IN THE SCHOOL-ROOM.
CHAPTERS IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION.
JOHN S. HART, LL. D.,
PRINCIPAL OF THE NEW JERSEY STATE NORMAL SCHOOL
PHILADELPHIA: ELDREDGE & BROTHER, 17 and 19 South Sixth Street.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1868, by ELDREDGE & BROTHER, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
J. FAGAN & SON STEREOTYPE FOUNDERS, PHILADELPHIA.
PRINTED BY SHERMAN & CO.
TO THE Teachers of the United States, AND ESPECIALLY TO THE ALUMNI OF THE PHILADELPHIA HIGH SCHOOL, AND OF THE New Jersey State Normal School THE FOLLOWING CHAPTERS ARE MOST RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED BY THE AUTHOR.
The views contained in this volume are the result of a prolonged and somewhat varied professional experience. This experience includes the training of more than five thousand young men and of nearly one thousand young women, a large portion of them for the office of teachers; and it has been gained in College, in Boarding School, in a city High School, and in a State Normal School. In all this prolonged and varied experience, I have constantly put myself in the attitude of a learner, and my aim in the present volume is to place before the younger members of the profession, in the briefest and clearest terms possible, the lessons I have myself learned. Beginning with the question, What is Teaching? and ending with the wider question, What is Education? the book will be found to take a pretty free range over the whole field of practical inquiry among professional teachers. The thoughts presented are such as have been suggested to the writer in the school-room itself, while actively engaged either in teaching, or in superintending and directing the instruction given by others. These thoughts are for the most part purposely given in short, detached chapters, each complete in itself. Such a method of presentation, though less imposing, seemed to have practical advantages for the reader too great to be neglected for the mere vanity of authorship. Often one can find leisure to read a chapter of five or six pages on some point complete in itself, when he might not feel like reaching it through an intervening network of connected and dependent propositions. At the same time, it should be observed, the topics though detached are not isolated. There is everywhere an underlying thread of connection, the whole being based upon, if not constituting, a philosophy of education.
I. What is Teaching? II. The Art of Questioning III. The Difference between Teaching and Training IV. Modes of Hearing Recitations V. On Observing a Proper Order in the Development of the Mental Faculties VI. Teaching Children what they do not Understand VII. Cultivating the Memory in Youth VIII. Knowledge before Memory IX. Power of Words X. The Study of Language XI. Cultivating the Voice XII. Eyes XIII. Errors of the Cave XIV. Men of One Idea XV. A Talent for Teaching XVI. Teaching Power XVII. Growing XVIII. Loving the Children XIX. Gaining the Affections of the Scholars XX. The Obedience of Children XXI. Rarey as an Educator XXII. A Boarding-School Experience XXIII. Phrenology XXIV. Normal Schools XXV. Practice-Teaching XXVI. Attention as a Mental Faculty, and as a Means of Mental Culture XXVII. Gaining the Attention XXVIII. Counsels: 1. To a Young Teacher; 2. To a New Pupil; 3. To a Young Lady on leaving School; 4. To a Pupil on Entering a Normal School XXIX. An Argument for Common Schools XXX. What is Education?
IN THE SCHOOL-ROOM.
WHAT IS TEACHING?
In the first place, teaching is not simply telling. A class may be told a thing twenty times over, and yet not know it. Talking to a class is not necessarily teaching. I have known many teachers who were brimful of information, and were good talkers, and who discoursed to their classes with ready utterance a large part of the time allotted to instruction; yet an examination of their classes showed little advancement in knowledge.
There are several time-honored metaphors on this subject, which need to be received with some grains of allowance, if we would get at an exact idea of what teaching is. Chiselling the rude marble into the finished statue; giving the impression of the seal upon the soft wax; pouring water into an empty vessel;—all these comparisons lack one essential element of likeness. The mind is, indeed, in one sense, empty, and needs to be filled. It is yielding, and needs to be impressed. It is rude, and needs polishing. But it is not, like the marble, the wax, or the vessel, a passive recipient of external influences. It is itself a living power. It is acted upon only by stirring up its own activities. The operative upon mind, unlike the operative upon matter, must have the active, voluntary co-operation of that upon which he works. The teacher is doing his work, only so far as he gets work from the scholar. The very essence and root of the work are in the scholar, not in the teacher. No one, in fact, in an important sense, is taught at all, except so far as he is self-taught. The teacher may be useful, as an auxiliary, in causing this action on the part of the scholar. But the one, indispensable, vital thing in all learning, is in the scholar himself. The old Romans, in their word education (educere, to draw out), seem to have come nearer to the true idea than any other people have done. The teacher is to draw out the resources of the pupil. Yet even this word comes short of the exact truth. The teacher must put in, as well as draw out. No process of mere pumping will draw out from a child's mind knowledge which is not there. All the power of the Socratic method, could it be applied by Socrates himself, would be unavailing to draw from a child's mind, by mere questioning, a knowledge, for instance, of chemical affinity, of the solar system, of the temperature of the Gulf Stream, of the doctrine of the resurrection.
What, then, is teaching?
Teaching is causing any one to know. Now no one can be made to know a thing but by the act of his own powers. His own senses, his own memory, his own powers of reason, perception, and judgment, must be exercised. The function of the teacher is to bring about this exercise of the pupil's faculties. The means to do this are infinite in variety. They should be varied according to the wants and the character of the individual to be taught. One needs to be told a thing; he learns most readily by the ear. Another needs to use his eyes; he must see a thing, either in the book, or in nature. But neither eye nor ear, nor any other sense or faculty, will avail to the acquisition of knowledge, unless the power of attention is cultivated. Attention, then, is the first act or power of the mind that must be roused. It is the very foundation of all progress in knowledge, and the means of awakening it constitute the first step in the educational art.
When by any means, positive knowledge, facts, are once in possession of the mind, something must next be done to prevent their slipping away. You may tell a class the history of a certain event; or you may give them a description of a certain place or person; or you may let them read it; and you may secure such a degree of attention, that, at the time of the reading or the description, they shall have a fair, intelligible comprehension of what has been described or read. The facts are for the time actually in the possession of the mind. Now, if the mind was, according to the old notion, merely a vessel to be filled, the process would be complete. But mind is not an empty vessel. It is a living essence, with powers and processes of its own. And experience shows us, that in the case of a class of undisciplined pupils, facts, even when fairly placed in the possession of the mind, often remain there about as long as the shadow of a passing cloud remains upon the landscape, and make about as much impression.
The teacher must seek, then, not only to get knowledge into the mind, but to fix it there. In other words, the power of the memory must be strengthened. Teaching, then, most truly, and in every stage of it, is a strictly co-operative process. You cannot cause any one to know, by merely pouring out stores of knowledge in his hearing, any more than you can make his body grow by spreading the contents of your market-basket at his feet. You must rouse his power of attention, that he may lay hold of, and receive, and make his own, the knowledge you offer him. You must awaken and strengthen the power of memory within him, that he may retain what he receives, and thus grow in knowledge, as the body by a like process grows in strength and muscle. In other words, learning, so far as the mind of the learner is concerned, is a growth; and teaching, so far as the teacher is concerned, is doing whatever is necessary to cause that growth.
Let us proceed a step farther in this matter.
One of the ancients observes that a lamp loses none of its own light by allowing another lamp to be lit from it. He uses the illustration to enforce the duty of liberality in imparting our knowledge to others. Knowledge, he says, unlike other treasures, is not diminished by giving.
The illustration fails to express the whole truth. This imparting of knowledge to others, not only does not impoverish the donor, but it actually increases his riches. Docendo discimus. By teaching we learn. A man grows in knowledge by the very act of communicating it. The reason for this is obvious. In order to communicate to the mind of another a thought which is in our own mind, we must give to the thought definite shape and form. We must handle it, and pack it up for safe conveyance. Thus the mere act of giving a thought expression in words, fixes it more deeply in our own minds. Not only so; we can, in fact, very rarely be said to be in full possession of a thought ourselves, until by the tongue or the pen we have communicated it to somebody else. The expression of it, in some form, seems necessary to give it, even in our own minds, a definite shape and a lasting impression. A man who devotes himself to solitary reading and study, but never tries in any way to communicate his acquisitions to the world, or to enforce his opinions upon others, rarely becomes a learned man. A great many confused, dreamy ideas, no doubt, float through the brain of such a man; but he has little exact and reliable knowledge. The truth is, there is a sort of indolent, listless absorption of intellectual food, that tends to idiocy. I knew a person once, a gentleman of wealth and leisure, who having no taste for social intercourse, and no material wants to be supplied, which might have required the active exercise of his powers, gave himself up entirely to solitary reading, as a sort of luxurious self-indulgence. He shut himself up in his room, all day long, day after day, devouring one book after another, until he became almost idiotic by the process, and he finally died of softening of the brain. Had he been compelled to use his mental acquisitions in earning his bread, or had the love of Christ constrained him to use them in the instruction of the poor and the ignorant, he might have become not only a useful, but a learned man.
