« PredošláPokračovať »
In this way, every step is accompanied with complete demonstration. Every new example increases his powers and his confidence; and most scholars soon acquire such a habit of thinking for themselves, that they will not be satisfied with anything which they do not understand, in any of their studies.'
Besides the lectures which we have briefly noticed, this volume contains the Introductory Discourse of President Wayland, of Brown University, Rhode Island;' and Lectures on the Infant School System, by William Russell;' on 'Lyceums and Societies for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, by Nehemiah Cleaveland;' on A Practical Method of Teaching Rhetoric, by Samuel Newman;' on Geometry and Algebra, by F. J. Grund;' on Vocal Music, by W. C. Woodbridge;' on Classical Learning, by Corn. C. Felton; and on The Construction and Furnishing of School Rooms, by W. J. Adams.'
Our limits will not allow us to remark particularly on these lectures, nor do we pretend to be competent judges of all the various topics discussed in them. We will simply remark, that in those passages of the lectures included in this volume, which touch slightly (and it always is slightly) on the highest departments of science and ancient learning, there is a feebleness of thought, a seeking of shelter under names and authorities, and often a kind of inaccuracy, which though not very great in degree, is a decisive proof of incomplete knowledge. In making this remark, we wish rather to point to a striking difference between the social state of America and that of old countries, than to say anything that may be construed as a disparagement of American talent. Among ourselves, owing to the division of labour being so widely extended, we find a few men of the profoundest acquirements in every branch of knowledge; yet such persons are often very limited in their general views, unable to appreciate other branches of learning, and often totally disqualified from making any practical use of what they know. In America, on the contrary, among a people naturally acute, and unfettered by many of the most unnecessary restrictions of the old world, versatility of talent and variety of acquirement are at present more profitable than the profoundest knowledge of a small part of one subject. From the nature of the political condition of that country, a man is likely to be called on to perform more offices than one of ourselves; and the American is in general infinitely better able to qualify himself to discharge respectably the duties of a new function, than most of our own countrymen. With these opinions about some parts of these lectures, we still have formed a very
favourable judgment of them in general, and we much doubt if an assembly of teachers in this country, collected from all parts of Great Britain, would produce so useful a volume.
The Introductory Discourse of President Wayland, on The object of Intellectual Education, and the manner in which that object is to be attained, is well worth a careful perusal. From the very nature of the subject it is not easy to enter on an examination of it in a limited space; but we can safely recommend it as containing many striking, if not original, remarks, expressed often in a forcible and pleasing manner. The part which we most object to is p. 22, where the president is speaking of the little success that attends Latin and Greek studies in America. We are quite of the same opinion as the president as to the classical studies of America, (and we may add those of England are very little better,) but his view of the subject, as far as we can judge from the few words that he has said, is not the true one; and also, we have to complain of a sentence of fine writing. Indeed, the very mention of the classics, as they are called, or of an ancient name, seems to lead the Americans astray like a Will-o'-the-wisp, and usually conducts them into some disagreeable quagmire. We feel convinced, that as Latin and Greek will continue to be taught among them, there is no remedy for the evil which we complain of, but a more thorough knowledge of the subject.
We select from president Wayland's discourse, the following excellent paragraph for the consideration of persons who aspire to be teachers, and of parents who have children to be taught.
If the remarks already made have the least foundation in truth, we do not err in claiming for education the rank of a distinct science. It has its distinct subject, its distinct object, and is governed by its own laws. And, moreover, it has, like other sciences, its corresponding art, the art of teaching. Now, if this be so, we would ask how any man should understand this science, any more than that of mathematics or astronomy, without ever having studied it, or having ever thought about it? If there be any such art as the art of teaching, we ask how it comes to pass that a man shall be considered fully qualified to exercise it, without a day's practice, when a similar attempt in any other art would expose him to ridicule? Henceforth, I pray you, let the ridicule be somewhat more justly distributed.'
STUDY OF NATURAL PHILOSOPHY,
ONE of the first things which will strike an observer of modern education is the fact, that there are now few young people, in the middling and upper classes, who do not early receive some explanations, or what are intended for such, on the phenomena of nature. Not only do most parents conceive themselves qualified to give their children the first lessons in physics and astronomy, but the works of amusement, which are so constantly in the hands of little boys and girls, generally contain some information on the subject. Since it is certain that the reasons and methods of arguing, which are applied to sensible phenomena, are more likely to obtain a hold on the mind of an infant than any other whatever, it will appear of considerable importance to all who rightly estimate the force of early impressions, that the first inquiries on this subject should be answered in a rational manner. To many it appears of little consequence what a child learns, as long as he is, in the common phrase, kept out of mischief. On this head we commence with a few observations.
