Is it not astonishing, that, while all acknowledge the importance of the new method of interpreting nature, and adopt it in all their own pursuits, none yet seem to feel, that the same principles are equally applicable to communicating the sciences to others, or the science of instruction? The grand principles of instruction are much the same, they were before the time of Bacon; but the philosophy of Mind as well as Matter, has assumed another form. The elementary principles of the human mind are the same at six, at sixteen, and sixty. They exist in different degrees of strength and improvement at different periods, and they change their relative weight, as elements of a character; but no new power is created, precisely at the time, the learner throws off the thraldom of a system of discipline, calculated to impede, rather than develope the mind, and pursues truth in the most direct and natural way. Vtt this would seem to be the inference from the fact, that a method of communicating knowledge is retained, which is acknowledged to be different, and if examined, will be found to be repugnant, to the method, the mind pursues, when left to make its own acquirements. All, who have attended in the least to an analysis of their own minds, at the different stages in the progress of their developement, must be conscious of having to unlearn, if it may be so called, most of the acquirements of youth. That is, they must break up the arrangement and classification of their knowledge, which have been made upon a method repugnant to the principles of the mind; and make a new classification upon the correct principle. This, all must do; whether they are conscious of it or not, who are destined to make much progress in knowledge. Although this is not so difficult a process, as might, at first, be imagined; yet, the powers of the mind must be somewhat paralysed in their developement, and checked in the acquirement of knowledge, by the change of important principles, in the method of acquirement. The advantage of taking the correct and philosophical method at the earliest age, and pursuing it without interruption or change, can hardly be estimated. This is an achievement, which remains yet to be made; and it is one, whose influence on the sciences, and the condition of mankind, cannot be distinctly foreseen. The triumph of the inductive logic, although it is a cause, which has more changed the state of the arts and sciences, and consequently the whole face of the world, than any other, which has operated within the reach of history, is but half complete, till it is carried into the subject of education. The principles of the inductive philosophy should be as rigorously followed in education, as any other department of human knowledge. The school books, and we may add the text books of the colleges, are certainly not written upon the inductive method. And these are our instructers,

[ocr errors]

or the models, on which our instructers form us. The books to be sure have been written over and over again, in order to keep pace with, and incorporate the improvements and discoveries in the different sciences, of which they treat. This is well, and as it should be. But the essential principle, on which they are written, is the same through all changes. This is wrong, and what should be corrected. Improvements in arrangement, and in the manner of expressing the principles of the sciences, have, no doubt, been frequently made. Indeed, the books have brobably been carried to as great perfection, as they can be carried, without some more essential change in the principles on which they have been written. They are very well executed, upon a very bad plan. The reason to be assigned for such slow progress in the improvement of school books, in particular, is a mistaken notion of the purpose of a school book; and the fact, that there have seldom been brought to the task of elementary instruction, talents capable of comprehending, at once, the principles of a science, in their relation and dependence upon each other; and still less capable of analysing the powers of the young mind, to which the science is to be adapted. The books for elementary instruction, have been written or compiled, with a view to set forth the principles of the science of which it treats, in a manner the most philosophical to those who make the books, but with little or no reference to the young minds, which are to encounter them. The object of the education, which can be given in the schools of this country, or even the colleges, is not so much to give knowledge, as to develope the powers of the mind, and strengthen them for the acquirement of knowledge, at some future period. Every thing, therefore, even philosophical accuracy, if it is necessary, must be sacrificed to the single object of adaptation to the mind. It is of little consequence, what the study is, which the child or youth is put upon, if it be so managed, as to bring forward all the powers of the mind, in their proper and natural order. And when the mind has acquired some strength by discipline, and a just balance among all its faculties, its attention may be then turned towards the acquirement of useful knowledge, with a good hope of success. But impatient parents have estimated instructers, by their ability to give a smattering of learning in some branch of knowledge, rather than their ability to watch over and detect all wrong associations; and to preserve the balance essential to a well disciplined mind, by encouraging or repressing different faculties as the particular case may require. Perfection of education consists more in the harmony and just proportion of all the powers of the mind, than in the overgrown strength of any one. When the plan of a school book, or the arTol. i, fll

raiigement of studies generally, is such as to exercise but few or one of the powers, this takes the lead. It monopolises an undue share of energy, and becomes overgrown at the expense of some, or all of the other powers. The features of the mind become distorted, and unless the deformity is corrected by the judicious instructer, the effect will become permanent, and extend to the whole character. The inductive method applied to the Languages and Geography. If Socrates was said to have brought philosophy from heaven, Bacon may as truly be said to have infused it into men. The generations, that have lived between that prodigy of human intellect and ourselves, have acknowledged their obligations to him, and no doubt profited much by his instructions. But, it is apprehended, his philosophy is not yet brought down to our comprehension, and carried thoroughly and effectually into all our intellectual exertions. It is said, he felt that he belonged to a later age, than that, in which he lived; and in anticipation of his increasing fame, 'bequeathed his name to posterity, after some generations shall be passed.'* Perhaps this generation is the intended heir; and it is high time, they had put in their claim to enjoy the inheritance. There are no means, by which we may derive more advantage from his philosophy, and consequently render more honor to his name, than by applying it to the subject of education, or the science of instruction. The applicability of his philosophy to this subject, has been, long since, acknowledged by high authority. And the distance between the acknowledgement of the principle, and the application of it, has not been greater, than was to be expected; especially, when we consider, that the application depended upon judgements warped by all the prejudices or 'Idols' of the mind, formed under the reign of a different philosophy. Mr. Stewart, sketching a system of logic, observes: 'Another very important branch of a rational system of logic, ought to be, to lay down the rules of investigation, which it is proper to follow in the different sciences.' And when, farther on, he tells us how to lay down such rules of investigation, he says: 'Such is the incapacity of most people for abstract reasoning, that I am inclined to think, even if the rules of inquiry were delivered in a perfectly complete, and unexceptionable form, it might still be expedient to teach them to a majority of students, rather by examples, than in the form of general principles.^ How far Mr. Stewart was able to over- * Stetrart's Dissertation on the History of Philosophy. Part i. p. 94. t Philosophy of the* Human Mind. Introd. Part 2d. Sec 2d.

