Imatges de pÓgina
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GUIDING PRINCIPLES OF EDUCATION.

4. Though it is not possible for a scheme of culture to be perfected either in matter or form until a rational Psychology has been established, it is possible, with the aid of certain guiding principles, to make empirical approximations towards a perfect scheme. To prepare the way for further research we will now specify these principles:

(1.) That in education we should proceed from the simple to the complex is a truth which has always been to some extent acted upon; not professedly, indeed, nor by any means consistently. The mind grows. Like all things that grow it progresses from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous; and a normal training system being an objective counterpart of this subjective process, must exhibit the like progression. Moreover, regarding it from this point of view, we may see that this formula has much wider applications than at first appears. For its rationale involves not only that we should proceed from the single to the combined in the teaching of each branch of knowledge; but that we should do the like with knowledge as a whole. As the mind, consisting at first of but few active faculties; has its later-completed faculties successively awakened, and ultimately comes to have all its faculties in simultaneous action; it follows that our teaching should begin with but few subjects at once, and successively adding to these, should finally carry on all subjects abreast—that not only in its · details should education proceed from the simple to the complex, but in its ensemble also.

(2.) To say that our lessons ought to start from the concrete and end in the abstract, may be considered as in part a repetition of the foregoing. Nevetheless it is a maxim that needs to be stated: if with no other view, then with the view of showing in certain cases what are truly the simple and the complex. For unfortunately there has been much misunderstanding on this point. General formulas which men have devised to express groups of details, and which have severally simplified their conceptions by uniting many facts into one fact, they have supposed must simplify the conceptions of the child also: quite forgetting that generalization is simple only in comparison with the whole mass of particular truths it comprehends—that it is more complex than any one of these truths taken singly—that only after many of these single truths have been acquired does the generalization ease the memory and help the reasonand that to the child not possessing these single truths it is necessarily a mystery. Thus confounding two kinds of simplification, teachers have constantly erred by setting out with "first principles:" a proceeding essentially, though not apparently, at variance with the primary rule; which implies that the mind should be introduced to principles through the medium of examples, and so should be led from the particular to the general—from the concrete to the abstract.

(3.) The education of the child must accord both in mode and arrangement with the education of mankind as considered historically; or in other words, the genesis of knowledge in the individual must follow the same course as the genesis of knowledge in the race.

It is alike provable that the historical sequence was, in its main outlines, a necessary one; and that the causes which determined it apply to the child as to the race.

Not to specify these causes in detail, it will suffice here to point out that as the mind of humanity placed in the midst of phenomena and striving to comprehend them, has, after endless comparisons, speculations, experiments, and theories, reached its present knowledge of each subject by a specific route; it may rationally be inferred that the relationship between mind and phenomena is such as to prevent this knowledge from being reached by any other route; and that as each child's mind stands in this same relationship to phenomena, they can be accessible to it only through the same route. Hence in deciding upon the right method of education, an inquiry into the method of civilization will help to guide us.

(4.) One of the conclusions to which such an inquiry leads is, that in each branch of instruction we should proceed from the empirical to the rational. A leading fact in human progress is, that every science is evolved out of its corresponding art. It results from the necessity we are under, both individually and as a race, of reaching the abstract by way of the concrete, that there must be practice and an accruing experience with its empirical generalizations, before there can be science. Science is organized knowledge; and before knowledge can be organized, some of it must first be possessed. Every study, therefore, should have a purely experimental introduction; and only after an ample fund of observations has been accumulated, should reasoning begin. As illustrative applications of this rule, we may instance the modern course of placing grammar, not before language, but after it; or the ordinary custom of prefacing perspective by practical drawing. By-and-by further applications of it will be judicated.'

(5.) A second corollary from the foregoing general principle, and one which can not be too strenuously insisted upon, is, that in education the process of self-development should be encouraged to fullest extent. Children should be led to make their own investigations, and to draw their own inferences. They should be wld as little as possible, and induced to discover as much as possible. Humanity has progressed solely by self-instruction; and that to achieve the best results, each mind must progress somewhat after the same fashion, is continually proved by the marked success of self-made men. Those who have been brought up under the ordinary school-drill, and have carried away with them the idea that education is practicable only in that style, will think it hopeless to make children their own.teachers. If, however, they will call to mind that the all-important knowledge of surrounding objects which a child gets in its early years is got with ut help—if they will remember that the child is self-taught in the use of its mother tongue if they will estimate the amount of that experience of life, that out-of-school wisdom, which every boy gathers for himself—if they will mark the unusual intelligence of the uncaredfor London gamin, as shown in all the directions in which his faculties have been tasked-if further, they will think how many minds have struggled up unaided, not only through the mysteries of our irrationally-planned curriculum, but through hosts of other obstacles besides; they will find it a not unreasonable conclusion, that if the subjects be put before him in right order and right form, any pupil of ordinary capacity will surmount his successive difficulties with but little assistance. Who indeed can watch the ceaseless observation, and inquiry, and inference going on in a child's mind, or listen to its acute remarks on matters within the range of its faculties, without perceiving that these powers which it manifests, is brought to bear systematically upon any studies within the same range, would readily master them without help?

