Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

beforehand what you are going to do; weigh all the consequences; think whether your firmness of purpose will be sufficient; and then, if you finally make the law, enforce it uniformly at whatever cost. Let your penalties bo like the penalties inflicted by inanimate nature—inevitable. The hot cinder burns a child the first time seizes it; it burns him the second time; it burns him the third time; it burns him every time; and he very soon learns not to touch the hot cinder. If you are equally consistent—if the consequences which you tell your child will follow certain acts, follow with like uniformity, he will soon come to respect your laws as he does those of Nature. And this respect once established will prevent endless domestic evils. Of errors in education one of the worst is that of inconsistency. As in a community, crimes multiply when there is no certain administration of justice; so in a family, an immense increase of transgressions results from a hesitating or irregular infliction of penalties. A weak mother, who perpetually threatens and rarely performs—who makes rules in haste and repents of them at leisurewho treats the same offense now with severity and now with leniency, according as the passing humor dictates, is laying up, miseries both for herself and her children. She is making herself contemptible in their eyes; she is setting them an example of uncontrolled feelings; she is encouraging them to transgress by the prospect of probable impunity; she is entailing endless squabbles and accompanying damage to her own temper and 'the tempers of her little ones; she is reducing their minds to a moral chaos, which after-years of bitter experience vill with difficulty bring into order. Better even a barbarous form of domestic

carried out consistently, than a humane one inconsistently carried ny, avoid coercive measures whenever it is possible to do so;

notism really necessary, be despotic in good earnest.

[graphic]

diminished; with the view of gradually ending them as maturity is approached. All periods of transition are dangerous; and the most dangerous is the transition from the restraint of the family circle to the non-restraint of the world. Hence the importance of pursuing the policy we advocate; which, alike by cultivating a child's faculty of self-restraint, by continually increasing the degree in which it is left to its self-constraint, and by so bringing it, step by step, to a state of unaided self-restraint, obliterates the ordinary sudden and hazardous change from externally-governed youth to internally governed maturity.

RIGHT GOVERNMENT COMPLEX AND DIFFICULT. 13. Remember that to educate rightly is not a simple and easy thing, but a complex and extremely difficult thing: the hardest task which devolves upon adult life. The rough and ready style of domestic government is indeed practicable by the meanest and most uncultivated intellects. Slaps and sharp words are penalties that suggest themselves alike to the least reclaimed barbarian and the most stolid peasant. Even brutes can use this method of discipline; as you may see in the growl and half-bite with which a bitch will check a too-exigent puppy. But if you would carry out with success a rational and civilized system, you must be prepared for considerable mental exertion-for some study, some ingenuity, some patience, some self-control. You will have habitually to trace the consequences of conduct to consider what are the results which in adult life follow certain kind of acts; and then you will have to devise methods by which parallel results shall be entailed on the parallel acts of your children. You will daily be called upon to analyze the motives of juvenile conduct: you must distinguish between acts that are really good and those which, though ex. ternally simulating them, proceed from inferior impulses; while you must be ever on your guard against the cruel mistake not unfrequently made, of translating neutral acts into transgressions, or ascribing worse feelings than were entertained. You must more or less modify your method to suit the disposition of each child; and must be prepared to make further modifications as each child's disposition enters on a new phase. Your faith will often be taxed to maintain the requisite perseverance in a course which seems to produce little or no effect. Especially if you are dealing with children who have been wrongly treated, you must be prepared for a lengthened trial of patience before succeeding with better methods; seeing that that which is not easy even where a right state V feeling has been established from the beginning, becomes doubly difficult when a wrong state of feeling has to be set right. Not only will you have constantly to analyze the motives of your children, but you will have to analyze your own motives—to discriminate between those internal suggestions springing from a true parental solicitude, and those which spring from your own selfishness, from your love of ease, from your lust of dominion. And then, more trying still, you will have not only to detect, but to curb these baser impulses. In brief, you will have to carry on your higher education at the same time that you are educating your children. Intellectually you must cultivate to good purpose that most complex of subjects—human nature and its laws, as exhibited in your children, in yourself, and in the world. Morally, you must keep in constant exercise your higher feelings, and restrain your lower. It is a truth yet remaining to be recognized, that the last stage in the mental development of each man and woman is to be reached only through the proper discharge of the parental duties. And when this truth is recognized, it will be seen how admirable is the ordination in virtue of which human beings are led by their strongest affections to subject themselves to a discipline which they would else elude.

