Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

small ones. The form is recognized as that of the cube before seen; the size is different. But the new experiences consist in notions of relativity-of the whole in its relation to the parts, of the parts in their relation to the whole; and thus the child acquires the notion and the names, and both in immediate connection with the sensible objects, of halves, quarters, eighths, and of how many of the small divisions make one of the larger. But in connection with the third Gift a new faculty is called forth—imagination, and with it the instinct of construction is awakened. The cubes are mentally transformed into blocks; and with them building commences. The constructive faculty suggests imitation, but rests not in imitation. It invents, it creates. Those eight cubes, placed in a certain relation to each other, make a long seat, or a seat with a back, or a throne for the Queen; or again, a cross, a doorway, etc. Thus does even play exhibit the characteristics of art, and “conforms (to use Bacon's words) the outward show of things to the desires of the mind”; and thus the child, as I said before, not merely imitates, but creates. And here, I may remark, that the mind of the child is far less interested in that which another mind has embodied in ready prepared forms, than in the forms which he conceives, and gives outward expression to, himself. He wants to employ his own mind, and his whole mind, upon the object, and does not thank you for attempting to deprive him of his rights.

The fourth, fifth, and sixth Gifts consist of the cube váriously divided into solid parallelopipeds, or brick-shaped forms, and into smaller cubes and prisms. Observation is called on with increasing strictness, relativity appreciated, and the opportunity afforded for endless manifestations of constructiveness. And all the while impressions are forming in the mind, which, in due time, will bear geometrical fruits, and fruits, too, of æsthetic culture. The dawning sense of the beautiful, as well as of the true, is beginning to gain consistency and power.

I cannot further dwell on the numberless modes of manipulation of which these objects are capable, nor enter further into the groundwork of principles on which their efficiency depends.

OBJECTIONS TO THE SYSTEM CONSIDERED. It is said, for instance, without proof, that we demand too much from little children, and, with the best intentions, take them out of their depth. This might be true, no doubt, if the system of means adopted had any other basis than the nature of the children; if we attempted theoretically, and without regard to that nature, to determine ourselves what they can and what they can. not do; but when we constitute spontaneity as the spring of action, and call on them to do that, and that only, which they can do, which they do of their own accord when they are educating themselves, it is clear that the objection falls to the ground. The child who teaches himself never can go out of his depth; the work he actually does is that which he has strength to do; the load he carries cannot but be fitted to the shoulders that bear it, for he has gradually accumulated its contents by his own repeated exertions. This increasing burden is, in short, the index and result of his increasing powers, and commensurate with them. The objector in this case, in order to gain even a plausible foothold for his objection, must first overthrow the radical principle, that the activities, amusements, and occupations of the child, left to himself, do indeed constitute his earliest education, and that it is an education'which he virtually gives himself.

Another side of this objection, which is not anfrequently presented to us, derives its plausibility from the assumed incapacity of children. The objector points to this child or that, and denounces him as stupid and incapable. Can the objector, however, take upon himself to declare that this or that child has not been made stupid even by the very means employed to teach him? The test, however, is a practical one: Can the child play? If he can play, in the sense which I have given to the word, he cannot be stupid. In his play he employs the very faculties which are required for his formal education. “But he is stupid at his books." If this is so, then the logical conclusion is, that the books have made him stupid, and you, the objector, who have misconceived his nature, and acted in direct contradiction to it, are yourself responsible for this.

“But he has no memory. He cannot learn what I tell him to learn." No memory! Cannot learn! Let us put that to the test. Ask him about the pleasant holiday a month ago, when he went putting in the woods. Does he remember nothing about the fresh feel of the morning air, the joyous walk to the wood, the sunshine which streamed about his path, the agreeable companions with whom he chatted on the way, the incidents of the expedition, the climb up the trees, the bagging of the plunder? Are all these matters clean gone out of his mind? “Oh, no, he remembers things like these.” Then he has a memory, and a remarkably good one. He remembers because he was interested; and if you wish him to remember your lessons, you must make them interesting. He will certainly learn what he takes an interest in.

I need not deal with other objections. They all resolve themselves into the category of ignorance of the nature of the child. When public opinion shall demand such knowledge from teachers as the essential condition of their taking in hand so delicate and even profound an art as that of training children, all these objections will cease to have any meaning.

My close acquaintance with Freebel's theory, and especially with his root-idea, is comparatively recent. But when I had studied it as a theory, and witnessed something of its practice, I could not but see at once that I had been throughout an unconscious disciple, as it were, of the eminent teacher. The plan of my own course of lectures on the Science and Art of Education was, in fact, constructed in thought before I had at all grasped the Fröbelian idea; and was, in that sense, independent of it.