(6.) As a final test by which to judge any plan of culture, should come the question,-Does it create a pleasurable excitement in the pupils ? When in doubt whether a particular mode or arrangement is or is not more in harmony with the foregoing principles than some other, we may safely abide by this criterion. Even when, as considered theoretically, the proposed course seems the best, yet if it produce no interest, or less interest than another course, we shoula relinquish it; for a child's intellectual instincts are more trustworthy than our reasonings. In respect to the knowing faculties, we may confidently trust in tie general law, that under normal conditions, healthful action is pleasurable, while action which gives pain is not healthful. Though at present very incompletely conformed to by the emotional nature, yet by the intellectual nature, or at least by those parts of it which the child exhibits, this law is almost wholly conformed to. The repugnances to this and that study which vex the ordinary teacher, are not innate, but result from his unwise system. Fellenberg says, “Experience has taught me that indolence in young persons is so directly opposite to their natural disposition to activity, that unless it is the consequence of bad education, it is almost invariably connected with some constitutional defect." And the spontaneous activity to which children are thus prone, is simply the pursuit of those pleasures which the healthful exercise of the faculties gives.

APPLICATION OF PRINCIPLE TO PRACTICE.

5. It was the opinion of Pestalozzi—an opinion which has ever since his day been gaining ground—that education of some kind should begin from the cradle. Whoever has watched with any discernment, the wide-eyed gaze of the infant at surrounding objects, knows very well that education does begin thus early, whether we intend it or not; and that these fingerings and suckings of every thing it can lay hold of, these open-mouthed listenings to every sound, are the first steps in the series which ends in the discovery of unseen planets, the invention of calculating engines, the production of great paintings, or the composition of symphonies and operas. This activity of the faculties from the very first being spontaneous and inevitable, the question is whether we shall supply in due variety the materials on which they may exercise themselves; and to the question so put, pone but an affirmative answer can be given.

INTUITIONAL EXERCISE OF THE PERCEPTIONS. 6. The earliest impressions which the mind can assimilate, are those given to it by the undecomposable sensations—resistance, light, sound, &c. Manifestly decomposable states of consciousness can not exist before the states of consciousness out of which they are composed. There can be no idea of form until some familiarity with light in its gradations and qualities, or resistance in its different intensities, has been acquired; for, as has been long known, we recognize visible form by means of varieties of light, and tangible form by means of varieties of resistance. Similarly, no articulate sound is cognizable until the inarticulate sounds which go to make it up have been learned. And thus must it be in every other case. Following, therefore, the necessary law of progression from the simple to the complex, we should provide for the infant a suffi. ciency of objects presenting different degrees and kinds of resistance, a sufficiency of objects reflecting different amounts and qualities of light, and a sufficiency of sounds contrasted in their loudness, their pitch and their timbre. How fully this à priori conclusion is confirmed by infantile instincts all will see on being reminded of the delight which every young child has in biting its tops, in seeling its brother's bright jacket-buttons, and pulling papa's whiskers—how ab. sorbed it becomes in gazing at any gaudily painted object, to which it applies the word "pretty," when it can pronounce it, wholly in virtue of the bright colors—and how its face broadens into a laugh at the tattlings of its nurse, the snapping of a visitor's fingers, or any sound which it has not before ļeard. Fortunately, the ordinary practices of the nursery fulfill these early requirements of education to a considerable degree. Much, however, remairis to be done; and it is of more importance that it should be done than at first appears. Every faculty during the period of its greatest activity—the period in wihich it is spontaneously evolving itself—is capable of receiving more vivid impressions than at any other period. Moreover, as these simplest elements must eventually be mastered, and as the mastery of them whenever achieved must take time, it becomes an economy of time to occupy this first stage of childhood,during which no other intellectual action is possible, in gaining a complete familiarity with them in all their modifications. Add to which, that both temper and health will be improved by the continual gratification resulting from a due supply of these impressions which every child so greedily assimilates. Space, could it be spared, might bere be well filled by some suggestions towards a more systematic ministration to these simplest of the perceptions. But it must suffice to point out that any such ministration ought to be based upon the general truth that in the development of every faculty, markedly contrasted impressions are the first to be distinguished: that hence sounds greatly differing in loudness and pitch, colors very remote from each other, and substances widely unlike in hardness or texture, should be the first supplied; and that in each case the progression must be by slow degrees to impressions more nearly allied.

