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38. Nature, in its formative processes, begins with the universal and ends with the particular.— For example: a bird is to be produced from an egg. It is not the head, an eye, a feather, or a claw that is first formed, but the following process takes place. The whole egg is warmed, the warmth produces movement, and this movement brings into existence a system of veins, which mark in outline the shape of the whole bird (defining the parts that are to become the head, the wings, the feet, etc.). It is not until this outline is complete that the individual parts are brought to perfection.
39. Imitation.— The builder takes this as his model. He first makes a general plan of the building in his head, or on paper, or in wood. Then he lays the foundations, builds the walls, and lays on the roof. It is not until he has done this that he gives his attention to the small details that are necessary to complete a house, such as doors, windows, staircases, etc. ; while last of all he adds ornamentation such as paintings, sculptures, and carpets.
40. An artist proceeds in the same way. He does not begin by drawing an ear, an eye, a nose, or a mouth, but first makes a charcoal sketch of the face or of the whole body. If he be satisfied that this sketch resembles the original, he paints it with light strokes of the brush, still omitting all detail. Then, finally, he puts in the light and shade, and, using a variety of colors, finishes the several parts in detail.
41. The procedure of the sculptor is the same. When he wishes to carve a statue, he takes a block of marble and shapes it roughly. Then he sets to work more carefully and outlines the most important features. Finally, he chisels the
individual parts with the greatest accuracy and colors them artistically. 42.
In the same way the gardener takes the most simple and universal part of a tree, namely, a shoot. Later on, this can put forth as many branches as it possesses buds.
43. Deviation.— From this it follows that it is a mistake to teach the several branches of science in detail before a general outline of the whole realm of knowledge has been placed before the student, and that no one should be instructed in such a way as to become proficient in any one branch of knowledge without thoroughly understanding its relation to all the rest.
It follows also that arts, sciences, and languages are badly taught unless a general notion of the elements be first given. I remember well that, when we began to learn dialectic, rhetoric, and metaphysics, we were, at the very beginning, overburdened with long-winded rules, with commentaries and notes on commentaries, with comparison of authors and with knotty questions. Latin grammar was taught us with all the exceptions and irregularities; Greek grammar with all its dialects, and we, poor wretches, were so confused that we scarcely understood what it was all about.
45. Rectification.—The remedy for this want of system is as follows: At the very commencement of their studies, boys should receive instruction in the first principles of general culture, that is to say, the subjects learned should be arranged in such a manner that the studies that come later introduce nothing new, but only expand the elements of knowledge that the boy has already mastered. Just as a tree, even if it live for a hundred years, puts no new branches, but only suffers those that already exist to develop and to spread.
(i.) Each language, science, or art must be first taught in its most simple elements, that the student may obtain a
general idea of it. (ii.) His knowledge may next be developed further by placing rules and examples before him. (iii.) Then he may be allowed to learn the subject systematically with the exceptions and irregularities; and (iv.), last of all, may be given a commentary, though only where it is absolutely necessary. For he who has thoroughly mastered a subject from the beginning will have little need of a commentary, but will soon be in the position to write one himself.
46. Nature makes no leaps, but proceeds step by step:The development of a chicken consists of certain gradual processes which cannot be omitted or deferred, until finally it breaks its shell and comes forth. When this takes place, the mother does not allow the young bird to fly and seek its food (indeed it is unable to do so), but she feeds it herself, and by keeping it warm with her body promotes the growth of its feathers. When the chick's feathers have grown she does not thrust it forth from the nest immediately and make it fly, but teaches it first to move its wings in the nest itself or perching on its edge, then to try to fly outside the nest, though quite near it, by fluttering from branch to branch, then to fly from tree to tree, and later on from hill to hill, till finally it gains sufficient confidence to fly right out in the open. It is easy to see how necessary it is that each of these processes should take place at the right time; that not only the time should be suitable but that the processes should be graduated; and that there should be not graduation merely, but an immutable graduation. 47. Imitation. The builder proceeds in the same man
He does not begin with the gables or with the walls, but with the foundations. When the foundations are laid he
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does not go on with the roof, but builds the walls. In a word, the order in which the several stages are combined depends on the relation that they mutually bear to one another.
48. The gardener likewise has to adopt the principle of graduation. The wild-stock must be found, dug up, transplanted, pruned, and cut; the graft must be inserted and the joint made firm, etc., and none of these processes can be omitted or taken in a different order. But, if these processes are carried out properly and in the right order, it is scarcely possible, in fact it is impossible, for the result to be unsuccessful.
49. Deviation. It is an evident absurdity, therefore, if teachers for their own sake and that of their pupils, do not graduate the subjects which they teach in such a way that, not only one stage may lead on directly to the next, but also that each shall be completed in a given space of time. For unless goals are set up, means provided for reaching them, and a proper system devised for the use of those means, it is easy for something to be omitted or perverted, and failure is the result.
50. Rectification. It follows therefore:
(i.) That all studies should be carefully graduated throughout the various classes, in such a way that those that come first may prepare the way for and throw light on those that come after.
(ii.) That the time should be carefully divided, so that each year, each month, each day, and each hour may have its appointed task.
(iii) That the division of the time and of the subjects of study should be rigidly adhered to, that nothing may be omitted or perverted.
51. If nature commences anything, it does not leave off until the operation is completed. If a bird, urged by the impulse of nature, begins to sit on eggs, she does not leave off until she has hatched out the chickens. If she sat on them for a few hours only, the embryo in the egg would become cold and die. Even when the chickens are hatched she does not cease to keep them warm, but continues to do so until they have grown strong, are covered with feathers, and can endure the cold air.
52. Imitation.— The painter, also, who has begun a picture, will produce his work best if he finish it without any interruption. For in this case the colors blend better and hold faster. 53.
For this reason it is best to finish the erection of a building without any interruption; otherwise the sun, the wind, and the rain spoil the work, the later additions will not be so firm, and on every side there will be cracks, weak spots, and loose joints.
54. The gardener, too, acts with wisdom, for when once he has begun to work at a graft he does not cease until the operation is completed. Since, if the sap dry in the stock or in the graft, owing to a delay in completing the process, the plant is ruined.
55 Deviation. It is therefore injurious if boys are sent to school for months or years continuously, but are then withdrawn for considerable periods and employed otherwise ; equally so if the teacher commences now one subject, now another, and finishes nothing satisfactorily; and lastly, it is equally fatal if he does not fix a certain task for each hour, and complete it, so that in each period his pupil can make an unmistakable advance towards the desired goal. Where