« ForrigeFortsett »
PAPERS FOR THE SCHOOLMASTER.
APRIL 1, 1852.
What is Education ? Education is the formation of character. It involves the right development, cultivation, and direction of all the powers, physical, intellectual and moral; the true end being to bring all the powers and faculties of our nature to the highest perfection of which they are capable. It implies instruction in all the branches of knowledge which are necessary to useful and efficient action in the sphere of the individual. The means of education comprise all those circumstances and influences by which the human character is formed and modified. It may give a clearer idea, if two or three definitions are placed in juxta position. “Education legitimately includes all those influences which go to unfold the faculties of man, or determine human character." Goodrich. “It is to develope all the faculties of our nature, physical, intellectual, and moral, and to endeavour to train and unite them into one harmonious system, which shall form the most perfect character of which the individual is susceptible; and thus prepare him for every period, and every sphere of action to which he may be called.” Fellenburg.
Considerable diversity of opinion has long existed as to what really constitutes education. Without noticing all the varieties, it is sufficient to name the three principal doctrines held on this subject. First; that education is the giving of information. Second; that the development of the faculties is the end of education—this was Pestalozzi's great principle. Third; that education should include both mental development, and instruction.
The first doctrine has been dominant in the elementary schools of this country for about a quarter of a century. Adopted by the most prominent friends of Educational action, and promoted by the authorities of Normal Schools, the teachers went out from the Training Colleges thoroughly penetrated with the idea that instruction
was education. It followed, that in schools purely elementary, in which the average time of attendance fell short of twelve months, there was, nevertheless, a profession made of teaching the children the subjects of reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, etymology, vocal music, drawing, and the natural sciences. This scheme of instruction was more than could be effectively worked out, even had the time of attendance been years instead of months; the result was that, though attempting everything, nothing was done thoroughly; efforts, great as they were in many cases, were too diffused to be successful; the veriest elements were left unfinished, so that many a child whilst glibly chattering about science, could neither read an ordinary paragraph, nor write a legible line-such has been the finale of the attempt to cram.
The second doctrine exists more in theory than otherwise. Almost all the principal writers on education hold it, and yet but few efforts have been made to embody the conception in practice. Pestalozzi is thought to have done more towards realizing it, than any other educationist, and hence the principles involved in this doctrine have been styled Pestalozzian. But this great and good man failed to realize his own conceptions; he, like many others, was more able in planning operations than alert and vivid in carrying them out. Still his efforts were so far successful, as to show that in the early period of education it is better to give ideas than to teach words, and that it is vastly more effective to develop mental power, than merely to load the memory.
The third doctrine is a mean between the other two, which may be taken as the extremes. Fellenburg, a contemporary, and in some degree a coadjutor of Pestalozzi, became early aware of the impossibility of carrying out the doctrine of development, so as to satisfy the requirements of man's present condition. He, conceiving that Pestalozzi had an undue predilection for the mere expansion of mind, to the neglect of position, knowledge, and practical application, considered that a course of education should be divided into two parts, the period of development, and the period of acquisition. In the first period, which should be considered as particularly devoted to developing the faculties, and forming the habits of the mind, the inductive process should be chiefly employed. Time is not here of #o much importance, as the habit of investigation and effort, which
can only be acquired by meeting and overcoming difficulties. This period which must be made longer or shorter according to the character of the pupil or the necessity that his circumstances in life may impose, is succeeded by the period of acquisition, in which the mind is more especially called upon to exercise the powers which have been previously developed and cultivated in the acquisition of such positive knowledge as may prepare the individual for life and action. The inductive process is still employed as much as possible, not only because it has become in most instances the shortest and most agreeable, but because it is important to maintain the habits it has produced, and invigorate the faculties it has served to develope.
It was Fellenburg's good fortune to possesss a large and clear conception of what were the real objects to be secured in education, and a sound judgment as to the means necessary for accomplishing his
purpose. Hence he is taken as the representative of the doctrine which unites development with efficient instruction.
This view of the purpose of education has been thus stated, “ The highest and most precious object in education is, to watch the gradual development of all the faculties; to minister objects and scope for their operation, and to direct and assist the progress of these operations, by the application of sound and solid principles.”
