« AnteriorContinua »
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 indicated.
(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 the fullest extent. Children should be led to make their own investigations, and to draw their own inferences. They should be told 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 without 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, if 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 should 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 the 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, none 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 sufficiency 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 toys, in feeling its brother's bright jacket-buttons, and pulling papa's whiskers—how absorbed 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 heard. Fortunately, the ordinary practices of the nursery fulfill these early requirements of education to a considerable degree. Much, however, remains 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 which it is spontaneously evolving itself is capable of receiving more vivid impressions than at any other period. Moreover, as these simplest elements must eventu ally 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 tem per 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 here 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.
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 one 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 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 fresh 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, his pride is roused; he looks at it intently; 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 him. In common with every child, he delights in the discovery of his powers. He 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: progressing from hardness and softness to roughness and smoothness, from color to 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 him 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 resulting from successful activity-which presents this all-attractive knowledge
under the aspect of formal tuition-and which thus generates that indifference and even disgust with which these object-lessons are not unfrequently regarded. On the other hand, to pursue the course above described is simply to guide the intellect to its appropriate food; to join with the intellectual appetites their natural adjuncts-amour propre and the desire for sympathy; to induce by the union of all these an intensity of attention which insures perceptions alike vivid and complete; and to habituate the mind from the beginning to that practice of self-help which it must ultimately follow.
EXTENSION OF THE FIELD OF OBJECT-TEACHING.
9. Object-lessons should not only be carried on after quite a different fashion from that commonly pursued, but should be extended to a range of things far wider, and continue to a period far later, than now. They should not be limited to the contents of the house; but should include those of the fields and the hedges, the quarry and the sea-shore. They should not cease with early childhood; but should be so kept up during youth as insensibly to merge into the investigations of the naturalist and the man of science. Here again we have but to follow nature's leadings. Where can be seen an intenser delight than that of children picking up new flowers and watching new insects, or hoarding pebbles and shells? And who is there but perceives that by sympathizing with them they may be led on to any extent of inquiry into the quali ties and structures of these things? Every botanist who has had children with him in the woods and the lanes must have noticed how eagerly they joined in his pursuits, how keenly they searched out plants for him, how intently they watched whilst he examined them, how they overwhelmed him with questions. The consistent follower of Bacon--the "servant and interpreter of nature," will see that we ought modestly to adopt the course of culture thus indicated. Having gained due familiarity with the simpler properties of inorganic objects, the child should by the same process be led on to a like exhaustive examination of the things it picks up in its daily walks—the less complex facts they present being alone noticed at first: in plants, the color, number, and forms of the petals and shapes of the stalks and leaves: in insects, the numbers of the wings, legs, and antennæ, and their colors. As these become fully appreciated and invariably observed, further facts may be successively introduced: in the one case, the numbers of stamens and pistils, the forms of the flowers, whether radial or bilateral in symmetry, the arrangement and character of the leaves, whether opposite or alternate, stalked or sessile, smooth or hairy, serrated, toothed, or crenate; in the other, the divisions of the body, the segments of the abdomen, the markings of the wings, the number of joints in the legs, and the forms of the smaller organs-the system pursued throughout being that of making it the child's ambition to say respecting every thing it finds, all that can be said. Then when a fit age has been reached, the means of preserving these plants which have become so interesting in virtue of the knowledge obtained of them, may as a great favor be supplied; and eventually, as a still greater favor, may also be supplied the apparatus needful for keeping the larvæ of our common butterflies and moths through their transformations-a practice which, as we can personally testify, yields the highest gratification; is continued with ardor for years; when joined with the formation of an entomological collection, adds mmense interest to Saturday-afternoon rambles; and forms an admirable introduction to the study of physiology.