A First Book in American History
"An Early Life of America"
IN preparing a first book of American history, it is necessary to keep in mind the two purposed such a work is required to serve.
There are children whose school life is brief; these must get all the instruction they are to receive in their country's history from a book of the grade of this.
To another class of pupils the first book of American history is a preparation for the intelligent study of a textbook more advanced. It is a manifest waste of time and energy to require these to learn in a lower class the facts that must be re-studied in a higher grade. Moreover, primary histories which follow the order of larger books are likely to prove dry and unsatisfactory condensations. But a beginner's book ought before all things else to be interesting. A fact received with the attention raised to its highest power remains fixed in the memory; that which is learned listlessly is lost easily, and a lifelong aversion to history is often the main result produced by the use of an unsuitable textbook at the outset.
The main peculiarity of the present book is that it aims to teach children the history of the country by making them acquainted with some of the most illustrious actors in it. A child is interested, above all, in persons. Biography is for him the natural door into history. The order of events in a nation's life is somewhat above the reach of younger pupils, but the course of human life and the personal achievements of an individual are intelligible and delightful.
In teaching younger pupils by means of biography, which is the very alphabet of history, we are following a sound principle often forgotten, that primary education should be pursued along the line of the least resistance.
Moreover, nothing is more important to the young American than an acquaintance with the careers of the great men of his country.