The above doctrines have a special reference to school education ; but to obtain a comprehensive view of education as a whole it is necessary to look beyond, and ascertain the other influences, which share with the school in the formation of character. Perhaps there can be given no better summary of these influences, than the able one by Mr. Lalor in his prize Essay; “ Through the different states of the infant, the child, the boy, the youth, the man, the development of his physical, intellectual, and moral nature goes on, the various circumstances of his condition incessantly acting upon him—the healthfulness or unhealthfulness of the air he breathes; the kind, and the sufficiency of his food and clothing; the degree in which his physical powers are exerted; the freedom with which his senses are allowed or encouraged to exercise themselves upon external objects; the extent to which his faculties of remembering, comparing, reasoning, are tasked; the sounds and sights of home; the moral example of parents; the discipline of school; the nature and degree of his studies, rewards, and punishments; the personal qualities of
his companions; the opinions and practices of the society, juvenile, and advanced, in which he moves; and the character of the public institutions under which he lives. The successive operation of all these circumstances upon a human being from earliest childhood constitutes his education ;-an education which does not terminate with the arrival of manhood, but continues through life,—which is
the concurrent testimony of Revelation and reason, a state of probation or education for a subsequent and more glorious existence.”
It is important to observe here, that considerable looseness exists, even among those who might be expected to be more precise, in the use of the terms education and instruction. When the term education is applied to the mere acquisition of knowledge, or even of the elements and keys of knowledge, it is made synonymous with instruction. Is is true, there can be no education without instruction, though it is very possible to have instruction without education. Indeed the confusion of the two, and the substitution of the one for the other, lie at the bottom of most of the errors in Education. Mr. Lalor properly remarks, “that education and instruction are toto coelo different things, is so plain a proposition as to require no enforcement. By confining his attention to the latter and neglecting the former, the pedagogue has earned his name of contempt. Instruction seeks to hang grapes on thorns and figs on thistles ;—I mean that it attains its end when it has communicated to another so much knowledge as can be imparted by elementary teaching. It endeavours to run a race against time, and ere it is possible for knowledge to grow in the mind by experience or by a communion with thoughts-to clothe the mind with a vesture of apparent information foreign to its substance, and which has never been identified with its real activity.”
This paper cannot be better concluded, than by strongly urging on teachers the necessity of possessing themselves of an accurate aquaintance with the structure of mind, its several developments, and the laws regulating its operations. Without this knowledge, they can never become enlightened Instructors, much less can they rise to the character of Educators. An extract or two will support this position.
“ In intellectual education the materials are the human faculties -the instrumental method. To think of working on the human mind, without knowing what the human mind is, seems an absurdity so glaring, that it could never have been maintained even in practice, if the real object of Education had been education itself. The science of mind, or at least, such portions of it as bear on practice, is essential ; without it we may blunder into right, but even in our
successes, we shall be empirics, we shall never be sure that we are not in the wrong.”—Wyse.
“ The first enquiries then which present themselves are, whether circumstances act upon the mind at random, or according to any fixed and discoverable laws ?-and how far it is in our power to control their operation ? To these it can be answered, that the growth of the human being, from infancy up, in mind as well as in body, takes place at all events to a great extent, according to fixed laws. The assertion is qualified simply to avoid certain controversies which have no practical relation to the subject. No one can observe the movements of his own mind, or the mental operations of another, particularly a child, without discovering the frequent recurrence of the same combinations of thoughts, or of thoughts and acts. When two sensations, or a sensation and an idea, or two ideas, have been frequently experienced together, the occurrence of one calls up the other. The name “table” suggests the idea. The first word of a familiar poem brings the other after it. A sudden blow excites anger. Frequent pain makes fretfulnes habitual. Here we see the operation of laws,-laws of mind discoverable by observation of nature, like the laws of mechanics or astronomy. These must form the basis of practical education—the science on which the art is founded. The practical part of education has regard to a small portion only of the long train of circumstances which operate upon a human being ;-namely that portion which belongs to his early life, and which is within the control of others. In this sense, education means the body of practical rules, for the regulation of the circumstances about children, by which they may be trained up to the greatest perfection of their nature."--Lalor.
It is equally necessary that the teacher should know not only the various operations of mind; but those particular characteristics of it peculiar to youth. Mr. Goodrich in his “Fireside Education," enumerates the following; sympathy of child with child, imitation, curiosity, love of novelty, force of habit, periodicity, and self-love. Mr. Todd in his “ Sunday School Teacher' gives, love of friends, love of imitation, principle of confidence, and natural conscience. The detail, respecting these characteristics is given at large by these writers, and will amply repay a careful perusal.