Imágenes de páginas

thography, the pupils will make plenty themselves, without our suggesting others which never have occurred to them, and perhaps never would. Let us rather ward off by wholesome exercises the faults which children might commit, and let us carefully correct them whenever they occur, either in speaking or writing. Thus shall we more surely attain the object which these grammarians have proposed to themselves.


Let us now pass on to the second author of our course of language the Logician. We do not give this noble title to a mere arguer, but to a philosopher who has carefully analyzed the mind of man, who knows its first elements as well as its laws, and who has followed its progressive developments up to its most extended and complicated operations. From him we shall learn what course to pursue in training young minds. The object is to give them steadiness, expansion, and precision; for these qualities are as yet but faintly indicated in them.

The volatility of children is proverbial: from the cradle their attention is attracted towards the visible objects around them, particularly towards those which shine or move, or emit sound. Thus they have accustomed themselves to be all eyes and ears; not indeed for the dumb language of a book, or for lessons which are often monotonous and unintelligible, but in order to see and hear whatever may stimulate their natural curiosity. To attractions from without are added the impressions of an organization which tends incessantly towards its own developement by motion and exercise. Fear may perhaps sometimes check these novices in life, and make them quiescent or silent, but it cannot overawe the invisible mind, which asserts its freedom and will enjoy it. Steadiness can only be acquired by means of the child's free-will: and this last will take part with you, either if your lessons succeed in interesting him by their object, their form, or their tone; or if, after the example of the Abbé Gaultier, you invite him to invent, and thus to teach himself. Schools of mutual instruction have not attended to this; but in a

physical point of view they have been of use, by varying the position of the scholars, who sometimes sit, sometimes stand, and sometimes move about.

When the child first passes on to regular instruction in language, his thoughts range through a very narrow circle, and, as it were, only over the surface of the things in his immediate vicinity. He may, perhaps, have gone a little beyond it in natural history and geography, thanks to books of prints and small atlases composed for him by the friends of childhood: but with regard to knowledge, his conception is as yet very limited. And what shall we say of his intelligence and penetration? It is with difficulty that he connects two proximate ideas. Then it is useless to prepare for him a train of reasoning, however simple; still more useless to submit to him the most conclusive chain, for you will never bring him any nearer to the conclusion, because from weakness he will have lost sight of the antecedents, and therefore will have no materials for comparison, no means of conclusion. There are no leaps, either in the operations of the intellectual or in the physical world. Language, which is the expression of thought, is also its image. Now the pupil at seven or eight years old only speaks in propositions composed of few ideas, or in phrases which express at most two thoughts, with little combination and of easy construction. He attempts nothing further, because he is not strong enough. If you wish to lead him on, you must gradually expand his powers of conception by wellgraduated exercises. In France, the Abbé Gaultier endeavoured to infuse this tone by his various selections of "graduated phrases," but I am not aware that his example has been followed, except in two recent essays, of which I shall speak hereafter.

The Logician, in our course of language, must accomplish his task by giving, as far as he can, precision and rectitude to the judgment of childhood. Can we wonder that this necessary quality is defective then, when we meet with so many adults in life, who, if they attempt to reason, commit the grossest errors, mistaking appearance for reality, form for substance, effect for cause, means

for the end, words for things. Thence result a thousand grievous errors in life, not to speak of diversities of opinions, which cause divisions among men, and disturb their peace. This is not for want of intelligence, but that the application of it fails in precision for want of the exercise of reflection; and errors in judgment depict themselves in the conduct, which is its image as well as its offspring. Not to speak of wisdom, which always chooses the best means towards the best ends, we see continual imprudence, in the management of health, of property of a family, in the common affairs of life. Men are like great children; and little children are, of course, infinitely below them again. The Logician, whose assistance we shall crave in our course of language, must tell us how, in our series of exercises, we may gradually train our children to think with precision. The object will be to inspire them with luminous ideas, which may guide them in the path of truth; and to accustom them always to give a reason for what they advance, and to form a judgment or an opinion on what will be inculcated in their lessons. Syntax, for example, will supply us with a vast field, in its phrases expressing cause and effect, object and means, condition and train of reasoning.


This is the most important person in a course of language which has for its object the cultivation of the mind as a means towards the elevation of the heart and life. The educator, in his noble task, has a point from whence to start, and a definite object at which to aim. Human nature itself supplies him with the starting-point, for it already speaks more or less distinctly in the child whom the parents entrust to his guidance. Now in this nature, side by side with self-interest, which watches over our own safety and well-being, are placed noble aspirations which serve to regulate and restrain it, on the one hand, and, on the other, to raise our thoughts towards the Author of life and all things, in order to make us subordinate agents of His providence. These are, in a few

short words, the innate love of what is just and right, innate piety, and feelings of humanity towards our fellow men, and also towards all who draw the breath of life. Such is the point from which the educator takes his start; such the field on which he is to try his skill.

The object at which he should continually aim, in order to lead on the pupil who has been entrusted to him, and of whom he will have to give a strict account, this object, I say, is not a mere ideal picture, however beautiful, but a living reality, who once appeared on earth, to serve as our model through all time, and who still lives among us in the Church which He has redeemed and founded at the precious price of His blood. Children, if once taught to know Him, must love Him; and a model which calls forth the affections has infinitely greater weight and influence than the most elaborate teaching.

The great maxim which the teacher must continually bear in mind is this: "Man acts as he loves, and he loves as he thinks." Therefore the enlightened educator seeks to imprint on the mind of youth all the grand and sublime truths which may awaken and nurture pure and noble affections, in the conviction that that again will form the morals.


It will perhaps create surprise that this character should be called upon to assist in a school of children, who will have no academical discourses, no poems, nor any thing of the kind to compose, not even a verse to make; nevertheless we require his aid. Pupils in our course of language, besides being called upon, from first to last, to invent propositions and phrases, will in due time be expected to make compositions, properly so called, and these will be narratives, letters, dialogues, and little essays, in a modest epistolary form. Without these exercises, our course of language would be incomplete, and would not afford the full developement required by the advancing age of the pupils, in respect to the action of the mind and heart; it would deny them the luxury of composing some

thing better than detached phrases; and instruction in language itself would suffer, because it would fall short of that to which it ought to reach, for ought it not to impart to its disciples the power of thinking, speaking, and writing in a connected manner? The educator will, of course, select the subjects of these little compositions, and will afterwards correct them, in order that they may further his main object; and in so doing he will assume the character of the man of letters, in order to teach children how they may add grace to their work, and impart the charm of elegance to what is true, or good, or useful.

« AnteriorContinuar »