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In other words, the labouring classes do not cordially respond to the invitations which are held out to them for the benefit of their offspring. They use the schools for their own purposes only. They regard them as places of refuge for infants and young children, serving to take them out of the way of the busy housewife, and to shelter them from the perils of the street; but, in an overwhelming majority of cases, the teaching received enters scarcely at all into the account. It does not impart anything which untaught parents can themselves appreciate, neither does it develope the general intelligence in such a way as to excite their admiration or command their sympathy. When boyhood or girlhood is attained, the children are permitted to leave school, in some cases that they may indulge in the luxury of idleness, in some that they may respectably follow creditable employments, in some that their earnings may assist (with or without urgent need for such assistance) in the maintenance of the family. There are probably very few instances in which the departure is sincerely regretted either by the child or its parents.
sincerely" because the school often represents a powerful interest which the parents think it necessary to conciliate, even at the expense of a kind of duplicity which too frequently enters into their daily life. It is not uncommon for a mother touchingly to deplore the necessity for her son's removal, and to tell the schoolmaster, (with a corner of her apron in her eye) that the employer of the father has insisted upon the services of the boy ;-when, in reality, the work has been eagerly sought, and the employer prevailed upon to countenance the deLeption.
It is hardly necessary to advance any argument to prove the general indifference of the industrious poor with regard to schooling, except this, that they will make almost any sacrifice, undergo almost any privation, to obtain that which they really value. If they valued schooling, if they thought that one year more, or two years more, would be truly useful to their children, there are thousands who would cheerfully endure cold and hunger rather than allow the children to be deprived of the advantage. There have been many instances of such self-denial, exercised in furtherance of other laudable objects; but not one, within our observation, for the sake of school. We feel convinced, if elementary schools are ever raised out of their present dreary routine of sensational teaching, if they ever succeed in awakening the intelligence of a fair proportion of their pupils, that the eagerness of the poor for education will speedily keep pace with the liberality of the rich in providing it; and that the nation will have the satisfaction of being able to point out results, as well as to grumble over payments.
We turn from this tempting theme, this brief vision of a scholastic Utopia, in order to consider the processes and results of Dr. Grindall
, the presiding genius of Blunderbore House for Young Gentlemen.
These processes and results are, upon the whole, what might be expected from a teacher who ignores the great truth that cul tivation of mind is necessary to the assimilation of learning ; and who imagines that the introduction of compressed facts will mechanically expand the intellect. Upon this last false principle Master Thompson, in this nineteenth century, and in the ninth year of his age, is forcibly and tyrannically inducted into various kinds of knowledge : in the hope that all the teaching and lecturing and cramming, all the scraps of science, bundles of facts, odds and ends of common things, Greek verbs, Latin verbs, German verbs, French verbs, Scripture history, ancient history, modern history, natural history, rules of syntax, rules of arithmetic, rules of algebra, and rules of conduct, the propositions of Euclid and the theory of ventilation, the rationale of catarrh and the law of storms, that all these several matters will eventually, like the talk of S. T. C., "converge in light;" and coherently illuminate a full-grown Thompson, possessed of sufficient ballast for his sails, sufficient parts for his attainments, and sufficient brains for the application of his learning.
The Young Gentlemen, it must be remembered, have not spent their pre-scholastic years in making dirt pies in a gutter. Had they done so, had the instructions of Dr. Grindall been the first that were ever afforded them, the normal elementary school result would have followed as a matter of course ;-the sensational learning, the dense unreflecting stupidity. But young gentlemen, for the most part, have tender and loving mothers, whose pleasant task it has been to make every sense a door leading to the intelligence. The intellect, thus called into activity, can seldom be wholly crushed beneath instruction. Sometimes (as shoots of ivy will lift or rend a rock), it even springs into luxuriant growth, pushes away the cumbrous obstacles of so-called learning, finds for itself the aliment required for its support, and animates the pupils who are the pride of the school, who gain its honours, receive its rewards, support its reputation at the universities and in the world. Much more frequently, it is condemned to an etiolated and weak existence, as may be seen in the numerous boys in whom the desiderated convergence has not occurred; but whose minds are productive of chromatic aberration, fringing transmitted facts and arguments with blue, red, or yellow, according to variations of temperament or character. In these boys, after years of costly and pretentious teaching, one may observe such mental and general habits, and such a store of really available information, as they might have gained at the humble commercial academy of a country town. Is it that they represent the proportion, whether large or small, of pupils who are so organized as to receive no commensurate benefit from the best kind of education, who are incorrigibly idle, or incurably dull, or, in fact, the failures of nature rather than of the preceptor? We think not. Nature, we believe, is seldom such a bungler. She is the alma mater ;-Art the injusta noverca.