We see a beautiful illustration of this doctrine in the case of Sabbath-school teachers, and one reason why persons so engaged usually love their work, is the benefit which they find in it for themselves. I speak here, not of the spiritual, but of the intellectual benefit. By the process of teaching others, they are all the while learning. This advantage in their case is all the greater, because it advances them in a kind of knowledge in which, more than in any other kind of knowledge, men are wont to become passive and stationary. In ordinary worldly knowledge, our necessities make us active. The intercourse of business, and of pleasure even, makes men keen. On these subjects we are all the while bandying thoughts to and fro; we are accustomed to give as well as take; and so we keep our intellectual armor bright, and our thoughts well defined. But in regard to growth in religious knowledge, we have a tendency to be mere passive recipients, like the young man just referred to. Sabbath after Sabbath we hear good, instructive, orthodox discourses, but there is no active putting forth of our own powers in giving out what we thus take in, and so we never make it effectually our own. The absorbing process goes on, and yet we make no growth. The quiescent audience is a sort of exhausted receiver, into which the stream from the pulpit is perennially playing, but never making it full. Let a man go back and ask himself, What actual scriptural knowledge have I gained by the sermons of the last six months? What in fact do I retain in my mind, at this moment, of the sermons I heard only a month ago? So far as the hearing of sermons is concerned, the Sabbath-school teacher may perhaps be no better off than other hearers. But in regard to general growth in religious knowledge, he advances more rapidly than his fellow-worshippers, because the exigencies of his class compel him to a state of mind the very opposite of this passive recipiency. He is obliged to be all the while, not only learning, but putting his acquisitions into definite shape for use, and the very act of using these acquisitions in teaching a class, fixes them in his own mind, and makes them more surely his own.
I have used this instance of the Sabbath-school teacher because it enforces an important hint already given, as to the mode of teaching. Some teachers, especially in Sabbath-schools, seem to be ambitious to do a great deal of talking. The measure of their success, in their own eyes, is their ability to keep up a continued stream of talk for the greater part of the hour. This is of course better than the embarrassing silence sometimes seen, where neither teacher nor scholar has anything to say. But at the best, it is only the pouring into the exhausted receiver enacted over again. We can never be reminded too often, that there is no teaching except so far as there is active cooperation on the part of the learner. The mind receiving must reproduce and give back what it gets. This is the indispensable condition of making any knowledge really our own. The very best teaching I have ever seen, has been where the teacher said comparatively little. The teacher was of course brimful of the subject. He could give the needed information at exactly the right point, and in the right quantity. But for every word given by the teacher, there were many words of answering reproduction on the part of the scholars. Youthful minds under such tutelage grow apace.
It is indeed a high and difficult achievement in the educational art, to get young persons thus to bring forth their thoughts freely for examination and correction. A pleasant countenance and a gentle manner, inviting and inspiring confidence, have something to do with the matter. But, whatever the means for accomplishing this end, the end itself is indispensable. The scholar's tongue must be unloosed, as well as the teacher's. The scholar's thoughts must be broached, as well as the teacher's. Indeed, the statement needs very little qualification or abatement, that a scholar has learned nothing from us except what he has expressed to us again in words. The teacher who is accustomed to harangue his scholars with a continuous stream of words, no matter how full of weighty meaning his words may be, is yet deceiving himself, if he thinks that his scholars are materially benefited by his intellectual activity, unless it is so guided as to awaken and exercise theirs. If, after a suitable period, he will honestly examine his scholars on the subjects, on which he has himself been so productive, he will find that he has been only pouring water into a sieve. Teaching can never be this one-sided process. Of all the things we attempt, it is the one most essentially and necessarily a cooperative process. There must be the joint action of the teacher's mind and the scholar's mind. A teacher teaches at all, only so far as he causes this coactive energy of the pupil's mind.
THE ART OF QUESTIONING.
The measure of a teacher's success is not what he himself does, but what he gets his scholars to do. In nothing is this more noticeable, than in the different modes of putting a question to a scholar. One teacher will put a question in such a manner as to find out exactly how much or how little of the subject the child knows, and thereby encourage careful preparation; to give the pupil an open door, if he really knows the subject, to express his knowledge in a way that will be a satisfaction and pleasure to him; to improve his power of expression, to cultivate his memory, to increase his knowledge, and to make it more thorough and definite. Another teacher will put his questions so as to secure none of these ends, but on the contrary so as to induce a most lamentable degree of carelessness and inaccuracy.
Let me illustrate this point, taking an example for greater convenience from a scriptural subject. Suppose it to be a lesson upon Christ's temptation, as recorded in the 4th chapter of Matthew. The dialogue between teacher and scholar may be supposed to proceed somewhat in this wise:
Teacher. Who was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil?
T. Yes. Now, when Jesus had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward a—— what? How did he feel after that?
T. Yes, that is right. He was afterward "a hungered." Now, then, the next scholar. Who then came to Jesus and said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread?
T. The t——?
P. The tempter.
T. Yes, you are right. It was the tempter. Who do you think is meant by the tempter?—the devil?
T. When a man has fasted, that is, has eaten nothing, for forty days and forty nights, and feels very hungry, would the suggestion of an easy mode of getting food be likely to be a strong temptation to him, or would it not?
P. It would.
T. Yes, you are right again. It would be a strong temptation to him.
I need not pursue this dialogue further. The reader will see at once how there may thus be the appearance of quite a brisk and fluent recitation, to which however the pupil contributes absolutely nothing. It requires nothing of him in the way of preparation, and only the most indolent and profitless use of his faculties while reciting. He could hardly answer amiss, unless he were an idiot, and yet he has the appearance, and he is often flattered into the belief, of having given some evidence of knowledge and proficiency.
The opposite extreme from the method just exhibited, is that known as the topical method. It is the method pursued in the higher classes of schools, and among more advanced students. In the topical method, the teacher propounds a topic or subject, sometimes in the form of a question, but more commonly only by a title, a mere word or two, and then calls upon the pupil to give, in his own words, a full and connected narration or explanation of the subject, such as the teacher himself would give, if called upon to narrate or explain it. The subject already suggested, if profound topically, would be somewhat in this wise:
The first temptation of Jesus.
Or, more fully: Narrate the circumstances of the first temptation of Jesus, and show wherein his virtue was particularly tried in that transaction.
The teacher, having propounded the subject clearly to the class, then waits patiently, maintaining silence himself, and requiring the members of the class to be silent and attentive, until the pupil interrogated is quite through, not hurrying him, not interrupting him, even with miscalled helps and hints, but leaving him to the free and independent action of his own faculties, in giving as full, connected, and complete an account of the matter as he can. When the pupil is quite through, the teacher then, but not before, makes any corrections or additional statements that may seem to be needed. In such an exercise as this, the pupil finds the absolute necessity of full and ample preparation; he has a powerful and healthy stimulus thus to prepare, in the intellectual satisfaction which one always feels in the successful discharge of any difficult task; and he acquires a habit of giving complete and accurate expression to his knowledge, by means of entire sentences, and without the help of "catch-words," or leading-strings of any kind.
Some classes, of course, are not sufficiently advanced to carry out fully the method here explained. But there are many intermediate methods, founded on the same principle, and suited to children in every stage of advancement. Only let it be understood, whatever the stage, that the object of the recitation is, not to show what the teacher can say or do, but to secure the right thing being said and done by the pupil.
To recur once more to the same subject, the temptation of Christ. For a very juvenile class, the questioning might proceed on this wise:
T. Where was Jesus led after his baptism?
P. He was led into the wilderness.
T. By whom was he led there?
P. He was led by the Spirit.
T. For what purpose was he led into the wilderness?
P. He was led into the wilderness to be tempted.
T. By whom was he to be tempted?
P. He was to be tempted by the devil.
T. What bodily want was made the means of his first temptation?
If the class is quite young, and this question seems too difficult, the teacher, instead of asking it, or after asking it and not getting a satisfactory answer, might say to his class, that Jesus was first tempted through the sense of hunger. He was very hungry, and the devil suggested to him an improper means of relieving himself from the inconvenience. He might then go on with some such questions as these:
T. What circumstance is mentioned as showing how very hungry he must have been?
P. He had fasted forty days and forty nights.
T. Mention any way in which you might be tempted to sin, if you were suffering from hunger?
The foregoing questions, it will be perceived, are very simple, being suited to scholars just advanced beyond the infant class. Yet no one of the questions, in its form, or terms, necessarily suggests the answer. No one of them can be answered by a mere "yes" or "no." No scholar, unacquainted with the subject, and with his book closed, can guess at the answer from the way in which the question is put. Not a question has been given, simple as they all are, which does not require some preparation, and which does not, to some extent, give exercise to the pupil's memory, his judgment, and his capacity for expression.
If the class is more advanced, the questions may be varied, so as to task and exercise these faculties more seriously. For instance, the teacher of a class somewhat older might be imagined to begin the exercise thus:
T. After the baptism of Jesus, which closes the 3d chapter of Matthew, we have an account of several temptations to which he was exposed. Now, open your books at the 4th chapter, and see if you can find out how many verses are occupied with the narrative of these temptations, and at what verse each temptation begins.
The teacher then requires all the class to search in silence, and each one to get ready to answer, but lets no answer be given until all are prepared. When all have signified their readiness, some one is designated to give the answer.
The books being closed, the questioning begins:
T. Name the different places into which Jesus was taken to be tempted, and the verse in which each place is named.
P. It is said in the 1st verse that Jesus was led up into the wilderness; in the 5th verse, that he was taken up into the holy city, and set on a pinnacle of the temple; and in the 8th verse, that he was taken up into an exceedingly high mountain.
