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NEVILLE WOOD, Esq.,
BRITISH SONG BIRDS," "ORNITHOLOGIST'S TEXT BOOK," &c.)
SIMPKIN, MARSHALL, & CO.
WHYTE & Co., EDINBURGH; BARLOW, BIRMINGHAM.
ON ELEMENTARY EDUCATION.
BY JAMES SIMPSON, ADVOCATE.*
ELEMENTARY or primary education is that training of the faculties and communication of knowledge which ought to be imparted to every human being, from birth to the age of fourteen, without distinction of sex, rank, or condition in life. In no branch of human affairs have notions been more limited and erroneous than in this. The cause is, want of the requisite knowledge of the human constitution, bodily and mental, the improvement and right direction of which are, in its widest sense, sound education. Intellectual education solely, and that most defective in kind and degree, has hitherto engrossed the attention of the teacher of the young, while moral education is a novelty in society. Yet Locke and Milton, above a century and a half ago, conceived and expressed the opinion that moral training is paramount in importance, and ought to take the precedence of intellectual, which is chiefly useful as aiding the other more important branch in its grand object, the improvement and ultimate perfection of human happiness. Educationists are beginning to miss this vital branch of instruction : they find no institutions for it until infant schools were established. These have demonstrated its reality as a part of education, and, yet more-its practicability.
But the omission of moral education is only one symptom of that disease of ignorance on the great subject which afflicts society.
* Author of the "Philosophy of Education, with its application to a system of popular education as a natural system." Second Edition.
That ignorance itself must be removed. The human being, to be educated, must be understood in all the parts of his constitution, and his education—which is but another term for the improvement of that constitution-will follow in the necessary relation of cause and consequence. A correct physiology of body, and a true analysis of mind, must then be the very basis of a sound system of education. The first has been wellnigh attained, but the analyses of mind with which we have been presented by various and conflicting metaphysical systems are clearly inadequate to the desired end. These have all mistaken the modes in which the mind acts, for the faculties, the operations, and the powers of mind. Thus attention, perception, conception, consciousness, &c., were long taught as faculties, while they were terms for the mere working of faculties. To other and more fortunate philosophers it occurred to go in quest of powers to manifest attention, perception, conception, &c. They found these powers in the practical philosophy of every-day lifein the pages of the biographer, the novelist, the dramatist, and the poet; and observed that such writers owe their popularity to the just and true pictures of human nature which the adoption of these very impulses and faculties, as belonging to man, gave to their works. The same philosophers have connected these faculties with the physiology of the brain. Educationists, however, without inquiring into the truth of this alliance, have adopted the faculties themselves, and have thereby thrown a degree of light on the subject of education-have given it a system and a practical application, which have made it, compared with what it was, even in the best period of the older philosophy, another, a better, and a higher thing.
The teacher ought intimately to know and handle this new and powerful implement-this sound philosophy of human nature. He should never lose sight of the physical, animal, moral and intellectual nature of his pupil. He should have a competent knowledge of the structure and functions of the various parts of his body, so as to know how to train its powers and increase their vigour, as a condition of health and longevity. IIe should enumerate and know the uses of his animal tendencies, as well as their abusesvice and crime. He should be familiar with the nature and functions of his moral feelings, and have reliance on the influence of their right guidance to human happiness. Finally, he should know and distinguish all the intellectual powers, both for the acquisition and use of knowledge. The body is divided into parts or systems; namely, the system of the bones, the muscles, the blood-vessels,
the absorbents, the brain and nerves, the lungs, the stomach and viscera, &c. The structure and functions of all these ought to be familiar to the teacher, and in an elementary way explained to his pupils. The conditions of their sound and healthy action-in other words, of bodily health and comfort-should be made plain; and the miseries arising from the abuse of any of them.
Studies like these were thought to belong to medical education alone. This is a grievous error, and one which is visited by much severe suffering. In ignorance of what they do, multitudes ruin their health, and if they are not hurried to early graves, drag on a life of wretchedness. These consequences would not follow; human beings would have longer life, would cease to see one half of their offspring cut off before two years of age, and would be relieved from much suffering, by very simple lessons on the structure and functions of the human body. "I do not mean that every one shall become his own physician," said a writer on the subject, "but I would save every man from being his own destroyer."
The mind-that portion of man which feels and thinks-is composed of, or rather acts by, distinct primitive faculties. These may be classed as follows:-Feelings and intellect, inferior feelings and superior feelings, knowing faculties, reflecting faculties. There is no better definition of a faculty of mind than a power to perceive, to reflect, or to feel in a particular way. The faculties are instinctive and innate, and may be called-even the highest of the reflecting powers may-human instincts. The inferior feelings are so called because their objects are lower, and because they are common to man and the inferior animals. They include the propensities necessary to the existence, continuation, safety, and physical comfort of the species. Such are the instincts of love of life, of food, of sex, of the young, courage to repel danger, love of property, of self, of estimation, of resentment, and caution or fear.* All these faculties are given to man for use, and, as God's work, are good. The abuse of them essentially constitutes vice and crime. This is the law in the members which wars against the law in the mind. Moral education will therefore regulate, but not repress these feelings; will confine them to their own useful and necessary sphere, but will prevent them from going beyond it.
* The reader will perceive that the faculties here enumerated are those which are admitted to be natural and innate in man by the phrenologists, although, for the benefit of those who have not as yet turned their attention to the subject, the terms of ordinary parlance are adopted by Mr. Simpson, instead of the phrenological nomenclature.-EDS.