E-text prepared by Al Haines
THE ELEMENTS OF GENERAL METHOD
Based on the Principles of Herbart.
CHARLES A. McMURRY, PH.D.
Public-School Publishing Co., Publishers, Bloomington, Illinois. 1893 Copyright, 1893. By C. A. McMurry, Normal, Ill.
The Herbart School of Pedagogy has created much stir in Germany in the last thirty years. It has developed a large number of vigorous writers on all phases of education and psychology, and numbers a thousand or more positive disciples among the energetic teachers of Germany.
Those American teachers and students who have come in contact with the ideas of this school have been greatly stimulated.
In such a miscellaneous and many-sided thing as practical education, it is deeply gratifying to find a clear and definite leading purpose that prevails throughout and a set of mutually related and supporting principles which in practice contribute to the realization of this purpose.
The following chapters cannot be regarded as a full, exact, and painfully scientific account of Herbartian ideas, but as a simple explanation of their leading principles in their relations to each other and in their application to our own school problems.
In the second edition the last chapter of the first edition has been omitted, while the other chapters have been much modified and enlarged. The chapter on the Formal Steps is reserved for enlargement and publication in a separate form.
Normal, Ill., November 4, 1893.
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
CHAPTER I. The Chief Aim of Education
CHAPTER II. Relative Value of Studies
CHAPTER III. Nature of Interest
CHAPTER IV. Concentration
CHAPTER V. Induction
CHAPTER VI. Apperception
CHAPTER VII. The Will
CHAPTER VIII. Herbart and His Disciples Books of Reference
THE CHIEF AIM OF EDUCATION.
What is the central purpose of education? If we include under this term all the things commonly assigned to it, its many phases as represented by the great variety of teachers and pupils, the many branches of knowledge and the various and even conflicting methods in bringing up children, it is difficult to find a definition sufficiently broad and definite to compass its meaning. In fact we shall not attempt in the beginning to make a definition. We are in search not so much of a comprehensive definition as of a central truth, a key to the situation, an aim that will simplify and brighten all the work of teachers. Keeping in view the end from the beginning, we need a central organizing principle which shall dictate for teacher and pupil the highway over which they shall travel together.
We will assume at least that education means the whole bringing up of a child from infancy to maturity, not simply his school training. The reason for this assumption is that home, school, companions, environment, and natural endowment, working through a series of years, produce a character which is a unit as the resultant of these different influences and growths. Again, we are compelled to assume that this aim, whatever it is, is the same for all.
Now what will the average man, picked up at random, say to our question: What is the chief end in the education of your son? A farmer wishes his boy to read, write, and cipher, so as to meet successfully the needs of a farmer's life. The merchant desires that his boy get a wider reach of knowledge and experience so as to succeed in a livelier sort of business competition. A university professor would lay out a liberal course of training for his son so as to prepare him for intellectual pursuits among scholars and people of culture. This utilitarian view, which points to success in life in the ordinary sense, is the prevailing one. We could probably sum up the wishes of a great majority of the common people by saying, "They desire to give their children, through education, a better chance in life than they themselves have had." Yet even these people, if pressed to give reasons, would admit that the purely utilitarian view is a low one and that there is something better for every boy and girl than the mere ability to make a successful living.
Turn for a moment to the great systems of education which have held their own for centuries and examine their aims. The Jesuits, the Humanists, and the Natural Scientists all claimed to be liberal, culture-giving, and preparatory to great things; yet we only need to quote from the histories of education to show their narrowness and incompleteness. The training of the Jesuits was linguistic and rhetorical, and almost entirely apart from our present notion of human development. The Humanists or Classicists who for so many centuries constituted the educational elite, belonged to the past with its glories rather than to the age in which they really lived. Though standing in a modern age, they were almost blind to the great problems and opportunities it offered. They stood in bold contrast to the growth of the modern spirit in history, literature, and natural science. But in spite of their predominating influence over education for centuries, there has never been the shadow of a chance for making the classics of antiquity the basis of common, popular education. The modern school of Natural Scientists is just as one-sided as the Humanists in supposing that human nature is narrow enough to be compressed within the bounds of natural science studies, however broad their field may be.
But the systems of education in vogue have always lagged behind the clear views of educational reformers. Two hundred fifty years ago Comenius projected a plan of education for every boy and girl of the common people. His aim was to teach all men all things from the highest truths of religion to the commonest things of daily experience. Being a man of simple and profound religious faith, religion and morality were at the foundation of his system. But even the principles of intellectual training so clearly advocated by Comenius have not yet found a ready hearing among teachers, to say nothing of his great moral-religious purpose. Among later writers, Locke, Rousseau, and Pestalozzi have set up ideals of education that have had much influence. But Locke's "gentleman" can never be the ideal of all because it is intrinsically aristocratic and education has become with us broadly democratic. After all, Locke's "gentleman" is a noble ideal and should powerfully impress teachers. The perfect human animal that Rousseau dreamed of in the Emile, is best illustrated in the noble savage, but we are not in danger in America of adopting this ideal. In spite of his merits the noblest savage falls short in several ways. Yet it is important in education to perfect the physical powers and the animal development in every child. Pestalozzi touched the hearts of even the weakest and morally frailest children, and tried to make improved physical conditions and intellectual culture contribute to heart culture, or rather to combine the two in strong moral character. He came close upon the highest aim of education and was able to illustrate his doctrine in practice. The educational reformers have gone far ahead of the schoolmasters in setting up a high aim in education.
Let us examine a few well-known definitions of education by great thinkers, and try to discover a central idea.
"The purpose of education is to give to the body and to the soul all the beauty and all the perfection of which they are capable."—Plato.
"Education includes whatever we do for ourselves and whatever is done for us by others for the express purpose of bringing us nearer to the perfection of our nature."—John Stuart Mill.
"Education is the preparation for complete living."—Herbert Spencer.
"Education is the harmonious and equable evolution of the human faculties by a method based upon the nature of the mind for developing all the faculties of the soul, for stirring up and nourishing all the principles of life, while shunning all one-sided culture and taking account of the sentiments upon which the strength and worth of men depend."—Stein.
"Education is the sum of the reflective efforts by which we aid nature in the development of the physical, intellectual, and moral faculties of man in view of his perfection, his happiness, and his social destination."—Compayre.
These attempts to bring the task of education into a comprehensive, scientific formula are interesting and yet disappointing. They agree in giving great breadth to education. But in the attempt to be comprehensive, to omit nothing, they fail to specify that wherein the true worth of man consists; they fail to bring out into relief the highest aim as an organizing idea in the complicated work of education and its relation to secondary aims.
We desire therefore to approach nearer to this problem: What is the highest aim of education?
We will do so by an inquiry into the aims and tendencies of our public schools. To an outward observer the schools of today confine their attention almost exclusively to the acquisition of certain forms of knowledge and to intellectual training, to the mental discipline and power that come from a varied and vigorous exercise of the faculties. The great majority of good schoolmasters stand squarely upon this platform, knowledge and mental discipline. But they are none the less deeply conscious that this is not the highest aim of education. We scarcely need to be told that a person may be fully equipped with the best that this style of education can give, and still remain a criminal. A good and wise parent will inevitably seek for a better result in his child than mere knowledge, intellectual ability, and power. All good schoolmasters know that behind school studies and cares is the still greater task of developing manly and womanly character. Perhaps, however, this is too high and sacred a thing to formulate. Perhaps in the attempt to reduce it to a scientific form we should lose its spirit. Admitting that strong moral character is the noblest result of right training, is it not still incidental to the regular school work? Perhaps it lies in the teacher and in his manner of teaching subjects, and not in the subject-matter itself nor in any course of study.
This is exactly the point at which we wish to apply the lever and to lift into prominence the moral character-building aim as the central one in education. This aim should be like a loadstone, attracting and subordinating all other purposes to itself. It should dominate in the choice, arrangement, and method of studies.
Let us examine more carefully the convictions upon which the moral aim rests. Every wise and benevolent parent knows that the first and last question to ask and answer regarding a child is "What are his moral quality and strength?" Now, who is better able to judge of the true aim than thoughtful and solicitous parents? In the second place, it is inconceivable that a conscientious teacher should close his eyes to all except the intellectual training of his pupils. It is as natural for him to touch and awaken the moral qualities as it is for birds to sing. Again, the state is more concerned to see the growth of just and virtuous citizens than in seeing the prosperity of scholars, inventors, and merchants. It is also concerned with the success of the latter, but chiefly when their knowledge, skill, and wealth are equaled by their virtues. Our country may have vast resources and great opportunities, but everything in the end depends upon the moral quality of its men and women. Undermine and corrupt this and we all know that there is nothing to hope for. The uncorrupted stock of true patriots in our land is firmly rooted in this conviction, which is worth more to the country than corn-fields and iron mines. The perpetual enticement and blandishment of worldly success so universal in our time can not move us if we found one theory and practice upon the central doctrine of moral education. Education, therefore, in its popular, untrammeled, moral sense, is the greatest concern of society.
