existed! Then it was a matter of great difficulty, moreover, to represent sounds, something only audible to the ear, by visible signs-impossible. Here the connection must first be found, i. e., to shape the sign in such a manner as to lead the person who sees it to the idea represented; and in this lies the second great thought of the inventor, that in simple outlines he portrays the organ of speech and its construction in the shape it assumes at the decisive moment when forming sounds.
If we now examine the mechanical construction of our organ of speech in its different parts, we first see the mouth with its continuation, the throat, containing the ligaments between which sounds are formed, the lips, the palate, the teeth, and finally, the most important of all, the tongue, or the pedal of the human voice, as it has been called. We do not know what action of the muscles contributes to the formation of sounds, but we can easily observe the process going on in the mouth in modulating sounds. Here there is not only a visible movement, but through the resonance of sounds and noises the sensation becomes quite perceptible, of course, only as we concentrate our whole attention on it. In proof of these facts it may be mentioned that trained deaf mutes understand words perfectly if the speaker utters them slowly.
The first sound of the alphabet certainly owes its rank to mature consideration; it is the principal one of all the fundamental sounds of the human organ, the first sound a child utters when it attempts to speak, the involuntary sound uttered in pleasant surprise, the standard sound which alone must be sung distinctly and audibly in all the accords and scales. The mere opening of the mouth and letting the voice go forth, produces the sound a; the formation of this sound is therefore a visible one. If you now examine this illustration (see Aleph in the table, at the end of this circular,) and compare it with the oldest signs placed by the side of it, you cannot fail to perceive its origin. The open angle corresponds to the open mouth, and all that requires an explanation is the line which crosses the angle. This line was no doubt originally intended to represent the teeth by small projections, so as to lead the observer to the idea that this sign was to represent a view of the open mouth in profile.
This sign, however, has been transmitted to us with a name, viz, Aleph. The object of this is easily seen, and has, as a mnemotechnic means, been very important for the beginLing, because the commencing sound explained the value of the sign. This has been the original beginning of every sort of writing, but in order to attract the attention of the observer it was in the beginning necessary to draw the objects which were to be represented as similar as possible to their originals, and only in the course of many centuries did the Egyptians get the idea to obtain their object by abbreviation. These facts have led paleographers to the assumption that the Semitic A likewise represented the picture of its name, viz, a bull, and of this only the head. But if it
was the intention to draw a bull, why, do we ask, was the sign not placed in an upright position, , which would make it by far more recognizable; and why was it placed in a position only possible in a dead bull? That the writing of this sign was very inconvenient is shown by the fact that as soon as writing came into more practical use it was placed in an upright position, just as we write it at the present time. The character of the second letter B likewise furnishes proof of the highly philosophical arrangement of the alphabet, viz, to make the sounds more prominent by their contrast. The sound of opening the mouth is followed by the sound of closing the mouth. The sudden opening of the mouth, brought about by the explosive emphasis of emitting the breath, produces the sound B; and its connection with some vowel makes it audible. Its characteristic features are therefore determined by the lips; and how accurately these have been understood will immediately become clear if we compare the conventional sign with the profile view of the mouth. The name Beth means "house," and he who has eyes to see will in vain look for some characteristic sign of a house, but will easily recognize the idea in the representation of the lips. The labial sound is followed by the palatal sound G, produced by the root of the tongue and the palate. In observing the action of the organ of speech, with a view of giving a graphic representation of this sound, we must confess that this could not be made sufficiently plain in the external movement of the organ. The great philosopher, how'ever, found a way out of this dilemma, and in such a simple manner that we are surprised at the clearness of his perceptive faculties. He gives us an inside view of the organ, and, to avoid all doubts as to which portion is meant, nothing but the palate [, as the most characteristic portion in forming this sound; it was of course necessary, in order to make the flat arch of the palate recognizable, to show at the top the beginning of the teeth and at the bottom the beginning of the throat. A glance at Helmholtz's diagram, and its comparison with the conventional sign, will be sufficient to convince us of the correctness of this explanation.
The name Gimel means "camel." For further illustrations of these principles I must refer to my pamphlet on the subject.
