Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

cast.

Education for the Highest Development. 3. What is this larger and higher aim ? It is to make the pupil as perfect in every direction as we can; to bring out his nature into fullest activity on all sides; to develop his powers in an equable and harmonious completeness, so far as time and circumstances permit. This is the work of education. But those make a great mistake who suppose that there is one general ideal for all mankind, that there is one general mould into which all the individuals can be

Each human being has an individuality of his own; and not merely is he different originally in power from others, but all the special exercise of his powers is limited by time and by space. The child who goes to our schools is the child of the nineteenth century; he is enveloped by all the peculiarities of that century from his earliest breath; he cannot, if he would, escape from the overpowering influences of his age. And then he is the native and inhabitant of this country, he derives benefits from its institutions, he moves amidst its people, he is governed by its laws, he is by birth a member of the British nation, And so the full development of his powers as a human being can take place only in connection with the present age and his present country. And thus this general aim includes the two previous, and gives a higher value to them, His possession of a trade is his contribution to the general welfare as well as his own means of subsistence, and in the very attempt to be a good man he must be a good citizen. His training towards perfection of manhood lies through a knowledge and discharge of his duties as a workman and a citizen.

Limitations to the Highest Development. 1. First, there is the limitation as to time. The school has to do its work within a limited time. The period during which the child is to be at school is, generally speaking, between the ages of six and twelve. But often the period for school education is much less than six years. Out of this limitation two difficulties arise. The first is, that you can educate only according to the laws of the mind, and one fixed and firm law is that there is only one way of progress in the soul-only from the concrete to the abstract, only from the individual to the general, only from the known to the unknown, only from the affection which embraces few to the affection which embraces many; and never in a contrary way. Now the age at which the working boy is instructed does not admit of the highest developments. The mind is not strong enough, the mind has not had sufficient practice nor sufficient experience.

And yet the school education should, as far as possible, be a wale; and this is our second difficulty. The process of forming the mind and of evolving its powers is a slow one. It is not done in a day or a week. The wise educator has to calculate a long course of training and discipline to bring his pupils up to a certain standard of intellectual and moral excellence. But a stopping short of his plans, a break in his action, or rather a break off at the wrong time, may turn all his efforts to waste. Every one notices the absurdity of a house half built. Every one would blame a doctor for leaving off before the patient was cured; but it is not perceived so often that it may be equally fatal for the real results which we wish to gain by education to leave the training cut short in the middle.

2. A second limitation arises from the fact that the school is but one of the agents in education. A man receives his education from every possible source. He is drawn out by the external world, above all he is influenced by his own nature and impulses, and multitudes of men are acting upon him. The teacher is but one of these. He has the advantage of coming to his work with the deliberate purpose of evolving the powers of the child; but he may have to contend with opposing influences from without. This is specially the case with the lowest class of children. The homes of these children are antagonistic to true education. The lesson of the school is often undone at the fireside. The teacher has a continual battle to fight.

3. There is also a third limitation in the means which the teacher has to employ.

The first activity of the human mind is on the external world. Let us look at it in this its first development. An external object, say a tree, is before the eye. What takes place? The mind has some sensation, and when it reaches consciousness, the mind perceives a certain object before it, which has green leaves and branches and a stem. But it not merely perceives. It is filled with admiration of the beauty of the tree; it derives pleasure from gazing at it. It wonders at its size, it feels keen delight in looking at the greenness of the leaves, it is charmed with the symmetry of the branches. But let us suppose that the child goes away from the tree the impressions die away-a blank is left-and the child has a desire to fill up the blank, to see the tree again at some future period, and in consequence of this desire it will leave its home at a proper opportunity and go to see the tree once more. Here we have the three aspects in which objects affect the mind. They present the child with perceptions which ultimately become the amount of knowledge which he possesses ; they give rise to feelings or emotions; and they awaken desires which will lead to action. These three, then-representations or perceptions, feelings, and desires or conationsare the three directions which the human mind may take. But it is important to notice that our separation of them from one another is the result of an analytic process on our part, and that they are never really separated. There can be no perception which has not a certain amount of feeling and conation connected with it, and every feeling and conation may be presented to the mind in the shape of a perception or proposition. Bat the preponderance of the elements may vary exceedingly. At one time we may have a strong desire, with the representation almost entirely obscured. I see a beautiful face for the first time, and I am so lost in the charm which it exercises over me that I cannot tell one single feature in it. I can only say that it is beautiful. I have acquired such an intense desire for some particular object, that I forget altogether to think of the nature of the object and the consequences of my conduct.' I am so satisfied with the perception of a particular object, that I am not conscious of the pleasure I feel in the perception, and have almost no desire to recur to the subject after I have once thoroughly examined it.

