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to themselves to find the way of working out the solution. This plan was suggested to me by the following simple train of thought. "In after-life the pupil will not have the rule before him, but the problem: we must then place him in a similar position at school, and prepare him to solve by sound reasoning, with readiness and certainty, whatever questions may arise."
I applied the same theory to my lessons in language, and gradually got rid of all the dry and lifeless body of abstract rules and definitions. At the same time, in direct opposition to what I had seen at Yverdun, I determined. to substitute lessons in language in the place of mathematics, and to turn them into a course of progressive mental gymnastics. The master was to step first, in order to shew the way, as the mother does to her children; but the minds of the scholars were immediately to follow his, and then they were to work out their own grammar and logic: a well-graduated phraseology was the means I adopted.
I myself have in my day cultivated mathematics with some taste and success; but I never took to them till I found the want of their assistance in physics, and particularly in astronomy. They have their use and their province in the business of life; but it is very limited when compared with the immense extent of human knowledge. I know that the study of size and numbers requires close attention, and that the sequences are always regular and certain. Therefore it has been argued, that there is no study which can give to young minds such expansion, steadiness and precision; and it has been lauded as the specific for all mental cultivation. But I never can subscribe to this opinion, which I believe to be as fatal as it is false.
It is false, because mathematical truths are of a class apart, both in their nature and in the method of arriving at them. Their range extends only to objects that are, strictly speaking, material, and only inasmuch as these can be counted and measured. The objects, it is true, are not always before the eye, or within reach of the hand, but they are always present to the imagination, which describes them by
various signs, either by ciphers, or letters, or lines, or figures. All come within the dominion of the senses; though men imagine sometimes that they are soaring in these studies above the material universe. But when called upon to prove that their calculation is true, they are obliged to come to demonstration, which exhibits to the eye, and causes the hand to handle, that which was supposed to belong to another world; and thus I am convinced that this pretended specific for intellectual cultivation is none at all. It has nothing in common with the world of spirits, which it would materialize, or, rather, would annihilate, if free scope were allowed to its workings; and it is useless in the intercourse of life, which reposes on faith, duty, and feeling, things which have indeed their calculation, but of a very different kind from mathematical. Even physics, whilst making great use of numbers and dimensions, yet set out with other principles which are essentially independent of the exact sciences, and which cannot be subjected to the test of their visible and tangible demonstrations. Mathematics, then, are falsely represented as the key of human knowledge, and it is an error to suppose that by giving this key to youth you will open for it all the stores of universal science.
In the course of my experience in my school, I have met with some children whose minds seemed utterly incapable of calculation, but who distinguished themselves in other branches; and, on the other hand, some who excelled in the science of figures and numbers, but who, to my great disappointment, were extremely below par on all subjects which required reflection, reasoning, and invention. At the time when it was the fashion to visit schools, I had frequent opportunities of receiving foreigners in mine. They inquired into the method I adopted, and the principles on which I grounded my education. An Edinburgh professor, who came to Yverdun, asked me if I also employed mathematics as my instrument for opening and forming young minds. I answered that the one I adopted was systematic instruction in language, and that I believed it was as vain as it was dangerous to seek for such an instrument in the science of figures and num
bers. He begged me to give him a full statement of my thoughts on this subject, as it was one to which he attached great importance. I accordingly did so, and he listened to me patiently; and then, after a pause, said, "I myself am a professor at Edinburgh of the very science which you have now arraigned; but, nevertheless, I entirely agree with you, and I will add another instance to those which you have now adduced. A celebrated mathematician in our country wrote an admirable work on his favourite science; but he afterwards attempted to write a book on moral philosophy, and it was so wretchedly bad, that the very cook-maids laughed at it."