OBJECT-LESSONS. 7. It needs but a glance at the daily life of the infant to see that all the knowledge of things which is gained before the acquirement of speech, is selfgained--that the qualities of hardness and weight associated with certain visual appearances, the possession of particular forms and colors by particular persons, the production of special sounds by animals of special aspects, are phenomena which it observes for itself. In manhood too, when there are no longer teachers at hand, the observations and inferences required for daily guidance, must be made unhelped; and success in life depends upon the accuracy and completeness with which they are made. Is it probable then, that while the process displayed in the evolution of humanity at large, is repeated alike by the infant and the man, a reverse process must be followed during the period between infancy and manhood ? and that too, even in so simple a thing as learning the properties of objects? Is it not obvious, on the contrary, that oue method must be pursued throughout? And is not nature perpetually thrusting this method upon us, if we had but the wit to see it, and the humility to adopt it? What can be more manifest than the desire of children for intellectual sympathy ? Mark how the infant sitting on your knee thrusts into your face the toy it holds, that you too may look at it. See when it makes a creak with its wet finger on the table, how it turns and looks at you; does it again, and again looks at you; thus saying as clearly as it can—"Hear this new sound." Watch how the elder children come into the room exclaiming—“Mamma, see what a curious thing,” “Mamma, look at this,” “Mamma, look at that;" and

would continue the habit, did not the silly mamma tell them not to tease her. Observe how, when out with the nurse-maid, each little one runs up to her with the new flower it has gathered, to show her how pretty it is, and to get her also, to say it is pretty. Listen to the eager volubility with which every urchin describes any novelty he has been to see, if only he can find some one who will attend with any interest. Does not the induction lie on the surface? Is it not clear that we must conform our course to these intellectual instincts-that we must just systematize the natural process—that we must listen to all the child has to tell us about each object, must induce it to say every thing it can think of about such object, must occasionally draw its attention to facts it has not yet observed, with the view of leading it to notice them itself whenever they recur, and must go on by-and-by to indicate or supply new series of things for a like exhaustive examination ?

EXAMPLE OF A MASTER'S UNCONSCIOUS TUITION ON OBJECTS. 8. Step by step the mother familiarizes her little boy with the names of the simpler attributes, hardness, softness, color, taste, size, &c., in doing which she finds him eagerly help by bringing this to show her that it is red, and the other to make her feel that it is hard, as fast as she gives him words for these properties. Each additional property, as she draws his attention to it in some fresli thing which he brings her, she takes care to mention in connection with those he already knows; so that by the natural tendency to imitate, he may get into the habit of repeating them one after another. Gradually as there occur cases in which he omits to name one or more of the properties he has become acquainted with, she introduces the practice of asking him whether there is not something more that he can tell her about the thing he has got. Probably he does not understand. After letting him puzzle awhile she tells him; perhaps laughing at him a little for his failure. A few recurrences of this and he perceives what is to be done. When next she says she knows something more about the object than he has told her, bis pride is roused; he looks at it in. tently; he thinks over all that he has heard; and the problem being easy, presently finds it out. He is full of glee at his success, and she sympathizes with liim. In common with every child, he delights in the discovery of his powers. Ile wishes for more victories, and goes in quest of more things about which to tell her. As his faculties unfold she adds quality after quality to his list: pro- . gressing from hardness and softness to roughness and smoothness, from color 10 polish, from simple bodies to composite ones—thus constantly complicating the problem as he gains competence, constantly taxing his attention and memory to a greater extent, constantly maintaining his interest by supplying liim with new impressions such as his mind can assimilate, and constantly gratifying him by conquests over such small difficulties as he can master. In doing this she is manifestly but following out that spontaneous process that was going on during a still earlier period—simply aiding self-evolution; and is aiding it in the mode suggested by the boy's instinctive behavior to her. Manifestly, too, the course she is pursuing is the one best calculated to establish a habit of exhaustive observation; which is the professed aim of these lessons. To tell a child this and to show it the other, is not to teach it how to observe, but to make it a mere recipient of another's observations: a proceeding which weakens rather than strengthens it powers of self-instruction—which deprives it of the pleasures resuting from successful activity—which presents this all-attractive knowledge

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