Billeder på siden

Mistakes in grammar teaching.

would soon find both pleasure and advantage in reading, and they would look at the animals and trees with a keener interest from the additional knowledge of them they had derived from books. This is, of course, only one small application of a very influential principle.

§ 21. One marvellous instance of the neglect of this principle is found in the practice of teaching Latin grammar before English grammar. As Professor Seeley has so well pointed out, children bring with them to school the knowledge of language in its concrete form. They may soon be taught to observe the language they already know, and to find, almost for themselves, some of the main divisions of words in it. But, instead of availing himself of the child's previous knowledge, the schoolmaster takes a new and difficult language, differing as much as possible from English, a new and difficult science, that of grammar, conveyed, too, in a new and difficult terminology, and all this he tries to teach at the same time. The consequence is that the science is destroyed, the terminology is either misunderstood, or, more probably, associated with no ideas, and even the language for which every sacrifice is made, is found, in nine cases out of ten, never to be acquired at all.*

* A class of boys whom I once took in Latin Delectus denied, with the utmost confidence, when I questioned them on the subject, that there were any such things in English as verbs and substantives. On another occasion, I saw a poor boy of nine or ten caned, because, when he had said that proficiscor was a deponent verb, he could not say what a deponent verb was. Even if he had remembered the inaccurate grammar definition expected of him, "A deponent verb is a verb with a passive form and an active meaning," his comprehension of proficiscor would have been no greater. It is worth observing that, even when offending grievously in great matters against the principle of connecting fresh knowledge with the old, teachers are sometimes driven to it in smali

From indefinite to definite: concrete to abstract.

§ 22. 2. "All development is an advance from the indefinite to the definite." I do not feel very certain of the truth of this principle, or of its application, if true. ΟΙ course, a child's intellectual conceptions are at first vague, and we should not forget this; but it is rather a fact than a principle.

§ 23. 3. "Our lessons ought to start from the concrete, and end in the abstract." What Mr. Spencer says under this head well deserves the attention of all teachers. "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 a child also. They have forgotten that a generalisation 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 simply; that only, after many of these single truths have been acquired, does the generalisation ease the memory and help the reason; and that, to a mind 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 [of proceeding from the simple to the

They find that it is better for boys to see that lignum is like regnum, and laudare like amare, than simply to learn that lignum is of the Second Declension, and laudare of the First Conjugation. If boys had to learn by a mere effort of memory the particular declension or conjugation of Latin words before they were taught anything about declensions and conjugations, this would be as sensible as the method adopted in some other instances, and the teachers might urge, as usual, that the information would come in useful afterwards

The Individual and the Race. Empirical beginning.

complex], 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." In conformity with this principle, Pesta lozzi made the actual counting of things precede the teaching of abstract rules in arithmetic. Basedow introduced weights and measures into the school, and Mr. Spencer describes some exercise in cutting out geometrical figures in cardboard, as a preparation for geometry. The difficulty about such instruction is that it requires apparatus, and apparatus is apt to get lost or out of order. But if apparatus is good for anything at all, it is worth a little trouble. There is a tendency in the minds of many teachers to depreciate "mechanical appliances." Even a decent black-board is not always to be found in our higher schools. But, though such appliances will not enable a bad master to teach well, nevertheless, other things being equal, the master will teach better with them than without them. There is little credit due to him for managing to dispense with apparatus. An author might as well pride himself on being saving in pens and paper.

§ 24. 4. "The genesis of knowledge in the individual must follow the same course as the genesis of knowledge in the race." This is the thesis on which I have no opinion to offer.

25. 5. From the above principle Mr. Spencer infers that every study should have a purely experimental introduction, thus proceeding through an empirical stage to a rational.

§ 26. 6. A second conclusion which Mr. Spencer draws is that, in education, the process of self-development should be encouraged to the utmost. Children should be led to

Against "telling." Effect of bad teaching.

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. I quite agree with Mr. Spencer that this principle cannot be too strenuously insisted on, though it obviously demands a high ainount of intelligence in the teacher. But if education is to be a training of the faculties, if it is to prepare the pupil to teach himself, something more is needed than simply to pour in knowledge and make the pupil reproduce it. The receptive and reproductive faculties form but a small portion of a child's powers, and yet the only portion which many schoolmasters seek to cultivate. It is indeed, not easy to get beyond this point; but the impediment is in us, not in the children. "Who can watch," ask Mr. Spencer, "the ceaseless observation, and inquiry, and inference, going on in a child's mind, or listen to its acute remarks in matters within the range of its faculties, without perceiving that these powers it manifests, if brought to bear systematically upon studies within the same range, would readily master them without help? This need for perpetual telling results from our stupidity, not from the child's. We drag it away from the facts in which it is interested, and which it is actively assimilating of itself. We put before it facts far too complex for it to understand, and, therefore distasteful to it. Finding that it will not voluntarily acquire these facts, we thrust them into its mind by force of threats and punishment. By thus denying the knowledge it craves, and cramming it with knowledge it cannot digest, we produce a morbid state of its faculties, and a consequent disgust for knowledge in general. And when, as a result, partly of the stolid indolence we have brought on, and partly of still-continued unfitness in its studies, the child

Learning should be pleasurable.

can understand nothing without explanation, and becomes a mere passive recipient of our instruction, we infer hat education must necessarily be carried on thus. Having by our method induced helplessness, we make the helplessness a reason for our method." It is, of course, much easier to point out defects than to remedy them: but every one who has observed the usual indifference of schoolboys to their work, and the waste of time consequent on their inattention or only half-hearted attention to the matter before them, and then thinks of the eagerness with which the same boys throw themselves into the pursuits of their play-hours, will feel a desire to get at the cause of this difference; and, perhaps, it may seem to him partly accounted for by the fact that their school-work makes a monotonous demand on a single faculty-the memory.

§ 27. 7. This brings me to the last of Mr. Spencer's principles of intellectual education. Instruction must excite the interest of the pupils and therefore be pleasurable to them. "Nature has made the healthful exercise of our

faculties both of mind and body pleasurable. It is true that some of the highest mental powers as yet but little developed in the race, and congenitally possessed in any considerable degree only by the most advanced, are indisposed to the amount of exertion required of them. But these, in virtue of their very complexity will in a normal course of culture come last into exercise, and will, therefore, have no demands made on them until the pupil has arrived at an age when ulterior motives can be brought into play, and an indirect pleasure made to counterbalance a direct displeasure. With all faculties lower than these, however, the immediate gratification consequent on activity is the normal stimulus, and under good management the only

« ForrigeFortsæt »