Sidebilder
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

parently, to usurp the province of the reflective; and the child in due time received, as did his father before him, through the only legitimate powers by which they could be received, those ideas, about and around which, he had often talked, but of which, he had had no knowledge.

I do not know that any injury was done to the development of the perceptive faculties by this method of education; for they were perhaps as well exercised thus as upon objects of sense alone—that is, upon objects used in their primary signification, and not as the signs of ideas. But certainly it was lost labor, for there could be no gain. It was, however, injurious upon the mind generally, by its deceptive feature, causing both parent and child to form a wrong estimate of the amount and character of the pupil's knowledge. Thus the flattered parent urged on the child in the same mode of procedure; while the pupil, either deceiving himself with the idea that he was a learned scholar, grew up a conceited chatterer upon all subjects without understanding any; or, on the other hand, bursting the fetters which had bound his mind, slowly undeceiving himself, and realizing how vague were all his ideas, painfully unlearning what he had been for years committing, in spite of the trammels which surrounded him, made himself what nature designed him to be—a true man. Would that this system had fallen into disuse when the failure of the “Infant School” demonstrated its absurdity ! But the spirit of the age favors it; its effects are not so plainly detected in adults as in young children;

l the pride of parent and teacher is gratified by the ready reply of the pupil, his varied knowledge and his ease and familiarity in talking about learned subjects; all these combine to prevent its banishment from our academies and common schools.

The opposite extreme, of commiting to memory words, without any explanation, is, of the two, to be preferred, for then the fact or the statement of the principle remains, and after-reflection explains them. In this extreme, the fact is never remembered, and an incorrect or vague idea takes the place of the true one, and deceives the holder into the supposition that he understands the whole subject. There is no thought in either extreme, and therefore, so far as discipline is concerned, no value.

The happy medium is as valuable, as it is difficult to find. Ideas must be presented to the child beyond his comprehension, otherwise the reflective faculties will have no stimulus to action, but not too complex, for then these undisciplined faculties have no power to act, and the memory alone is exercised. Many abstruse points must be explained and familiarly illustrated, but care must be taken lest they be so illustrated as to be received only as perceptions, and thus fail of their legitimate effect. This method may indeed be useful in one branch of education-instruction—the giving to the pupil information with reference to some kinds of knowledge. Yet we must bear in mind that nine-tenths of the things learned at school are soon forgotten, are of little practical benefit and seldom made use of by the pupil in the common transactions of life. Principles are extensive in their application, comprehending an infinitude of relations, the species of fact usesul in practical life. He therefore who understands and remembers principles, has ever at command, in small compass, thousands of things, many more than the memory could ever contain. Information is valuable only as we can use it. The difference between the educated and the uneducated, is not so much in their amount.of knowledge as in their command of knowledge, their power in using and applying what they know.

Says Rousseau, “ Trace the progress of the most ignorant of mortals from his birth to the present hour, and you will be astonished at the knowledge he has acquired. If we divide all human science into two parts, the one consisting of that which is common to all men, and the other of what is peculiar to the learned, the latter will appear insignificant and trifling in comparison with the other.” It matters not so much what we learn as how we learn.

Words are not wanted, but ideas; or rather the power of originating ideas. The learned is far inferior to the disciplined mind. This method may make the glib talker, for the perceptive powers act quickly, and the result of their action is easily expressed. But the reflective require time, both for action and expression. But since, in this hurrying age, stopping to think cannot be endured, the recitation of the scholar and the ex. amination of the school, where the perceptive faculties have been chiefly appealed to, is frequently overrated, while that of the pupil or school where the reflective faculties have been disciplined, is as frequently underrated. This extreme makes the superficial scholar-is as deceitful as it is flattering, and should be especially guarded against by the teacher.

We have thus endeavored to show that Education has been, in turn, both the cause and the consequence

[ocr errors]

of the condition of the world in all ages. We have spoken of two governing principles of action of the present age, and of some of the ways in which they are affecting education. We have, indeed, presented them in their worst features, and considered only the dangers that are to be feared from their extremes. We regret that time will not permit us to consider the other side, and to show that it is chiefly due to the prevalence of these principles, that our country has taken the rank which she has among nations, and that our people may boast of possessing more of the requisites for universal happiness than any other. For we do not wish to be classed with those who fear every thing and hope nothing. We have much faith in the educated common sense of the people, in the strong conservative power which underlies the wild vagaries that we fear, and which is silently, but we trust effectually, counteracting extreme radicalism. Yet, after all, much depends upon the next generation, and much of their character depends upon the influences of the school-room. And we shall not have spoken in vain to-day, if we shall cause a single teacher to think more seriously of his part in this work.

If the coming generation shall be taught to think, if they shall be made to realize that liberty is not synonymous with lawlessness, nor equality with agrarianism; that men are born with different capacities; that respect is to be paid to talent, scholarship and wisdom; that reverence is due to the experience of age; that obedience is to be given to something besides their own dictates,--then may we hope that the result of the experiment, which we are now trying, will not be added to the long list of failures, which stain the pages of our history, and shake our confidence in man, but that we shall go on, giving an unimpeachable example of man's true power in selfgovernment, spreading a benignant light, whose mild rays shall gently fall even upon the farthest nation, hastening that promised time when all mankind shall be at peace with each other-loving and being loved; when heaven itself shall be brought down to earth.

Would we give to our people intellectual education, then must we teach our youth to think, then must we despise the showy farces of superficial teaching, then must we cherish thorough instruction, severe discipline. Yet must we remember, that the failures in republicanism have not been caused by failures in intellectual strength, but by the destitution of moral, Christian principles. Religion is the only safeguard of Liberty. Whenever Liberty has deigned to dwell with us on earth, Religion has been her attendant spirit.

66 Where she came, There Freedom came ; where she dwelt, there Freedom dwelt; Ruled where she ruled, expired where she expired."

« ForrigeFortsett »