In projecting a general plan of popular education we are beholden to the prejudices of no man nor class of men. Not even the traditional prejudices of the great body of teachers should stand in the way of setting up the noblest ideal of education. Educational thinkers are in duty bound to free themselves from utilitarian notions and narrowness, and to adopt the best platform that children by natural birthright can stand upon. They are called upon to find the best and to apply it to as many as possible. Let it be remembered that each child has a complete growth before him. His own possibilities and not the attainments of his parents and elders are the things to consider.
Shall we seek to avoid responsibility for the moral aim by throwing it upon the family and the church? But the more we probe into educational problems the more we shall find the essential unity of all educational forces. The citadel of a child's life is his moral character, whether the home, the school, or the church build and strengthen its walls. If asked to define the relation of the school to the home we shall quickly see that they are one in spirit and leading purpose, that instead of being separated they should be brought closer together.
In conclusion, therefore, shall we make moral character the clear and conscious aim of school education, and then subordinate school studies and discipline, mental training and conduct, to this aim? It will be a great stimulus to thousands of teachers to discover that this is the real purpose of school work, and that there are abundant means not yet used of realizing it. Having once firmly grasped this idea, they will find that there is no other having half its potency. It will put a substantial foundation under educational labors, both theoretical and practical, which will make them the noblest of enterprises. Can we expect the public school to drop into such a purely subordinate function as that of intellectual training; to limit its influence to an almost mechanical action, the sharpening of the mental tools? Stated in this form, it becomes an absurdity.
Is it reasonable to suppose that the rank and file of our teachers will realize the importance of this aim in teaching so long as it has no recognition in our public system of instruction? The moral element is largely present among educators as an instinct, but it ought to be evolved into a clear purpose with definite means of accomplishment. It is an open secret in fact, that while our public instruction is ostensibly secular, having nothing to do directly with religion or morals, there is nothing about which good teachers are more thoughtful and anxious than about the means of moral influence. Occasionally some one from the outside attacks our public schools as without morals and godless, but there is no lack of staunch defenders on moral grounds. Theoretically and even practically, to a considerable extent, we are all agreed upon the great value of moral education. But there is a striking inconsistency in our whole position on the school problem. While the supreme value of the moral aim will be generally admitted, it has no open recognition in our school course, either as a principal or as a subordinate aim of instruction. Moral education is not germane to the avowed purposes of the public school. If it gets in at all it is by the back door. It is incidental, not primary. The importance of making the leading aim of education clear and conscious to teachers, is great. If their conviction on this point is not clear they will certainly not concentrate their attention and efforts upon its realization. Again, in a business like education, where there are so many important and necessary results to be reached, it is very easy and common to put forward a subordinate aim, and to lift it into undue prominence, even allowing it to swallow up all the energies of teacher and pupils. Owing to this diversity of opinion among teachers as to the results to be reached, our public schools exhibit a chaos of conflicting theory and practice, and a numberless brood of hobby-riders.
How to establish the moral aim in the center of the school course, how to subordinate and realize the other educational aims while keeping this chiefly in view, how to make instruction and school discipline contribute unitedly to the formation of vigorous moral character, and how to unite home, school, and other life experiences of a child in perfecting the one great aim of education—these are some of the problems whose solution will be sought in the following chapters.
It will be especially our purpose to show how school instruction can be brought into the direct service of character-building. This is the point upon which most teachers are skeptical. Not much effort has been made of late to put the best moral materials into the school course. In one whole set of school studies, and that the most important (reading, literature, and history), there is opportunity through all the grades for a vivid and direct cultivation of moral ideas and convictions. The second great series of studies, the natural sciences, come in to support the moral aims, while the personal example and influence of the teacher, and the common experiences and incidents of school life and conduct, give abundant occasion to apply and enforce moral ideas.
That the other justifiable aims of education, such as physical training, mental discipline, orderly habits, gentlemanly conduct, practical utility of knowledge, liberal culture, and the free development of individuality will not be weakened by placing the moral aim in the forefront of educational motives, we are convinced. To some extent these questions will be discussed in the following pages.
RELATIVE VALUE OF STUDIES.
Being convinced that the controlling aim of education should be moral, we shall now inquire into the relative value of different studies and their fitness to reach and satisfy this aim. As measured upon this cardinal purpose, what is the intrinsic value of each school study? The branches of knowledge furnish the materials upon which a child's mind works. Before entering upon such a long and up-hill task as education, with its weighty results, it is prudent to estimate not only the end in view, but the best means of reaching it. Many means are offered, some trivial, others valuable. A careful measurement, with some reliable standard, of the materials furnished by the common school, is our first task. To what extent does history contribute to our purpose? What importance have geography and arithmetic? How do reading and natural science aid a child to grow into the full stature of a man or woman?
These questions are not new, but the answer to them has been long delayed. Since the time of Comenius, to say the least, they have seriously disturbed educators. But few have had the courage, industry, and breadth of mind of a Comenius, to sound the educational waters and to lay out a profitable chart. In spite of Comenius' labors, however, and those of other educational reformers be they never so energetic, practical progress toward a final answer, as registered in school courses, has been extremely slow.
Herbert Spencer says: "If there needs any further evidence of the rude, undeveloped character of our education, we have it in the fact that the comparative worths of the different kinds of knowledge have been as yet scarcely even discussed, much less discussed in a methodic way with definite results. Not only is it that no standard of relative values has yet been agreed upon, but the existence of any such standard has not been conceived in any clear manner. And not only is it that the existence of such a standard has not been clearly conceived, but the need of it seems to have been scarcely even felt. Men read books on this topic and attend lectures upon that, decide that their children shall be instructed in these branches and not in those; and all under the guidance of mere custom, or liking, or prejudice, without ever considering the enormous importance of determining in some rational way what things are really most worth learning. * * * * * Men dress their children's minds as they do their bodies, in the prevailing fashion." Spencer, Education, p. 26.
Spencer sees clearly the importance of this problem and gives it a vigorous discussion in his first chapter, "What knowledge is of most worth?" But the question is a broad and fundamental one and in his preference for the natural sciences he seems to us not to have maintained a just balance of educational forces in preparing a child for "complete living." His theory needs also to be worked out into greater detail and applied to school conditions before it can be of much value to teachers. It can scarcely be said that any other Englishman or American has seriously grappled with this problem. Great changes and reforms indeed have been started, especially within the last fifty years, but they have been undertaken under the pressure of general popular demands and have resulted in compromises between traditional forces and urgent popular needs. An adequate philosophical inquiry into the relative merit of studies and their adaptability to nurture mental, moral, and physical qualities has not been made.
The Germans have worked to a better purpose. Quite a number of able thinkers among them have given their best years to the study of this problem of relative educational values and to a working out of its results. Herbart, Ziller, Stoy, and Rein have been deeply interested in philosophy and psychology as life-long teachers of these subjects at the university, but in their practice schools in the same place they also stood daily face to face with the primary difficulties of ordinary teaching. At the outset, and before laying out a course of study, they were compelled to meet and settle the aim of education and the problem of relative values. Having answered these questions to their own satisfaction, they proceeded to work out in detail a common school course. The Herbart school of teachers has presumed to call its interpretation of educational ideas "scientific pedagogy," a somewhat pretentious name in view of the fact that many leading educators in Germany, England, and elsewhere, deny the existence of such a science. But if not a science, it is at least a serious attempt at one. The exposition of principles that follow is chiefly derived from them.
With us the present time is favorable to a rational inquiry into relative educational values and to a thorough-going application of the results to school courses and methods.
