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power of thinking for himself. He will become an automaton instead of a living organism. Of course, it would be foolish to dogmatise as to how much help should be given to children. It depends upon the part of the subject, the amount of time that can be obtained for practical work, the nature of the equipment, and many other things. All that can be asked is to let the child do as much as possible for himself; you want to make him intelligent, capable and resourceful, and this can only be done by suitable mental training. This point is very well put by Froebel in speaking of the training of young children. He says:
“Do not send it away ungently, do not drive it from you ; be not impatient of its questions, its continual questioning: with every cross repelling word you destroy a bud, a shoot of its life-tree. But do not answer in words, where it can answer itself without your word. As soon as, and as far as, they have strength and experience, give them the conditions of the question, and let them make out the answer from their own knowledge."
Of course, to carry out this effectively you must have small classes. With large classes it is such a terrible temptation to give the information instead of putting the child in the way of getting it for himself; it is so much less trouble.
In a charming book, published at the beginning of this century, and now, unfortunately, out of print, by Maria and R. L. Edgeworth, on Practical Education, some very interesting instances are given of the facility with which children investigate problems for themselves if properly trained. Here is a delightful example :
"A boy of nine finds a kind of rainbow on the floor. He calls his sister to see, and wonders how it came there. The sun shines brightly through the window. The boy moves several things upon which the light falls, saying, 'This is not it. Nor this.' At last, when he moves a tumbler of water, the rainbow vanishes. There are some violets in the tumbler, which he
But when the
thinks may explain the colours on the floor. violets are removed the colours remain. Then he thinks it may be the water. He empties the glass. The colours remain, but they are fainter. This leads him to suppose that the water and the glass together make the rainbow. 'But,' he adds, 'there is no glass in the sky, yet there is a rainbow, so that I think the water alone would do, if we could but hold it together without the glass.' He then pours the water slowly out of the tumbler into a basin, which he places in the sunlight, and sees the colours on the floor twinkling behind the water as it falls."
How easy it is to lead children on in this way, by making use of their natural activities. What sources of information can be imparted to the child as a result of its own reasonings ! And, moreover, the child makes such information for ever its own, because it forms part of a chain, and is connected so indissolubly with its previous experiences. And what a sure basis such information becomes for future reasonings! Thus, step by step, the intelligence develops, information is assimilated, the child becomes stronger and stronger, and all along the line it is making use of its natural mental energy. Pestalozzi says:
"I believe that the first development of thought in the child is very much disturbed by a wordy system of teaching, which is not adapted either to his faculties or the circumstances of his life. According to my experience, success depends upon whether what is taught to children commends itself to them as true through being closely connected with their own personal observation and experience." And again:
"So the sole instruction given to the human being consists merely in the art of giving a helping hand to this natural tendency towards its proper development; and this art consists essentially in the means of putting the child's impressions in connexion and harmony with the precise degree of development the child has reached. There must be then in the impressions to be given him by instruction, a regular grada
tion; and the beginning and the progress of his various knowledges must exactly correspond with the beginning and increase in his powers as they are developed."
Assimilated information is as valuable as undigested, unconnected information is deleterious. Rousseau was never tired of insisting upon the importance of this. "When the understanding," he says, "makes things its own before they are committed to memory, whatever it afterwards draws forth belongs to it; but if the memory is burdened with what the understanding knows nothing about, we are in danger of bringing from it things which the understanding declines to acknowledge."
These "knowledge lumps," as Thring called them, are of no real value to the boy or girl, and directly the memory alone has to bear the burden with no reference whatever to the reasoning faculty the result is disastrous, as is shown by the remarkable answers too often obtained in examinations.
If the rational teaching of science is to be followed in schools, it means, of course, more work, though intensely interesting work, for the teacher.
Professor. Miall said recently, at a conference of teachers: Many a teacher has said to me 'I cannot inquire: I never made an inquiry in my life. Moreover, I have not time to inquire. As soon as I get out of school I have papers to mark, ́and, as soon as my papers are marked, I must enjoy myself and recreate my mind.' The only answer that one can make is, If that is really your condition, if it is impossible for you yourself to inquire, if you never do inquire, you are not fit to teach. Your lamp has gone out.""
So much, then, for the teaching of elementary experimental science. The same principles apply to the teaching of botany in schools. It should be used as an instrument of education rather than for purposes of information. There are great possibilities in botany, but probably there is no subject which is so badly taught. I have had some melancholy experiences in
inspecting the methods used in teaching it to young children especially. The dreary text-book botany lessons are as worthless as practical rational lessons are valuable.
Professor Miall, who has given very special attention to rational methods of teaching botany, strongly advocates this subject for object lessons for children from the ages of 8-12, and in doing so lays down certain maxims to be followed : (1) No Latin or Greek technical terms. (2) No lectures or information lessons.
(3) No book to be produced in class.
(4) The object lesson should always be founded on the actual object.
(5) Never tell the children anything they can find out for themselves.
From 12 to 15 or 16, Professor Miall would hand over the children, as far as science teaching is concerned, to the kind of instruction involved in a good general course of elementary experimental science as being the best possible teaching of a formative character to follow on a suitable course of object lessons on botany or natural history.
Where botany is taken systematically in schools as the main science subject he would make great claims on the time-table. He says:
"Here may I just make a remark upon the subject of time in the teaching of botany, because, though many things are denied to the teacher of botany, which are necessary to his efficiency, I think the most cruel denial to which he is subject is the denial of adequate time. The practice has sprung up considering that about an hour a week is a good allowance for a particular branch of science, especially for botany, which is not held, altogether, I think, in the highest esteem. An hour or two a week in botany is not an unusual allowance. Now any such allowance as that seems to me utterly nugatory. You might just as well cross the subject out as allow an hour a week
to it. It is part of a miserable system which pervades the school course in general, and which results from our great anxiety to bring in a number of subjects, and our unwillingness, when a number of incompatible things are offered to us, to make a selection among them; and so the whole school course is ruined.......That is one of the reforms which is most pressing, and, to put my views of this subject in a practical form, if I were a schoolmaster or were drawing up a time table for a school, I should be inclined to take some such practical step as this. Every important subject which is taught at all should, as a rule, come round pretty nearly every day. One does not want to be over-precise, and therefore I say pretty nearly every day. But a lesson once or twice every week in an important subject does not count. The results are not permanent. Unless it comes pretty nearly every day, it does not very much signify. And the course relating to a particular subject should last, in my opinion, at least a year or two. If it does not come round pretty nearly every day, and for a year or two, the probability is that no permanent impression is made.”
Here we are treading on very dangerous ground—the time to be given to rational science teaching; but it is a difficulty which will solve itself. During the past few years this kind of teaching has been on its trial, and has come out of it splendidly. It has steadily taken a more and more prominent position in public favour. It has come to stay. Even now, however, the enormous possibilities of associating with it instruction in other subjects by the removal of some of those unnecessary and baneful partitions, by which instruction in various branches of study is separated into water-tight compartments, is only imperfectly grasped. But we must not hurry matters. Vast progress has been made during these later years of the nineteenth century in this direction, and the old system is absolutely irrevocably doomed: nothing can resuscitate it. The wonder is that this new method was not introduced long years ago. But, then, this tardy introduction of reforms, especially in educa