T. What was the condition of Jesus, when the devil proposed his first temptation?
P. He had been fasting forty days and forty nights, and he was very hungry.
I need not multiply these illustrations. I have not made them entirely in vain, if I have succeeded in producing in the mind of the reader the conviction of these two things: first, that it is a most important and difficult part of the teacher's art, to know how to ask a question; and secondly, that the true measure of the teacher's ability is, not so much what he himself is able to say to the scholars, as the fulness, the accuracy, and the completeness of the answers which he gets from them.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TEACHING AND TRAINING.
These two processes practically run into each other a good deal, but they ought not to be confounded. Training implies more or less of practical application of what one has been taught. One may be taught, for instance, the exact forms of the letters used in writing, so as to know at once by the eye whether the letters are formed correctly or not. But only training and practice will make him a penman. Training refers more to the formation of habits. A child may by reasoning be taught the importance of punctuality in coming to school; but he is trained to the habit of punctuality only by actually coming to school in good time, day after day.
The human machine on which the teacher acts, is in its essential nature different from the material agencies operated on by other engineers. It is, as I have once and again said, a living power, with laws and processes of its own. Constant care, therefore, must be exercised, in the business of education, not to be misled by analogies drawn from the material world. The steam-engine may go over its appointed task, day after day, the whole year round, and yet, at the end of the year, it will have no more tendency to go than before its first trip. Not so the boy. Going begets going. By doing a thing often, he acquires a facility, an inclination, a tendency, a habit of doing it. If a teacher or a parent succeeds in getting a child to do a thing once, it will be easier to get him to do it a second time, and still easier a third time.
A teacher who is wise, when he seeks to bring about any given change in a child, whether it be intellectual or moral, will not ordinarily attempt to produce the change all at once, and by main force. He will not rely upon extravagant promises on the one side, nor upon scolding, threats, and violence on the other. Solomon hits the idea exactly, when he speaks of "leading in the way of righteousness." We must take the young by the hand and lead them. When we have led them over the ground once, let us do it a second time, and then a third time, and so keep on, until we shall have established with them a routine, which they will continue to follow of their own accord, when the guiding hand which first led them is withdrawn. This is training.
The theory of it is true, not only in regard to things to be done, which is generally admitted, but also in regard to things to be known, which is often ignored if not denied. A boy, we will say, has a repugnance to the study of arithmetic. Perhaps he is particularly dull of comprehension on that subject. We shall not remove that repugnance by railing at him. We shall never make him admire it by expatiating on its beauties. It will not become clear to his comprehension by our pouring upon it all at once a sudden and overpowering blaze of light in the way of explanation. Such a process rather confounds him. Here again let us fall back upon the method of the great Teacher, "Line upon line, precept upon precept." We will first patiently conduct our boy through one of the simplest operations of arithmetic, say, a sum in addition. The next day we will conduct him again through the same process, or through another of the same sort. The steps will gradually become familiar to his mind, then easy, then clear. He learns first the practice of arithmetic, then the rules, then the relations of numbers, then the theory on which the rules and the practice are based, and finally, he hardly knows how, he becomes an arithmetician. He has been trained into a knowledge of the subject.
You wish to teach a young child how to find a word in a dictionary. You give at first, perhaps, a verbal description of the mystery of a dictionary. You will tell him that, in such a book, all the words are arranged according to the letters with which they begin; that all the words beginning with the letter A are in the first part of the book; then those beginning with the letter B, then those beginning with C, and so on; you tell him that all the words beginning with one letter, covering some one or two hundred pages, are again re-arranged among themselves according to the second letter of each word, and then again still further re-arranged according to the third letter in each, and so on to the end. Arouse his utmost attention, and explain the process with the greatest clearness that words can give, and then set him to find a word. See how awkward will be his first attempt, how confused his ideas, how little he has really understood what you have told him. You must repeat your directions patiently, over and over, "line upon line;" you must take him by the hand day after day, and train him into a knowledge of even so apparently simple a thing as finding a word in a dictionary.
While teaching and training are thus distinguishable in theory, in practice they are well nigh inseparable. At least, they never should be separated. Teaching has never done its perfect work, until, by training, the mind has learned to run in accustomed channels, until it sees what is true, and feels what is right, with the clearness, force, and promptitude, which come only from long-continued habit.
MODES OF HEARING RECITATIONS.
The first that I shall name is called the Concert Method. This is practised chiefly in schools for very young children, especially for those who cannot read. There are many advantages in this method, some of which are not confined to infant classes. The timid, who are frightened by the sound of their own voices when attempting to recite alone, are thereby encouraged to speak out; and those who have had any experience with such children, know that this is no small, or easy, or unimportant achievement. Another benefit of the method is the pleasure it gives the children. The measured noise and motion connected with such concert exercises, are particularly attractive to young children. Moreover, one good teacher, by the use of this method, may greatly multiply his efficiency. He may teach simultaneously fifty or sixty, instead of teaching only five or six. But in estimating this advantage, one error is to be guarded against. Visitors often hear a large class of fifty or more go through an exercise of this kind, in which the scholars have been drilled to recite in concert; and if such persons have never been accustomed to investigate the fact, they often suppose that the answers given are the intelligent responses of all the members of the class. The truth is, however, in very many such cases, that only some half dozen or so really recite the answers from their own independent knowledge. These serve as leaders; the others, sheep-like, follow. Still, by frequent repetition, even in this blind way, something gradually sticks to the memory, although the impression is always apt to be vague and undefined.
The method of reciting in concert is chiefly useful in reciting rules and definitions, or other matters, where the very words are to be committed to memory. The impression of so large a body of sound upon the ear is very strong, and is a great help in the matter of mere verbal recollection. Children too are very sympathetic, and a really skilful teacher, by the concert method, can do a great deal in cultivating the emotional nature of a large class.
Young children, too, it should be remembered, like all other young animals, are by nature restless and fidgety, and like to make a noise. It is possible, indeed, by a system of rigorous and harsh repression, to restrain this restlessness, and to keep these little ones for hours in such a state of decorous primness as not to molest weak nerves. But such a system of forced constraint is not natural to children, and is not a wise method of teaching. Let the youngsters make a noise; I had almost said, the more noise the better, so it be duly regulated. Let them exercise, not only their lungs, but their limbs, moving in concert, rising up, sitting down, turning round, marching, raising their hands, pointing to objects to which their attention is called, looking at objects which are shown to them. Movement and noise are the life of a child. They should be regulated indeed, but not repressed. To make a young child sit still and keep silence for any great length of time, is next door to murder. I verily believe it sometimes is murder. The health, and even the lives of these little ones, are sacrificed to a false theory of teaching. There is no occasion for torturing a child in order to teach him. God did not so mean it. Only let your teaching be in accordance with the wants of his young nature, and the school-room will be to him the most attractive spot of all the earth. Time and again have I seen the teacher of a primary school obliged at recess to compel her children to go out of doors, so much more pleasant did they find the school-room than the play-ground.
Quite the opposite extreme from the concert method, is that which, for convenience, may be called the individual method. In this method, the teacher examines one scholar alone upon the whole lesson, and then another, and so on, until the class is completed.
The only advantage claimed for this method is, that the individual laggard cannot screen his deficiencies, as he can when reciting in concert. He cannot make believe to know the lesson by lazily joining in with the general current of voice when the answers are given. His own individual knowledge, or ignorance, stands out. This is clear, and so far it is an advantage. But ascertaining what a pupil knows of a lesson, is only one end, and that by no means the most important end of a recitation. This interview between the pupil and teacher, called a recitation, has many ends besides that of merely detecting how much of a subject the pupil knows. A far higher end is to make him know more,—to make perfect that knowledge which the most faithful preparation on the part of the pupil always leaves incomplete.
The disadvantages of the individual method are obvious. It is a great waste of time. If a teacher has a class of twenty, and an hour to hear them in, it gives him but three minutes for each pupil, supposing there are no interruptions. But there always are interruptions. In public schools the class oftener numbers forty than twenty, and the time for recitation is oftener half an hour than an hour. The teacher who pursues the individual method to its extreme, will rarely find himself in possession of more than one minute to each scholar. In so brief a time, very little can be ascertained as to what the scholar knows of the lesson, and still less can anything be done to increase that knowledge. Moreover, while the teacher is bestowing his small modicum of time upon one scholar, all the other members of the class are idle, or worse.
Teaching, of all kinds of labor, is that in which labor-saving and time-saving methods are of the greatest moment. The teacher who is wise, will aim so to conduct a recitation that, first, his whole time shall be given to every scholar; and secondly, each scholar's mind shall be exercised with every part of the lesson, and just as much when others are reciting, as when it is his own time to recite. A teacher who can do this is teaching every scholar, all the time, just as much as if he had no scholar but that one.
Even this does not state the whole case. A scholar in such a class learns more in a given time, than he would if he were alone and the teacher's entire time were given exclusively to him. The human mind is wonderfully quickened by sympathy. In a crowd each catches, in some mysterious manner, an impulse from his fellows. The influence of associated numbers, all engaged upon the same thought, is universally to rouse the mind to a higher exercise of its powers. A mind that is dull, lethargic, and heavy in its movements when moving solitarily, often effects, when under a social and sympathetic impulse, achievements that are a wonder to itself.
