« AnteriorContinuar »
&c.; and vocabulary, being made up of a series of words, which must be included in one sentence, will afford still less facility for connection and combination. Nevertheless, we are convinced that our direct instruction, however disjointed, is well adapted to the end we have in view. What might be a defect elsewhere is not one here; for the instruction of youth has its own rules of didactics, because it has to deal, not with men, but with children.
It is the fashion of the present day to write treatises, in which we bring forward whatever appears to be required or allowed by the generic title of the work. But such was not the practice of the ancients, as may
be proved by the classical books of China, by the Dialogues of Socrates, and even of Plato. These learned men felt that all our knowledge here is in part, as says the Apostle, and they were well content to cast a ray of light here and there on such and such points. Christians know that the Gospel, while even in harmony with itself, is not a connected but a disjointed code of doctrine, of which all the separate parts fit spontaneously into the heart and mind.
If treatises are, then, ineffectual for those of mature age, how much less will they avail for children, who can only receive instruction drop by drop. How much time it will take a child, to comprehend one long complicated sentence. Therefore, far from saying that instruction bit by bit, is not suited to them, we would invert the rule, and say that they can only be taught by detached fragments which must by degrees be combined; and the reason is obvious.
Every code of doctrine is but a combination of individual truths. Those which we intend for our pupils presuppose thousands of others, which we have merely hinted at, under different heads. These need not be specifically pointed out to the intelligent teacher, for they will naturally occur to him. In order to obtain them, he will proceed by decomposition or analysis, and resolve the whole into its parts. Now the child's mind is incapable of this operation, therefore the only means of instructing it, is to commence with individual parts, and afterwards to connect these parts by degrees.
Moreover this synthetic method which we recommend, is not only required by the feeble conception of our pupils, but it also promotes the conviction which we wish to obtain, and it is for this purpose that we have recommended the critical examination of all the details included in our direct teaching. If all these detached truths have not been fully apprehended, how should any effect be produced by their combination? The fagot is indeed stronger than the separate sticks; nevertheless its whole strength is made up of theirs.
We need not fear for the combination of the various details scattered throughout our course of language. Kind nature will undertake it, and art will assist her. Our memory is, as we have already said, an active power, which, whilst it receives ideas, classifies and associates them, so as to reproduce them in the order of association. Do not our scientific treatises, our dissertations, our poems, in a word, all our compositions, owe their riches in the first place to this spontaneous work of memory, and secondarily to the selection we make from its stores ? Now all these materials have been collected one by one, and insensibly formed by memory into the groups which it afterwards presents to us; and careful teachers will trace in the compositions of their pupils, the primitive paucity of their recollections, and their gradual accumulation.
If we were required to quote any authority in support of this theory, we would give that of the immortal Fenelon, who says, in his Treatise on the Education of Girls, “Keep alive the curiosity of the child; and lay up a good store in her memory; for the time will come when these materials will range themselves in order, and the child will then reason consecutively."
So far, then, from this subdivision being a defect, our direct instruction would, without it, be defective; for it ought to dwell long and fully on little details, before it attempts to combine them. Learned men may have forgotten the road by which they attained to their systematic
knowledge; but in the instruction of youth we cannot forget it; and synthesis is decidedly the only method we can sanction, in order to lead children on to a code of doctrine.
In our course of language we use various means, in order to enlist nature in aid of our direct instruction. One is to require an explanation and opinion upon all the details as they arise; another is to incorporate in our teaching at first a few slight combinations, and then some connected ideas on any one point. A third consists in the exercises of invention which extend throughout our course, and swell by degrees into compositions. The teacher chooses the subjects, and does so,
with a view to direct instruction.
We leave, then, to the learned, the analytical method, which begins with general principles, and deduces from them all their consequences. The reader is often surprised at finding in these deductions things which they never detected in the principle that was laid down, because words in their usual acceptation do not convey any
such ideas. Nevertheless, our course of language will employ analysis from first to last in syntax; and will adopt it fully in the abstracts which will be required from the pupils at the end of it. The operations of our minds may be reduced to two; composition, and decomposition; and a course of language which proposes to form the mind, must exercise and strengthen both these operations.
