« ElőzőTovább »
arrangements, school-rooms should be built in an unnatural shape in order to admit of a quasi separation, according to the number of classes, by baize curtains, or some other more ingenious contrivance. In all this we see certain loss and very questionable gain : indeed, there is but one argument in its favour, or rather, one reason for its adoption, viz., the prevention of noise or interruption from the other classes. For this, as we shall presently show, we can provide in other and less objectionable ways. The only thing that would reconcile us to this new arrangement, would be the appointment to each class of a separate master—not a pupil teacher, or apprentice, or mere assistant-but a separate master. And even were this feasible (and there are other objections to it besides the expense), we should still wish the whole to be under the head-mas. ter's eye. But every practical man knows, that if we are to depend in any measure upon monitors, or even apprentices, the less they are left to themselves in other words, the less the master.mind is out of the room, the better; the better as regards the work done, and still more so as regards the general tone and spirit of the school. Children are often told that they ought to be as quiet as mice : so they can be at times, and, on the other hand, at times," when the " we were about to quote an old proverb, but pause, for fear some schoolmistress should be offended and charge us with calling names. It is enough for our purpose to remind the reader, that there is a time when “mice begin to play," and, we will be bold to add, kittens too, for we are not so much afraid of the anger of monitors and pupil-teachers.
If, then, we are to have a large school, say for 300 boys, let us have it in one large room. Be there a class-room attached or not, let the master have the whole number as much as possible under his eye. We lay no stress upon the fact (though this is worth mentioning), that one full-sized room is often available for other than school purposes, especially if it be so contrived, that an adjoining girl's school can be, to a certain extent, thrown into it upon great occasions. The grand point is, that the master, or clergyman when present, should see and be seen by the whole school, though occupied with a single class ; that his presence should be felt. The mere presence of the superior, though unseen, unheard, unthought of, is gain in a thousand ways.
Let us, however, grapple at once with the main difficulty, viz., the interruption to each class from the rest. Reserving for a future occasion a paper already in hand, containing a number of minute directions, how to reduce the noise in National Schools, we have only to call the attention of our readers to two measures in particular :
One of them, as described at sufficient length in the course of the first article in this number, is the introduction of a much larger proportion than common of silent work, such as preparing lessons, learning by heart, writing from dictation or from memory, composition and other exercises, lineal and map drawing, &c. This of course implies such an arrangement of the time-table, as that only one half of the school shall be engaged in loud lessons at a time.
The other provision is, that the room be fitted up in such a manner as will necessarily tend to quietness, by keeping the classes which are engaged in vivd voce lessons, as far apart from each other as possible,
or rather, reserving at all times the central part of the room for silent work.
The following diagram, though a poor one, will explain our meaning :
Here, the reader will observe, that the whole number in attendance in a school of 300 is supposed to be in one room, which is so contrived, that whatever class the master may be teaching or examining (for no desk is provided for him), he can have an eye to all that is going on in all the rest. There is a gallery provided for about half the number; the form of which, and purposes for which it will be used, are stated in the first number of this Journal. It is only necessary here to mention, that it is contrived to hold the aggregate of the square classes at the sides of the room, so that when one is in use the other will be empty, and vice versd. For instance, when the children are at oral lessons in their separate classes on opposite sides of the room, they will scarcely interfere with each other, as the largest division that in the centrem will be perfectly quiet; for the gallery will be unoccupied, and the children at the parallel desks will be at silent work. On the other hand, when the gallery is in use, the square classes will be empty, and in many cases, e. g., at prayer-time, when the lower classes should be assembled upon the gallery, the parallel desks will serve as an addition to it. The only caution here required is, that the desks must be made very much lower than is generally the case-as low as the children can bear. This is as desirable for health and comfort, as it is necessary for allowing the master to see readily over their heads. It is an advantage,
moreoever, that those who occupy the centre of the room will always be seated : the mere dead weight, too, of the desk and gallery in the middle, will considerably lessen the reverberation of sound. It is beside our point at present to enlarge upon the comparative merits of parallel desks for some purposes, and of open classes (square when the children are seated, round when they stand), for others ; it is enough that we provide both. The reader will observe, that the classes increase in size as the children advance in their learning; the lowest containing 18, and the highest 40. Our grand object is, that every child should have, to as great extent as possible, the benefit of the master's, or, if the funds of the school will allow a plurality, of the head-master's presence.
ON THE ORDER IN WHICH THE MENTAL FACULTIES
USUALLY UNFOLD THEMSELVES; CONSIDERED IN REFERENCE TO EDUCATION. “Non ergo perdamus primum statim tempus : atque eo minus, quod initia litera. rum solâ memoriâ constant; quæ non modo jam est in parvis, sed tum etiam tenacissima est.”-Quint. A NOTION prevails very generally in the present day, which, on account of its close connexion with the practical details of education, appears deserving of a little investigation, before we yield implicit assent to its accuracy. It is, that nothing should be presented to the youthful mind, or constitute a part of elementary instruction, which cannot be fully understood by the learner, or which is not on a level with his capacity : that the memory and the judgment, for instance, should advance pari passu, and nothing be committed to the former which the latter is not able to render immediately available. A little attention to the order in which the various faculties of the mind display themselves, the gradual expansion they respectively attain, and the final development of the whole, will, I believe, tend greatly to modify the opinion referred to.