Now it is the business of education to bring fully out these three activities of the mind. Every object is adapted to produce certain perceptions, certain emo. tions, and certain desires. And when the mind is so trained as to receive these aright, it is in a healthy state. In the case of perceptions, it takes clear and accurate note of the objects; it detects similarities, it unites them into groups, and gradually rises in this way from the individual and concrete to the highest and most abstract generalizations. In the case of the feelings, it learns to love those objects that are truly lovable, to admire those that are really admirable, to detest what we are intended to detest, and it puts a value upon the various objects; it feels this action to be higher and nobler than that other, this good to

be a greater good than this other. And from doing this in particular cases it riscs to the love of groups of similar lovable objects, expanding as it is developed ; and then it sets its desire on what is really desirable, and tries to attain it. And from these efforts in individual cases it rises to large general aims and long-continued pursuits in one direction.

We have thus three regions of culture for the human soul--the culture of the intellcct, the culture of the feelings, and the culture of the practical powers of the soul. The culture of the last two leads to what is called character; and this, I need not say, is of primary importance, for it is the end which the nation as well as the individual ought to seek in its efforts to educate the rising genera. tion. But it is in this very field that the difficulty presents itself. Let me illus. trate it by an example. I take A, B, and C, to look at a picture in our National Gallery. Now I can tell positively what the three will perceive. They will all agree in stating that they saw certain colors, certain forms, certain groupings of the personages. But I can form no sure idea of what each felt and each desired on seeing the picture. A's mind may be clouded by previous distress, and so he is displeased with the picture; he does not like the principal figure; he thinks the coloring too bright, the whole appears to him as a daub. B admires the courage expressed in the face of the principal figure; he loves the man, but he hates the black scoundrel who is cringing before him. C is vexed that the picture is so badly framed; the frame might have been made to suit those of the other pictures. And so we might vary their emotions endlessly. It is the same with the desires. A would like to paint such a picture; B would like to buy it; C would like to know the artist; and so on. This illustration brings before you the fact that in dealing with the feelings and desires we are often working in the dark; that, in other words, we cannot teach people to feel in a particular way and to have particular desires; that the word applies only to the perceptions, to stating what we see, to giving information. And hence a distinction has been laid down between efforts made to draw out the whole of human nature and efforts made to draw out the intellectual powers. The one has been called education, the other instruction. The distinction is an important one, and it is well to notice it. The teacher has instruction for his principal work. It is mainly through instruction that he is to educate, and hence his action on the child's mind is to a certain extent contracted and rendered uncertain.

What the Primary Teacher Can Do. 1. First, then, there is a wide field for the teacher's activity in what is technically called discipline. The school is a little community; a miniature to some extent of the great body called the State, of which the young child is one day to be an active member. In this little community he may be disciplined into habits of punctuality, of regular and steady work, of respect for law and obedience to it, and even into love for his fellow-pupil, and affection for his master. Under this department of discipline, which is a necessary portion of a teacher's duty, much may be done to form character, and fit the child for doing his duty well as a member of the State.

2. Secondly, the instruction which is given may be applied at every step to the educating of his whole nature. Instruction has been divided into two classes-educating and non-educating. There is a kind of teaching which fails to affect the emotional and practical nature in the way in which the subjects taught should affect it, and the consequence is that the child is not only not the bet

ter of it, but he may be much the worse of it. He may be taught subjects which would naturally appeal to his emotional nature in such a way that no emotion is roused, and the blank which is thus created is really a moral perversion. Hence the immense importance of the inquiry, What is the kind of instruction which is educative? This inquiry has been made with the utmost care by the Germans, and the principles may be regarded as clearly ascertained. I have before me three works on this subject, published within the last two or three years: Dr. Ziller on Educating Instruction ; Dr. Roth on Gymnasial Pædagogik ; Dr. Schrader on the Doctrine of Education and Instruction for Gymnasien and Realschulen. All these treat minutely of how instruction may educate, and they are merely specimens of a large number of books which deal with this most important subject.