In the first place the old classical monopoly is finally and completely broken, at least so far as the common school is concerned. It ruled education for several centuries, but now even its methods of discipline are losing their antique hold. The natural sciences, modern history, and literature have assumed an equal place with the old classical studies in college courses. Freed from old traditions and prejudice, our common school is now grounded in the vernacular, in the national history and literature, and in home geography and natural science. Its roots go deep into native soil. Secondly, the door of the common school has been thrown open to the new studies and they have entered in a troop. History, drawing, natural science, modern literature, and physical culture have been added to the old reading, writing, and arithmetic. The common school was never so untrammeled. It is free to absorb into its course the select materials of the best studies. Teachers really enjoy more freedom in selecting and arranging subjects and in introducing new things than they know how to make use of. There is no one in high authority to check the reform spirit and even local boards are often among the advocates of change. In the third place, by multiplying studies, the common school course has grown more complex and heterogeneous. The old reading, writing, arithmetic, and grammar could not be shelved for the sake of the new studies and the same amount of time must be divided now among many branches. It is not to be wondered at if all the studies are treated in a shallow and fragmentary way. Some of the new studies, especially, are not well taught. There is less of unity in higher education now than there was before the classical studies and "the three R's" lost their supremacy. Our common school course has become a batch of miscellanies. We are in danger of overloading pupils, as well as of making a superficial hodge-podge of all branches. There is imperative need for sifting the studies according to their value, as well as for bringing them into right connection and dependence upon one another. Fourthly, there is a large body of thoughtful and inquiring teachers and principals who are working at a revision of the school course. They seek something tangible, a working plan, which will help them in their present perplexities and show them a wise use of drawing, natural science, and literature, in harmony with the other studies. Finally, since we are in the midst of such a breaking-up period, we need to take our bearings. In order to avoid mistakes and excesses there is a call for deep, impartial, and many-sided thinking on educational problems. Supposing that we know what the controlling aim of education is, we are next led to inquire about and to determine the relative value of studies as tributary to this aim.
It is not however our purpose to give an original solution to this problem and to those which follow it. We must decline to attempt a philosophical inquiry into fundamental principles and their origin. Ours is the humbler task of explaining and applying principles already worked out by others; that is, to give the results of Herbartian pedagogy as applied to our schools.
Instead of discussing the many branches of study one after another, it will be well to make a broad division of them into three classes and observe the marked features and value of each. First, history, including the subject matter of biography, history, story, and other parts of literature. Second, the natural sciences. Third, the formal studies, grammar, writing, much of arithmetic, and the symbols used in reading.
The first two open up the great fields of real knowledge and experience, the world of man and of external nature, the two great reservoirs of interesting facts. We will first examine these two fields and consider their value as constituent parts of the school course.
History, in our present sense, includes what we usually understand by it, as U. S. history, modern and ancient history, also biography, tradition, fiction as expressing human life and the novel or romance, and historical and literary masterpieces of all sorts, as the drama and the epic poem, so far as they delineate man's experience and character. In a still broader sense, history includes language as the expression of men's thoughts and feelings. But this is the formal side of history with which we are not at present concerned. History deals with men's motives and actions as individuals or in society, with their dispositions, habits, and institutions, and with the monuments and literature they have left.
The relations of persons to each other in society give rise to morals. How? The act of a person—as when a fireman rescues a child from a burning building—shows a disposition in the actor. We praise or condemn this disposition as the deed is good or bad. But each moral judgment, rightly given, leaves us stronger. To appreciate and judge fairly the life and acts of a woman like Mary Lyon, or of a man such as Samuel Armstrong, is to awaken something of their spirit and moral temper in ourselves. Whether in the life of David or of Shylock, or of the people whom they represent, the study of men is primarily a study of morals, of conduct. It is in the personal hardships, struggles, and mutual contact of men that motives and moral impulses are observed and weighed. In such men as John Bunyan, William the Silent, and John Quincy Adams, we are much interested to know what qualities of mind and heart they possessed, and especially what human sympathies and antipathies they felt. Livingstone embodied in his African life certain Christian virtues which we love and honor the more because they were so severely and successfully tested. Although the history of men and of society has many uses, its best influence is in illustrating and inculcating moral ideas. It is teaching morals by example. Even living companions often exert less influence upon children than the characters impressed upon their minds from reading. The deliberate plan of teachers and parents might make this influence more salutary and effective.
It will strike most teachers as a surprise to say that the chief use of history study is to form moral notions in children. Their experience with this branch of school work has been quite different. They have not so regarded nor used history. It has been generally looked upon as a body of useful information that intelligent persons must possess. Our history texts also have been constructed for another purpose, namely, to summarize and present important facts in as brief space as possible, not to reveal personal actions and character as a formative moral influence in the education of the young. Even as sources of valuable information, Spencer shows that our histories have been extremely deficient; but for moral purposes they are almost worthless.
Now, moral dispositions are a better fruitage and test of worth in men than any intellectual acquirements. History is already a recognized study of admitted value in the schools. It is a shame to strip it of that content and of that influence which are its chief merit. To study the conduct of persons as illustrating right actions is, in quality, the highest form of instruction. Other very important things are also involved in a right study of history. There are economic, political, and social institutions evolved out of previous history; there are present intricate problems to be approached and understood. But all these questions rest to a large extent upon moral principles. But while these political, social, and economic interests are beyond the present reach of children, biography, individual life and action in their simple forms, are plain to their understanding. They not only make moral conduct real and impressive, but they gradually lead up to an appreciation of history in its social and institutional forms.
Some of the best historical materials (from biography, tradition, and fiction) should be absorbed by children in each grade as an essential part of the substratum of moral ideas. This implies more than a collection of historical stories in a supplementary reader for intermediate grades. It means that history in the broad sense is to be an important study in every grade, and that it shall become a center and reservoir from which reading books and language lessons draw their supplies. These biographies, stories, and historical episodes must be the best which our history and classic literature can furnish, and whatever is of like virtue in the life of other kindred peoples, of England, Germany, Greece, etc.
If history in this sense can be made a strong auxiliary to moral education in common schools, the whole body of earnest teachers will be gratified. For there is no theme among them of such perennial interest and depth of meaning as moral culture in schools. It is useless to talk of confining our teachers to the intellectual exercises outlined in text books. They are conscious of dealing with children of moral susceptibility. In our meetings, discussions on the means of moral influence are more frequent and earnest than on any other topic; and in their daily work hundreds of our teachers are aiming at moral character in children more than at anything else. As they free themselves from mechanical requirements and begin to recognize their true function, they discover the transcendent importance of moral education, that it underlies and gives meaning to all the other work of the teacher.
But teachers heretofore have taken a narrow view of the moral influences at their disposal. Their ever-recurring emphatic refrain has been "the example of the teacher," and, to tell the truth, there is no better means of instilling moral ideas than the presence and inspiration of a high-toned teacher. We know, however, that teachers need moral stimulus and encouragement as much as anybody. It will not do to suppose that they have reached the pinnacle of moral excellence and can stand as all-sufficient exemplars to children. The teacher himself must have food as well as the children. He must partake of the loaf he distributes to them. The clergyman also should be an example of Christian virtue, but he preaches the gospel as illustrated in the life of Christ, of St. Paul, and of others. In pressing home moral and religious truths his appeal is to great sources of inspiration which lie outside of himself. Why should the teacher rely upon his own unaided example more than the preacher? No teacher can feel that he embodies in himself, except in an imperfect way, the strong moral ideas that have made the history of good men worth reading. No matter what resources he may have in his own character, the teacher needs to employ moral forces that lie outside of himself, ideals toward which he struggles and towards which he inspires and leads others. The very fact that he appreciates and admires a man like Longfellow or Peter Cooper will stir the children with like feelings. In this sense it is a mistake to center all attention upon the conduct of the teacher. He is but a guide, or, like Goldsmith's preacher, he allures to brighter worlds and leads the way. It is better for pupil and teacher to enter into the companionship of common aims and ideals. For them to study together and admire the conduct of Roger Williams is to bring them into closer sympathy, and what do teachers need more than to get into personal sympathy with their children? Let them climb the hill together, and enjoy the views together, and grow so intimate in their aims and sympathies that afterlife cannot break the bond. When the inspirations and aims thus gained have gradually changed into tendencies and habits, the child is morally full-fledged. It is high ground upon which to land youth, or aid in landing him, but it is clearly in view.
It is only gradually that moral ideas gain an ascendency, first over the thoughts and feelings of a child and later still over his conduct. Many good impressions at first seem to bear no fruit in action. But examples and experience reiterate the truth till it finds a firm lodgment and begins to act as a check upon natural impulses. Many a child reads the stories in the Youth's Companion with absorbing interest but in the home circle fails noticeably to imitate the conduct he admires. But moral ideas must grow a little before they can yield fruit. The seed of example must drop into the soil of the mind under favorable conditions; it must germinate and send up its shoots to some height before its presence and nature can be clearly seen. The application of moral ideas to conduct is very important even in childhood, out patience and care are necessary in most cases. There must be timely sowing of the seed and judicious cultivation, if good fruits are to be gathered later on. There is indeed much anxiety and painful uncertainty on the part of those who charge themselves with the moral training of children. Labor and birth pains are antecedent to the delivery of a moral being. Then again a child must develop according to what is in him, his nature and peculiar disposition. The processes of growth are within him and the best you can do is to give them scope. He is free and you are bound to minister to his best freedom. The common school age is the formative period. At six a child is morally immature; at fifteen the die has been stamped. This youthful wilderness must be crossed. We can't turn back. There is no other way of reaching the promised land. But there are rebellions and baitings and disorderly scenes.