The teacher, then, who knows how thus to make a unit of twenty or thirty pupils, really multiplies himself twenty or thirty-fold, besides giving to the whole class an increased momentum such as always belongs to an aggregated mass. I have seen a teacher instruct a class of forty in such a way, as, in the first place, to secure the subordinate end of ascertaining and registering with a sufficient degree of exactness how much each scholar knows of the lesson by his own preparation, and secondly, to secure, during the whole hour, the active exercise and cooperation of each individual mind, under the powerful stimulus of the social instinct, and of a keenly awakened attention. Such a teacher accomplishes more in one hour than the slave of the individual method can accomplish in forty hours. A scholar in such a class learns more in one hour than he would learn in forty hours, in a class of equal numbers taught on the other plan. Such teaching is labor-saving and time-saving, in their highest perfection, employed upon the noblest of ends.
ON OBSERVING A PROPER ORDER IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MENTAL FACULTIES.
Education may be defined to be the process of developing in due order and proportion all the good and desirable parts of human nature. On this point all educators are substantially agreed. Another truth, to which there is a general theoretical assent, is, that, in the order in which we develop the faculties, we should follow the leadings of nature, cultivating in childhood those faculties which seem most naturally to flourish in childish years, and reserving for maturer years the cultivation of those faculties which in the order of nature do not show much vigor until near the age of manhood, and which require for their full development a general ripening of all the other powers. The development of a human being is in some respects like that of a plant. There is one stage of growth suitable for the appearance and maturity of the leaf, another for the flower, a third for the fruit, and still a fourth for the perfected and ripened seed.
The analogy has of course many limitations. In the human plant, for instance, one class of faculties, after maturing, does not disappear in order to make place for another class, as the flower disappears before there can be fruit. Nor, again, is any class of faculties wanting altogether until the season for their development and maturity. The faculties all exist together—leaf, flower, fruit, and seed—at the same time, but each has its own best time for ripening.
While these principles have received the general assent of educators, there has been a wide divergence among them as to some of the practical applications. Which faculties do most naturally ripen early in life, and which late in life?
According to my own observation, the latest of the human powers in maturing, as it is the most consummate, is the Judgment. Next in the order of maturity, and next also in majesty and excellence, is the Reasoning power. Reason is minister to the judgment, furnishing to the latter materials for its action, as all the other powers, memory, fancy, imagination, and so forth, are ministers to reason, and supply it with its materials. The reasoning power lacks true vigor and muscle, the judgment is little to be relied on, until we approach manhood. Nature withholds from these faculties an earlier development, for the very reason, apparently, that they can ordinarily have but scanty materials for action until after the efflorescence of the other faculties. The mind must first be well filled with knowledge, which the other faculties have gathered and stored, before reason and judgment can have full scope for action.
Going to the other end of the scale, I have as little doubt that the earliest of all the faculties to bud and blossom, is the Memory. Children not only commit to memory with ease, but they take actual pleasure in it. Tasks, under which the grown-up man recoils and reels, the child will assume with light heart, and execute without fatigue. Committing to memory, which is repulsive drudgery to the man, is the easiest of all tasks to the child. More than this. The things fixed in the memory of childhood are seldom forgotten. Things learned later in life, not only are learned with greater difficulty, but more rapidly disappear. I recall instantly and without effort, texts of Scripture, hymns, catechisms, rules of grammar and arithmetic, and scraps of poetry and of classic authors, with which I became familiar when a boy. But it is a labor of Hercules for me to repeat by memory anything acquired since attaining the age of manhood. The Creator seems to have arranged an order in the natural development of the faculties for this very purpose, that in childhood and youth we may be chiefly occupied with the accumulation of materials in our intellectual storehouse. Now to reverse this process, to occupy the immature mind of childhood chiefly with the cultivation of faculties which are of later growth, and actually to put shackles and restraints upon the memory, nicknaming and ridiculing all memoriter exercises as parrot performances, is to ignore one of the primary facts of human nature. It is to be wiser than God.
Another faculty that shoots up into full growth in the very morning and spring-time of life, is Faith. I speak here, of course, not of religious belief, but of that faculty of the human mind which leads a child to believe instinctively whatever is told him. That we all do thus believe until by slow and painful experience we learn to do otherwise, needs no demonstration. Everybody's experience attests the fact. It is equally plain that the existence and maturity of this faculty in early childhood is a most wise and beneficent provision of nature. How slow and tedious would be the first steps in knowledge, were the child born, as some teachers seem trying to make him, a sceptic, that is, with a mind which refuses to receive anything as true, except what it has first proved by experience and reason! On the contrary, how much is the acquisition of knowledge expedited, during these years of helplessness and dependency, by this spontaneous, instinctive faith of childhood. The same infinite wisdom and love, which in the order of nature provide for the helpless infant a father and mother to care for it, provide also in the constitution of the infant's mind that instinctive principle or power of faith, which alone makes the father's and mother's love efficacious towards its intellectual growth and development. Of what use were parents or teachers, in instructing a child which required proof for every statement that father, mother, or teacher gives? How cruel to force the confiding young heart into premature scepticism, by compelling him to hunt up reasons for everything, when he has reasons, to him all-sufficient, in the fact that father, mother, or teacher told him so?
It may seem trifling to dwell so long upon these elementary points. Yet there are wide-spread plans of education which violate every principle here laid down. Educators and systems of education, enjoying the highest popularity, seem to have adopted the theory, at least they tacitly act upon the theory, that the first faculty of the mind to be developed is the Reasoning power. Indeed, they are not far from asserting that the whole business of education consists in the cultivation of this power, and they bend accordingly their main energies upon training young children to go through certain processes of reasoning, so called. They require a child to prove everything before receiving it as true; to reason out a rule for himself for every process in arithmetic or grammar; to demonstrate the multiplication-table before daring to use it, or to commit it to memory, if indeed they do not forbid entirely its being committed to memory as too parrot-like and mechanical. To commit blindly to memory precious forms of truth, which the wise and good have hived for the use of the race, is poohed at as old-fogyish. To receive as true anything which the child cannot fathom, and which he has not discovered or demonstrated for himself, is denounced as slavish. All authority in teaching, growing out of the age and the reputed wisdom of the teacher, all faith and reverence in the learner, growing out of a sense of his ignorance and dependence, are discarded, and the frightened stripling is continually rapped on the knuckles, if he does not at every step show the truth of his allegations by what is called a course of reasoning. Children reason, of course. They should be encouraged and taught to reason. No teacher, who is wise, will neglect this part of a child's intellectual powers. But he will not consider this the season for its main, normal development. He will hold this subject for the present subordinate to many others. Moreover, the methods of reasoning, which he does adopt, will be of a peculiar kind, suited to the nature of childhood, the results being mainly intuitional, rather than the fruits of formal logic. To oblige a young child to go through a formal syllogistic statement in every step in elementary arithmetic, for instance, is simply absurd. It makes nothing plain to a child's mind which was not plain before. On the contrary, it often makes a muddle of what had been perfectly clear. What was in the clear sunlight of intuition, is now in a haze, through the intervening medium of logical terms and forms, through which he is obliged to look at it.
A primary teacher asks her class this question: "If I can buy 6 marbles with 1 penny, how many marbles can I buy with 5 pennies?" A bright boy who should promptly answer "30" would be sharply rebuked. Little eight-year old Solon on the next bench has been better trained than that. With stately and solemn enunciation he delivers himself of a performance somewhat of this sort. "If I can buy 6 marbles with 1 penny, how many marbles can I buy with 5 pennies? Answer—I can buy 5 times as many marbles with 5 pennies as I can buy with 1 penny. If, therefore, I can buy 6 marbles with 1 penny, I can buy 5 times as many marbles with 5 pennies; and 5 times 6 marbles are 30 marbles. Therefore, if I can buy 6 marbles with one penny, I can buy 30 marbles with 5 pennies."
And this is termed reasoning! And to train children, by forced and artificial processes, to go through such a rigmarole of words, is recommended as a means of cultivating their reasoning power and of improving their power of expression! It is not pretended that children by such a process become more expert in reckoning. On the contrary, their movements as ready reckoners are retarded by it. Instead of learning to jump at once to the conclusion, lightning-like, by a sort of intuitional process, which is of the very essence of an expert accountant, they learn laboriously to stay their march by a cumbersome and confusing circumlocution of words. And the expenditure of time and toil needed to acquire these formulas of expression, which nine times out of ten are to those young minds the mere dicta magistri, is justified on the ground that the children, if not learning arithmetic, are learning to reason.
Let me not be misunderstood. I do not advocate the disuse of explanations. Let teachers explain, let children give explanations. Let the rationale of the various processes through which the child goes, receive a certain amount of attention. But the extreme into which some are now going, in primary education, is that of giving too much time to explanation and to theory, and too little to practice. We reverse, too, the order of nature in this matter. What it now takes weeks and months to make clear to the immature understanding, is apprehended at a later day with ease and delight at the very first statement. There is a clear and consistent philosophy underlying this whole matter. It is simply this. In the healthy and natural order of development in educating a young mind, theory should follow practice, not precede it. Children learn the practice of arithmetic very young. They take to it naturally, and learn it easily, and become very rapidly expert practical accountants. But the science of arithmetic is quite another matter, and should not be forced upon them until a much later stage in their advancement.