As the memory is that power of the mind which is generally impaired the soonest as life advances, so it is the first which becomes useful in the business of education. Most persons must have observed, that children, at a very early age, are retentive of facts and events, and capable of committing to memory many things which, nevertheless, they are unable to comprehend : in other words, that the development of the retentive, has preceded that of the reflective faculty. Thus children are early taught to repeat hymns and other pieces of poetry, to spell words, and to learn rules, which they do not, and cannot, as yet, apprehend the meaning of; but which are highly serviceable when the mind is arrived at a greater degree of maturity. Here then, taking nature for our guide, we have one obvious rule for the right commencement of education. We perceive that memory is the faculty with which, being the soonest capable of cultivation, we ought to begin our course of instruction, making it our principal instrument for the acquisition of learning,
and preparing it, by exercise, for future usefulness; while means, at the same time, may be in operation for eliciting the still latent powers of the mind. This is a branch of the didactic science apparently but little understood ; most persons considering it useless, if not pernicious, to encumber (as they term it) a child's memory with what it has not, at present, the ability to understand. They appear to forget that the stores treasured up in the memory are the very materials upon which the superior faculties will afterwards have to employ themselves. This then should be kept in constant exercise. Not a day should be allowed to pass without some addition to the mental treasury, “ Nulla dies sine lineâ :” except, perhaps, during those periodical seasons of relaxation, which are found by experience to be not more conducive to the health of the body than to the vigour of the mind. By these means, orthography and a copious store of words, some of the definitions and rules of grammar, with the more easy arithmetical tables, may be accumulated for future use, while the reasoning faculty remains, in a great measure, dormant: the symbols may be rendered familiar, though the corresponding ideas have not yet arisen in the mind, nor the thoughts which they are intended hereafter to convey been suggested to it.
As in a chain, each link is only the precursor of the next, so the mental powers stand closely associated ; for, in the mean time, the imagination and other faculties of slower growth gradually awake from their chrysalis state, and begin to exert themselves; and the mind becomes susceptible of the beauties of poetry and elegant composition, indeed, of all that is included in that comprehensive term, “belles lettres ;” and thus, under judicious management, an attachment to literature may be permanently acquired.
The understanding soon begins to dawn, and, while the memory is still occupied in making new acquisitions, and the imagination pluming its wings for future flights, some of their earlier attainments are gradually beginning to exercise the reflective powers. The gardener is already culling some of his earlier fruits or blossoms, but is not, or ought not to be, the less diligent in preparing the ground for future crops. In other words, the judgment soon begins to act upon the stores which the memory has treasured up; but the latter must still be kept in active operation, to provide for the future demands of the other faculties. Thus, the understanding, the imagination, and the memory, though not co-ordinate, are harmoniously blended, and become mutually subservient to the mental growth.
Hence, the advantages of early cultivation and of an enlightened course of study will become strikingly apparent, if we consider that during the intellectual process just described, not only are acquisitions made, but habits are formed. The power of abstracting the mind from external objects, and directing its energies to a given subject is acquired. Thus the power of calculation, resulting from the united operations of retention and reflection, becomes invigorated, and prepares the youth for steady application to that branch of study which circumstances may point out as most eligibly connected with his future destination. It will be readily admitted, because frequently felt, by persons accustomed to examine the operations of their own minds, that few things are more
inimical to success in studious pursuits, than that tendency of the reasoning powers to fly off from the subject in hand, and to become interested upon others in no way connected with it ; to deviate into the bye-paths of fancy, while the less attractive one of close investigation is partially forsaken: “the muse will take us on her airy wings, and waft to scenes romantic,” from which we are reluctantly compelled to return, or abandon the original purpose. This is an infirmity of mind to which persons of a lively and imaginative turn are especially liable, and which calls for the most strenuous efforts to resist it. Now any course of study which requires a continuous application of thought, and rivets the attention to a specific object, helps in a great degree to rectify this erratic tendency, and if perseveringly continued will ultimately subdue it. It is upon this principle, that our universities very wisely insist upon a certain amount of mathematical knowledge from all who would enjoy the honours and advantages which they are authorized to bestow. Why should men (it has been asked) designed for the clerical profession be required to understand geometry, algebra, or conic sections ? Certainly not as a preparation for pulpit eloquence, nor from any very close affnity of mathematics with theology; but because they have long been found to strengthen the power of abstraction; to prepare the mind for a fixed and persevering application to those studies which the future profession of the individual may render necessary or desirable. They are pursued, indeed, in such cases, not as absolutely requisite in themselves, but as highly beneficial in the habits which they are known to generate.
To sum up this branch of the subject in the words of a popular writer,* more eminent perhaps for the ingenuity of his speculative opinions than for practical results, although on this occasion felicitously correct, “a child is a being endowed with all the faculties of human nature, but none of them developed a bud not yet opened. When the bud uncloses, every one of the leaves unfolds ; not one remains behind. Such must be the process of education. No faculty in human nature but must be treated with the same attention for their co-agency alone can secure success.”
Thus, too, we may perceive that to possess much learning is but one of the many qualifications of a teacher : the manner of imparting it is an equally important point, which only experience and an attentive study of the youthful mind can furnish. This is evidenced in the biographies of Milton, Johnson, and others :--men pre-eminent in their personal attainments, but equally unsuccessful in their tutorial undertakings. It has been somewhat severely remarked, that “the manner of giving instruction is one thing, the instruction itself another, and no two objects can be more distinct. The worst manner may be employed to give the best instruction, and the best manner to give the worst instruction. Sometimes both the worst are combined.” Perhaps nothing has had a greater influence in producing such an untoward result than the erroneous notion which the preceding remarks are designed to expose; for if it be once admitted, that no attempt is to be made to store the mind with facts and terms until the understanding is sufficiently matured to