This is a tortuous road! Isn't there a quicker and easier way? The most speedily constructed road across this region is a short treatise on morals for teacher and pupil. In this way it is possible to have all the virtues and faults tabulated, labeled, and transferred in brief space to the minds of the children (if the discipline is rigorous enough). Swallow a catechism, reduced to a verbal memory product. Pack away the essence of morals in a few general laws and rules and have the children learn them. Some day they may understand. What astounding faith in memory cram and dry forms! We can pave such a road through the fields of moral science, but when a child has traveled it is he a whit the better? No such paved road is good for anything. It isn't even comfortable. It has been tried a dozen times in much less important fields of knowledge than morals. Moral ideas spring up out of experience with persons either in real life or in the books we read. Examples of moral action drawn from life are the only thing that can give meaning to moral precepts. If we see a harsh man beating his horse, we get an ineffaceable impression of harshness. By reading the story of the Black Beauty we acquire a lively sympathy for animals. Then the maxim "A merciful man is merciful to his beast" will be a good summary of the impressions received. Moral ideas always have a concrete basis or origin. Some companion with whose feelings and actions you are in close personal contact, or some character from history or fiction by whose personality you have been strongly attracted, gives you your keenest impressions of moral qualities. To begin with abstract moral teaching, or to put faith in it, is to misunderstand children. In morals as in other forms of knowledge, children are overwhelmingly interested in personal and individual examples, things which have form, color, action. The attempt to sum up the important truths of a subject and present them as abstractions to children is almost certain to be a failure, pedagogically considered. It has been demonstrated again and again, even in high schools, that botany, chemistry, physics, and zoology can not be taught by such brief scientific compendia of rules and principles—"Words, words, words," as Hamlet said. We can not learn geography from definitions and map questions, nor morals from catechisms. And just as in natural science we are resorting perforce to plants, animals, and natural phenomena, so in morals we turn to the deeds and lives of men. Columbus in his varying fortunes leaves vivid impressions of the moral strength and weakness of himself and of others. John Winthrop gives frequent examples of generous and unselfish good-will to the settlers about Boston. Little Lord Fauntleroy is a better treatise on morals for children than any of our sermonizers have written. We must get at morals without moralizing and drink in moral convictions without resorting to moral platitudes. Educators are losing faith in words, definitions, and classifications. It is a truism that we can't learn chemistry or zoology from books alone, nor can moral judgments be rendered except from individual actions.
A little reflection will show that we are only demanding object lessons in the field of moral education, extensive, systematic object lessons; choice experiences and episodes from human life, simple and clear, painted in natural colors, as shown by our best history and literature. To appreciate the virtues and vices, to sympathize with better impulses, we must travel beyond words and definitions till we come in contact with the personal deeds that first give rise to them. The life of Martin Luther, with its faults and merits honestly represented, is a powerful moral tonic to the reader; the autobiography of Franklin brings out a great variety of homely truths in the form of interesting episodes in his career. Adam Bede and Romola impress us more powerfully and permanently than the best sermons, because the individual realism in them leads to a vividness of moral judgment of their acts unequalled. King Lear teaches us the folly of a rash judgment with overwhelming force. Evangeline awakens our sympathies as no moralist ever dreamed of doing. Uncle Tom in Mrs. Stowe's story was a stronger preacher than Wendell Phillips. William Tell in Schiller's play kindles our love for heroic deeds into an enthusiasm. The best myths, historical biographies, novels, and dramas, are the richest sources of moral stimulus because they lead us into the immediate presence of those men and women whose deeds stir up our moral natures. In the representations of the masters we are in the presence of moral ideas clothed in flesh and blood, real and yet idealized. Generosity is not a name but the act of a person which wins our interest and, favor. To get the impress of kindness we must see an act of kindness and feel the glow it produces. When Sir Philip Sidney, wounded on the battle field and suffering with thirst, reached out his hand for a cup of water that was brought, his glance fell upon a dying soldier who viewed the cup with great desire; Sidney handed him the water with the words, "Thy necessity is greater than mine." No one can refuse his approval for this act. After telling the story of the man who went down to Jericho and fell among thieves, and then of the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan who passed that way, Jesus put the question to his critic, "Who was neighbor to him that fell among thieves?" And the answer came even from unwilling lips, "He that showed mercy." When Nathan Hale on the scaffold regretted that he had but one life to lose for his country, we realize better what patriotism is. On the other hand it is natural to condemn wrong deeds when presented clearly and objectively in the action of another. Nero caused Christians to be falsely accused and then to be condemned to the claws of wild beasts in the arena. When such cruelty is practiced against the innocent and helpless, we condemn the act. When Columbus was thrown into chains instead of being rewarded, we condemn the Spaniards. In the same way the real world of persons about us, the acts of parents, companions, and teachers are powerful in giving a good or bad tone to our sentiments, because, as living object lessons, their impress is directly and constantly upon us.
In such cases taken from daily experience and from illustrations of personal conduct in books, it is possible to observe how moral judgments originate and by repetition grow into convictions. They spring up naturally and surely when we understand well the circumstances under which an act was performed. The interest and sympathy felt for the persons lends great vividness to the judgments expressed. Each individual act stands out clearly and calls forth a prompt and unerring approval or disapproval. (But later the judgment must react upon our own conduct.) The examples are simple and objective, free from selfish interest on the child's part, so that good and bad acts are recognized in their true quality. These simple moral judgments are only a beginning, only a sowing of the seed. But harvests will not grow and ripen unless seed has been laid in the ground. It is a long road to travel before these early moral impressions develop into firm convictions which rule the conduct of an adult. But education is necessarily a slow process, and it is likely to be a perverted one unless the foundation is carefully laid in early years. The fitting way then to cultivate moral judgments, that is, to start just ideas of right and wrong, of virtues and vices, is by a regular and systematic presentation of persons illustrating noble and ignoble acts. A preference for the right and an aversion for the wrong will be the sure result of careful teaching. Habits of judging will be formed and strong moral convictions established which may be gradually brought to influence and control action.
A good share of the influences that are thrown around an ordinary child need to be counteracted. It can be done to a considerable extent by instruction. Many of the interesting characters of history are better company for us and for children than our neighbors and contemporaries. For the purposes of moral example and inspiration we may select as companions for them the best persons in history, provided we know how to select for ourselves and others. Their acts are personal, biographical, and interesting, and appeal at once to children as well as to their elders. There is no good reason why a much greater number of our school children should not be brought under the influence of the best books suited to their age. Here is a source of educational influence of high quality which is left too much to accident and to the natural, unaided instinct of children. A few get the benefit but many more are capable of receiving it. How much better the school choice and treatment of such books may be than the loose and miscellaneous reading of children, is discussed in Special Method. A fit introduction of children to this class of literature should be in the hands of teachers, and all the later reading of pupils will feel the salutary effect.
If this is the proper origin and culture of moral ideas, we desire to know how to utilize it in the common school course. It can only be done by an extensive use of historical and literary materials in all grades with the conscious purpose of shaping moral ideas and character. That the school has such influence at its disposal can not be reasonably denied by any one who believes that the family or the church can affect the moral character of their children. It may be objected that the school thus takes up the proper work of the home, when it ought to be occupied with other things. Would that the homes were all good! But even if they were the teacher could not fold his arms over a responsibility removed. As soon as a boy enters school, if not sooner, he begins, in some sense, to outgrow the home. New influences and interests find a lodgment in his affections. Companions, the wider range of his acquaintances, studies, and ambitions, share now with the home. John Locke objected radically to English public schools on this account. But even if we desired, we could not resort to private tutors as Locke did. The child is growing and changing. Who shall organize unity out of this maze of thoughts, interests, and influences, casting out the useless and bad, combining and strengthening the good? The more service the home renders the better. The child's range of thought and ambition is expanding. Who has the best survey of the field? In many cases at least, the teacher, especially where parents lack the culture and the children need a guide. Who spends six hours a day directing these currents of thought and interest? We are not disposed to underestimate the magnitude of the task here laid upon the teacher. The rights and duties of the home are not put in question. Indeed the spirit of this kind of teaching is best illustrated in a good home. A teacher who has a father's anxiety in the real welfare of children will not forget his duty in watching their moral growth. The moral atmosphere of a good home will remain the ideal for the school. In fact, Herbart's plan of education originated not in a school-room, but in an excellent home in Switzerland, where he spent three years in the private instruction of three boys. The conscientious zeal with which he devoted himself to the moral and mental growth of these children is a model for teachers. The shaping of three characters was, according to his view, entrusted to him. The common notion of intellectual growth and strength which rules in such cases was at once subordinated to character development in the moral sense. Not that the two ideas are at all antagonistic, but one is more important than the other. The selection of reading matter, of studies, and of employments, was adapted to each boy with a view to influencing conduct and moral action.