To have a really correct apprehension of the principle of decimal notation, for instance, to understand that it is purely arbitrary, and that we might in the same way take any other number than ten as the base of a numerical scale,—that we might increase for instance by fives, or eights, or nines, or twelves, just as well as by tens—all this requires considerable maturity of intellect, and some subtlety of reasoning. Indeed I doubt whether many of the pretentious sciolists, who insist so much on young children giving the rationale of everything, have themselves ever yet made an ultimate analysis of the first step in arithmetical notation. Many of them would open their eyes were you to tell them, for instance, that the number of fingers on your two hands may be just as correctly expressed by the figures 11, 12, 13, 14, or 15, as by the figures 10,—a truism perfectly familiar to every one acquainted with the generalizations of higher arithmetic. Yet it is up-hill work to make the matter quite clear to a beginner. We may wisely therefore give our children at first an arbitrary rule for notation. We give them an equally arbitrary rule for addition. They accept these rules and work upon them, and learn thereby the practical operations of arithmetic. The theory will follow in due time. When perfectly familiar with the practice and the forms of arithmetic, and sufficiently mature in intellect, they awaken gradually and surely, and almost without an effort, to the beautiful logic which underlies the science.
How do we learn language in childhood? Is it not solely on authority and by example? A child who lives in a family where no language is used but that which is logically and grammatically correct, will learn to speak with logical and grammatical correctness long before it is able to give any account of the processes of its own mind in the matter, or indeed to understand those processes when explained by others. In other words, practice in language precedes theory. It should do so in other things. The parent who should take measures to prevent a child from speaking its mother tongue, except just so far and so fast as it could understand and explain the subtle logic which underlies all language, would be quite as wise as the teacher who refuses to let a child become expert in practical reckoning, until it can understand and explain at every step the rationale of the process,—who will not suffer a child to learn the multiplication table until it has mastered the metaphysics of the science of numbers, and can explain with the formalities of syllogism exactly how and why seven times nine make sixty-three.
These illustrations have carried me a little, perhaps, from my subject. But they seemed necessary to show that I am not beating the air. I have feared lest, in our very best schools, in the rebound from the exploded errors of the old system, we have unconsciously run into an error in the opposite extreme.
My positions on the particular point now under consideration may be summed up briefly, as follows:
1. In developing the faculties, we should follow the order of nature.
2. The faculties of memory and faith should be largely exercised and cultivated in childhood.
3. While the judgment and the reasoning faculty should be exercised during every stage of the intellectual development, the appropriate season for their main development and culture is near the close, rather than near the beginning, of an educational course.
4. The methods of reasoning used with children should be of a simple kind, dealing largely in direct intuitions, rather than formal and syllogistic.
5. It is a mistake to spend a large amount of time and effort in requiring young children formally to explain the rationale of their intellectual processes, and especially in requiring them to give such explanations before they have become by practice thoroughly familiar with the processes themselves.
TEACHING CHILDREN WHAT THEY DO NOT UNDERSTAND.
It is not uncommon to hear persons declaim against teaching children what they do not understand. If by this is meant that children should not learn a set of words as parrots do, merely by the ear, and without attaching any idea to what they utter, no one will dissent from the propriety of the rule. But if the meaning is that they should learn nothing except what they fully comprehend, the rule certainly needs to be hedged in by some grave precautions.
There are indeed few things which any one, the oldest or the wisest, fully comprehends. Who knows what matter is? Certainly not the most eminent of philosophers. They do not pretend to know. We pick up a pebble. Who can tell what it is, absolutely? We say that it is something which has certain qualities. But even these we know mainly by negations. The pebble is hard, that is, it does not yield to pressure. It is opaque, that is, it does not transmit light. It is heavy, that is, it does not remain still, but goes towards the centre of the earth unless intercepted by some interposing body.
Who knows the meaning, absolutely, of a single article of the Creed? Certainly not the most eminent of divines. We know certain things about the great mysteries of the Godhead, and even these things we know, not directly, but by certain faint, distant analogies, and we express our knowledge in terms chosen mainly from Scripture and arranged with care by wise and learned men. These venerable formularies, containing the most exact verbal expression which the Church has been able to frame, of what the Scriptures teach about God and his ways, we commit to memory, and we repeat them with comfort and edification. But we do not pretend to penetrate the very essence of their meaning. Who by searching can find out God? One must be God himself to understand him.
We read that Christ was tempted of the devil in the wilderness. There are many things in this transaction which we may be said, in a certain sense, to know. But a man will not proceed far in analyzing this knowledge before he will discover that there are mysteries underlying the whole, which he cannot penetrate. He knows some of the surface relations. But the things themselves, in their essence, are unknown. Was Christ tempted, as the devil tempts us, by suggesting thoughts in the mind? Was the devil present in a bodily shape? Did he utter an audible voice, by undulating the air, as we do? Has he direct relations to matter, as we have? How could his offer of worldly power and riches be any real temptation to the Saviour, when Jesus knew that Satan had no power to make his offer good?
There are indeed few things, in revelation or out of revelation, in mind or in matter, which we really and fully comprehend. If, therefore, we are to teach children nothing but what they understand, we must either teach them nothing at all, or our rule must be materially qualified. No one knows absolutely but God. Among created beings, there are almost infinite gradations of intelligence, although the highest created intelligence begins its range infinitely below that of the Divine mind. A given formula of words, therefore, may express very different degrees of truth according to the degree of intelligence of the party using it.
A catechism or a creed may convey twenty different degrees of meaning to twenty successive persons, varying in age, character, and culture. Yet the very youngest and feeblest shall understand something of its meaning, while the wisest and oldest shall not have exhausted it. The young and feeble intellect, receiving a formula of truth with suitable explanations of its terms, takes in at once a portion of its meaning and gradually grows into a fuller comprehension of what it has received. A statement of doctrine received by a child at the age of five, conveys to him a few feeble rays of light. The same statement at the age of ten, means to him far more than it did before, while at twenty it is all luminous with knowledge.
The mind itself grows and expands, and with every addition to its own vigor and stature, does it find new truths in those expressive and pregnant formulas of doctrine with which it has from childhood been familiar. It is like looking at a material object, first with the naked eye, and then with glasses of continually increased magnifying power. The more we increase the power, the more we see in the same bit of matter. Yet no glass will ever reveal to us the very interior essence of even the smallest particle of dust. God only knows fully either any single thing or the sum of things. Because, however, we cannot see into the essence of a pebble or a grain of sand, shall we shut our eyes to it altogether? Shall we not look at it, first as an infant does, then as a child, then as a youth, then as a man, then as a philosopher? We can never see it as God does. But we shall see it with ever-growing powers of vision, until that which was to us at first only a rude mass becomes an exhaustless organized microcosm of wonders.
I do not advocate the overloading of children with verbal statements of abstruse doctrines, whether of religion or of science. Much less would I turn them into parrots, to repeat phrases to which they attach no meaning at all. But when it is demanded, on the other hand, that they shall learn nothing but what they understand, I demur. I ask for explanation of the rule. I insist that, every statement of truth which they learn, even the most elementary, contains depths which neither they nor their teachers can fathom. I insist that, both in science and religion, there are certain great, admitted elementary truths, reduced to forms of sound words with which the whole world is familiar; and that while these formularies contain many things which a child cannot understand, they yet contain many things of which even the youngest child has a fair comprehension. I insist that a carefully prepared religious creed or catechism, even though it contains many things beyond a child's present comprehension, is a fit subject for study. Memory in childhood is quick and tenacious. The treasures first laid away in that great storehouse are the last to be removed. They may be overlaid by subsequent accumulations, but they are still ready for use. Forms of sound words are certainly among the things which parents and teachers should store away in the young minds of which they have charge. If the child does not understand all that he thus places in his memory, he understands portions of it just as he sees certain qualities of the pebble which he holds in his hand, and he will see and understand more, as his mind expands and his powers of spiritual vision increase.
CULTIVATING THE MEMORY IN YOUTH.
Many educators now-a-days are accustomed to speak slightly of the old-fashioned plan of committing to memory verses of Scripture, hymns, catechisms, creeds, and other formulas of doctrine and sentiment in religion and science. Many speak disparagingly even of memory itself, and profess to think it a faculty of minor importance, regarding its cultivation as savoring of old-fogyism, and sneering at all memoriter exercises among children as the chattering of parrots. It is never without amazement that I hear such utterances. Memory is God's gift, by which alone we are able to retain our intellectual acquisitions. Without it, study is useless, and education simply an impossibility. Without it, there could be no such thing as growth in knowledge. We could know no more to-day than we knew yesterday, or last week, or last year. The man would be no wiser than the boy. Without this faculty, the mind would be, not as now like the prepared plate which the photographer puts in his camera, and which retains indelibly on its surface the impressions of whatever objects pass before it; but would rather be like the window pane, before which passes from day to day the gorgeous panorama of nature, transmitting with equal and crystalline clearness the golden glory of the sun, the pale rays of the moon and stars, the soft green of meadow and woodland, images of beauty and loveliness, of light and shade, from every object on the earth and in the heavens; but retaining on its own surface not a line or a tint of the millions of rays that have passed through its substance, and remaining to the end the same bit of transparent glass, unchanged, unprofited by the countless changes it has received and transmitted.
