Page images
PDF
EPUB

conscience of learners are manifold; different circumstances and intellectual conditions require different expedients. Variety and versatility are of the very essence of successful teaching. If by seeking to formulate the science of method, you encourage the belief that one mode of teaching is always right and all others are wrong, you will destroy the chance of new invention and discovery, and will do much to render teaching more sterotyped and lifeless than ever. And even if it be admitted that a perfect set of rules for practice is desirable and attainable; we are not yet in a position to lay them down; and any attempt to fix educational principles and to claim for them an authoritative or scientific character, is at present premature, and therefore likely to prove mischievous. This is an argument on which I, for one, should look with special seriousness; if it were not practically answered by every day's observation and experience. It has been my lot to see schools of very different ranks and pretensions, from the highest to the lowest ; and the one thing which impresses me most is that the schools under untrained persons, who have given no special attention to the theory of their art, are curiously alike. There is nothing more monotonous than ignorance. It is among those who have received no professional preparation, that one finds the same stupid traditional methods, the same habit of telling scholars to learn instead of teaching them; the same spectacle of a master sitting enthroned at one end of a room and calling up two or three at a time to say their lessons, while the rest, presumably occupied in preparation, are following their own devices. Let us appeal on this point to the experience of other professions. Is it the effect of good professional training in medicine or in law to produce a hurtful uniformity either in opinion or practice? Is it Teaching an Art and a Science.

7

not on the contrary true that the most original methods of procedure, the most fruitful new speculations, come precisely from the men who have best studied the philosophy of their own special subject, and who know best what has been thought and done by other workers in the same field? So in teaching, the freshest and most ingenious methods originate with those men and women who have read and thought most about the rationale of their art. And if in this place we are in any degree successful in Indepen

dent laying down principles of action, and in evolving a few

thought of the simpler practical deductions from those principles; more imthe truest test of our success will be found in bringing Portant

any home to every earnest student the conviction, that good rules. teaching is not an easy thing; that those who undertake to call out the intelligence and fashion the character of children are undertaking to deal with the most complex and wonderful phenomena in the world; that the philosophy of the teacher's art, is yet in its infancy; that the best results we are yet able to attain are only provisionally serviceable until they are absorbed or superseded by something better; and that it is part of the duty of every one who enters the profession to magnify his office, to look on each of the problems before him in as many lights as possible ; and to try by his own independent experiments to make the path of duty, easier, safer and happier for his successors.

The question is often asked, “Is Education an Art Teaching or a Science?” and at present the answers to this question Art and are not unanimous. But in truth no compendious reply a Science. is possible. The object of Science is the investigation of principles, of truth for its own sake, considered as an end, not as a means to any further end. But it is obvious that this view alone will not carry us very far. It may help us to analyse mental processes and laws of

human development, but it may leave us very impotent in the presence of the actual problems of school-keeping and of professional work. And the object of Art is simply the accomplishment of a given result by the best means. Hence we are justified in speaking of Education as an Art; because it has a complex practical problem to solve. But this view of it alone would be inadequate; for in fact teaching is both an Art and a Science. It aims at the accomplishment of a piece of work and is therefore an Art. It seeks to find out a rational basis for such rules as it employs, and is therefore a Science. Down very deep at the root of all our failures and successes, there lie some philosophic truths—it may be of ethics, or of physiology, or of psychology—which we have either heeded or disregarded, and the full recognition of which is needed to make us perfect teachers. The more these underlying truths are brought to light the better; and it is satisfactory to know that the University has made other and very effective provision for the discussion both of the philosophy and the history of the teacher's work. Here however our task is humbler. We have to gather together a few of the plainer lessons of experience, and to apply them to the actual requirements of the class-room and the school. Yet, if while thus regarding Education as an Art we lose sight of the fact that it is also a Science, we shall be in danger of becoming empirics, and of treating our work as if it were a mere knack, a collection of ingenious artifices for achieving a certain desired end. This is a danger not less real than would be incurred by those who in their zeal to vindicate the claims of Education to the name and character of a Science resolved it merely into a series of speculations into the relative value of different forms of human knowledge, or into the constitution of the

[blocks in formation]

human mind. Those who ask us to think of Education as a Science must remember that it is an Applied Science, whose principles are largely derived from experiment and observation, and need to be constantly reduced to practice and brought to the test of utility. And we on the other hand who are seeking for some rules and counsels by which we may guide our practice and economize our resources must not forget that such rules and counsels have no claim upon our acceptance, except in so far as they have their origin in a true philosophy, and can be justified by reason and by the constitution of human nature.

Now in regard to all the duties of life there has to The qualibe considered the correlation between the thing to be fications of done and the doer of it; the qualities of the agent teacher. largely determine the character and the results of the work. In all mechanical labour, in which matter alone has to be acted on, the physical strength and tactual skill of the artizan are the determining forces; his motives and moral qualifications have little to do with the result. But in the case of the schoolmaster, as in that of the priest, or of the statesman, mind and character have to be influenced; and it is found that in the long run nothing can influence character like character. You teach, not only by what you say and do, but very largely by what you are. Hence there is a closer correspondence in this department of human labour than in others between the quality of the work and the attributes of the workman. You cannot dissociate the two. And because in the profession of teaching the ruler or agent comes into closer contact with the person ruled than in any other profession, it becomes here specially needful to enquire not only what is the character of the work to be done, but what manner of men and women they should be

of the

who undertake to do it. We may then, I think, usefully employ some of our time in considering rather the artist than his art—the qualifications which the ideal

teacher should bring to his work. Ample It seems a trite thing to say that the teacher of a and

given subject should first of all possess a full and exact accurate knowledge knowledge of the subject which he essays to teach. But

I am not sure that the full significance of this obvious thing taught. maxim is always recognized. Some of us imagine that

if we keep a little ahead of our pupils, we shall succeed very well. But the truth is that no one can teach the whole, or even the half of what he knows. There is a large percentage of waste and loss in the very act of transmission, and you can never convey into another mind nearly all of what you know or feel on any subject. Before you can impart a given piece of knowledge, you yourself must not only have appropriated it, you must have gone beyond it and all round it; must have seen it in its true relations to other facts or truths; must know out of what it originated, and to what others it is intended to lead. A person cannot teach a rule of Arithmetic—say division-intelligently, without having himself mastered many advanced rules, nay, without some knowledge of Algebra as well. Your own experience, if you watch it, will force this truth upon you.

You hear a story, or you receive an explanation of a new fact. The thing seems perfectly intelligible to you, and you receive it with satisfaction and without a suspicion that anything more is wanting. But you try to tell the story or reproduce the explanation, and you find quite unexpectedly that there are weak points in your memory, that something or other which did not seem necessary when you were receiving it, is necessary to your communicating it: and that this something lies outside and beyond the truth

« PreviousContinue »