While some will probably regard this conception of education as it should be, with doubt and discouragement, others will, we think, perceive in the exalted ideal which it involves, evidence of its truth. That it can not be realized by the impulsive, the unsympathetic, and the short-sighted, but demands the higher attributes of human nature, they will see to be evidence of its fitness for the more advanced states of humanity. Though it calls for much labor and self-sacrifice, they will see that it promises an abundant return of happiness, immediate and remote. They will see that while in its injurious effects on both parent and child a bad system is twice cursed, a good system is twice blessed it blesses him that trains and him that's trained.

III. INTELLECTUAL EDUCATION AND STUDIES.

DESIRE OF OLD METHODS.

1. The suppression of every error is commonly followed by a temporary ascendency of the contrary one; and it so happened, that after the ages when physical development alone was aimed at, there came an age when culture of the mind was the sole solicitude—when children had lesson-books put before them at between two and three years old—when school-hours were protracted, and the getting of knowledge was thought the one thing needful. As, further, it usually bappens, that after one of these reactions the next advance is achieved by co-ordinating the antagonist errors, and perceiving that they are opposite sides of one truth; so we are now coming to the conviction that body and mind must both be cared for, and the whole being unfolded. The forcing system has been in great measure given up, and precocity is discouraged. People are beginning to see that the first requisite to success in life, is to be a good animal. The best brain is found of little service, if there be not enough vital energy to work it; and hence to obtain the one by sacrificing the source of the other, is now considered a folly—a folly which the eventual failure of juvenile prodigies constantly illustrates. Thus we are discovering the wisdom of the saying, that one secret in education is "to know how wisely to lose time."

The once universal practice of learning by rote, is daily falling more into discredit. All modern authorities condemn the old mechanical way of tgaching the alphabet. The multiplication table is now frequently taught experimentally. In the acquirement of languages, the grammar-school plan is being superseded by plans based on the spontaneous process followed by the child in gaining its mother tongue.

Along with rote-teaching, is declining also the nearly allied teaching by rules. The particulars first, and then the generalization, is the new method a method, as the Battersea School Reports remark, which, though “the reverse of the method usually followed which consists in giving the pupil the rule first," is yet proved by experience to be the right one. Rule-teaching is now condemned as imparting a merely empirical knowledgemas producing an appearance of understanding without the reality. To give the net product of inquiry, without the inquiry that leads to it, is found to be both enervating and inefficient. General truths to be of due and permanent use, must be earned. “Easy come easy go," is a saying as applicable to knowledge as to wealth. While rules, lying isolated in the mind—not joined to its other contents as outgrowths from them-are continually forgotten, the principles which those rules express piecemeal, become, when once reached by the understanding, enduring possessions. While the rule-taught youth is at sea when beyond his rules, the youth instructed in principles solves a new case as readily as an old one. Between a mind of rules and a mind of principles, there exists a difference such as that between a confused heap of materials, and the same materials organized into a complete whole, with all its parts bound together. Of which types this last has not only the advantage that its constituent parts are better retained, but the much greator advantage, that it forms an efficient agent for inquiry, for independent thought, for discovery—ends for which the first is useless. Nor let it be supposed that this is a simile only: it is the literal truth. The union of facts into generalizations is the organization of knowledge, whether considered as an objective phenomenon, or a subjective one: and the mental grasp may be measured by the extent to which this organization is carried.

From the substitution of principles for rules, and the necessarily co-ordinate practice of leaving abstractions untaught until the mind has been familiarized with the facts from which they are abstracted, has resulted the postponement of some once early studies to a late period. This is exemplified in the abandonment of that intensely stupid custom, the teaching of grammar to children. As M. Marcel says:-“It may without hesitation be affirmed that grammar is not the stepping-stone, but the finishing instrument." As Mr. Wyse argues:"Grammar and Syntax are a collection of laws and rules. Rules are gathered from practice; they are the results of induction to which we come by long observation and comparison of facts.