Memory alone gives value to the products of every other faculty, stamping them with the seal of possessorship, and making them truly ours. In vain reason forges its bolts, in vain imagination paints its scenes, in vain the senses give us a knowledge of the shapes and forms of external nature, in vain ideas of any sort or from any source come into our minds, unless we have the power to retain and fix them there, and make them a part of our accumulated intellectual wealth. To do this is the office of memory, and whatever increases the activity and power of the memory, gives at once value and growth to every other power.
Memory has been well called the store-house of our ideas. The illustration is true not only in its main feature, but in many of the minor details. The value of what a man puts away in a store-house depends much upon the order and system with which the objects are stored. The wise and thrifty merchant has bins and boxes and compartments and pigeon-holes, all arranged with due order and symmetry, and every item of goods, as it is added to his stock, is put away at once in its appropriate place, where he can lay his hands upon it whenever it is wanted. There should be a like method and system in our mental accumulations. The remembrance of facts and truths is of little value to us unless we can remember them in their connections, and can so remember them as to be able to lay our hands upon any particular thought or fact just when and where it is wanted. Many persons read and study voraciously, filling their minds most industriously with knowledge, but such a confusion of ideas prevails throughout their intellectual store-house, that their very wealth is only an embarrassment to them. The very first rule to be observed, therefore, in cultivating the memory, is to reduce our knowledge to some system. Those who are charged with the training of the young should seek not only to store their minds with ideas, but to present these ideas to them in well ordered shapes and forms, and in due logical order and coherence. Hence the peculiar value of requiring children at the proper age to commit to memory the grand formulas of Christian doctrine, on which, in every church, its wisest and ablest men have expended their strength in placing great truths in connected and logical order and dependence. The creeds and catechisms of the Christian church are among the best products of the human intellect as mere specimens of verbal statement, and are valuable, if for nothing else, as a means for exercising the memory. A child who has thoroughly mastered a good catechism has his intellectual store-house already reduced to some order and system. His mind is not the chaos that we so often find in those children who are gathered into our mission schools.
The objects that are put away for safe-keeping differ in one respect from those things which are stored away in the memory. The material object is the same, whether we visit and inspect it from day to day or not. The banker's dollars are not increased in fineness or value by his handling them over carefully every day. Not so with intellectual coin. The more frequently we re-examine our knowledge and pass it under review, the more does it become fixed in its character, the more full and exact in its proportions. Handling it does not wear it out. Even giving it away does not diminish it. In short, so far as the cultivation of the memory is concerned, the next best thing we can do, after reducing our knowledge to due order, is to give it a frequent and thorough re-examination. Constant, almost endless repetition is the inexorable price of sound mental accumulation.
A distinction is to be made between memory as a power of the mind and the remembrance of particular facts. One or two examples will illustrate this difference. The late Dr. Addison Alexander, of the Theological Seminary at Princeton, had memory as an intellectual power to a degree almost marvellous. The following instance may be cited. On one occasion, a large class of forty or fifty were to be matriculated in the Seminary in the presence of the Faculty. The ceremony of matriculation was very simple. The professors and the new students being all assembled, in a large hall, each student in turn presented himself before the professors, had his credentials examined by them, and if the same proved satisfactory, entered his name in full and his residence, in the register. When the matriculation was complete and the students had retired, there was some bantering among the professors as to which of them should take the register home and prepare from it an alphabetical roll,—a work always considered rather tedious and irksome. After a little hesitation, Dr. Alexander said, "There is no need of taking the register home; I will make the roll for you;" and, taking a sheet of paper, at once, from memory, without referring to the register, and merely from having heard the names as they were recorded, he proceeded to make out the roll, giving the names in full and giving them in their alphabetical order. This was a prodigious feat of pure memory; for in order to make the alphabetical arrangement in his mind, before committing it to paper, he must have had the entire mass of names present in his mind by a single act of the will. Some of the wonderful games of chess performed by Paul Morphy are dependent in part upon a similar power of memory, by which the player is enabled to keep present in his mind, without seeing the board, a long series of complicated evolutions, past as well as prospective and possible. The same is true of every great military strategist.
In all these cases, there is an act of pure memory, a direct and positive power of summoning into the mind its past experiences, such as can only take place where, either by natural gift or by special training, the memory as a faculty of the mind is in a high state of vigor. But there are other cases, in which a man is enabled to recall a great number of particular facts by a species of artifice or trick, which does not imply any special mental power, and the study of which does not tend, in any marked degree, to develop such power. More than thirty years ago, the late Professor Dod, of Princeton College, in lecturing to a class on the subject of light, was explaining the solar spectrum, and after exhibiting the solar ray, divided into its seven primary colors, violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red, said, "If you will form a mnemonic word of the first letters of each of these words, you will be able, without further effort, to remember the order of the prismatic colors the rest of your lives," and he accordingly wrote upon the board and pronounced the uncouth and almost unpronounceable word, Vibgyor, which probably not one of us has ever forgotten. An ingenious Frenchman some years ago traversed the country and collected large audiences by his exhibitions of skill in this species of artifice, and by undertaking to initiate his hearers in the method of remembering prodigious numbers of historical facts by means of such artificial contrivances. Mnemotechny, the name which he gave to his invention, is merely a trick of the memory. It is a means of remembering a particular set of facts or things by the aid of contrivances purely artificial and arbitrary. Its possession does not imply, and its cultivation does not produce, real mnemonic power. It undoubtedly has its uses. But it is rather wealth gained by a lottery ticket than a wealth-producing power acquired by wise habits of business.
In teaching the young, it is well not to neglect either of these principles. We should give our children from time to time ingenious and interesting contrivances for remembering important facts. These contrivances, if judicious in plan and execution, will be great helps to them. We may in this way bridge over the difficulty of remembering many of the important facts and dates in history.
I would not discourage these artificial methods. Though they are mere tricks, they are valuable. But they have by no means the same value as those methods of teaching which cultivate and produce true mnemonic power. This power, like every other mental power, is given in unequal measure to different individuals. Like every other mental power, also, it grows mainly by exercise. No power of the mind is more capable of development. I have mentioned some things which tend to the growth of this power, such as presenting knowledge to children in logical and orderly arrangement, and frequent re-examination of knowledge already obtained. Perhaps there is no quickener and invigorator of the memory equal to that of reciting to a judicious teacher before a large class of fellow-students. By a proper and skilful use of the art of questioning, under the excitement of answering before a large class, the mnemonic power is subjected to a healthy and invigorating test, and all such exercises promote powerfully the mental growth. A child may absorb knowledge by mere solitary reading and study, just as a sponge absorbs water, but the knowledge so acquired readily evaporates, or is squeezed out. Something is needed to fix in the mind the knowledge that has been lodged there, and no process is more effectual to this end than that of class recitation. It is by telling other people what we have learned, that we learn it more effectually, and make it more completely our own. A good teacher, by good methods of recitation, can do more than all other persons and all other things to secure a sound and healthy growth of memory in the young.
Another thing highly necessary in cultivating a really good memory, is attaining the utmost possible clearness in our ideas. If the knowledge, when it first comes into the mind, is clearly and sharply defined, so that we really know a thing, instead of having vague and confused notions about it, we shall be the more likely to remember it permanently. Nothing is more conducive towards giving these sharp and definite impressions than the use of visible illustrations. Actual exhibition before a class of the objects talked about, actual experiments of the operations described, and the constant use of the chalk and the blackboard, presenting even abstract truths in concrete and visible symbols, as is done in algebra, chemistry, and logic, are among the means by which, chiefly, knowledge becomes well defined to the mind. Such is the constitution of the mind, that we have a clearer apprehension of what we see than of what comes to us through any other sense, and the knowledge which comes to us by means of the sight, is, of all kinds of knowledge, the most lasting and the most easily recalled. Hence, in teaching, it is hardly possible to exaggerate the importance of visible illustration.
Another condition extremely favorable to the growth of memory, is the existence of a considerable degree of mental excitement at the time that knowledge enters the mind. Metals weld easily only at a white heat. If we would obtain a vigorous grasp of knowledge, and incorporate it thoroughly into our other mental products, so that it shall become really ours, there should be the glow of mental heat at the time of our acquiring such knowledge. Ideas that come into the mind when we are in an apathetic state, make no permanent lodgment. Hence the importance of exciting a lively interest in that which is the subject of study. If the teacher has failed to excite this interest, and finds in his class no animation, no sympathy, no eagerness of attention, he may be sure that he is not accomplishing much. The child must, if possible, acquire a fondness for that which is to be remembered. Love, in fact, is the parent of memory.
KNOWLEDGE BEFORE MEMORY.
I have had frequent occasion to urge upon teachers the importance of cultivating the memory of their pupils. The old-fashioned plan of requiring the young to commit to memory precious truths, in those very words in which wise and far-thinking men have handed them down to us, has too much gone out of use. I have felt called upon, therefore, from time to time, to recall to the minds of teachers the unspeakable importance of early exercising the memory of children, and of storing their memories with wise sayings and rules. I would not take back anything I have said on this subject, but rather repeat and reiterate it. At the same time, I am aware that there is an extreme in this direction, and I therefore put in a word of caution.
