Page images

of a synthetic kind, in which models of these various parts having been shewn their names were dictated, so that letters and words emerged one after another. But in practice such systems have not been found of much use, for they make a needless demand on the memory, and they give separate names to things which have no separate value or meaning. The success attained in good elementary schools in teaching the art of writing is due to much simpler methods. A proper graduation of letters according to the difficulty and complexity of the lines composing them is found to fulfil the same purpose as a classification of those lines themselves. There are but 26 letters; and if the n, m, l, u, and i are formed into one group, the o, c, a, 9, and d into a second, the r, b, w, and u into a third, the g, h, f, j, p into a fourth ; and if those letters which do not conform to these types, as s, %, k, x, are reserved to the last, the classification suffices for practical purposes, and the teacher gives as copies in succession, not the single letters, but little words which contain them, and which have more interest for children.

A good copy being the first condition, careful supervision, and the prompt correction of each mistake, will do nearly all the rest. Complex oral directions as to how to hold the pen, and how to sit, are not needed. Gaucherie and bad attitude may be pointed out in special cases, but there is no harm in allowing different modes of handling a pen or pencil so long as the writing produced is good. The good teacher goes round the writing class to every scholar with a pencil in his hand; he calls attention to each mistake, forms in the next line a letter to be traced over, desires his pupil to complete that line only, and to wait till it has been seen again. He notices each prevalent error in form or proportion, and on a

[blocks in formation]

ruled black board in front of the class makes a good pattern of the particular letter, and causes it to be copied several times. He knows that if this is not done children copy their own mistakes. And generally he relies more on incessant watchfulness, on care that the same mistake shall not be made twice over, and on constant use of model writing, than on any theoretical instruction. The well-known passage from Locke sums up after Locke on

Writing all the best rules which have to be borne in mind in teaching this subject. He says

When a boy can read English well, it will be seasonable to enter him in Writing. Not only children, but any body else that would do anything well should never be put upon too much of it at once, or be set to perfect themselves in two parts of an action at the same time, if they can possibly be separated. When he has learned to hold his pen right, *** the way to teach him without much trouble is to get a plate graved with the characters of such a hand as you like best, but you must remember to have them a pretty deal bigger than he should ordinarily write; for every one comes by degrees to write a less hand than he at first was taught, but never a bigger... Such a plate being graved, let several sheets of good writing paper be printed off with red ink, which he has nothing to do but to go over with a good pen filled with black ink, which will quickly bring his hand to the formation of those characters, being at first shewed when to begin, and how to form every letter. And when he can do that well he may exercise on fair paper, and so may easily be brought to write the hand you desire."

You have here enforced the two principal expedients for securing a good hand; (1) tracing, which is perhaps more effective from the teacher's own pencil-marks than from faint engraved lines; and (2) insisting on large hand, and resisting for much longer than is usual the wish of scholars to write small or running-hand. Those who begin small writing too soon are often careless about the formation of single letters, and form a habit of scribbling, which lasts them through life. Those however who

are kept writing on a large scale until they can shape every letter well may soon form for themselves without trouble a good and characteristic style of writing. Here, as in so many of the mechanical arts, you must not be impatient at slowness in the earlier stages, and must remember that if accuracy and finish are first gained, rapidity and ease will come afterwards; but yet if these two last are sought for themselves, or too early, the first will never come at all. Here at least it is true that “La gradation et la répétition, sagement entendues, sont l'âme

de l'enseignement.” Drawing It does not consist with my present plan to comment and Vocal

on the two other chief instruments of Sense-training Music,

which fall within the province of a school course. Nor do I feel competent to offer any practical rules for the teaching of either Drawing or Vocal Music. But I have a strong conviction that both should form integral parts of every school course, and should be taught to every scholar. The claims of Music, both in training the voice and in giving cheerfulness to the school-life, are incontestable. And Drawing is not only in a practical sense indispensable to the skilled artizan, and capable of manifold useful applications by scholars of every class; but its indirect effect on the training of the perceptions, on taste, on clearness of vision and firmness of hand, is still more important as an element in a liberal education.


The study of language has held a high place in most Language, systems of education. However far we go back in the long the

staple of history of learning, we find that such subjects as grammar instrucand rhetoric, which concerned themselves with the right tion, use and choice of words, have always formed, if not the chief, at any rate a prominent feature in the scheme of a liberal education. Indeed in the history of our own country and in the practice of our Universities and public schools, linguistic studies have held a place so conspicuous, that they have well-nigh overshadowed all others.

So it may be well to ask ourselves at the outset, The Why should we study language at all? On what reasons reasons for

this. is the universal tradition in favour of philological and grammatical studies founded? Are those reasons valid? And if so, to what extent should they be accepted and acted on, having regard to the just claims of much new and useful knowledge of another kind? Speech we know is the one characteristic distinction of humanity. Every word which has been invented is the record of Words the some fact or thought, and furnishes the means by which records of

former facts or thoughts can be transmitted to others.

In a thought. sense, every new word represents a new conquest of civilization, a distinct addition to the intellectual resources of the world. To become acquainted with words, in their full significance, is to know much about the things they represent; and about the thoughts which other

F. L.



people have had respecting those things. The enlargement of our vocabulary, whether it be in English or any other language, means the enlargement of our range of thought and the acquisition of new materials of know

ledge. And the Moreover, the words we use are not merely the exinstru

ponents of notions and thoughts which have existed in

the minds of others; they are the very instruments with thought.

which we think. We are unable to conceive of any regular consecutive thinking, -any advance from what is known to what is unknown-except by the agency of language. Whatever therefore gives precision and method to our use of words, gives precision to our thoughts. Language as it has been formed by nations, embodied in literature, and formulated into grammar, corresponds in its structure to the evolution of thought in man. Every grammatical rule is, in another form, a rule of logic; every idiom, a representation of some moral differentia or characteristic of the people who have used it; every subtle verbal distinction is a key to some logical distinction; every figure of speech, a symbol of some effort of the human imagination to overleap the boundary of the prosaic and the actual, and to pass into the infinite region beyond; every verbal ambiguity is both the effect and the cause of mental confusion. And so the study of language is the study of humanity; the forms of language represent the forms of human thought; the history of language is the history of our race and its development, and great command over the resources of language is only another name for great command over the ideas and conceptions which make up the wealth of

our intellectual life. Extent and Mr Max Müller estimates the total number of variety of vocabulary. English words at 50,000; he points out that the speaking

« PreviousContinue »