The Herbart school adheres to this view of education, and has transferred its spirit and method to the schools. The Herbartians have the hardihood, in this age of moral skeptics, to believe not only in moral example but also in moral teaching. (By moral skeptics we mean those who believe in morals but not in moral instruction.) They seek first of all historical materials of the richest moral content, in vivid personification, upon which to nourish the moral spirit of children. If properly treated, this subject matter will soon win the children by its power over feeling and judgment. With Crusoe the child goes through every hardship and success; with Abraham he lives in tents, seeks pastures for his flocks, and generously marches out to the rescue of his kinsmen. He should not read Caesar with a slow and toilsome drag (parsing and construing) that would render a bright boy stupid. If he goes with Caesar at all, he must build an agger, fight battles, construct bridges, and approve or condemn Caesar's acts. But we doubt the moral value of Caesar's Gallic wars. By reading Plutarch we may see that the Latins and Greeks, before the days of their degeneracy, nourished their rising youth upon the traditions of their ancestry. The education produced a tough and sinewy brood of moral qualities. Their great men were great characters, largely because of the mother-milk of national tradition and family training. In Scotch, English, and German history we are familiar with Alfred, Bruce, Siegfried, and many other heroes of similar value in the training of youth.
It will be well for us to look into our own history and see what sort of a moral heritage of educative materials it has left us. What noble examples does it furnish of right thought and action? Have we any home-bred food like this for the nourishment of our growing youth? Our native American history is indeed nobler in tone and more abundant. For moral educative purposes in the training of the young the history of America, from the early explorations and settlements along the Atlantic coast to the present, has scarcely a parallel in history. It was a race of moral heroes that led the first colonies to many of the early settlements. Winthrop, Penn, Williams, Oglethorpe, Raleigh, and Columbus were great and simple characters, deeply moral and practical. For culture purposes, where can their equals be found? And where was given a better opportunity for the display of personal virtues than by the leaders of these little danger-encircled communities? The leaven of purity, piety, and manly independence which they brought with them and illustrated, has never ceased to work powerfully among our people. Why not bring the children into direct contact with these characters in the intermediate grades, not by short and sketchy stories, but by full life pictures of these men and their surroundings? We have not been wholly lacking in literary artists who have worked up a part of these materials into a more durable and acceptable form for our schools. We need to make an abundant use of this and other history for our boys and girls, not by devoting a year in the upper grades to a barren outline of American annals, but by a proper distribution of these and other similar rich treasures throughout the grades of the common school.
Tradition and fiction are scarcely less valuable than biography and history because of their vivid portrayal of strong and typical characters. Our own literature, and the world's literature at large, are a store-house well-stocked with moral educative materials, properly suited to children at different ages, if only sorted, selected, and arranged. But this requires broad knowledge of our best literature and clear insight into child character at different ages. This problem will not be solved in a day, nor in a life-time.
In making a progressive series of our best historical and literary products, it is necessary to select those materials which are better adapted than anything else to interest, influence, and mould the character of children at each time of life. It is now generally agreed by the best teachers that these selections shall be classical masterpieces, not in fragments but as wholes. They should be those classical materials that bear the stamp of genuine nobility. Goethe says "The best is good enough for children." For some years past in our grammar grades we have been using some of the best selections of Whittier, Longfellow, Bryant, and others, and we are not even frightened by the length of such productions as Evangeline, The Lady of the Lake, or Julius Caesar. A simple, adapted version of Robinson Crusoe is used in some schools as a second reader. From time immemorial choice selections of prose and verse have formed the staple of our readers above the third. But generally these selections are scrappy or fragmentary. Few of the great masterpieces have been used because most of them are supposed to be too long. Broken fragments of our choice literary products have been served up, but the best literary works as wholes have never been given to the children in the schools. The Greek youth were better served with the Iliad and Odyssey, and some of our grandfathers with the tales of the Old Testament. We now go still further back in the child-life and make use of fairy tales in the first grade. But many are not yet able to realize that select fairy stories are genuinely classical, that they are as well adapted to stimulate the minds of children as Hamlet the minds of adults. (See Special Method.)
The chief aim of our schools all along has not been an appreciation of literary masterpieces either in their moral or art value, but to acquire skill in reading, fluency, and naturalness, of expression. Our schools have been almost completely absorbed in the purely formal use of our literary materials, learning to read in the earlier grades and learning to read with rhetorical expression and confidence in the later ones. In the present argument our chief concern is not with the formal use of literary materials for practice in reading, but with the moral culture, conviction, and habit of life they may foster. Nor have we chiefly in view the art side of our best literary pieces. Appreciation of beauty in poetry and of strength in prose, admirable as they may be, are quite secondary to the main purpose. Coming in direct and vivid contact with manly deeds or with unselfish acts as personified in choice biography, history, fiction, and real life, will inspire children with thoughts that make life worth living. Neither formal skill in reading nor appreciation of literary art can atone for the lack of direct moral incentive which historical studies should give. All three ends should be reached.
Many teachers are now calling for a change in the spirit with which the best biography and literature are used. They call for an improvement in the quality and an increase in the quantity of complete historical episodes and of literary masterpieces. An appreciative reading of Ivanhoe revives the spirit of that age. The life of Samuel Adams is an epic that gives the youth a chance to live amid the stirring scenes of Boston in a notable time. Children are to live in thought and interest the lives of many men of other generations, as of Tell, Columbus, Livingstone, Lincoln, Penn, Franklin, Fulton. They are to partake of the experiences of the best typical men in the story of our own and of other countries.
The use of the best historical and literary works as a means of strengthening moral motives and principles with children whose minds and characters are developing, is a high aim in itself. And it will add interest and life to the formal studies, such as reading, spelling, grammar, and composition, which spring out of this valuable subject-matter.
History, in the broad sense, should be the chief constituent of a child's education. That subject-matter which contains the essence of moral culture in generative form deserves to constitute the chief mental food of young people. The conviction of the high moral value of historic subjects and of their peculiar adaptability to children at different ages, brings us to a positive judgment as to their relative value among studies. The first question, preliminary to all others in the common school course, "What is the most important study?" is answered by putting history at the head of the list.
Natural science takes the second place. In many respects it is co-ordinate with history. The object-world, which is so interesting, so informing, and so intimately interwoven with the needs, labors, and progress of men, furnishes the second great constituent of education for all children. Botany, zoology, and the other natural sciences, taken as a unit, constitute the field of nature apart from man. They furnish us an understanding of the varied objects and complex phenomena of nature. It is one of the imperative needs of all human minds that have retained their childlike thoughtfulness and spirit of inquiry, to desire to understand nature, to classify the variety of objects and appearances, to trace the chain of causes, and to search out the simple laws of nature's operations. The command early came to men to subdue the earth, and we understand better than primitive man that it is subdued through investigation and study. All the forces and bounties of nature are to be made serviceable to us and it can only be done by understanding her facts and laws. The road to mastery leads through patient observation, experiment, and study.
But we are concerned with the educational value of the natural sciences. Waitz says: "A correct philosophy of the world and of life is possible to a person only on the basis of a knowledge of one's self and of one's relation to surrounding nature." Diesterweg says: "No one can afford to neglect a knowledge of nature who desires to get a comprehension of the world and of God according to human possibility, or who desires to find his proper relation to Him and to real things. He who knows nothing of human history is an ignoramus, likewise he who knows nothing of natural science. To know nothing of either is a pure shame. Ignorance of nature is an unpardonable perversion." Kraepelin speaks as follows; "Instruction should open up to a pupil an understanding of the present, and thereby furnish a basis for a frank and many-sided philosophy of life, resting upon reality. But to the present belongs the world outside of us. Of this present there can be no such thing as an understanding unless it relates not only to inter-human relations but also to relations of man to animal, of animal to plant, and of organic life to inorganic life. The necessity of assuming a relation to our environment is unavoidable and this can only be done by acquainting ourselves with the surrounding world in every direction. This requirement would remain in force though man, like a god, were set above nature and her laws. But man lives, acts, and dies not outside of, but within the circle of nature's laws. This maxim is axiomatic and contains the final judgment against those who claim that a comprehensive but unified philosophy of life is possible without a knowledge of nature." Herbart says: "Here (in nature) lies the abode of real truth, which does not retreat before tests into an inaccessible past (as does history). This genuinely empirical character distinguishes the natural sciences and makes their loss irretrievable. It is here (in nature) that the object disentangles itself from all fancies and opinions and constantly stimulates the spirit of observation. Here then is found an obstruction to extravagant thinking such as the sciences themselves could not better devise." Ziller says: "The natural sciences are necessary in education because from the province of nature (as well as from history) are derived those means and resources which are necessary to accomplish the purposes of the will in action. Means and forces are the natural conditions for the realization of aims. Without knowledge of and intelligent power over nature, it is difficult to realize that certain aims are possible; action cannot be successful; will effort, based upon the firm conviction of ability, that is, judicious exercise of will, is impossible." We quote also from Professor Rein: "Let us observe in passing that in the great industrial contest between civilized nations, that people will suffer defeat which falls behind in the culture of natural science, and for this reason the motive of self-protection would demand natural science instruction. In favor of this teaching, the claim is further made that no science is so well adapted to train the mind to inductive thought processes as that which rests entirely upon induction, and that natural science study is in a position to resist more easily and successfully than all other studies, the deeply-rooted tendency in all branches to substitute words for ideas."