The danger to which I refer is that of requiring children to commit mere words, to which they attach no meaning, or without their having any real knowledge of the things expressed by the words. Of course there is much in the formulas and rules of science that the immature minds of children cannot entirely comprehend, and I am far from saying that a child should commit nothing except what it can comprehend. But whatever in a rule or a doctrine they can understand, should be diligently explained to them, and the ingenuity of teachers should be exercised in awakening the minds of their scholars to the apprehension of real knowledge as a preliminary to the act of committing it to memory.
An example or two will illustrate my meaning. Children at school are required to commit to memory the tables of weights and measures. The exercise is one of acknowledged and indispensable importance. But it is possible for a child to repeat one of these tables with entire glibness and accuracy, pretty much as he would whistle Yankee Doodle, without any apprehension of the actual things which the terms of the table represent. He may learn to say "sixty seconds make a minute, sixty minutes make a degree, three hundred and sixty degrees make a circle," with no more idea of the things expressed by this formula of words, than the parrot who has been taught to say, "You are a big fool." If the teacher will show the child an actual circle, with the degrees, minutes, and seconds marked, and will let him count them for himself, so that he has a real knowledge of the things, he will then not only commit this formula of words to memory more easily, but the knowledge itself will promote his mental growth. He will be feeding on real knowledge, not on its husks. So in learning about inches, feet, yards, rods, and miles, let the teacher, with foot-rule and yard-stick, show what these measures really are, let him by some familiar instance give the child an idea of what a mile is, and then let the memory be invoked to store up the knowledge gained. So with ounces, pounds, and hundred-weights. So with gills, quarts, and gallons. The common weights and measures are as necessary in the school-room as are spelling-books and arithmetics. The actual weights and measures, so far as possible, should be exhibited, should be seen and handled, and the child's mind made to grasp the very things which the terms express, that is, he should first get real knowledge, and then he should store his memory with it in exact words and forms of expression.
This is the true mental order. Knowledge first, then memory. Get knowledge, then keep it. Any other plan is like attempting to become rich by inflating your bags with wind, instead of filling them with gold, or attempting to grow fat by bolting food in a form which you cannot digest.
Some teachers, in their fear of cramming children with words, spend their whole time and energy in awakening thought, and none in fixing upon the memory the thoughts which have been awakened. They are so much afraid of making children parrots, that they discard rules entirely in teaching, or require pupils to frame rules for themselves. This is to go into the opposite extreme. The rules and formulas of science require the greatest care and consideration, and a large and varied knowledge. Few even of men of learning and of those specially skilled in the meaning of words and the use of language, are qualified to frame scientific rules and propositions. To suppose that young children, just beginning to feel their way into any department of science, are competent to such a task, is simply absurd. Yet this is by no means uncommon. A teacher will conduct a boy intelligently and skilfully through the process of doing a sum in arithmetic, or analyzing a sentence in grammar, and then say to him, "Now, form a rule for yourself, stating how such things should be done." The first step here is right. Take your pupil by the hand, and conduct him through the process or thing to be done. This is necessary to enable him to understand the rule. But when he thus gets the idea, then give him the rule or principle, as it is laid down in the book, in exact and well considered words, and let him commit those words thoroughly to memory, without the change or the omission of a word or a letter.
What is thus true as to the method of teaching the common branches of knowledge, is equally true in the study of religious knowledge. I would not set a child to framing a creed or a catechism, nor, on the other hand, would I require him to commit such formulas to memory, without making some attempt to awaken in his mind previously an apprehension of the ideas which the creed or formula contains. I do not say that a child's mind is competent to grasp all the truths embraced in these symbols. But there is no portion of any religious creed or catechism that I have ever seen, some of the terms of which are not capable of being apprehended by children. A wise teacher, in undertaking to indoctrinate a child in such a formula, will begin by showing him as far as possible what the words mean, by exciting in him ideas on the subject, by filling his mind with actual knowledge of the truths contained in the formula. Then, when the words of the formula have become to the child's mind instinct with meaning and life, the teacher will pause to stamp them in upon the memory. That is the way to study a catechism. First, give the child, so far as possible, the meaning, then grind the words into him. Do not set him to making a catechism; do not let him stop at understanding the meaning, without committing the words.
Two phrases will cover the whole ground. Knowledge before memory. Memory as well as knowledge.
THE POWER OF WORDS.
Words govern the world. Let any one who doubts it, canvass the motives by which his own action is decided. Considerations are presented to his mind, showing him that a certain course of conduct is right, or good, or expedient, or pleasant, and he adopts it. The considerations presented to his mind decide his action. But those considerations are in the form of arguments, and those arguments exist in words. The true original power, indeed, is in the thought. It is the thinker who generates the steam. But thought unexpressed accomplishes nothing. The writer and the speaker engineer it into action.
Thought, indeed, even in the mind of its originator, exists in words. For we really think only in words. Much more, then, must the thought have some verbal expression, written or spoken, before it can influence the opinions or the actions of others. A man may have all the wisdom of Solomon, yet will he exercise no influence upon human affairs unless he gives his wisdom utterance. Profound thinkers sometimes, indeed, utter very little. But they must utter something. They originate and give forth a few thoughts or discoveries, which minds of a different order, writers and talkers, pick up, reproduce, multiply, and disseminate all over the surface of society. When a man unites these two functions, being both an original thinker and a skilful and industrious writer, the influence which he may exert upon his race is prodigious. If any one, for instance, would take the pains to trace the influences which have sprung from such a man as Plato, he would have an illustration of what is meant. Plato, while living, had no wealth, rank, or position of any kind, to add force to what he said or did. Whatever he has done in the world, he has done simply by his power as a thinker and a writer. There were many Grecians quite as subtle and acute in reasoning as he. But their thoughts died with them. Plato, on the other hand, was an indefatigable writer, as well as an acute and profound thinker. He gave utterance to his ideas in words which, even in a dead language, have to this day a living power. When Plato was dead, there remained his written words. They remain still. They have entered successively into the philosophies, the creeds, and the practical codes, of the Grecian world, the Roman, the Saracen, and the Christian. At this very hour hundreds of millions of human beings unconsciously hold opinions which the words of that wise old Greek have helped to mould. The mere brute force of a military conqueror may make arbitrary changes in the current of human affairs. But no permanent change is ever made except by the force of opinion. The words of Plato have done more to influence the destinies of men than have a hundred such men as Genghis Khan or Tamerlane. Four hundred millions of Chinese, in half the actions which go to make up their lives, are now governed by maxims and opinions which have come down to them from remote antiquity, from a man whose very existence is almost a myth. Those military heroes whose influence on society has been permanent have been propagandists as well as warriors. Opinions and codes have gone with, and survived, their conquering armies. The armies of the elder Napoleon were routed at Waterloo. But the Napoleonic ideas survived the shock, and they are at this day a part of the governing power of the world. It was the Koran—the words, and the creed of Mahomet—that gave to the Mahometan conquest its permanent hold upon the nations.
Spoken words have in themselves greater power than merely written ones. There is a wonderful influence in the living voice to give force and emphasis to what is uttered. But the written word remains. What is lost in immediate effect, is more than gained in the permanent result. The successful writer has an audience for all time. He being dead still speaks. Men are speaking now, who have gone to their final account twenty centuries ago. Paul possibly may not have had the same influence with a popular assembly as the more eloquent Apollos. But Paul is speaking still through his ever-living Epistles. He is speaking daily to more than a hundred millions of human beings. He is exerting through his writings a power incomparably greater than that even which he exercised as a living speaker.
All men have not the commanding gifts of the apostle Paul. Yet after all, the main difference between ordinary men and men of the Pauline stamp, is not so much in their natural powers, as in the spirit and temper of the men, in that entire consecration to the service of Christ which Paul had, and which they have not. It is wonderful to see how much may be accomplished even by men of ordinary talents, when they have that zeal and single-mindedness which may be attained by one as well as by another. We are accountable for the talents which we have, not for what we have not. But let each man see to it that he uses to the utmost every talent which his Lord has committed to his trust.
How much, for instance, may be accomplished by a man who has a gift for addressing a popular assembly! Such a man by a few wise words, spoken at the right time and place, may do as much in five minutes, in pushing forward a general cause, as another man can do by the laborious drudgery of years. The words of the speaker touch the secret springs of action in a thousand breasts. He sends away a thousand men and women animated with a new impulse to duty, and that impulse is propagated and reproduced through hundreds of channels for long years to come.
Words are never entirely idle. They have at times a power like that of the electric bolt. They may sting like a serpent, and bite like an adder. In the ordinary intercourse of society, a man of good conversational powers may, even in discharging the customary civilities of life, put forth a large influence. The words dropped from minute to minute, throughout the day, in the millions of little transactions all the while going on between man and man, have an incalculable power in the general aggregate of the forces which keep society in motion.
