« AnteriorContinuar »
There is a just medium between these two extremes; for the due cultivation of the infant mind must be the joint result of direct teaching, and of the knowledge which it culls for itself under our guidance.
We have shown that the direct instruction to be conveyed by our course of language is well adapted to the cultivation of the mind in all its branches; but in order to secure this result, it must be duly apprehended by our pupils, for when once their opening faculties have been called into action, they also will become productive. What we require, then, are well selected and well sustained exercises. Bodily strength and agility are improved by exercise; and if the limbs remain too long at rest, they lose their elasticity; and so it is with the mental faculties.
To aid in their developement, we have at command two sets of exercises; the first we shall call explanatory exercises; the second, exercises in composition; and we shall now give a slight sketch of each.
The direct instruction which our course of language undertakes to convey will be scattered throughout the syntax from beginning to end. At first it will only give its elements drop by drop: then it will gradually develope itself with the proposition, afterwards with the phrase, in measure as the logical progression which regulates the scale of syntax will allow: as may be seen in the sketches given in the Second Book. We have there shewn that the syntax of the proposition ends with combinations, which contain certain points of doctrine. The syntax of the phrase will advance a little farther, and we shall find in it a series of texts, which, when complete, will comprise all the direct instruction which is proposed in our course of language.
Conjugation and vocabulary will also assist in their degree towards the latter instruction. In vocabulary the teacher will be called upon to express thoughts concerning the words which occur: and these thoughts will be connected with the course of lessons intended for the pupils. On the other hand, as conjugation will always be by propositions, and afterwards by phrases, these will of course be made to bear upon the same. This instruction will therefore be scattered throughout, so as for it to sink deeply into the mind of childhood. Nevertheless, as the object is not to convey sound, but sense, we must, by means of suitable exercises, apply our lessons to the mind and conviction of our pupils.
EXERCISES. Pupils, when they first come to our course of language, have already acquired a multitude of ideas, as well as the means of expressing them; and this is a great step towards the direct instruction they will receive. Nevertheless this instruction, both in matter and manner, goes far beyond the usual capacity of their age; and it is therefore the duty of their teachers to ascertain that none of them rest satisfied with a mere form of words. Consequently he must annex a suitable interpretation to all the propositions and phrases which he believes to be above their usual ideas or expressions.
Sometimes he will be obliged to give the interpretation himself; but more often one or other of the pupils, with the assistance of suitable questions, will be able to clear up what is obscure : and thence will arise the first exercise on each proposition and phrase. In order to obtain it, he will say to the children collectively, or to one individually, “What does that mean?” “Express it in other words of your own choosing.” Or else he will give a false interpretation to the proposition or phrase, and then ask if it is the true one. It is needless to add, that all this must be done as shortly as possible, without waste of words or time.
This exercise will entail another, which will enlarge upon and complete it. The propositions and phrases which constitute our direct instruction are either theoretical, affirming or denying such and such facts; or they are practical, inculcating what ought or ought not to be. In the first the pupils will be called upon to pronounce
on the truth or falsehood; in the other, on the moral right or wrong; and in both cases to assign the reasons of their verdict.
Our pupils will often make blunders, and will often hesitate, for they are ignorant, and they come to be taught. The teacher will thus ascertain their powers, and no knowledge can more important to him who has undertaken the formation of their minds. On the other hand, they will learn by their own blunders, as the old Latin proverb has it; and it will be easy to set them right by a word or a suitable question. Direct instruction must only be given when positively called for; and the teacher must beware throughout of reproving them for their ignorance, as this could only discourage them.
As in these exercises all the pupils will be called upon for an interpretation, or an opinion, a wholesome emulation will be excited; and this must be carefully distinguished from that odious spirit of rivalry, which ever seeking the first places, watches with malicious satisfaction for the faults of others, and rejoices over them. By the emulation which we propose we would simply keep all on the alert, in order that all may profit; we wish every one to do his best, and to yield in good will to none. For the furtherance of this object, the teacher has effectual means at his disposal, and he will use them without betraying his secret. One is to commend, without flattery or affectation, what is achieved by the most backward. He will thus inspire them with confidence in their own powers, and will raise them in the estimation of their class-fellows. The other means consists in pointing out the faults made by those who have too much self-sufficiency and conceit. This must be done shortly and kindly, and with due approbation of what is right in their work. And the teacher must throughout impress upon his pupils the great evangelical truth, that all our talents are the free gift of God; that every one must improve those he has received ; that all will one day have to give account to Him; and that to whom much has been given, of him will God require the more.
The Assistance they give to the Developement of
the Mind. The exercises of which we have been speaking tend directly to nourish, to develope, and to form the mind : their natural result is, that children will retain the truths which will have been submitted to them, because they will have been called upon to reproduce them in and by themselves. They will thus be enriched in knowledge, since it will have been received with full conviction; and as the latter exercise will extend throughout the direct instruction, proposed in our course of language, they will acquire a clear and just mode of thinking on all the most important concerns in life.
The second exercise advances a step beyond direct instruction, for it calls forth the judgment of our pupils on what is true or false, right or wrong. They will thus acquire the habit of reflecting on their own thoughts, and on those suggested by others. Thus they will early learn to come out from the common herd of men, who do but repeat what they hear, without knowing how to distinguish truth from falsehood. As they only think by proxy, they are also but servile imitators of the actions of others: and man thus sinks to the level of the monkey.
The same exercise will assist syntax, which, by its logical progression, is peculiarly favourable to the developement of the mind. Moreover, as the direct instruction on which it bears is entirely based on internal and external consciousness, perception will be strengthened by it. Imagination will at the same time be called into action and enriched, for our direct instruction will often enter within its province; and lastly Memory will not be neglected, for the other faculties can never stir a step without its aid. To this we may add, that even the memory of words is exercised by conjugation, which requires of the pupils to decline through each person the propositions and phrases which are given to them in the first person singular. No doubt the main object is to instil right thoughts and expressions into
their minds, but at the same time memory is strengthened by the exercise.
Exercises in Composition. Though we denounce that exclusive system of education which insists on leaving everything to the invention of children, yet we recognise the principle that intellectual developement cannot advance without continual exercise in composition; because the mind only gathers strength by activity, and spontaneous productions are those which exercise it most. Our course of language leads our pupils on to invention, by the direct instruction it affords, because this instruction is ample, and opens their eyes to all the subjects most interesting to man; and because these subjects are connected with a host of others, which will arise spontaneously in the mind which is ready to receive them. Moreover, the judgment they will have to pronounce on the contents of the propositions and phrases are so many exercises of invention; and there is between the two kinds but a difference of degree.
In order to obtain a satisfactory result, the teacher must adhere scrupulously to the great law of progression, which walks step by step from small to great, from simple to compound, from easy to difficult. If we disregard this rule, we shall discourage children, and render their minds absolutely barren, or only capable of yielding unsightly mis-shapen productions; and the fault will not be theirs, but that of their teachers. Our course of language will comprise two kinds of composition; the first detached, in unconnected propositions and phrases; the other connected, and commonly called composition. We will now consider them separately.
Detached Compositions. Syntax has to deal first with the proposition, which from simple becomes compound, and then complex; from the proposition it passes on to the phrase of two parts, which are mutually connected so as to form but one and the same thought. Then come the phrases of several