Continual Medley. A direct instruction, such as ours, which is composed of sundry elements, though all bearing upon each other; and which begins, moreover, by giving the most minute details, with the intention of combining them afterwards; such an instruction, I say, must present a medley of ideas, the mutual connection of which will not be apparent to the eye. The detection of it will require all the sagacity and foresight of a reflecting teacher, who understands the principle of order, and who knows how to refer to one common object things apparently irrelevant to it. But this necessary medley in elementary and progressive instruction, is no evil, for, as we have already said, memory will, of its own accord, assort the groups. In them, each thought, however it may have been suggested in the lessons, will take its due place among its kindred; and what may have appeared incoherent in our instruction, will arrange itself spontaneously in the mind of youth. We are too apt to rivet our attention on artificial methods, while we forget that nature, after all, is most powerful. We do not, however, discard artificial arrangement, for we scrupulously follow its directions in the developement of syntax ; in our direct instruction, we here and there contrive that there shall be points of union for such thoughts, which are akin to each other, to the exclusion of all others.
The medley of which we speak has one great advantage for children. It imparts to our instruction the charm of variety ; and this is the price at which alone we can purchase, for any length of time, their attention and exertions. I have often tried the experiment in my own school, even with the more advanced pupils. I have chosen one of the subjects of direct instruction, and have begun to develope it in a philosophical disquisition. At first they listened; but I soon found that their eyes and thoughts wandered. I then had one infallible means of recalling them, viz., by introducing into my instruction some anecdote or illustration taken from life, from history, or from nature. This being addressed to the imagination, acted as a passport to the truths which I had in view, and served moreover afterwards to recall them. Did not our blessed Lord himself adopt this method in his teaching? It was in consequence of various experiments, and much reflection on this subject, that I combined evangelical teaching with geographical lessons, on a map which represented Palestine as it was at the commencement of the Christian era; thus my pupils traced the footsteps of our Lord, whilst recalling the principal incidents in his life, and repeating the words which emanated from his lips at each given spot. A map of Asia Minor and of a part of Italy, drawn for this very purpose, helped us to follow the apostle of the Gentiles in his journeyings by sea and land, and to recall his words. Direct instruction
thus acquired that variety which is the condition demanded by children as the price of their attention.
True it is, indeed, that education should labour to fix their naturally volatile minds, and to enure them to application to one subject, that they may study it in all its bearings; but this result cannot be obtained all at once. We must entice them on, by a variety of subjects, until the subjects themselves succeed in interesting them. Furthermore, to say nothing of the combinations which syntax makes in its progressive series, we must not here pass by unnoticed the compositions which accompany it from the conclusion of its second part. Nor must we forget that, although there is a great diversity of thoughts in our chain of syntax, they are all of the same degree, and all have the same parts, and the same turn of elocution. This is a point which requires sustained attention on the part of volatile minds; and it would be hard to impose other fetters upon them at the same time. Here an old reminiscence occurs to me, which I must note down. In 1820, one of the secular clergy, who was a teacher at Genoa, was sent by his superior to Switzerland, to visit some of the schools, and borrow from them a better system than that which was then practised in Italy. He remained for some weeks in my school, during which time we had
little conversation. He was busy collecting his facts; and I was well content that he should do
When he had completed his observations, he came to me and said, “I have discovered the secret of your method. Your real object all the while is religion and morality; though you appear to be attending to other things. This is the true, the only way to succeed.” This stranger had understood me; but my countrymen, though they had eyes, yet saw not.
Frequent Repetitions. Repetitions in literature are considered tedious defects; and to escape censure, we must vary the expressions even when applied to different subjects. In scientific books it is often necessary to reiterate the same thoughts, because the truth which is stated depends on its