[ocr errors]

come the ' Idols' of his own mind, and keep himself consistent with the principle above laid down, his book must decide. There is a wide difference between the rules of inquiry, by which we are to proceed to the study of a science, and the principles of that science, after we have already begun to make acquisitions in it. But if the former should be taught by examples, the reasons are much stronger, why the latter should. It would be much easier to understand by a maxim, in what direction the science lies; than it would be to understand by the same means, all the particulars or facts of that science, when the inquirer has arrived upon the ground. The mind does not perceive a general truth, till ii has perceived the particular truths, from which it has been derived. If any thing more than our own experience were necessary to settle this point, passages might be selected from various authors, to add the weight of their authority. But it is not the custom to question this position; and it is quite as little the custom to pay any attention to it. It is to this point, attention is now invited; in the hope it may have, not only a speculative belief, but a practical influence upon our principles and systems of instruction. But this is dealing too much in generals; or falling precisely into the error to be controverted. To be consistent, a particular example must be taken, to illustrate what is meant by inductive instruction. 1 must even be so consistent, as not to give a definition. For unless our experience upon the particular subject has been altogether similar, there would be great danger of being misunderstood, or not understood at all; till an example explained the meaning, and then a definition would be unnecessary. After a few examples of the application of the principle, it will be easy for any one to make a correct definition for himself. In selecting the example of languages, I shall probably meet more objections, and encounter more skeptics, than in any other example, which could be taken. But principles are always best tested by extreme cases. And there is no necessity for availing myself of the advantage of the happiest application I could select. In our most approved schools, the method of teaching languages has been, to put into the hand of the pupil a grammar of the language to be taught; and require him to learn, as it is improperly called, the general principles of the language. This is done commonly at the expense of from three to six or twelve months' time, and a thorough disgust to the whole subject. This disgust very naturally arises from being kept so long, on what he does not in the least understand.* At the end of this time, if the teacher has

*To counteract in some degree, this baneful effect, artificial stimulants arc applied. And these are increased to so intense a degree, as to produce a perfect phren«y in the pupil, to trem to have learned all, that could be expected from lihn. been inflexible in his purpose, and the pupil not unreasonably stupid, he will have committed to memory his grammar from end to end, including all rules and all exceptions; to which he probably attaches equal importance. He may have fixed perfectly in his memory, all the subtle refinements of all the philosophers, who have spent their lives in studying the principles and anamolies of the language; but he has made but a small approximation to a knowledge of it. This is studying the philosophy of the language before the pupil is acquainted with the facts of it. This system of teaching proceeds upon the supposition, that the language was invented and formed by the rules of grammar. Nothing is more false. A grammar can never be written till a good knowledge of the language is attained; and then, contrary to what the pupil supposes, the grammar is made to suit the language. Now why invert this natural method in teaching language to young learners? Must not the facts be learned, before they can be classed under general principles? What are the rules and principles, which the pupil has learned at so dear a rate? They are no more than the verbal generalisation of facts. How have they themselves been formed? By the experience of those whose attention has been directed to the observation of the facts. They are abstract principles, the truth of which can neither be perceived, understood, nor believed, till some single instance, within the comprehension ol the principle or rule, presents itself to the learner. And then he will perceive the fact in the particular case, long before he discoversits identity with the rule, if he is ever so fortunate as to discover it. In learning the peculiarities of a language, which is but imperfectly known, the philosopher does not (although he might to much better advantage than a young learner) go to the grammar of that language; he selects the best authors and makes a careful analysis of their sentences; and thus discovers, what constructions are common with other languages, and what are peculiar to the one to be learned. At the end of his researches, he forms into general principles, the result of his experience. The rule, therefore, is obtained by a patient induction of particular instances, and is put in words, not to teach us anything, but to classify what has already been learned, and put it in a form convenient to be referred to, as occasion requires. As we assort our papers by examination of Under the strong excitement, of hope or/cor, the young learner will spare no pains to accomplish his task. But it must be remembered, that under the influence of these motives, the object is only to convince the instrucler the task is accomplished. And oftentimes the craftiness of the pupil will invent some more expeditious method for this purpose, than really to possess himself of the knowledge he is expected to gain. These short cuts to the approbation of the instrucler, it is feared, are not always consistent with that ingenuousness which it is so desirable to cultivate in the youthful heart.

« ForrigeFortsett »