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II. In what manner shall mind be thus rendered a fitter instrument to answer the purposes of its creation ?
To answer this question, let us go back a little. We have shown that the present constitution of things is constructed for man, and that man is constructed for the present constitution. As mind, then, is the instrument by which he avails himself of the laws of that constitution, it may be supposed that it was endowed with all the powers necessary to render it subservient to his best interests. Were it possible, therefore, it would be useless to attempt to give it any additional faculties. All that is possible, is, to cultivate to higher perfection those faculties which exist, or to vary their relations to each other. To cultivate to the utmost the original faculties of the mind, is to render it the fittest possible instrument for dis-, overing, applying, and obeying the laws of its creation.
This is, however, an answer to the question in the abstract, and without any regard to time. But the question to us, is not an abstract question; it has regard to time. That is to say, we do not ask simply what is the best mode of cultivating mind, but what is the best mode of doing it now, when so many ages have elapsed, and so many of the laws of the universe have been discovered. Much knowledge has already been acquired by the human race, and
this knowledge is to be communicated to the pupil.
All this every one sees at first glance to be true. Nearly all the time spent in pupilage, under the most favorable circumstances, is in fact employed in the acquisition of those laws which have been already discovered. Without a knowledge of them, education would be almost useless. Without it, there could evidently be no progressive improvement of the species. Education, considered in this light alone, has very many and very important ends to accomplish. It is desirable that the pupil should be taught thoroughly that is, that he should have as exact and definite a knowledge as possible of the law and of its relations. It is desirable that he be
taught permanently; that is, that the truth communicated be so as
sociated with his other knowledge, that the lapse of time will not
easily erase it from his memory. It is important, also, that no more
time be consumed in the process than is absolutely necessary. He who occupies two years in teaching what might as well be taught with a little more industry in one year, does his pupil a far greater injury than would be done by simply abridging his life by a year. He not only abstracts from his pupil's acquisition that year's improvement, but all the knowledge which would have been the fruit of it for the remainder of his being. If then, all that portion of our time which is devoted to educa
tion must be occupied in acquiring the laws of the universe, how shall opportunity be afforded for cultivating the original powers of the mind? I answer, an all-wise Creator has provided for this necessity of our intellectual nature. His laws, in this, as in every other case, are in full and perfect harmony. For, first, the original powers of the mind are cultivated by use. This law, I believe, obtains in respect to all our powers, physical, intellectual, and moral. But it must be by the use of each several faculty. The improvement of the memory does not, of necessity, strengthen the power of discrimination; nor does the improvement of natural logical acuteness, of necessity, add sensibility to the taste. The law on this subject seems to be, that every several faculty is strengthened and rendered more perfect exactly in proportion as it is subjected to habitual and active exercise. And, secondly, it will be found that the secret of teaching most thoroughly, permanently, and in the shortest time, that is, of giving --to the pupil in a given time the greatest amount of knowledge, consists in so teaching as to give the most active exercise to the original faculties of the mind. So that it is perfectly true, that if you wished so to teach as to make the mind the fittest possible instrument for discovering, applying, and obeying the laws of the Creator, you would so teach as to give to the mind the greatest amount of knowledge; and, on the contrary, if you wished so to teach as to give to a pupil, in a given time, the greatest amount of knowledge, you \ would so teach as to render his mind the fittest instrument for disA covering applying and obeying the laws of its Creator. I do not forget that the discussion of the practical business of teaching is, on this occasion, committed to other hands. You will, however, I trust, allow me to suggest here, one or two principles which seem to me common to all teaching, and which are in their nature calculated to produce the results to which I have referred. 1. Let a pupil understand everything that it is designed to teach im. If he can not understand a thing this year, it was not designed y his Creator that he should learn it this year. But let it not be forgotten, that precisely here is seen the power of a skillful teacher. It is his business to make a pupil, if possible, understand. Very few things are incapable of being understood, if they be reduced to their ultimate elements. Hence the reason why the power of accurate and natural analysis is so invaluable to a teacher. By simplification and patience, it is astonishing to observe how easily abstruse subjects may be brought within the grasp of even the facul\ ties of children. Let a teacher, then, first understand a subject him. self. Let him know that he understands it. Let him reduce it to its natural divisions and its simplest elements. And then, let him see that his pupils understand it. This is the first step. 2. I would recommend the frequent repetition of whatever has been acquired. For want of this, an almost incalculable amount of invaluable time is annually wasted. Who of us has not forgotten far more than he at present knows? What is understood to-day, may with pleasure be reviewed to-morrow. If it be frequently reviewed, it will be associated with all our other knowledge, and be thoroughly engraven on the memory. If it be laid aside for a month or two, it will be almost as difficult to recover it as to acquire a new truth; and it is, moreover, destitute of the interest derived only from novelty. If this be the case with us generally, I need not say how peculiarly the remark applies to the young. But lastly, and above all, let me insist upon the importance of universal practice of every thing that is learned. No matter whether it be a rule in arithmetic, or a rule in grammar, a principle in rhetoric, or a theorem in the mathematics; as soon as it is learned and understood, let it be practiced. Let exercises be so devised as to make the pupil familiar with its application. Let him construct exercises himself. Let him not leave them until he feels that he understands both the law and its application, and is able to make use of it freely and without assistance. The mind never will derive power in any other way. Nor will it, in any other way, attain to the dignity of certain, and practical, and available science. So far as we have gone, then, we have endeavored to show that the business of a teacher is so to communicate knowledge as most constantly and vigorously to exercise the original faculties of the mind. In this manner he will both convey the greatest amount of instruction, and create the largest amount of mental power. I intended to confirm these remarks by a reference to the modes of teaching some of the most important branches of science. But I fear that I should exhaust your patience, and also that I might anticipate what will be much better illustrated by those who will come * . tions to the elucidation of some subjects of general importance. 