Rein (das vierte Schuljahr) explains further the leading ideas and standpoints which have appeared in historical order among science teachers in the common school. From the first crude ideas there has been marked progress toward higher aims in science teaching.
1. Natural history stories for entertainment. Many curious and entertaining facts in connection with animal life were searched out, more especially unusual and spicy anecdotes of shrewdness and intelligence. Some of the old readers, and even of the recent ones, are enriched with such marvels.
2. Utility, or the study of things in nature that are directly useful or hurtful to man. Whatever fruits or animals or herbs are of plain service to man, as well as things poisonous or dangerous, were studied because such information would be of future service. It was a purely practical aim, at first very narrow, but in an enlarged and liberal sense of much importance.
3. Training of the senses and of the observing power. By a study and description of natural objects, sense perception was to be sharpened and a habit of close observation formed. Among science teachers today no aim is more emphasized than this. It also stores away a body of useful ideas of great future value. This is an intellectual aim that accords better with the purpose of the school than the preceding.
4. Analysis and determination of specimens. To examine and trace a plant, mineral, or insect, to its true classification and name, has occupied much of the time of students. It requires nice discrimination, a comprehensive grasp of relations, and a power to seize and hold common characteristics. Many of our text-books and courses of study are based chiefly upon this idea.
5. System-making, or the reduction of all things in nature to a systematic whole, with a place for everything. Some of the greatest scientists, Linnaeus, for example, looked upon scientific classification as the chief aim of nature study. It has had a great influence upon schools and teachers. The attempt to compress everything into a system has led to many text-books which are but brief summaries of sciences like zoology, botany, and physics. Scientific classification is very important, but the attempt to make it a leading aim in teaching children is a mistake.
We may add that nature study is felt by all to offer abundant scope to the exercise of the esthetic faculty. There is great variety of beauty and gracefulness in natural forms in plant and animal; the rich or delicate coloring of the clouds, of birds, of insects, and of plants, gives constant pleasure. Then there are grand and impressive scenery and phenomena in nature, and melody and harmony in nature's voices.
These various aims of science study are valuable to the teacher as showing him the scope of his work. But a higher and more comprehensive standpoint has been reached. We now realize that the great purpose of this study is insight into nature, into this whole physical environment, with a view to a better appreciation of her objects, forces, and laws, and of their bearing on human life and progress.
All these purposes thus far developed in schools are to be considered as valuable subsidiary aims, leading up to the central purpose of the study of natural sciences, which is, "An understanding of life and of the powers and of the unity which express themselves in nature;" or, as Kraepelin says: "Nature should not appear to man as an inextricable chaos, but as a well-ordered mechanism, the parts fitting exactly to each other, controlled by unchanging laws, and in perpetual action and production." Humboldt is further quoted: "Nature to the mature mind is unity in variety, unity of the manifold in form and combination, the content or sum total of natural things and natural forces as a living whole. The weightiest result, therefore, of deep physical study is, by beginning with the individual, to grasp all that the discoveries of recent times reveal to us, to separate single things critically and yet not be overcome by the mass of details, mindful of the high destiny of man, to comprehend the mind of nature, which lies concealed under the mantle of phenomena." This sounds visionary and impracticable for children of the common school, especially when we know that much lower aims have not been successfully reached. In fact it cannot be said that the natural sciences have any recognized standing in the common school course. But it is worth the while to inquire whether natural sciences will ever be taught as they should be until the best attainable aims become the dominant principles for guiding teachers. Stripped of its rhetoric, the above mentioned aim, "an understanding of life and of the unity in nature," may prove a practical and inspiring guide to the teacher.
If we look upon nature as a field of observation and study which can be grasped as a whole both as a work of creation and as contributing in multiplied ways to man's needs, its proper study gives a many-sided culture to the mind. This leading purpose will bring into relation and unity all the subordinate aims of science teaching, such as information, utility, training of the senses and judgment, and of the power to compare and classify.
For the accomplishment of this great purpose of gaining insight into nature's many-sided activities, there are several simple means not yet mentioned. Running through nature are great principles and laws which can be studied upon concrete examples, plain and interesting to a child. The study of the squirrel in its home, habits, organs, and natural activities in the woods, will show how strangely adapted it is to its surroundings. But an observation of birds in the air and of fishes in water reveals the same curious fitness to surrounding nature. The study of plants and animals in their adaptation to environment, of the relation between organ and function; between organs, mode of life, and environment, leads up to a general law which applies to all plants and animals. The law of growth and development from the simple germ to the mature life form can be seen in the butterfly, the frog, and the sunflower. These laws and others in biology, if developed on concrete specimens, give much insight into the whole realm of nature, more stimulating by far than that based on scientific classifications, as orders, families and species. The great and simple outlines of nature's work begin to appear out of such laws.
Again the study of the whole life history of a plant or animal, in its relations to the inorganic world and to other plants and animals, is always a cross-section in the sciences and shows how all the natural sciences are knit together into a causal unity. Take the life history of a hickory tree. As it germinates and grows from the seed how it draws from the earth and air; the effect of storms, seasons, and lightning upon it; how it later furnishes nuts to the squirrels and boys; its branches may be the nesting place for birds and its bark for insects. Finally, the uses of its tough wood for man are seen. The life of a squirrel or of a honey-bee furnishes also a cross-section through all the sciences from the inorganic world up to man.
If in tracing life histories we take care to select typical subjects which exemplify perhaps thousands of similar cases, we shall materially shorten the road leading toward insight into nature. These types are concrete and have all the interest and attractiveness of individual life, but they also bring out characteristics which explain myriads of similar phenomena. A careful and detailed study of a single tree like the maple, with the circulation of the sap and the function of roots, bark, leaves, and woody fiber, will give an insight into the processes of growth upon which the life of the tree depends and these processes will easily appear to be true of all tree and plant forms.
In nature as it shows itself in the woods or in the pond, there is such a mingling and interdependence of the natural sciences upon each other that the book of nature seems totally different from books of botany, physics, and zoology as made by men. In the forest we find close together trees of many kinds, shrubs, flowering plants, vines, mosses, and ferns; grasses, beetles, worms, and birds; squirrels, owls and sunshine; rocks, soil, and springs; summer and winter; storms, frost, and drouth. Plants depend upon the soil and upon each other. The birds and squirrels find their home and food among the trees and plants. The trees seem to grow together as if they needed each other's companionship. All the plants and animals depend upon the soil, air, and climate, and the whole wood changes its garb and partly its guests with the seasons. A forest is a life society, consisting of mutually dependent parts. How nature disregards our conventional distinctions between the natural sciences! We need no better proof than this that they should not be taught chiefly from books. A child might learn a myriad of things in the woods and gain much insight into nature's ways without making any clear distinction between botany, zoology, and geology. Herein is also the proof that text-books are needed as a guide in nature's labyrinth. If the frequency and intimacy of mutual relations are any proof of unity, the natural sciences are a unit and have a right to be called by one name, nature study.
In the study of laws, life histories, and life groups, the causal relations in nature are found to be wonderfully stimulating to those who have begun to trace them out. The child as well as the mature scientist finds in these causal connections materials of absorbing interest.
It is plain, therefore, that the lines tending toward unity in nature study are numerous and strong; such as the scientific classifications of our text-books, the working out of general laws whether in biology or physics, the study of life histories in vegetable and animal, and the observation of life societies in the close mutual relations of the different parts or individuals.
If a course of nature studies is begun in the first grade and carried systematically through all the years up to the eighth grade, is it not reasonable to suppose that real insight into nature, based on observation taken at first hand, may be reached? It will involve a study of living plants and animals, minerals, physical apparatus and devices, chemical experiments, the making of collections, regular excursions for the observation of the neighboring fields, forests, and streams, and the working over of these and other concrete experiences from all sources through skillful class teaching.
