Page images
PDF
EPUB

when the time comes for specializing, and your pupil comes within sight of the University or of the business of life, you will be in a better position to determine in what direction and for what reason he will do well to direct his energies in a particular channel. And in helping the pupil to decide these questions it is well to have regard (1) to the probability that the study thus selected will be thoroughly assimilated, and will in his case be carried on far enough to become a factor of special value in his intellectual life, and (2) to the chance of his putting forth real effort in its pursuit. For cæteris paribus, that study is the best for each of us which calls out the largest amount of spontaneous exertion, and in which we are

not recipients merely, however diligent, but willing agents. Time not Although the threefold division of intellectual culture always proportion

to which we have so often referred, should be clearly ed to the before the mind of a teacher, and dominate his plans, importance and though each division may well claim an equal share

in his attention, it does not follow that the time available in a school course shall be given to these departments in equal proportions. It takes longer and harder work to achieve the desired intellectual result in some subjects than in others. A given amount of effort tells sooner in the early stages of science teaching than in those of language. You may make even a mathematical truth clear and effective for practical purposes, in a shorter lesson than would be needed for instruction of equal value on a difficult point in grammar. And hence it may

be roughly said that if you have say 20 hours of a week available for the serious study of disciplinal subjects, it is not unreasonable to give nearly half of these to language and literature and subsidiary exercises, and of the remaining half, rather the larger portion to mathematics, and the smaller to experimental science.

Claims of too many subjects.

423

own.

These considerations may help us when we find our- The conselves confronted with the great difficulty of modern

claims of teachers—the claims of too many multifarious subjects. too many The right rule of action appears to be this. As each new

subjects. subject demands attention, ask yourself to what department of school-work it belongs, and what present study in that department can be safely dropped, or rather absorbed and superseded by the higher or new study. Your scheme of study will not probably include more than two languages, say French and Latin, besides your

Well if it becomes necessary to add German or Greek, that is a reason for setting aside for the present all special exercises in English, except those which arise incidentally out of the translation and treatment of other languages. If you want to begin a course of logic consider that this is the cognate subject to mathematics; that it addresses itself to the same side of the mind, so to speak; and take the time for it out of that which would have been given to some branch of mathematics. If you feel disposed to go through a course of lessons on Political Economy, or the elements of Political Philosophy, such a course may very wisely supersede for a time the formal study of History with which it is closely related. And as to the subjects of Physical Science, it is never wise to have more than two in hand at a time, and the introduction of any one new branch of Physics or Chemistry, may fitly take the place of another. The two principles to be kept in view are these. Do not permit your day's time-table to be cut up into fragments so small as to distract the attention of your scholars, and to interfere with due continuity of the studies; and take care that the general proportion of time and effort given to each of the formative or disciplinal branches of study shall not be substantially disturbed. We have before

insisted on the need for unity of purpose throughout the school course and a regulated harmony in all its parts. This harmony is not disturbed when the scholar quits Arithmetic for Algebra, or Geometry for Trigonometry, or Botany for Geology, or Writing for Drawing; because in each case the new study is homogeneous with the old, and all that has been learned before is made available for new purposes. So long as a new subject is a fair intellectual equivalent for its predecessor, calls into action the same sort of force and utilizes former knowledge, we need not be afraid of introducing it, or of abandoning for

a time the pursuit of some others which we value. The con

Even if we do not wholly succeed in this endeavour, vertibili of in

it will be consoling to reflect, that after all, mental detellectual velopment though multiform in its manifestations, is at forces.

bottom one process, and that mental powers are not so sharply divisible into independent faculties as it would seem to us when we read books of psychology. In the physical sciences there are the doctrines of the conservation of energy and also of the convertibility of forces. You know that heat is a mode of motion, that when you can generate one kind of force-say electricity—it is capable of transmutation into light or some other kind of energy, and that radiant energy itself is said to be convertible into sound. And there is a similar law of convertibility in intellectual forces. Every piece of knowledge honestly acquired turns out to have unexpected relations with much other knowledge. Every kind of mental power, once evoked and applied to a worthy purpose, becomes available for other purposes, and is capable of being transformed into power of another kind. Only take care that what you evoke is really power, that dúvapus in your hands becomes true évépyela, that the subject you teach is so taught as to stimulate, to broaden, to reach out into

Individual wants and aptitudes.

425

regions beyond itself; and then the question of the number of subjects nominally included in your curriculum becomes of very small importance. It is only the dull and soulless mnemonic after all which is utterly barren of result. Compare an artist or musician who is a mere artist or musician with one who also brings to his work knowledge of other things, intellectual breadth and sympathy. All that the one has been helped to know and to feel in other regions than art becomes transfigured and absorbed into his work, and his work is more precious to the world in consequence.

Should any attempt be made to adapt training and Adaptateaching to the special tastes and capacities of children ?

tion of the

School This is a grave question and one which must often have course to

individual occurred to you. There are those who complain not

wants and without seeming justice, that our plans treat all children aptitudes. alike, and do not sufficiently recognize inherent differences both in the amount of power and in the special direction of that power. George Combe spent his life in advocating this doctrine, and he taught that the true key to the idiosyncracies of children, and therefore to the right and philosophic treatment of various natures, was to be found in the study of the cranium and in what he called the science of Phrenology. He was a man of very clear purpose and strong will, and had the art of inspiring his disciples with much enthusiasm and admiration. But he never got so far as to induce one of them seriously to attempt the classification and teaching of a school on his principles, and the experiment yet remains untried. There are others who would urge you to study the temperaments of children, and to give to the lymphatic, the sanguine and the nervous scholars respectively, special and appropriate discipline. But I cannot counsel you to concern yourself much with such speculations.

For there is first the danger that perhaps your diagnosis of the case may be wrong; and then there is the further danger that even if it be right the treatment you adopt may not be after all the best. It is not yet proved either on the one hand that the child with a particular liking or talent, should have that tendency specially cultivated in his education, or on the other hand, that it is always wise to attempt to restore the balance by working at the development of those faculties in which he is deficient. By all means watch your pupils, see if experience shews any particular form of intellectual exercise to be burdensome or injurious to them; give prompt relief to those who seem in the smallest degree to be disheartened or overwrought; and having done this, devise the best course you can in the interest of the average scholar, and make all your pupils conform to it. Do you not in looking back on your own mental life, feel thankful that you were forced to learn many things for which at the time you had no special appetite, and which a scientific analyst of your yet unformed character and tastes might have

declared to be unsuited to you? Religious In all this, I have said nothing of religious and moral and moral

teaching. But this is not because I disregard it, but tion. simply because it is impossible to co-ordinate it with any

of the subjects of which we have spoken. To say, for example, that so many hours should be given to grammar, so many to science, and so many to Biblical or moral lessons, would be difficult, and would not, whatever the proportion of time assigned, rightly represent our estimate of the relative importance of this last element. For “Conduct,” as Mr Matthew Arnold says, “is threefourths of life,” and that a human being should do what is right and be animated by noble motives in doing it, is, as we must all feel, more important than that he

instruc

« PreviousContinue »