1. If these remarks be true, they show us in what manner text2’ . . books ought to be constructed. They should contain a clear exhi\ bition of the subject, its limits and relations. They should be arranged after the most perfect method, so that the pupil may easily survey the subject in all its ramifications; and should be furnished with examples and questions to illustrate every principle which they contain. It should be the design of the author to make such a book unless the instructor understood it. Such books, in every departinent, are, if I mistake not, very greatly needed. If this be true, what are we to think of many of those schoolbooks which are beginning to be very much in vogue amongst us? There first appears, perhaps, an abridgment of a scientific textbook. Then, lest neither instructor nor pupil should be able to understand it, without assistance, a copious analysis of each page or chapter or section, is added in a second and improved edition. Then, lest, after all, the instructor should not know what questions should be asked, a copious list of these is added to a third and still more improved edition. The design of this sort of work seems to be to reduce all mental exercise to a mere act of the memory, and then to render the necessity even for the use of this faculty as small as may be possible. Carry the principle but a little farther, and an automaton would answer every purpose exactly as well as an instructor. Let us put away all these miserable helps, as fast as to ble, I pray you. Let us never forget that the business of an i structor begins where the office of a book ends. It is the action of mind upon mind, exciting, awakening, showing by example the power of reasoning and the scope of generalization, and rendering it impossible that the pupil should not think; this is the noble and the ennobling duty of an instructor. 2. These remarks will enable us to correct an error which of late has done very much evil to the science of education. Some years since, I know not when, it was supposed, or we have said it was supposed, that the whole business of education was to store the mind with facts. Dugald Stewart, I believe, somewhere remarks that the business of education, on the contrary, is to cultivate the original faculties. Hence the conclusion was drawn that it mattered not what you taught, the great business was to strengthen the facul- \ ties. Now this conclusion has afforded to the teacher a most convenient refuge against the pressure of almost every manner of tack. If you taught a boy rhetoric, and he could not write English, it was sufficient to say that the grand object was not to teach the structure of sentences, but to strengthen the faculties. If you taught him the mathematics, and he did not understand the Rule of Three, and could not tell you how to measure the height of his village steeple, it was all no matter-the object was to strengthen his faculties. If, after six or seven years of study of the languages, he had no more taste for the classics than for Sanscrit, and sold his books to the highest bidder, resolved never again to look into them, it was all no matter-he had been studying, to strengthen his facul
ties, while by this very process his faculties have been enfeebled almost to annihilation. Now, if I mistake not, all this reasoning is false, even to absurdity. Granting that the improvement of the faculties is the most important business of instruction, it does not follow that it is the only business. What! will a man tell me that it is of no consequence whether or not I know the laws of the universe under which I am constituted Will he insult me, by pretending to teach them to me in such a manner that I shall, in the end, know nothing about them : Are such the results to which the science of education leads Will a man pretend to illuminate me by thrusting himself, year after year, exactly in my sunshine? No; if a man profess to teach me the laws of my Creator, let him make the thing plain, let him teach me to remember it, and accustom me to apply it. Otherwise, let him stand out of the way, and allow me to do it for myself. But this doctrine is yet more false; for even if it be true, that it matters not what is taught, it by no means follows that it is no matter how it is taught. The doctrine in question, however, supposes that the faculties are to be somehow strengthened by “going over,” as it is called, a book or a science, without any regard to the manner in which it is done. The faculties are strengthened by the use of the faculties; but this doctrine has been quoted to shield a mode of teaching, in which they were not used at all; and hence has arisen a great amount of teaching, which has had very little effect, either in communicating knowledge, or giving efficiency to mind. Let us, then, come to the truth of the question. It is important what I study; for it is important whether or not I know the laws of my being, and it is important that I so study them, that they shall be of use to me. It is also important that my intellectual faculties be improved, and therefore important that an instructor do not so employ my time as to render them less efficient. 3. Closely connected with these remarks is the question, which has of late been so much agitated, respecting the study of the ancient languages and the mathematics. On the one part, it is urged that the study of the languages is intended to cultivate the taste and imagination, and that of the mathematics to cultivate the understanding. On the other part, it is denied that these effects are produced; and it is asserted that the time spent in the study of them is wasted. Examples, as may be supposed, are adduced in abundance on both sides; but I do not know that the question is at all decided. Let us see whether anything that we have said will throw any light upon it.