The first great result to a child of such a series of studies is an intelligent and rational understanding of his home, the world, his natural environment. He will have a seeing eye and an appreciative mind for the thousand things surrounding his daily life where the ignorant toiler sees and understands nothing.
A second advantage which we can only hint at, while incidental is almost equally important. We have been considering nature chiefly as a realm by itself, apart from man. But the utilities of natural science in individual life and in society are so manifold that we accept many of the finest products of skill and art as if they were natural products—as if gold coins, silk dresses, and fine pictures grew on the bushes and only waited to be picked. The thousand-fold applications of natural science to human industry and comfort deserve to be perceived as the result of labor and inventive skill. Our much-lauded steam engines, telegraph microscopes, sewing machines, reapers, iron ships, and printing presses, are not examples of a few, but of myriads of things that natural science has secured. But how many children on leaving the common school understand the principle involved in any one of the machines mentioned, subjects of common talk as they are? As children leave the schools at fourteen or fifteen they should know and appreciate many such things, wherein man, by his wit and ingenious use of natures forces, has triumphed over difficulties. How are glass and soap made? What has a knowledge of natural science to do with the construction of stoves, furnaces, and lamps? How are iron, silver, and copper ore mined and reduced? How is sugar obtained from maple trees, cane, and beet root? How does a suction pump work and why? Without a knowledge of such applications of natural science we should be thrown back into barbarism. These things also, since they form such an important part of every child's environment, should be understood, but not for direct utility.
Historically considered, the study of natural science is the study of man's long continued struggle with nature and of his gradual triumph. It ends with insight into nature and into those contrivances of men by which her laws and forces are utilized. The whole subject of nature, her laws and powers, must not remain a sealed book to the masses of the people. Scientists, inventors, and scholars may lead the way, but they are only pioneers. The thousands of the children of the people are treading at their heels and must be initiated into the mysteries.
Our knowledge of these principles and appliances constitute in fact a good share of the foundation upon which our whole culture status rests. Without natural science we should understand neither nature nor society. Spencer shows the wide-reaching value of science knowledge in our modern life: "For leaving out only some very small classes, what are all men employed in? They are employed in the production, preparation, and distribution of commodities. And on what does efficiency in the production, preparation, and distribution of commodities depend? It depends on the use of methods fitted to the respective nature of these commodities, it depends on an adequate knowledge of their physical, chemical, or vital properties, as the case may be; that is, it depends on science. This order of knowledge which is in great part ignored in our school courses, is the order of knowledge underlying the right performance of all those processes by which civilized life is made possible. Undeniable as is this truth, and thrust upon us as it is at every turn, there seems to be no living consciousness of it. Its very familiarity makes it unregarded. To give due weight to our argument, we must therefore realize this truth to the reader by a rapid review of the facts." He then illustrates, in interesting detail, the varied applications of mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, and social science to the industries and economies of real life, and concludes as follows: "That which our school courses leave almost entirely out, we thus find to be that which most nearly concerns the business of life. All our industries would cease were it not for that information which men begin to acquire as they best may after their education is said to be finished. And were it not for this information that has been from age to age accumulated and spread by unofficial means, these industries would never have existed. Had there been no teaching but such as is given, in our public schools, England would now be what it was in feudal times. That increasing acquaintance with the laws of nature which has through successive ages enabled us to subjugate nature to our needs, and in these days gives to the common laborer comforts which a few centuries ago kings could not purchase, is scarcely in any degree owed to the appointed means of instructing our youth. The vital knowledge—that by which we have grown as a nation to what we are, and which now underlies our whole existence—is a knowledge that has got itself taught in nooks and corners, while the ordained agencies for teaching have been mumbling little else but dead formulas." Spencer, Education, pp. 44, 54.
Not only the specialists in natural science, whose interest and enthusiasm are largely absorbed in these studies, but many other energetic teachers are persuaded that the culture value of nature studies is on a par with that of historical studies. But on account of the present lack of system and of clear purpose in natural science teachers, the first great problem in this field of common school effort is to select the material and perfect the method of studying nature with children.
Our estimate of the value of natural science for culture and for discipline is confirmed by the opinion of educational reformers and by the changes and progress in schools. An inquiry into the history of education in Europe and in America since the Reformation will show that the movement towards nature study has been accumulating momentum for more than three hundred years. In spite of the failure of such men as Comenius, Ratich, Basedow, and Rousseau to secure the introduction of these studies in a liberal degree, in spite of the enormous influence of custom and prejudice in favor of Latin and other traditional studies, the natural sciences have made recently such surprising advances and have so penetrated and transformed our modern life that we are simply compelled, even in the common school, to take heed of these great, living educational forces already at work.
The universities of England and of the United States have been largely transformed within the last forty years by the introduction, on a grand scale, of modern studies, particularly of the natural sciences. The fitting schools, academies, and high schools have had no choice but to follow this lead. Since the forces that produced this result in higher education sprang up largely outside of our institutions of learning, the movement is not likely to cease till the common school has been changed in the same way. The educational question of the future is not whether historical or natural science or formal studies are to monopolize the school course, but rather how these three indispensable elements of every child's education may be best harmonized and wrought into a unit.
But the question that confronts us at every turn is, What is the disciplinary value of nature study? We know, say the opponents, what a vigorous training in ancient languages and mathematics can do for a student. What results in this direction can the natural sciences tabulate? The champions of natural science point with pride to the great men who have been trained and developed in such studies. For inductive thinking the natural sciences offer the best materials. To cultivate self-reliance there is nothing like turning a student loose in nature under a skilled instructor. The spirit of investigation and of accurate thinking is claimed as a peculiar product of nature study. It is called, par excellence, "the scientific spirit." The undue reverence for authority produced by literary studies is not a weakness of natural science pursuits. But intense interest and devotion are combined with scientific accuracy and fidelity to nature and her laws.
We do not feel called upon to attempt a settlement of this dispute. We have already assumed that history in the broad sense (including languages) and natural science (or nature study) are the two great staples of the common school course, and that so far as discipline is concerned one is as important as the other. But we believe that those educators whose first, middle, and last question in education is, "What is the disciplinary value of a study?" have mistaken the primary problem of education. Just as in the proper training of the body, the strength and skill of a professional athlete are, in no sense, the true aim, but physical soundness, health, and vigor; so in mind culture, not extraordinary skill in mental gymnastics of the severest sort, is the essential aim, but mental soundness, integrity, and motive. The under-lying question in education is not, How strong or incisive is his mind? (This depends largely upon heredity and native endowment) but, What is its quality and its temper? If might is right, then mental strength is to be gained at all hazards. But if right is higher than might, then mental skill and power are only secondary aims. So long as we are dealing with fundamental aims in such a serious business as education, why stop short of that ideal which is manifestly the best? We have no controversy with the highest mental discipline and strength that are consistent with all-round mental soundness. Our better teachers are not lacking in appreciation for the value of what is called formal mental discipline, but they do generally lack faith in the innate power of the best studies to arouse interest and mental life. They emphasize the drill more than the content and the inspiration of the author. Both in theory and in practice they are greatly lacking in the intellectual sympathy and moral power which result from bringing the minds of students into direct contact with the noblest products of God's work in history and in the object world. Here we can put our finger on the radical weakness of our school work.
The really soul-inspiring teachers have not been formalists nor drill-masters alone. Friedrich August Wolf, for example, the great German philologist, was probably the most inspiring teacher of classical languages that Germany has had. But to what was his remarkable influence as a teacher of young men due? We usually think of a philologist as one who digs among the roots of dead languages, who worships the forms of speech and the laws of grammar. Doubtless he and his pupils were much taken up with these things, but they were not the prime source of his and their interest. Wolf defined philology as "the knowledge of human nature as exhibited in antiquity." He studied with great avidity everything that could throw light upon the lives, character, and language of the ancients. Their biographies, histories, geography, climate, dress, implements, their sculpture, monuments, buildings, tombs. Approaching the literature and language of the Greeks with this abundant knowledge of their real surroundings and conditions of life, he saw the deeper, fuller significance of every classical author and the great literary masterpieces were perceived as the expression of the national life. He appreciated language as the wonderful medium through which the more wonderful life of the versatile Greek expressed itself. The reason he was such a great philologist was because he was so great a realist, a man who was intensely interested in the Greek people, their history and life. Words alone had little charm for him. No great teacher has been simply a word-monger.
For the present we leave the question of discipline unanswered, though we are disposed to think that those studies which introduce children to the two great fields of real knowledge, and which arouse a strong desire to solve the problems found there, will also furnish the most valuable discipline.
