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VII. PREPARATORY TRAINING.
Why it needs the attention of all schoolmasters,
I HOPE the subject of very early instruction will not appear to any one here to be insignificant or beneath notice. In the higher departments of instruction, we want to have at our disposal faculties which have been disciplined and brought into active and systematic exercise; and it would be well if we could presuppose that all this discipline has been obtained in the preparatory school. But there are two very good reasons why teachers in Grammar schools or public schools, should try to form clear notions about elementary and even infant training. First, because that training is often incomplete, and needs to be prolonged into an advanced course. It is not a creditable thing that the simple arts of good reading, spelling, and legible writing, should be so despised and disregarded that youths who have been at public schools are often inferior in these respects to the children of National Schools. Year by year, many young men who come up to be examined for commissions in the army, and in the higher departments of the Civil Service—young men who are presumed to have had a liberal education are rejected for bad spelling; and their writing, as I, an old examiner have good reason to know, is almost ostentatiously slovenly and illegible; the scribble of men who The Training of the Senses.
think good writing a thing for clerks and shopmen, and beneath the consideration of gentlemen. One reason therefore for asking your attention to these elementary matters is because provision ought to be more systematically made in higher schools for teaching them properly, if the preparatory school has failed to do it; and in cases where the preparatory training has been good, care should at least be taken to see that the lessons shall not be lost, but that the higher course shall strengthen rather than destroy the neat and accurate habits which have been once acquired.
Another reason why I hope you will not think these simple matters are beneath your attention, is that even the highest class of teachers are often called on to organize and superintend preparatory departments; or at least to test their work and see that they fulfil their proper purpose. They should therefore make
their own minds as to what is the difference between good and bad early training, and how to discern that difference. They are called on, if not to be the educators of very young children, at least to be the critics and guides of those who undertake this work. They suffer if the preparatory training has been unskilful; and they should be ready when occasion arises to point out to the teachers in preparatory schools, how their work ought to be done.
Now it would be beyond my proper province to attempt Principies here an analysis of the parts respectively to be played by in view in the senses and the intellect in the development of a child. infant That the way to the understanding is through the senses;
discipline. that in early childhood the senses are more active than the intelligence, and that the first teaching should therefore be addressed to the eye and the ear rather than to the reflective powers are truisms, on which we need not dwell. The processes by which sensation leads the way F. L,
to knowledge, and knowledge to inference and reasoning are some of the most fertile subjects of enquiry, and will be duly brought before you by my successor, parts of mental philosophy in its bearing on teaching. Here however it may suffice to say that one of the first things needed in early training, is to teach a child how to use his fingers, his ears and his eyes; and that whether he does this well or ill makes a great difference
to him all through his later course. The train. The child who has learned in infancy to look steadily ing of the at the forms and aspects of the things near him, is later
in life a better observer of nature, and student of physical science. He gets more enjoyment, and more culture from seeing pictures, or fine scenery, than if he had been accustomed to gaze aimlessly and vaguely at the things around him. He who has been taught, by exercises ever so childish, steadiness of hand and precision of touch, is better fitted hereafter to be a good draughtsman or musician. And no training of ear to the finer differences of vocal inflection and expression, is without a very important bearing on literary perception and taste. We need nct concern ourselves here with subtle speculations as to the exact priority or interdependence of sensual and intellectual perception. “Nihil in intellectû quod non prius in sensú,” may or may not be a tenable dogma in speculative philosophy; but we know at least that the development of greater sensitiveness to sight and sound is accompanied, almost necessarily, with the development of intellectual power; that outward expression is a great help to inward clearness; and that whether we call the quickening of physical sensibility a part of lower or of higher education, it is too important a factor in the life and usefulness of a man to be disregarded by any teacher whether high or low.
In the later stages of education, you do not so much concern yourself with conscious training of the senses, in the form of direct exercises, although you know that some studies, notably botany, chemistry, drawing and music have special value in making observation and hearing accurate. And you should not lose sight of the fact that over and above the practical or intellectual uses of these studies, there is a distinct gain from them in the form of a finer sensibility, and of new capacity for interpreting and enjoying the world your pupil has come to live in. Still, within the ordinary domain of school life, the exercises which specially concern the use of the senses are (1) the discipline of the Infant School, and (2) the arts of reading and writing and drawing as practised later. To these we must confine our present enquiries.
The necessity for more definite and intentional The training of the senses has been insisted on with much
garten. earnestness by Pestalozzi, by Rousseau, and by George Combe, and you will do well to study, in some detail, what those writers have said on the subject. But it is to Fröbel that we owe the clearest recognition of the main principle, and the most systematic effort to reduce that principle to practical application. His method of infant training, to which the rather fanciful name of Kindergarten has been given, has been expounded with much care and clearness by Miss Shirreff, by Miss Maning, and in German by the Baroness Bülow, all of whom have the true spirit of discipleship; for they begin by reverencing their master, and end by interpreting his message to the world more clearly than he was able to explain it for himself.
Fröbel devised a series of exercises for young children beginning at the age of three or four. He knew that the first things children want to do are to see, to handle,
to move about and to exercise their senses, and he sought to arrange a set of simple and appropriate employments, with a conscious educational purpose, and in careful obedience to the suggestions of Nature. To the youngest he gives a box of wooden bricks, to arrange, and to build up, in imitation of the model designs, made before him by the teacher. Then come exercises in the careful folding of coloured papers into different forms; the plaiting of straw or strips of paper into patterns, the pricking, or sewing with coloured thread of little pictured diagrams; the tracing of lines gradually increasing in length, number and complexity, so as to develop unexpectedly, new and pleasing geometrical designs. Besides these Fröbel provides organized games, little dramatic performances, dances and physical movements of a rhythmic kind, to simple music, and conversational lessons in which the little ones are made to talk about a picture, to assume and act out their several parts, and to help one another piece together their experiences of a farm yard or a garden, of a street or of a kitchen. I have seen many such little experiments in Kindergarten schools, or rather in those infant schools which have a kindergarten department; and there is no doubt that the system, in the hands of bright and sympa
thetic teachers has many very substantial advantages. Its ad- Fröbel's method certainly increases the happiness of little vaniuges. children; and this is a clear gain. It greatly diminishes
the difficulty of the problem, how to fill up their time at school; for a long day spent in any one of the ordinary forms of instruction is very wearisome to young children; and teachers have long been wanting to know how to vary the employments of infants in a school, so as to keep them under discipline, and at the same time to avoid tiring and overstraining them with lessons, and giving