The Kindergarten is gradually making its way in England, without the achievement as yet of any eminent success; but in Switzerland, Holland, Italy, and the United States, as well as in Germany, it is rapidly advancing. Wher. ever the principles of education, as distinguished from its practice, are a matter of study and thought, there it prospers. Wherever, as in England for the most part, the practical alone is considered, and where teaching is thought to be "as easy as lying,” any system of education founded on psychological laws must be tardy in its progress.

“The Kindergarten has not only to supply the proper materials and opportunities for the innate mental powers, which, like leaves and blossoms in the bud, press forward and impel the children to activity, with so much the more energy the better they are supplied. It has also to preserve children from the harm of civilization, which furnishes poison as well as food, temptations as well as salvation; and children must be kept from this trial till their mental powers have grown cqual to its dangers. Much of the success of the Kindergarten (invisible at the time) is negative, and consists in preventing harm. Its positive success, again, is so simple, that it cannot be expected to attract more notice than, for instance, does fresh air, pure water, or the merit of a physician who keeps a family in health."-Karl Froebel.

TRUE FOUNDATION OF SCIENCE-TEACHING. It is almost a truism to say, that the foundation of a building is its most important feature. If the foundation be either insecure in itself, or laid without regard to the plan of the superstructure, the building as a whole, will be found wanting both in unity and strength. A building is in fact the embodiment and realization of an idea conceived in the mind of the architect, and if he is competent for his post, and can secure the needful coöperation, the practical expression will symmetrically correspond to the conception. But unless the foundation is solidly laid, and all the parts of the building are constructed with relation to it, his æsthetic and theoretic skill will go for little or nothing. His work is doomed to failure from the beginning, and the extent of the failure will be proportionate to the ambition of the design. These remarks are applicable to the art of building generally, whether shown in large and impos ing structures, or in the meanest cottages. In no case can the essential elements of unity and strength be dispensed with. In these preliminary observations I have foreshadowed the subject with which I have to deal-that of Scienceteaching-whether carried on under the direction of a Science and Art Department, or in the smallest class of a private school.

WHAT 18 SCIENCE ? The first question for consideration is, “What is meant by Science ?” The shortest answer that can be given is, that "Science is organized knowledge.” This is, however, too general for our present purpose, which is, to deal with Physical Science. In a somewhat developed form, then, Physical Science is an organized knowledge of material, concrete, objective facts or phenomena. The term “organized,” it will be seen, is the essence of the definition, inasmuch as it connotes or implies that certain objective relations subsisting in the nature of things, between facts or phenomena, are subjectively appreciated by the mind -that is, that Science differs from mere knowledge by being a knowledge both of facts, and of their relations to each other. The mere random, haphazard accumulation of facts, then, is not Science; but the perception and conception of their natural relations to each other, the comprehension of these relations under general laws and the organization of facts and laws into one body, the parts of which are seen to be subservient to each other, is Science.

Returning to the other factor of the definition, “Knowledge,” we observe that there are two kinds of knowledge-what we know through our own experience, and what we know through the experience of others. Thus, I know by my own knowledge that I have an audience before me, and I know through the knowledge of others that the earth is 25,000 miles in circumference. This latter fact, however, I know in a sense different from that in which I know the former. The one is a part of my experience, of my very being. The other I can only be strictly said to know when I have, by an effort of the mind, passed through the connected chain of facts and reasonings on which the dem. onstration is founded. Thus only can it become my knowledge in the true sense of the term.

Strictly speaking, then, organized knowledge, or Science, is originally based on unorganized knowledge, and is the outcome of the learner's own observation of facts through the exercise of his own senses, and his own reflection upon what he has observed. This knowledge, ultimately organized into Science through the operation of his mind, he may with just right call his own; and as a learner, he can properly call no other knowledge his own. What is reported to us by another is that other's, if gained at first hand by experience; but it stands on a different footing from that which we have gained by our own experience. He merely hands it over to us; but when we receive it, its condition is already changed. It wants the brightness, definiteness, and certainty in our eyes

which it had in his; and moreover, it is merely a loan, and not our property. The fact, for instance, about the earth's circumference was to him a living fact; it sprang into being as the outcome of experiments and reasonings, with the entire chain of which it was seen by him to be intimately-indeed indissolubly and organically connected. To us it is a dead fact, severed from its connection with the body of truth, and, by our hypothesis, having no organic relation to the living truths we have gained by our own minds. These are convertible into our Science; that is not. What I insist on then is, that the knowledge from experience that which is gained by bringing our own minds into direct contact with matter-is the only knowledge that as novices in science we have to do with. The dogmatic knowledge imposed upon us by authority, though originally gained by the same means, is really, not our's, but another's -is, as far as we are concerned, unorganizable; and therefore, though Science to its proprietor, is not Science to us. To us it is merely information, or haphazard knowledge.

