Gateway to the Classics: American Leaders and Heroes by Gordy, Wilbur F.
American Leaders and Heroes by  Gordy, Wilbur F.

Front Matter


In teaching history to boys and girls from ten to twelve years old simple material should be used. Children of that age like action. They crave the dramatic, the picturesque, the concrete, the personal. When they read about Daniel Boone or Abraham Lincoln they do far more than admire their hero. By a mysterious, sympathetic process they so identify themselves with him as to feel that what they see in him is possible for them. Herein is suggested the ethical value of history. But such ethical stimulus, be it noted, can come only in so far as actions are translated into the thoughts and feelings embodied in the actions.

In this process of passing from deeds to the hearts and heads of the doers the image-forming power plays a leading part. Therefore a special effort should be made to train the sensuous imagination by furnishing picturesque and dramatic incidents, and then so skilfully presenting them that the children may get living pictures. This I have endeavored to do in the preparation of this historical reader, by making prominent the personal traits of the heroes and leaders, as they are seen, in boyhood and manhood alike, in the environment of their every-day home and social life.

With the purpose of quickening the imagination, questions "To the Pupil" are introduced at intervals throughout the book, and on almost every page additional questions of the same kind might be supplied to advantage. "What picture do you get in that paragraph?" may well be asked over and over again, as children read the book. If they get clear and definite pictures, they will be likely to see the past as a living present, and thus will experience anew the thoughts and feelings of those who now live only in their words and deeds. The steps in this vital process are imagination, sympathy, and assimilation.

To the same end the excellent maps and illustrations contribute a prominent and valuable feature of the book. If, in the elementary stages of historical reading, the image-forming power is developed, when the later work in the study of organized history is reached the imagination can hold the outward event before the mind for the judgment to determine its inner significance. For historical interpretation is based upon the inner life quite as much as upon the outward expression of that life in action.

Attention is called to the fact that while the biographical element predominates, around the heroes and leaders are clustered typical and significant events in such a way as to give the basal facts of American history. It is hoped, therefore, that this little volume will furnish the young mind some conception of what our history is, and at the same time stimulate an abiding interest in historical and biographical reading.

Perhaps it is needless to say that the "Review Outline" may be used in many ways. It certainly will furnish excellent material for language work, oral or written. In so using it pupils may well be encouraged to enlarge the number of topics.

I wish to acknowledge my obligations to Professor William E. Mead, of Wesleyan University, who has read the manuscript and made invaluable suggestions; also to my wife, whose interest and assistance have done much to give the book whatever of merit it may possess.
—Wilbur F. Gordy.
—Hartford, Conn., May 1, 1901.

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