We should be disposed, on the whole, to seek the rationale of the Blunderbore House failures rather in a partial and misdirected training of the intelligence, than in its complete suppression. The pupils mix intellectual and sensational acts, not in their proper relations with each other, but in a jumble. Comprehension is brought to bear upon everything that is easy; while a difficulty of any kind is committed to the safe keeping of the sense perceptions, and the explanation of it is only remembered. Hence arise a habit of resting upon imperfect knowledge, aud a habit of loading the memory by the aid of faulty associations ; and these habits, in their turn, are the sources of the lively superficial stupidity which is so common among the better classes. The sufferers from it form that great public to whom are addressed the Morisonian system of pathology and therapeutics, and the elaborately argued advertisements of Norton's Camomile Pills. Everything that follows “because” is to their minds an explanation ; everything that has an antecedent is to their minds an effect. Their creed is that all questions lie in a nutshell ; and, according to Professor Faraday, their shibboleth is "it stands to reason." On this ground they would placidly maintain against Owen the existence of the sea-serpent. For their especial behoof bubble companies are formed ; and upon their weaknesses innumerable Barnums thrive. Their deficiency is chiefly this,—that having been permitted from childhood to do many things superficially and with inexactness, they have forfeited the power of arranging their ideas with precision, or of comparing them with caution. They can therefore scarcely be said to possess any assured convictions, or rooted principles of conduct; but, nevertheless, they are ready to decide in all controversies; and are “wiser in their own conceit than seven men who can render a reason."
The cause of such educational errors we should express in the single word—empiricism. For successive ages teachers had no guide but experience; and the results of this experience appeared to defy generalization. The almost self-evident proposition, that the training of the mind should be guided by an analysis of its powers, was brought into early disrepute by the conditions under which such analysis was attempted. The men engaged in it, learned, patient, laborious, profound, reached the limit of discovery by the method of reflection long before the method of observation was disclosed to them. Too exclusively metaphysical, they wanted a link to connect them with the material world. Like the children of Israel, they were wandering in a wilderness before they entered the promised land. Their advanced messengers had not yet returned, bringing of the fruits
, that were hereafter to reward their labour. Foiled in their advance by a barrier that seemed impassable, they were tempted to waste their energies in the invention of technicalities and the multiplying of verbal distinctions. Under such circumstances the science and its professors were too broad a mark to escape the shafts of satire ; and thus, even at the present day, there are scars to show the wounds which those shafts have made.
During the last few years, however, the dark portions of this much contemned pursuit have received unexpected illumination from the study of the nervous centres. The painstaking researches of Bell, Marshall Hall, and less conspicuous fellowlabourers, endowed with value and stamped with currency by the lofty generalizations of the living philosopher who has so long been facile princeps among all inquirers into the functions of the nervous system, have already produced a psychology that is available for practical purposes, and that promises to increase daily in importance. In the meanwhile education has spread enormously; but educators persist in traversing the broad old road. The larger the field for their efforts, the more conspicuous becomes the poverty of their results. At one time, learning by rote was the great obstacle; and they attacked, as the last difficulty in their path, what was but the first aspect of a Proteus. At present (with the scheme of National Education all but a confessed and palpable failure; with numerous individuals in all ranks displaying powers developed, late in life, by circumstances, but never suspected before ; and with a waste of the national intellect that may possibly be equivalent to the daily loss of a century's progress), the office of preceptor is still confided to persons who have never bestowed a single thought upon the faculties or the mechanism of the mind, and who cannot distinguish between sensational and intellectual action, if the former be veiled by the smallest complexity. And, as a crowning absurdity, a reverend Inspector of Schools towers, like Milton's chaos, above the fray; and proposes a panacea, based upon an error that was exploded, sixty-seven years ago, by the pen of Dugald Stewart !
We must not conclude the present article without mentioning the kinds of reform that appear to be most urgently required ; although we propose, upon an early occasion, to consider this portion of the subject in detail.
In elementary schools for the poor, there should perhaps be nothing attempted, except to give a capacity for self-education. For this purpose the mechanical difficulties of reading and writing should be thoroughly overcome, and the teacher should bear in mind that his pupils require from him the first stimulus to the intelligence. Instead of the little ones being left to pupils or monitors, they should be the especial charge of the master himself; and their first efforts to learn and understand should be promoted with the most assiduous care and the most untiring patience. The tracks of sensation and intellect diverge; and the child will follow that into which he is guided at the outset of his journey.
In the ordinary time allotted to schooling, the several divisions of the scheme of elementary instruction are mere ignes fatui, which it is hopeless to pursue. The children cannot learn Geography, or History, or half a dozen other matters. But by sacrificing these they might learn to read with facility and pleasure, to write, to work and comprehend a simple sum. They might also be made to feel the gratification inseparable from an exercise of the understanding; and, if they did so, the library would complete what the school was compelled to leave unfinished.
The schools for classes higher in the social scale could only be improved upon similar principles; but the home training of the pupils, and the longer time devoted to them, must always afford facilities for combining a good deal of instruction with the education. The recent middle class examinations show clearly that teachers have failed in the former as decidedly as they have in the latter: and this result need not excite surprise. For instruction without mental education must necessarily resemble the plumpudding that was made in Paris ; and for which everything was remembered, except the cloth.
Towards the carrying out of any improvement, however, the first step must be to demand from teachers either a knowledge of mental philosophy, or, at least, of a scholastic art founded upon the principles which mental philosophy would inculcate. We believe this demand must inevitably be made in process of time; but we feel also that it would be greatly promoted if the medical profession would recognise, and strive to impress, the distinct bearing of physiology upon the development of the mind, as well as upon that of the body.
The practical difficulties which it is easy to foresee, all resolve themselves, pretty clearly, into one. An inquiry after intelligent and intelligible teaching has not yet issued from the public. They are content with something else. Whenever this contentment censes, the means of supply will spring out of the want. And until then would urge, upon individual