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IN 1879 the Senate of the University of Cambridge in compliance with numerous memorials from Headmasters and others determined to take measures with a view to encourage among those who intended to adopt the profession of teaching, the study of the principles and practice of their art. In furtherance of this design a “Teachers Training Syndicate” was appointed, and that body shortly afterwards put forth a scheme of examination in the history, the theory and the practice of Education. The first examination under this scheme was held in June 1880. The Syndicate also resolved to provide that courses of lectures should be given during the academical year 1879-80. The introductory course on the History of Education, and the life and work of eminent teachers, was delivered by the Rev. R. H. Quick in Michaelmas Term. In the following Easter Term, Mr James Ward, Fellow of Trinity College, lectured on Mental Science in its special relation to teaching; and the second course, which fell to my own share, was delivered in the Lent Term, and related mainly to the practical aspects of the schoolmaster's work.
It has been considered by some of those most interested in this experiment that this, the first course of lectures on the Art of Teaching specially addressed to the members of an English University, might properly be placed within reach of a somewhat wider circle of students. In carrying out this suggestion, I have not thought it necessary to abandon the free and familiar forms of address appropriate to a lecture, or attempted to give to what is here said the character of a complete treatise. Nor did I deem it advisable, out of regard to the supposed dignity of an academic audience, to keep out of view those simple and elementary considerations, which though usually discussed in their relation to the lower class of schools lie really at the basis of all sound and skilful teaching whether in high schools or low.
Some explanation may seem to be needed of the nomenclature which is here used in distinguishing different classes of Schools. It would doubtless be an advantage to employ in England the same terminology which is adopted throughout the Continent. But the term 'Secondary School' in France, Germany and Switzerland covers all the institutions which lie between the Elementary School and the University; and it is manifest that within these wide limits some further distinction is needed, in England at least, to mark the different aims of schools so far asunder as Winchester or Clifton, and a humble commercial school. Such phrases as ‘Enseignement Supérieur' and 'Enseignement Moyen’ would
hardly indicate this distinction with sufficient accuracy, and I have given on page 48 my reasons for thinking that the terms ' First, Second and Third Grade,' suggested by the Schools Inquiry Commissioners, will not find permanent acceptance in this country. So I have been fain to fall back upon the words Primary, Secondary and High School, not because I think them necessarily the best; but because they mark with tolerable clearness the practical distinctions I have tried to make; because they are equally appropriate to schools for boys and for girls ; and because they do not, like such words as Classical, Commercial, and Technical, connote any theory defining the kind of study specially suited to a particular age or rank in life.
It seems right to add that this book is not, and does not profess to be, a manual of method. Indeed it may well be doubted whether at the present stage of our educational experience any body of rules whatever could be safely formulated and declared to be the best. Nor is it certain, even though the best conceivable methods could be put forth with authority, that more harm than good would not be done, if by them teachers were deterred from exercising their own judgment, or became less sensible of the responsibility which lies upon them of adapting methods to their own special circumstances and needs. I cannot regret, even though the book proves profoundly disappointing to those--if any such there be —who suppose teaching to be a knack or artifice, the secret of which may be acquired, like that of dancing or swimming, in a short course of lessons. All that has been attempted here has been to invite intending teachers
to look in succession at each of the principal problems they will have to solve; to consider what subjects have to be taught, and what are the reasons for teaching them; and so by bringing together a few of the plainer results of experience to place readers in a position in which it will be a little easier for them to devise and work out methods for themselves. No one can be more conscious than I am of the incomplete and provisional character of these first lectures; but I cannot doubt that the University, in seeking to promote investigations into the philosophy and the practice of the teacher's art, is entering on an honourable and most promising field of public usefulness, and that, under her sanction, future explorers in this field will do much to make the work of honest learning and of noble teaching simpler, more effective, and more delightful to the coming generations.