Characteristics of Educative Instruction. 1. It proceeds from individuals to groups. It is not a mere accidental taking up of subjects. But the teacher produces an impression one day which will be the foundation for a stronger next day, until out of the many, the pupil, through his own power, will come to make a unity. This is a natural process in the mind. If a child sees a trec one day, and another another, and a third a third, he soon comes to form some idea in his mind as to what a tree is. He may not be able to define it, yet he has made an induction of his own. And so in regard to a certain set of actions. He knows that this one is beneficial, and another and another; and he soon comes to select that which is really beneficial in the various actions; and though he may not be able to define it, he knows it, and in coming to this knowledge his mind is in full activity. .

2. Educative instruction invariably awakens interest. If it does not do this, it is so far a failure. And it awakens this interest through its stirring up the feelings and desires.

The Outer World-The Inner World. Now the subjects by which the minds of the pupils may be educated are twothe outer world or nature, and the inner world or the experience of human nature. The outer world furnishes us with materials which in their highest developments become the physical sciences. Are they suitable to the young child of the working classes ? Unquestionably, if they are presented in a proper way, and in proper measure. It would be absurd to teach a child astronomy, or geology, or botany, or zoology, chemistry, or natural philosophy. The comprehension of any of these as a science in a scientific way is the work only of a very mature mind. A continuous survey of the phenomena and laws of any one science, and the acquisition of the power of making scientific investigations, are impossibilities for any but minds of considerable maturity and culture. But these sciences supply endless materials for arousing and sustaining the interest of children. Only the facts themselves must be presented—not mere accounts of them. The eye must be trained to see, and similar facts must be presented, until the child, by his own powers, sees the similarity. Instances of laws must be presented in sufficient number until the child gains for himself a knowledge of the law. It is here that we are apt to make a great mistake, and give instruction which is not educative. The child must be taught to search out and discover. An abstract statement is valueless to him, if he has not personal experience of the facts from which the abstract proposition has been made; and the abstract proposition will remain mere words for him until he has realized it through

1

individual instances and actual occurrences. And it seems to me that a teacher should, in laying out his plans, endeavor to interest the child in all the physical sciences, so far as his mind will admit of it. Every avenue to knowledge should be opened up. It is not multiplicity of knowledge that is to be given-it is multiplicity of interest; and if this is accomplished, the child's training, in regard to the outer world, is accomplished. Then we have the abstract of the external world in arithmetic and mathematics, of which I shall speak afterwards.

The inner world—the world of human experience—is the main subjeet of the child's instruction. The deeds, aims, hopes, affections of man; these are what will concern him all his life. We may divide this instruction into three parts.

1. The training of the intellect-the giving accuracy and distinctness to his notions—and from this enabling him to reason correctly. This work is aceomplished principally through language. The boy whose education ends at twelve must be content with a knowledge only of his own language. In learning it he should at every step be making progress in real knowledge. He should always learn the thing with the word. And much could be done here to give him something like a true idea of what is meant by many of the terms which are much used, but often little understood—such as order, justice, truth, religion. The meaning of these he must reach through concrete examples, just as in the case of the physical sciences.

2. There are the various crafts, if I may so call them, which are to be learned by practice-reading, writing, singing, drawing. These are mechanical, and have little educative power in themselves; but they may be of great importance

as means.

3. Then there are the various groups which can more or less influence the character, as well as cultivate the intellect, when the external and internal combine.

(1.) Geography. This subject may be made powerfully educative. The child of the workman can learn well only the geography of the British Empire ; but in learning it he might become impressed with many deeply important truths. If, while he is led over the country, he is brought to think of the rise and fall of towns, of the origin and progress of manufactures, of the secrets of success and failure, and the influence of site upon men and cities, his character might be vastly improved, and his interest strongly aroused. Only, again, we must give the concrete not the abstract, the particular not the general. A fair, impartial, and full narrative of the effects of strikes upon particular trades or establishments would be worth cartloads of politico-economical exposition to : child. We have to produce impressions, not to insist upon the laws. The laws will arise with operative power out of the impressions—the impressions will never be got out of the statement or exposition of the abstract laws.

In dealing with the geography of the country, the child might be taught much in regard to the government and institutions of the country-always in the concrete-with much good to his mind and benefit to himself and the community.

(2.) History. Here, again, we have to give the full concrete and particular.

It is in the particular actions of men, either directly observed by the child, or related by those who have observed them, that the child will form his moral standard. And so, at this stage, history must take the form of minute biography, And it seems to me possible that in this way there might be laid out a course of such instruction likely to produce a profound moral effect on the child.

« AnteriorContinua »