INTRODUCTION OF NEW METHOD. 2. After long ages of blindness men are at last seeing that the spontaneous activity of the observing faculties in children has a meaning and a use. What was once thought mere purposeless action, or play, or mischief, as the case might be, is now recognized as the process of acquiring a knowledge on which all after-knowledge is based. Hence the well-conceived but ill-conducted system of object-lessons. The saying of Bacon, that physics is the mother of sciences, has come to have a meaning in education. Without an accurate acquaintance with the visibl and tangible properties of things, our conceptions must be erroneous, our inferences fallacious, and our operations unsuccessful. "The education of the senses neglected, all after education partakes of a drowsiness, a haziness, an insufficiency which it is impossible to cure.”

While the old method of presenting truths in the abstract has been falling out of use, there has been a corresponding adoption of the new method of presenting them in the concrete. The rudimentary facts of exact science are now being learnt by direct intuition, as textures, and tastes, and colors are learnt. Employing the ball-frame for first lessons in arithmetic exemplifies this. It is well illustrated, too, in Professor De Morgan's mode of explaining the decimal notation. M. Marcel, rightly repudiating the old system of tables, teaches weights and measures by referring to the actual yard and foot, pound and ounce, gallon and quart; and lets the discovery of their relationships be experimental. The use of geographical models and models of the regular bodies, &c., as introductory to geography and geometry respectively, are facts of the same class. Manifestly a common trait of these methods is, that they carry each child's mind through a process like that which the mind of humanity at large has gone through. The truths of number, of form, of relationship in position, were all originally drawn from objects; and to present these truths to the child in the concrete is to let him learn them as the race learnt them. By-and-by, perhaps, it will be seen that he can not possibly learn them in any other way; for that if he is made to repeat them as abstractions, the abstractions can have no meaning for him, until he finds that they are simply statements of what he intuitively discerns.

But of all the changes taking place, the most significant is the growing desire to make the acquirement of knowledge pleasurable rather than painful—a desire based on the more or less distinct perception that at each age the intellectual action which a child likes is a healthful one for it; and conversely. There is a spreading opinion that the rise of an appetite for any kind of knowledge implies that the unfolding mind has become fit to assimilate it, and needs it for the purposes of growth; and that on the other hand, the disgust felt towards any kind of knowledge is a sign either that it is prematurely presented, or that it is presented in an indigestible form. Hence the efforts to make early education amusing, and all education interesting. Hence the lectures on the value of play. Hence the defense of nursery rhymes, and fairy tales. Daily, we more and more conform our plans to juvenile opinion. Does the child like this or that kind of teaching? does he take to it? we constantly ask. "His natural desire of variety should be indulged,” says M. Marcel; "and the gratification of his curiosity should be combined with his improvement.” "Lessons," he again remarks, "should cease before the child evinces symptoms of weariness." And so with later education. Short breaks during school-hours, excursions into the country, amusing lectures, choral songs—in these and many like traits, the change may be discerned. Asceticism is disappearing out of education as out of life; and the usual test of political legislation—its tendency to promote bappiness—is beginning to be, in a great degree, the test of legislation for the school and the nursery.

THE ORDER AND METHOD OF NATURE TO BE FOLLOWED.

3. There is a certain sequence in which the faculties spontaneously develop, and a certain kind of knowledge which each requires during its development; and that it is for us to ascertain this sequence, and supply this knowledge. A nebulous perception of it now prevails among teachers; and it is daily more insisted on in educational works. "The method of nature is the archetype of all methods," says M. Marcel. “The vital principle in the pursuit is to enable the pupil rightly to instruct himself," writes Mr. Wyse. The more science familiarizes us with the constitution of things the more do we see in them an inherent self-sufficingness. A higher knowledge tends continually to limit our interference with the processes of life. As in medicine the old “heroic treatment" has given place to mild treatment, and often no treatment save a normal regimen—as we have found that it is not needful to mould the bodies of babes by bandaging them in papoose fashion or otherwise-as in gaols it is being discovered that no cunningly devised discipline of ours is so efficient in producing reformation as the natural discipline, the making prisoners maintain themselves by productive labor; so in education we are finding that success is to be achieved only by rendering our measures subservient to that spontaneous unfolding which all minds go through in their progress to maturity.

« AnteriorContinua »