The conclusions, then, at which we arrive, are-(1) That the true foundation of physical Science lies in the knowledge of physical facts gained at first-hand by observation and experiment, to be made by the learner himself; (2) that all knowledge not thus gained is, pro tanto, unorganizable, and not suited to his actual condition; and (3) that his facts become organized into Science by the operation of his own mind upon them,

SCIENCE TEACHING.

I have elsewhere* endeavored to expound the correlation of learning and teaching, and to show that the natural process of investigation by which the unassisted student—unassisted, that is, by book or teacher-would seek, as a first discoverer, to gain an accurate knowledge of facts and their interpretation, suggests to us both the nature and scope of the teacher's, and especially the Science-teacher's functions. According to this view of the subject, the learner's method, and the teacher's, serve as a mutual limit to each other. The learner is a discoverer or investigator engaged in interrogating the concrete matter before him, with a view to ascertain his nature and properties; and the teacher is a superintendent or director of the learner's process, pointing out the problem to be solved, concentrating the learner's attention upon it, varying the points of view, suggesting experiments, enquiring what they result in; converting even errors and mistakes into means of increased power, bringing back the old to interpret the new, the known to interpret the unknown, requiring an exact record of results arrived at-in short, exercising all the powers of the learner's mind upon the matter in hand, in order to make him an accurate observer and experimenter, and to train him in the method of investigation. The teacher, then, is to be governed in his teaching, not by independent notions of his own, but by considerations inherent in the natural process by which the pupil learns. He is not, therefore, at liberty to ignore this natural process, which essentially

* Lecture on “ Theories of Teaching with the corresponding Practice," April 26, 1869.

sons.

involves the observation, experiment, and reflection of the pupil; nor to supersede it by intruding the results of the observation, experiment, and reflection of others. He is, on the contrary, bound to recognize these operations of his pupil's mind as the true foundation of Science-teaching which he professes to carry out. In other words, the process of the learner is the true foundation of that of the teacher.

I may refer, for proof of this assertion, to the teaching of botany to poor village children by the late Professor Henslow; to the teaching of general Science by the late Dean Dawes to a similar class of children; to that pursued at the present time by the Bristol Trade School; and to the invaluable lessons given to the imaginary Harry and Lucy by Miss Edgeworth. Without warranting every process adopted by these eminently successful teachers, some of whom were perhaps a little too much addicted to explaining, I have no hesitation in declaring that they one and all acted mainly on the principle that true Science-teaching consists in bringing the pupil's mind into direct contact with facts-in getting him to investigate, discover, and invent for himself.

Authority of Experts.
Professor Huxley, in a lecture on Scientific Education, says :-

"If scientific training is to yield its most eminent results, it must be made practical-that is to say, in explaining to a child the general phenomena of nature, you must, as far as possible, give reality to your teaching by object-les

In teaching him botany, he must handle the plants and dissect the flowers for himself; in teaching him physics and chemistry, you must not be solicitous to fill him with information, but you must be careful that what he learns he knows of his own knowledge. Do not be satisfied with telling him that a magnet attracts iron. Let him see that it does; let him feel the pull of the one upon the other for himself,

Pursue this discipline carefully and conscientiously, and you may make sure that, however scanty may be the measure of information which you have poured into the boy's mind, you have created an intellectual habit of priceless value in practical life.”

Again, in the same lecture, the Professor says:

"If the great benefits of scientific training are sought, it is essential that such training should be real—that is to say that the mind of the scholar should be brought into direct relation with fact; that he should not merely be told a thing, but made to see, by the use of his own intellect and ability, that the thing is so, and not otherwise. The great peculiarity of scientific training—that in virtue of which it cannot be replaced by any other discipline whatever-is this bringing of the mind directly into contact with fact, and practising the mind in the completest form of induction—that is to say, in drawing conclusions from particular facts made known by immediate observation of nature.”

Dr. Kemshead, Science Teacher at Dulwich College, says :"I wish particularly to draw the distinction between mere scientific knowl. edge and scientific training. I do not believe in the former; I do believe in in the latter. In physical and experimental science, studied for the sake of training, the mode of teaching is everything. I know of one school (we shall soon see that there are many such) in which physical science is made a strong point in the prospectus, where chemistry is taught by reading a text-book (a very antiquated one, since it only gives forty-five elements), but in which the experiments are learned by heart, and never seen practically. Such a proceeding is a mere farce on Science.

"To develope scientific habits of thought-the scientific mind, the teaching must be of a totally different nature. In order to get the fullest benefit from a scientific education, the teacher should endeavor to bring his pupil face to face with the great problems of nature, as though he were the first discoverer. He should encourage him from the first to record accurately all his experiments, the object he had in view in making them, the results even when they have failed, and the inferences which he draws in each case, with as much rigor and

« AnteriorContinua »