The formal studies such as reading, spelling, writing, language, and much of arithmetic, have thus far appropriated the best share of school time. They are the tools for acquiring and formulating knowledge rather than knowledge itself. They are so indispensable in life that people have acquired a sort of superstitious respect for them. They are generally considered as of primary importance while other things are taken as secondary. By virtue of this excessive estimation the formal studies have become so strongly intrenched in the practice of the schools that they are really a heavy obstacle to educational progress. They have been so long regarded as the only gateway to knowledge that anyone who tries to climb in some other way is regarded as a thief and robber. We forget that Homer's great poems were composed and preserved for centuries before letters were invented. As more thought is expended on studies and methods of learning, the more the thinkers are inclined to exactly reverse the educational machinery. They say: "Thought studies must precede form studies." We should everywhere begin with valuable and interesting thought materials in history and natural science and let language, reading, spelling, and drawing follow. It is a thing much more easily said than done, but many active teachers are really doing it, and many others are wondering how it may be done. The advantage of putting the concrete realities of thought before children at first is that they give a powerful impetus to mental life, while pure formal studies in most cases have a deadening effect and gradually put a child to sleep. One of the great problems of school work is how to get more interest and instructive thought into school exercises.
We are now in a position to give a concluding estimate upon the relative value of these three elements in school education. History contributes the materials from which motives and moral impulses spring. It cultivates and strengthens moral convictions by the use of inspiring examples. The character of each child should be drawn into harmony with the highest impulses that men have felt. A desire to be the author of good to others should be developed into a practical ruling motive. Natural science on the other hand supplies a knowledge of the ordinary means and appliances by which the purposes of life are realized. It gives us proper insight into the conditions of life and puts us into intelligent relation to our environment. Not only must a child be supplied with the necessaries of life but he must appreciate the needs of health and understand the economies of society, such as the necessity of mental and manual labor, the right use of the products and forces of nature, and the advantage of men's inventions and devices. In a plan of popular education these two culture elements should mingle (history and natural science). In the case of all sorts of people in society the ability to execute high moral purposes depends largely upon a ready, practical insight into natural conditions. We are not thinking of the bread-and-butter phase of life and of the aid afforded by the sciences in making a living, but of the all-round, practical utility of natural science as a necessary supplement to moral training.
One of the best tests of a system of education is the preparation it gives for life in a liberal sense. When a child, leaving school behind, develops into a citizen, what tests are applied to him? The questions submitted to his judgment in his relations to the family and to society call for a quick and varied knowledge of men, insight into character, and for a large amount of practical information of natural science. He is asked to vote intelligently on social, political, sanitary, and economic questions; to judge of men's motives, opinions, and character; to vote upon or perhaps to direct the management of poor-houses, asylums, and penitentiaries; in towns to decide questions of drainage, police, water supply, public health, and school administration; to make contracts for public buildings, and bridges; to grant licenses and franchises; to serve on juries or as representatives of the people. These are not professional matters alone; they are the common duties of all citizens of a sound mind. These things each person should know how to judge, whether he be a blacksmith, a merchant, or a house keeper. In all such matters he must be not only a judge of others but an actor under the guidance of right motives and information. Again, in the bringing up of children, in the domestic arrangements of every home and in a proper care for the minds and bodies of both parents and children, a multitude of practical problems from each of the great fields of real knowledge must be met and solved.
A medical missionary illustrates this combination of historical and natural science elements. His life purpose is drawn from history, from the life of Christ, and from the traditional incentives of the church. The means by which he is to make himself practically felt are obtained from his study of medicine and from the sciences upon which it depends. These elements form the basis of his influence. This illustration however savors of professional rather than of general education, and we are concerned only with the latter. But the education of every child is analogous to that of the medical missionary in its two constituent elements.
As a matter of fact neither history nor natural science occupies any such prominence in the school course as we have judged fitting. Much thoughtful study, experience in teaching, and pioneer labor in partially new fields will be necessary in order to bring into existence such a course of study based upon the best materials. Many teachers already recognize the necessity for it and see before them a land of plenty as compared with the half-desert barrenness revealed in our present school course.
Two powerful convictions in the minds of those responsible for education have contributed to produce this desert-like condition in children's school employments, and this brings us to a discussion of the overestimation in which purely formal studies are held. The first article of faith rests upon the unshaken belief in the practical studies, reading, writing, and arithmetic. They are still looked upon as a barrier that must be scaled before the real work of education can begin. Learn to read, write, and figure and then the world of knowledge as well as of business is at your command. But many children find the barrier so difficult to scale that they really never get into the fields of knowledge. Many of our most thorough-going educators still firmly believe that a child can not learn anything worth mentioning till he has first learned to read. But however deeply rooted this confidence in the purely formal work of the early school years may be, it must break down as soon as means are devised for putting the realities of interesting knowledge before and underneath all the forms of expression. Let the necessity for expression spring from the real objects of study. Those children to whom the memorizing and drill upon forms of expression becomes tedious deserve our sympathy. There is a kind of knowledge adapted to arouse these dull ones to their full capacity of interest. "Or what man is there of you whom if his son ask bread will he give him a stone?" With many a child the first reader, the arithmetic, or the grammar becomes a veritable stone. There is no good reason why the sole burden of work in early school grades should rest upon the learning of the pure formalities of knowledge. Children's minds are not adapted to an exclusive diet of this kind. The fact that children have good memories is no reason why their minds should be gorged with the dryest memory materials. They have a healthy interest in people, whether in life or in story, and in the objects in nature around them. What is thus pre-eminently true of the primary grades is true to a large extent throughout all the grades of the common school. It seems almost curious that the more tender the plants the more barren and inhospitable the soil upon which they are expected to grow. Fortunately these little ones have such an exuberance of life that it is not easily quenched. Formal knowledge stands first in our common school course and real studies are allowed to pick up such crumbs of comfort as may chance to fall. We believe in formal studies and in their complete mastery in the common school, but they should stand in the place of service to real studies. How powerful the tendency has been and still is toward pure formal drill and word memory is apparent from the fact that even geography and history, which are not at all formal studies, but full to overflowing with interesting facts and laws, have been reduced to a dry memorizing of words, phrases, and stereotyped sentences.
It is not difficult to understand why the numerous body of teachers, who easily drift into mechanical methods, has a preference for formal studies. They are comparatively easy and humdrum and keep pupils busy. Real studies, if taught with any sort of fitness, require energy, interest, and versatility, besides much outside work in preparing materials.
The second article of faith is a still stronger one. The better class of energetic teachers would never have been won over to formal studies on purely utilitarian grounds. A second conviction weighs heavily in their minds. "The discipline of the mental faculties" is a talisman of unusual potency with them. They prize arithmetic and grammar more for this than for any direct practical value. The idea of mental discipline, of training the faculties, is so ingrained into all our educational thinking that it crops out in a hundred ways and holds our courses of study in the beaten track of formal training with a steadiness that is astonishing. These friends believe that we are taking the back-bone out of education by making it interesting. The culmination of this educational doctrine is reached when it is said that the most valuable thing learned in school or out of it is to do and do vigorously that which is most disagreeable. The training of the will to meet difficulties unflinchingly is their aim, and we can not gainsay it. These stalwart apostles of educational hardship and difficulty are in constant fear lest we shall make studies interesting and attractive and thus undermine the energy of the will. But the question at once arises: Does not the will always act from motives of some sort? And is there any motive or incentive so stimulating to the will as a steady and constantly increasing interest in studies? It is able to surmount great difficulties.
We wish to assure our stalwart friends that we still adhere to the good old doctrine that "there is no royal road to learning." There is no way of putting aside the real difficulties that are found in every study, no way of grading up the valleys and tunneling through the hills so as to get the even monotony of a railroad track through the rough or mountainous part of education. Every child must meet and master the difficulties of learning for himself. There are no palace cars with reclining chairs to carry him to the summit of real difficulties. The character-developing power that lies in the mastery of hard tasks constitutes one of their chief merits. Accepting this as a fundamental truth in education, the problem for our solution is, how to stimulate children to encounter difficulties. Many children have little inclination to sacrifice their ease to the cause of learning, and our dull methods of teaching confirm them in their indifference to educational incentives. Any child, who, like Hugh Miller or Abraham Lincoln, already possesses an insatiable thirst for knowledge, will allow no difficulties or hardships to stand in the way of progress. This original appetite and thirst for knowledge which the select few have often manifested in childhood is more valuable than anything the schools can give. With the majority of children we can certainly do nothing better than to nurture such a taste for knowledge into vigorous life. It will not do to assume that the average of children have any such original energy or momentum to lead them to scale the heights of even ordinary knowledge. Nor will it do to rely too much upon a forcing process, that is, by means of threats, severity, and discipline, to carry children against their will toward the educational goal.