It is often assumed, that the most important object of education, namely, the formation of character, is entirely attained by teaching the principles of religion and morality; that is, it is not suspected that the manner in which other things are taught to the child, has any effect upon the moral feeling of the man. It would be thought ridiculous by many were we to assert, that evil is often chosen in preference to good, not from any lack of desire to do what is right, but from a want of means to distinguish clearly, in difficult circumstances, where the proper course lies. This opinion we are, notwithstanding, disposed to maintain, even to the extent of saying, that more evil is done by misdirected than by dishonest views, and that the accumulated mischiefs arising from error, are of greater prejudice to the advancement of society than those which have their origin in abandonment of principle. There are but few who can say, that the greatest portion of detriment which has arisen to them out of the conduct of others, has proceeded from malignant or dishonest intentions. This being admitted, we must look for the rise of much evil to some other source than intentional departure from the principles of morality; and we have not far to go, if we recollect that the rules which are laid down for the guidance of any one member of society in his multifarious dealings with the rest, are few and general, frequently misunderstood, and as frequently misapplied. The first arises from the vague
and erroneous use of words, the second from the want of habit of seizing all the circumstances of a case, and of reasoning correctly upon them. And this being the state of the majority of mankind, the criminal designs of one may be advanced by the errors of thousands. Thus a potentate, who incites his people to slaughter, declaring that God is with him and will fight against his enemies, utters his blasphemous nonsense in the conviction, that of all whom he addresses, the few who have been taught to think are no match for the many, high and low, who are incapable of any such exercise. At this moment we see hundreds on the verge of crime and misery, because they cannot see through the misapplication of a few words. Never was there a time when it was more clearly shown, that ignorance produces as many disasters as malevolence; and though unfortunately it is not yet universally true, that better principles of education have reached the lower as well as the middling and upper classes of society, yet the obvious good effects of enlightenment, where it exists, upon the former, should tempt those engaged in the instruction of the two latter, to inquire, whether all the good which is attainable is yet attained, and whether there is not room for suspicion, that the bad habits of mind, which, in their extreme state, lead to such fearful results, have always been producing a pernicious, though more quiet effect, upon that portion of mankind which is supposed to have better opportunities of instruction.
The first education of children, though not formally called by that name, consists in the answers which are given to the numerous questions put by them on the nature, object, and cause of every phenomenon which catches their attention. The intelligent, and frequently unanswerable, inquiries of an infant, whose thoughts have not yet been chained by our common routine of expressions, and whose appetite for investigation has not been destroyed by receiving only words where he looked for ideas, furnish a lesson of no small profit to the philosophic observer. The first impulse given to mental action is the result of an instinct of curiosity, a desire to search to the very source the cause of all that is seen and heard. Hence children of any intelligence break and destroy their playthings, in order the better to examine their construction; and here begins the manège by which they are converted from inquirers into machines. Parents and nurses reprimand their charges for the indulgence of this desire to learn, and repeat for the ten-thousandth time their wonder that children love mischief. Under this last emphatic word is included all that can give any trouble to an instructor, or by
any means lead him to suspect, that the desire of knowledge comes without his assistance, and all that is asked of him is the direction of it to proper objects. But since it is of consequence to repress this same desire of knowledge, and since the temper of the times no longer allows of accomplishing this object by force, either in boys or men, the method employed is to be provided with a stock of unmeaning words, mostly derived from the Greek, which are to be applied to the complete elucidation of all causes, final and secondary; the teacher endeavouring to look as if he understood them himself, in which, to do him justice, he generally succeeds. Above all, he must never fail of giving some answer to every question, since to confess ignorance would perhaps reveal to the child that he is neither to know nor to expect to know all things; and this is not expedient. If, by any means, he should be unprovided at the moment, he must tell the pupil not to ask questions,' which, next to the destruction of playthings, is the second great offence of childhood.
To see the manner in which words are applied to the extinction of the desire of knowledge, let us take an example of the contrary_method, where they are used in a reasonable manner. In the Lessons on Objects,' reviewed in the first number of this Journal, the word which expresses a quality is introduced in the following way. The attention is first directed to the quality itself, in repeated instances of its existence; the sensible idea actually presented is dwelt upon and expressed, if it may be, in common phraseology. The single word which denotes the quality is then introduced as soon as the want of it is felt, and not before. It will be observed, that the word is made the name of the quality and not its explanation. The usual way to convey the meaning of a word is as follows: A child asks, Why can I see through the window and not through the door?" The parent puts on the face of a Socrates, and answers, Because the window is transparent and the door is not.' The child is therefore led to think, that a long word is a sufficient explanation, and, worst of all, that a new word is all he should look for in any case. He imagines that his papa knows everything, and that he himself will be as wise some day. Hence springs what is called the pride of knowledge, which is, in most cases, the direct consequence of ignorance. But suppose it should be thought worth while to tell him, in simple language, that the answer to the question Why,' in the sense in which it is put, is in most cases impossible, in the present state of knowledge; that the word 'transparent is not the reason of the phenomenon, but the name of it;