As with spoken, so with written words. The man who knows how to weave them into combinations which shall gain the popular ear, and sink into the popular heart, has a mighty gift for good or evil. The self-denying and almost saintly Heber, by all his years of personal toil on the plains of India, did not accomplish a tithe of what has been accomplished for the cause of missions by his one Missionary Hymn. It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that those few written words are worth more to the cause than the lives of scores of ordinary missionaries. How many anxious souls, just wavering between a right and a wrong decision, have been led to make the final choice, and to decide for Christ, by that beautiful hymn beginning "Just as I am, without one plea"? Who can doubt that the patient invalid of Torquay, in the hour that she penned those touching words, did more for the conversion of sinners than many a minister of the gospel has done in the course of a long and laborious life? What a fund of consolation for pious hearts through all time is laid up in the hymns of that other sweet singer, Mrs. Steele?
But as with spoken, so with written words, the great aggregate of their force is not contained in these few brilliant and striking exceptions, but in the millions of mere ordinary paragraphs which meet the eye from day to day, in the columns of the daily and weekly press, and which have apparently but an ephemeral existence. The dashing torrent and the mighty river are the more noticeable objects to the casual observer. But it is the minute myriad drops of the rain and the dew that cause the real wonders of vegetation. So these words which we read, and think we forget, hour by hour, all day long, are continually sinking into the soil of the heart, and influencing imperceptibly the growth of the germs of thought. The aggregate of all these minute, unnoticed influences is prodigious, incalculable.
Whoever can put words together wisely, either by the tongue or the pen, has a precious talent, which he may not innocently lay up in a napkin. The gift, like that of wealth, is not his by right of ownership, but only as a steward. It is his as a means to do good for the honor of his Lord, and the welfare of his fellow-men. As I said in the beginning of these remarks, the world is governed by words. Let Christian men, by the industrious use of the gifts they have received, see to it that a greater proportion of this governing force in the world is contributed by the friends of Christ. Let them unceasingly fill up with the words of truth and righteousness every accessible channel of thought and opinion, and thus occupy till Christ come.
THE STUDY OF LANGUAGE.
The study of language has ever been considered a study of high importance, regarded merely as a means of intellectual cultivation.
There are obvious reasons for this. The analysis of language is the analysis of thought. Resolving complex forms of speech into simple ones, and again combining simple expressions into those which are complex, and investigating, alternately by logic and aesthetics, the varying properties of words and phrases, are operations which come nearer, perhaps, than any other in which we are engaged, towards subjecting spirit itself to the crucible of experiment. The study of grammar, the comparison of languages, the translation of thought from one language to another, are so many studies in logic and the laws of mind. The subtleties of language arise from the very nature of that subtle and mysterious essence, the human mind, of which speech is the prime agent and medium of communication.
The class of studies under consideration bears nearly the same relation to the spiritual that anatomy does to the bodily part of us. It is by the dissecting-knife of a keen and well-tempered logic, applied to the examination of the various forms which human thought assumes, that we most truly learn the very essence and properties of thought itself. It is this intimate, immediate, indissoluble connection and correlation between mind and language, between human thought and human speech, between the soul itself and the mould into which it is cast, that gives such importance to the general class of studies known as philological.
The study of language, more than any other study, tends to make the mind acute, discriminating, and exact. It tends also, in a most especial manner, to fit a person to train the minds of others to acuteness, discrimination, and exactness. The person who has learned to express a thought with entire exactness and idiomatic propriety in two languages; or where, from the want of analogy between the two languages, he finds this impracticable, to perceive the exact shade of difference between the two expressions; who can trace historically and logically the present meaning of a word from its original starting-point in reason and fact, and mark intelligently its gradual departures and their causes; who can perceive the exact difference between words and phrases nearly synonymous, and who can express that difference in terms clear and intelligible to others,—that person has already attained both a high degree of intellectual acumen himself, and an important means of producing such acumen in others.
The study of language is, in the profession of teaching, like the sharpening of tools in the business of the mechanic. Words are the teacher's tools. Human knowledge, even before it is expressed, and as it is laid up in the chambers of the mind, exists in words. We think in words. We teach in words. We are qualified to teach only so far as we have learned the use and power of words.
CULTIVATING THE VOICE.
If we except the lower kinds of handicraft, nine-tenths of all that is done in the world is done by means of the voice,—by talking. It is by talking we buy and sell; by talking, the lawyer, the doctor, the minister, the teacher perform the chief of their functions; by talking, the intercourse and machinery of life are chiefly kept in motion. As it was by a word that creation was accomplished, as the worlds came into being and were moulded into shape, not by the hand, but by the omnific voice of God, saying, "Let there be light and there was light," so in this lower sphere of human action, the tongue is mightier than the hand. The moulding, propelling forces of society come from the use of words. By words, more than by all other means, we persuade, convince, alarm, arouse, or soothe, or whatever else leads men to action and achievement; and while written words are full of power, yet even these are feeble as compared with spoken words, the living utterances of the human voice. Not only so, but the manner of speaking, the tone and quality of the voice influence us quite as much as the words spoken.
Yet how strangely we neglect this wonderful instrument. The mechanic sees to it that his tools are as keen and strong as it is in the power of art and labor to make them. The sportsman spares no expense or care to have the articles that minister to his pleasure in the highest possible state of finish and perfection. How lavish we are in the purchase of instruments of music, and in keeping them properly tuned and cared for. Yet this most wonderful organ, the voice, which God has given to every one of us, and which is worth more to us than all the instruments of music, all the inventions of pleasure, all the tools of trade, that human skill has devised, is left for the most part in utter neglect, without intelligent guidance, its wonderful powers almost totally uncultivated and undeveloped. We all feel the sway that a well cultivated and modulated voice has upon us, its power to give us pleasure and win our assent, and yet the great majority of us neglect to cultivate in ourselves that which may give us such a power over others. We are not oblivious of other advantages. We strive to make ourselves acceptable and to increase our influence, by attention to dress, by the adornment of our persons, and by the cultivation of our minds, by stores of knowledge and by accomplishments of various kinds, while the voice, which more than anything else is the direct instrument of the soul, is treated with neglect.
We mumble and mutter what should come out clearly and distinctly; we speak with a nasal drawl, or in a sharp key that sets all the finer chords of sympathy ajar; we use just so much of the vocal power that is given us as is needed to express in the faintest way our most imperative wants, and indolently leave all the rest of its untold and exquisite resources to go to waste.
Mrs. Siddons once made a shopkeeper turn pale with affright and unconsciously drop his goods upon the counter, simply by the tone in which, by way of experiment, she asked him the price of a pair of gloves. Undoubtedly Mrs. Siddons had natural gifts of voice which do not belong to every one. But a great part of the wonderful fascination which she and the other members of that remarkable family exerted, was due to cultivation.
If ministers of the gospel, and others who undertake to influence the minds of a congregation on the side of religion, would give this matter more attention, they would find it very greatly to their own advantage and that of others. The manner in which the words of eternal life are read and uttered from the pulpit is often such as to kill all vitality out of them. It is not enough that a preacher should be a good theologian, and that his sermon contain sound and valuable thoughts. The influence which they are to exert upon the people, is largely dependent upon the voice which gives them utterance. A competent teacher of elocution is quite as important a part of the machinery of a theological seminary, as a teacher of Hebrew. Yet, in organizing our seminaries, this matter is usually entirely ignored.
I have spoken much of blackboards, maps, pictorial cards, natural objects, and apparatus of various kinds, as among the urgent wants of the teacher. But there is one thing which he wants more than all these, and that is EYES. A good pair of eyes are to the teacher, in the government of his school, worth more than the rod, more than any system of merit or demerit marks, more than keeping in after school, more than scolding, reporting to parents, suspension, or expulsion, more than coaxing, premiums, and bribes in any shape or to any amount. The very first element in school government, as in every other government, is that the teacher should know what is going on in his little kingdom, and for this knowledge he needs a pair of eyes.
Most teachers, it is true, seem to be furnished with this article. But it is in appearance only. They have something in the upper part of the face which looks like eyes, but every one knows that appearances are deceiving. They look over a school or an assembly of any kind, and are vaguely conscious that things are going on wrong all around them, just as people sometimes grope about in a dark room filled with bats, and are aware that something is flitting about, but they have no power of seeing distinctly any one object. It is amazing how little some people see, who seem to have eyes.
The fact is, there is an entirely mistaken notion on this whole subject. Having the eyes open, and seeing, are two distinct things. Infants have their eyes open, but they do not see anything, in the sense in which that word is generally used. Light comes into those open windows, the moving panorama of external nature passes before them, but distinct vision, which recognizes and individualizes objects, is something more than a mere passive, bodily sensation. It is a mental act. It is the mind rousing itself into consciousness, and putting forth its powers into voluntary and self-determined activity. Nothing in the history of childhood is more interesting than to watch this awakening of the mind in infancy, to notice how the whole face brightens up when the little stranger first begins actually to see things.
The misfortune with many people is, that in this matter of vision they seem never to get beyond the condition of infancy. They go along the street, or they move about in a room, in a sort of dreamy state, their eyes open, but seeing nothing. A teacher of this kind, no matter what amount of disorder is going on before him, never sees any one particular act. He sees things in the mass, instead of seeing individual things. The difference between teachers in this faculty of seeing things is more marked probably than in any other quality that a man can have. Two teachers may stand before the same class. One will merely be aware that there is a general disorder and noise throughout, being unable to identify any scholar in particular as transgressing. The other will notice that John is talking, that James is pulling his neighbor's hair, that William is drumming on the desk with his fingers, that Andrew is munching an apple, that Peter is making caricatures on his slate, and so on.