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CHARLES MAURICE STEBBINS, A.M. -
Boys' High School, Brooklyn, N. Y.
SIBLEY & COMPANY
In the present work an attempt has been made to bring into as close natural relations as possible, for first year pupils of secondary schools, the work in literature, composition and rhetoric and grammar. In this undertaking certain principles based upon the needs and interests of the pupil have been kept constantly in mind.
1. The author's experience has led him to believe that, in the main, the pupil has been told too much; he is surfeited with instruction. Too little scope has been allowed him for the exercise of his powers of discovery and application. The first aim, therefore, of this book is to lead the pupil to do for himself rather than to learn “what it were good to do.” A child could hardly learn to walk by sitting tied in a chair, observing the motions of other people. Neither will a pupil ever come to use language correctly and effectively, by studying rules and definitions. Consequently, in the following pages, study and practice of an inductive nature usually precede definitions.
2. The study of composition and rhetoric is too often disassociated from the life of the pupil. It is a seemingly natural tendency for teachers, under the pressure of work and the demands of school routine, to make the study a formal thing. The individual
and social interests are forgotten. Pupils who are vivacious out of school, become dull when they enter the classroom, owing in a measure to the fact that the subject matter is not adapted to their natural interests. In an attempt to counteract this difficulty, the discussions in the book have been made as personal as possible; and the exercises and hints for written work have come largely from suggestions of firstyear pupils themselves. Many of them deal with matters of common experience, with things vitally interesting to pupils of high school age.
3. Much of the work of school tends toward the development of the purely analytical faculties of the pupil, at the expense of the imagination. It should be the definite aim of some subject in the curriculum to develop this important faculty, which modern life, certainly in cities, tends to dwarf. No subject is better adapted to this end than English. With this in view, a large element of constructive composition work has been introduced, based upon fable and legend, together with exercises in pure invention. In all cases hints have been given, not for the sake of directing, however, but of suggesting, of furnishing stimuli to the imagination.
4. In the general arrangement of the book, the guiding principles have been those of growth and difficulty. The purely review chapters on punctuation and on grammar come first. An attempt has been made to simplify the rules of punctuation, and to present the grammar review in as interesting a form as possible. In composition, the oral work nat
urally comes first. Letter writing is placed next because it is a form of composition holding a place midway between oral and formal written composition. The whole composition is treated before the paragraph and the sentence, because the principles governing it are more general and more simple. Besides, the sentence is usually a part of a larger whole, and any study of it that disregards the larger unit, must be imperfect. In the chapters on narration and description, the preceding work of the term, in each case, is drawn together and enforced by studies of specific examples, and a summary of general principles.
The book meets the requirements of the revised syllabus of the city and state of New York. It is arranged in two parts to conform to the two terms into which the courses in most secondary schools are now divided. The chapters in Part II. which deal with the subjects treated in Part I., are in no sense a repetition. In Part II. additional principles and more advanced exercises are given.
The suggestions offered for use in connection with the study of the English classics are in no way intended to be exhaustive. They are given with a view to suggesting some of the things that may be done. Teachers and pupils will think of many other things quite as valuable. No teacher should attempt to do all of this work. Some of it is too difficult for certain pupils. Judgment must be used in selecting such of the work as is adapted to the needs of any particular class.