In the long statement which the Scotch Professor asked of me, I pointed out the danger of that geometrical spirit which mathematics would infuse into youth, and which Fenelon has not scrupled to brand as accursed. I will now only shortly hint at that which I then gave in detail. Mathematics, pushed beyond their proper boundary in education, withdraw young minds from the world in which they are born, and are to live; for it is not a mere world of figures and numbers, and a geometrical spirit is quite out of place in it. This spirit, if imbibed in youth, invariably seeks demonstration in all things; and in measure as it gains the ascendancy, undermines faith, which is all in all in this life, even independent of spiritual truths, and of that futurity which awaits us beyond the grave. In short, it leads to that most dreary materialism which will only believe in that which it beholds with the eye, or touches with its frigid hand.
These thoughts were in my mind when I sought in language the means of that course of mental gymnastics which mathematics could not supply. I rejoiced at having found in the development of the mother's teaching, the means of expanding and forming the minds of my pupils, whilst I gave them the general instructions which would be necessary or useful to them in life. Montaigne, in his day, had exhorted teachers to aim at moulding as well as furnishing the minds of their pupils. He was right, and I satisfied myself with having adopted the most natural as well as the best attested means towards this end.
I had reached this point, when a new thought suddenly shot through my mind. I had associated with the syntax, exercises in oral conjugation; and this conjugation was not confined to the verb, (according to the usual method, which aims only at words,) but was by propositions, which is quite another thing, and is both useful and agreeable to children. The verb is given to them in the infinitive, and they are told the tense and the mood in which it is to be conjugated; the rest being left to their choice.
One day when, according to custom, I took the place of monitor in one of these exercises, it occurred to me to desire the pupils to pronounce upon the moral right or wrong of the various propositions, and to assign the motives of their judgment. I saw that they rejoiced in having a new field opened to them by this appeal to their conscience and their feelings. I instantly discovered that by stopping short at the cultivation of the mind, I had mistaken the means for the end, and that I must make my course of language instrumental to the right formation of the heart and life. Such is the origin of the course of education in the mother-tongue which I now recommend to schools and families.
2. Of the Four Elements which should concur in the plan of Education in the Mother-Tongue.
Four persons, as it were, should concur in drawing up the course of instruction in the mother-tongue which we have in view, and these four are, the grammarian, the logician, the educator, and the man of letters.
The task of the grammarin is to supply the materials of language, and its established forms. He is the man of words, of their usual signification, of the variations to which they are subjected in order to express shades of meaning; of their agreement, their arrangement, and their orthography. Having at command all the accumulated treasures of his forerunners, he may be of immense
use to us in our course of language. Nevertheless, as we have to do, not with adults, and still less with men of letters, but with children, we shall only call for what can be of use to our young pupils, and set aside the rest.
Definitions, declensions, abstract rules, in a word, grammatical metaphysics, cannot avail, inasmuch as they are unintelligible to children. The same thing applies to etymology derived from Greek and Latin, which are to them unknown tongues, and only appear to insult their ignorance.
The grammarian will offer us various extracts drawn up for the use of schools; collections of homonymes, series of questions on grammar, exercises in cacology and cacography. We shall readily turn to account the collections of homonymes, for it is absolutely necessary to instruct children in that important branch of orthography which distinguishes in writing what pronunciation so often confounds. But not so those interminable series of questions which plunge into the metaphysics of language, its subtleties, its abstractions, its superfluous redundancies; for, to say the least, they are unsuited to childhood.
We must have questions, in order to ascertain if our instruction is understood; but these questions must be asked whenever any new matter arises, and the pupil must always express himself freely in his own words, because thus alone can we be sure that he has seized the instruction we wished to convey. But we are told that these long strings of questions are drawn up for the purpose of examination. In my opinion, however, inspectors can only ascertain what has been taught to the pupils by hearing them apply the rules they have learnt. We want facts; for they cannot deceive, as do words which the memory has often received by rote, and gives back without assimilating.
My uniform principle, during the nineteen years. that I superintended the school of my native town, has been to place before the eyes of youth that only which might serve as a model to it. Is not this the plan we adopt in lessons of writing, of drawing, of music? Granted
that it is necessary to correct faults in language and or