The palatal sound is followed by the dental sound D, which is produced by leaning the tip of the tongue against the upper teeth, thereby shutting the hollow of the mouth completely. This will become clear if we now compare the section with the conventional sign of the D sound, which goes through many ancient alphabets. The name Daleth means door.
The time allowed me will not permit me to present here the development of the whole alphabet, and I must refer those of you who are interested in this subject to the forthcoming publication of my treatise upon it, which will not only be of interest to every educated person, but of special use to teachers.
The investigation and discovery of, I may well say, the key to our alphabet, had the important result to show that the chief signs are at the same time phonetic signs of the formation of sounds. In the English language this is unfortunately only the case with those of Anglo-Saxon derivation; nevertheless, the explanation of most of the forms of the letters with regard to the position of the mouth in pronouncing them will be useful in the first instruction in reading. And if it could be used for no other purpose but to awaken the child's interest, the impression made on the memory will be much more effective if the teacher can tell him, "Here, in the letter A, the open mouth is represented if you imagine the sign laid on its side, thus, <; in the letter B you see the closed lips," &c. It is well known that nothing rivets the attention of the child's mind to such a degree as a historical communication. Objects with which a short story can be connected are the most welcome of all to the child. The mere assertion is to the child
a dead matter: "This is B; now remember it." After a long time we may succeed in this way, but how much pleasanter and how much more lasting will be the impression, if the child is enabled to see why this sign represents the labial sound B.
I have illustrated this by my analytic alphabet, consisting of two tablets, containing the component parts of the letters, and five monograms, each comprising from four
to six letters. In fact, the juvenile student has only to study these five figures. These figures or monograms are well known to every child.
The first is called the window-monogram, forming the basis for the rectangular letters, such as I, L, F, E, H, and T. The second is called the envelope-monogram, forming the letters X, K, N, Z, and Y. The third is called the lattice-monogram, forming the zig-zag letters A, V, M, and W. The fourth is called the ring-monogram, forming the ring-letters O, Q, C, G, and D; and the fifth, the serpentmonogram, forming the serpentine letters, such as S, R, B, P, J, and U. The arrangement is the following: The pupil is directed to take, at the teacher's advice, certain component parts from the tablets and insert them in the monogram through loops prepared to hold this component part. Previous to this exercise the phonetic explanation has been given by the teacher. For mnemotechnic exercise the configuration of the letters is also imitated by the children with their fingers after the tableau of the hand-alphabet prefixed to the first monogram-tablets. After this the component parts are taken out from the monogram and placed on a slate, and the contours drawn around it, which exercise gives amusement to the child and is, at the same time, an additional aid to its memory.
Then it is recommended to take up the methodical-writing copy-book in which the same monograms are constructed in a blue or red tint for the purpose of being filled out by pencil-marks according to the head-letter.
This writing-exercise is continued from the transformation of the capital letters to the Roman small letters, thus showing the transformation from the Roman small to italics, and lastly from these to the current letters. This exercise is rather to bo called drawing letters, which is by far the easiest and most natural way of proceeding. After the conclusion of this exercise the Spencerian system for current writing is recommended. But this methodical copy-book is so arranged that it serves at the same time for the advanced scholars in practicing the so-called draughtsmen-letters, which is nowadays a requirement for a good many technical occupations.
This new system of commencing to learn reading and writing is of still greater practical value for institutions for the deaf and dumb, for the blind, and for those most unfortunate creatures, the idiots.
The student is, so to speak, on a well-constructed track, where he cannot go amiss. The frightful score of twice 26 letters is reduced to only five well-known figures, and it operates on the child as if it were already familiar with the subject it is to learn, for the reason that the basis is really an old acquaintance.
The professor concluded his address by exhibiting some copy-books such as he had suggested-one of them written by a girl of 8 years of age, one by a boy of 10 years of age, and one by a boy of 16 years of age and calling attention to their excellence.
MR. WICKERSHAM'S ADDRESS.
At the conclusion of Professor Enthoffer's address, the president introduced Hon. J. P. Wickersham, State-superintendent of common schools of Pennsylvania, who read the following paper upon
AMERICAN EDUCATION AT THE CENTENNIAL EXPOSITION.
So much has been published concerning the Centennial Exposition to be held at the city of Philadelphia in 1876 that no statement of its design or account of what is pur