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.IN the history of English Educational literature, this Journal
I will ever hold a conspicuous place, if not a proud position. As long as it continues to be issued it must be allowed priority on account of age, and all of unbiassed minds must concede that either other similar periodicals must greatly improve, or this must materially retrogade ere it takes a secondary rank in other respects. · We are not insensible of past defects. We are not unmindful of the forbearance of hundreds of subscribers who have year after year continued their support of the English Journal of Education, in the hope that it would in the course of time become what it should from its commencement have been the leading Educational periodical. The fact is, some years since, its conductors lost their vantage ground, and although no periodical which might fairly be accounted an “opposition" was, or has since been started, numerous other Educational periodicals, each identifying itself with some particular class, have in the interim appeared, languished, and died. Some few have maintained their ground, but their design is different from that of this publication. Each of them is the organ of some particular society or association which it is by virtue of its very existence pledged to support. '
The English Journal of Education is the only independent organ of the Scholastic Profession in its widest sense. It is this consideration which weighs heavily with us in taking a retrospect of its progress down to the present time, and in arranging our plans for conducting it for the future.
Whilst we have the pleasing duty of thanking our friends, amongst whom are those whose names will for ages to come be honoured as educationists, we have to express our regret that so many who some years ago contributed to our pages, have discontinued their literary aid. We are not surprised at this. Their contributions were then thrown aside to afford space for matter entirely devoid of interest to the great majority of the large number of subscribers which then looked only to the English Journal for the educational topics of the day. · The numerous editorial changes within the last few years have materially weakened the contributing staff, and some of our personal friends, whose writings would greatly enhance the value of the periodical, declined to contribute until a new volume commenced. The fear expressed was that in the course of a few months another editorial change might take place. We trust that no necessity may exist for apologetic remarks in the Preface to the Nineteenth Volume, and the Fourteenth of the New Series. . There are some points in which the English Journal of Education is confessedly superior to similar publications. Our desire is that henceforth it shall be superior in every particular. Our next number will, we think, be such as will revive the hopes of old friends, and secure many new ones.. .
London, November 30th, 1859.
RETROSPECT AND PROSPECT. AT the beginning of a new year, it is a custom as profitable as common
A to take a retrospect of the year that has past, and to ascertain as nearly as may be the results of our labours—in common phraseology, “ to take stock, and prepare a balance sheet,”—and having thereby ascertained our position, to construct our plans of future operation.
From the Educational point of view the retrospect is somewhat pleasing. The year that is just past has been a busy one-not one of noise only but of work also. Public attention has been well awakened ; its usual apathy has been thrown aside, and a thorough earnestness of purpose characterises both press and platform upon this all-important topic.
The great event of the year was undoubtedly the inauguration by the University of the middle-class examinations. Examinations were previously only theoretically valuable, that is to say, people looked upon them only as a means of ascertaining the amount of information acquired upon any given subject by the examine, and entirely overlooked their more valuable qualities as means of mental training, of indelibly iinpressing upon the mind the knowledge acquired-of perfecting and methodically storing that knowledge, so as to have it always available in the practical business of life. Generally the professional watchword was “onward;" get through all the chapters of any given text-book upon history, geography, arithmetic, or other item of the curriculum, and the school-course was complete. Constant recapitulation, frequent periodical examinations—written and vivâ voce, private or public—were utterly disregarded ; and hence, after years of schooling, the generality of boys knew nothing, understood nothing, remembered nothing of all they had learned, and when they came to take their places in the ordinary business of life, the little learning they had was unavailable, because wanting in those essential qualities-exactness and readiness.
The University examinations have commenced a great reformation in the system of education pursued in middle-class schools. They have discovered to the public as well as to tutors, that too little attention has been given to those studies which are of more immediate utility-too much to those which are generally considered as “ accomplishments” and that the whole business of education has hitherto been of a too nominal value. We are not unmindful of the imperfections of those examinations, but on the contrary have pointed out their deficiencies, and earnestly protested against some of the principles upon which they are at present conducted. We look with no small degree of satisfaction upon the fact that the profession is earnestly alive to those faults to which we have referred, and we doubt not but that one result of the coming Conference will be their eradication.
Another great sign of Educational progress was the importance given to the subject in all its bearings at the last Conference of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, and we take this opportunity of recalling our readers' attention to a portion of the admirable address of the Hon. W. Cowper, president of the Section on Education, that the hints thus given may be immediately considered, and vigorous and continued endeavours be made for the advancement of educational science.
“Education," he said, “is strictly a science, and is cultivated as such in Germany, under the name of Pædagogy; and yet, if we compare it with other sciences of less interest and more remote from general observation, we must be struck by observing how little it has received of scientific investigation. Astronomers are found to devote their lives to patient observations of the phenomena of the skies, and to continuous records of the movements of heavenly bodies; botanists can tell the effect on plants of different climates and different modes of cultivation ; and geologists delight to detect the traces of the great convulsions which have moved the strata of the earth; yet no similar diligence or zeal has stimulated educationists to record the successive stages by which the infant mind advances to maturity, or to ascertain, by systematic generalization, the results on children of different treatment and different modes of tuition, or to trace the bearing on education of successive revolutions in mental philosophy. But, interesting and important as are the observations and study of the material world, no one will deny that the study of the mind of man, and of the means of developing its power by education, is still a more important and noble pursuit, and that success in ascertaining the fixed principles of this science would confer an inestimable boon on mankind. One first and greatest want is a collection and generalization of facts, sufficient to form a basis for our deductions and conclusions. Our information respecting particular methods of education seldom embraces their ultimate results, whereas we require to know their effects, not merely within the sphere of the school-room, but also in that after life for which they assume to be a preparation. The scientific treatment of education would be aided by more precise appreciation of the value and proper admixture of the various methods of teaching. The methods of individual, of simultaneous, and of mutual instruction, have successively come into use, and it would be important to determine the occasions to which they are severally adapted. Among other matters on which more settled conclusions must be reached before education can assume the regular proportions of a science, are the degree in which emulation should be encouraged, the right uses of rewards and punishments, the efficacy of prizes, and the respective advantages of oral and written examinations."
Did our space permit, there are many other happy omens of progress to which we might refer, we must content ourselves however with bare mention of the universal and increasing desire felt by all sections of the profession for a general union of its units for the general good. We need not enlarge upon the advantages likely to accrue from an union of the vast body of educators by the bonds of mutual interest, sympathy, and love ; enabled to speak with the voice of authority, and anxious to combine in forwarding every great measure calculated to promote the moral, intellectual, or physical welfare of the people, and to hasten the reign of peace and goodwill among men.
* It is not by a variety of associations that this can be effected: these, indeed, are most praiseworthy and beneficial in themselves, strengthening the teachers hy an interchange of opinion regarding the practical working of various plans, and by the enunciation of the principles, and the varied views of experienced members; but how powerful a body, and how effective for any good work, would be the union of all who, feeling the reality of their mission, have by years of study and training properly prepared themselves for educational work.