Billeder på siden


Need of a science of education.

at the best method of applying them; but the only reason that can be assigned for the small amount of influence they have hitherto exercised is, that most teachers are as ignorant of them as of the abstrusest doctrines of Kant and Hegel.

§ 18. In stating these principles Mr. Spencer points out that they merely form a commencement for a science of education. "Before educational methods can be made to harmonise in character and arrangement with the faculties in the mode and order of unfolding, it is first needful that we ascertain with some completeness how the faculties do unfold. At present we have acquired on this point only a few general notions. These general notions must be developed in detail-must be transformed into a multitude of specific propositions before we can be said to possess that science on which the art of education must be based. And then, when we have definitely made out in what succession and in what combinations the mental powers become active, it remains to choose out of the many possible ways of exercising each of them, that which best conforms to its natural mode of action. Evidently, therefore, it is not to be supposed that even our most advanced modes of teaching are the right ones, or nearly the right ones." It is not to be wondered at that we have no science of education. Those who have been able to observe the phenomena have had no interest in generalising from them. Up to the present time the schoolmaster has been a person to whom boys were sent to learn Latin and Greek. He has had, therefore, no more need of a science than the dancingmaster. But the present century, which has brought in so

* Comme vous n'avez pas su ou comme vous n'avez pas voulu atteindre la pensée de l'enfant, vous n'avez aucune action sur son de

Hope of a science.

many changes, will not leave the state of education as it found it Latin and Greek, if they are not dethroned in our higher schools, will have their despotism changed for a very limited monarchy. A course of instruction certainly without Greek and perhaps without Latin will have to be provided for middle schools. Juster views are beginning to prevail of the schoolmaster's function. It is at length perceived that he has to assist the development of the human mind, and perhaps, by-and-bye, he may think it as well to learn all he can of that which he is employed in developing. When matters have advanced as far as this, we may begin to hope for a science of education. In Locke's day he could say of physical science that there was no such science in existence. For thousands of years the human race had lived in ignorance of the simplest laws of the world it inhabited. But the true method of inquiring once introduced, science has made such rapid conquests, and acquired so great importance, that some of our ablest men seem inclined to deny, if not the existence, at least the value, of any other kind of knowledge. So, too, when teachers seek by actual observation to discover the laws of mental development, a science nay be arrived at, which, in its influence on mankind, would perhaps rank before any we now possess.

§ 19. Those who have read the previous Essays will have seen in various forms most of the principles which Mr. Spencer enumerates, but I gladly avail myself of his assistance in summing them up.

1. We should proceed from the simple to the complex,

veloppement moral et intellectuel. Vous êtes le maître de latin et de grec." Bréal. Quelques Mots, &c., p. 243.

From simple to complex: known to unknown.

both in our choice of subjects and in the way in which each subject is taught. We should begin with but few subjects at once, and, successively adding to these, should finally carry on all subjects abreast.

Each larger concept is made by a combination of smaller ones, and presupposes them. If this order is not attended to in communicating knowledge, the pupil can learn nothing but words, and will speedily sink into apathy and disgust.

§ 20. That we must proceed from the known to the un known is something more than a corollary to the above ;* because not only are new concepts formed by the combination of old, but the mind has a liking for what it knows, and this liking extends itself to all that can be connected with its object. The principle of using the known in teaching the unknown is so simple, that all teachers who really endeavour to make anything understood, naturally adopt it. The traveller who is describing what he has seen and what we have not seen tells us that it is in one particular like this object, and in another like that object, with which we are already familiar. We combine these different concepts we possess, and so get some notion of things about which we were previously ignorant. What is required in our teaching is that the use of the know nshould be employed more systematically. Most teachers think of boys who have no school learning as entirely ignorant. The least reflection shows, however, that they know already much more than schools can ever teach them. A sarcastic examiner is said to have handed a small piece of paper to a student and told him to write all he knew on it. Perhaps

* Mr. Spencer does not mention this principle in his enumeration, Lut, o doubt, considers he implies it.

Connecting schoolwork with life outside.

many boys would have no difficulty in stating the sum of their school-learning within very narrow limits, but with other knowledge a child of five years old, could he write, might soon fill a volume.* Our aim should be to connect the knowledge boys bring with them to the schoolroom with that which they are to acquire there. I suppose all will allow, whether they think it a matter of regret or otherwise, that hardly anything of the kind has hitherto been attempted. Against this state of things I cannot refrain from borrowing Mr. Spencer's eloquent protest. "Not recognising the truth that the function of books is supplementary—that they form an indirect means to knowledge when direct means fail, a means of seeing through other men what you cannot see for yourself, teachers are eager to give second-hand facts in place of first-hand facts. Not perceiving the enormous value of that spontaneous education which goes on in early years, not perceiving that a child's restless observation, instead of being ignored or checked, should be diligently ministered to, and made as accurate and complete as possible, they insist on occupying its eyes and thoughts with things that are, for the time being, incomprehensible and repugnant. Possessed by a superstition which worships the

* "Si l'on partageait toute la science humaine en deux parties, l'une commune à tous les hommes, l'autre particulière aux savants, celle-ci serait très-petite en comparaison de l'autre. Mais nous ne songeons guère aux acquisitions générales, parce qu'elles se font sans qu'on y pense, et même avant l'âge de raison; que d'ailleurs le savoir ne se fait remarquer que par ses différences, et que, comme dans les équations d'algèbre, les quantités communes se comptent pour rien.”—Emile, livre i.

This is well said in Dr. John Brown's admirable paper Education through the Senses. (Horæ Subsecivæ, pp. 313, 314.)

Books and life.

symbols of knowledge instead of the knowledge itself, they do not see that only when his acquaintance with the objects and processes of the household, the street, and the fields, is becoming tolerably exhaustive, only then should a child be introduced to the new sources of information which books supply, and this not only because immediate cognition is of far greater value than mediate cognition, but also because the words contained in books can be rightly interpreted into ideas only in proportion to the antecedent experience of things."* While agreeing heartily in the spirit of this protest, I doubt whether we should wait till the child's acquaintance with the objects and processes of the household, the streets, and the fields, is becoming tolerably exhaustive before we give him instruction from books. The point of time which Mr. Spencer indicates is, at all events, rather hard to fix, and I should wish to connect book-learning as soon as possible with the learning that is being acquired in other ways. Thus might both the books, and the acts and objects of daily life, win an additional interest. If, e.g., the first reading-books were about the animals, and later on about the trees and flowers which the children con stantly meet with, and their attention was kept up by large coloured pictures, to which the text might refer, the children

* After remarking on the wrong order in which subjects are taught, he continues, "What with perceptions unnaturally dulled by early thwartings, and a coerced attention to books, what with the mental confusion produced by teaching subjects before they can be understood, and iu each of them giving generalisations before the facts of which they are the generalisations, what with making the pupil a mere passive recipient of others' ideas and not in the least leading him to be an active inquirer or self-instructor, and what with taxing the faculties to excess, there are very few minds that become as efficient as they might be."

« ForrigeFortsæt »