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pression of practicalness and reality as the children received before the restraints of school life commenced. They lead to direct and animated conversation between the teacher and the pupils. They are thus instrumental in revealing to the teacher the defective and scanty language of the children. At the same time they furnish the best means for cultivating the use of words. Lessons on objects do vastly more. By means of these the teacher soon learns that the children have not used their perceptive faculties to good advantage. Their observations have been careless and negligent. Their conceptions are consequently faulty. He has it in his power now to quicken this faculty, and correct defective conceptions. More than this, he has a plan for the future. The very points which he wishes the children to observe now are to become hereafter the basis of scientific knowledge. Thus form and color, weights and measures, part and qualities, are carefully observed.
So, again, the very acquisition of the printed language becomes a kind of object lesson. The sound of a familiar word is given, its meaning is known and recognized,—its elementary parts are drawn out and given both by the teacher and the pupils,—the characters or letters are applied and placed upon the blackboard. The sounds are combined into the spoken word, the letters into the printed, and the word, whether printed or spoken, is instantly associated with the idea.
Work for the slate is now prepared; the letters are to be made by the children, the words to be formed, the meaning to be made out. Reading from the slate or the blackboard is soon commenced, and it must have the peculiar merit of uttering thonghts familiar to the child. Any child can read understandingly what he has himself developed and written with his own hand. The teacher develops new thoughts; but they are thoughts drawn directly from present objects, and recorded upon the board or the slate. They can not be tortured by that blundering, drawling utterance which the school-room usually engenders and tolerates. Language can be cultivated from a new point of view. The spoken and written word can be compared. The errors of home and street life are more readily corrected.
These several processes of developing and writing or printing keep all the children at work. Instead of having seven-eighths of their time devoted to irksome idleness, the children have something to do, all of which contributes efficiently to, at least, three distinct ends—learning to read more rapidly and more intelligently,—advancing in useful knowledge for present purposes,-laying the foundation for future growth by a correct acquisition of the elements of knowledge.
The habit which children thus early acquire of putting on record what they learn or develop can not be too highly valued. In the ordinary methods of teaching, they look upon all attempts at composition with a sort of dread from which they seldom recover through their whole school life. But in this way, from the beginning, they grow up to the daily habit of composing their own real thoughts under the guidance of the teacher.
But the chief and highest advantage of giving these lessons lies not so much in any one, or perhaps in all of these, as in its direct influence upon the teacher himself. It can not be pursued even tolerably well without making it manifest to any one that the great object of teaching is to deal with ideas rather than to crowd the memory with words. He who can give an object lesson well is capable of giving any lesson well, because he has learned that it is the reality and not the expression of it that is the chief object to be gained. He who makes it his first, second, and last aim to teach realities, will soon discover two essential conditions. He must know the present capacity and attainments of the child, and then what realities are suited to them. If it were not for one fact, our Primary Schools would be filled with a cabinet of natural objects as varied as those that fill balls of our highest institutions, and that is the simple fact that children can remember words as words, without associating them with any idea whatever. They can use words which mean much, yet with them they mean nothing. They can repeat them fluently,-give emphasis to them in imitation of the teacher's voice. They can use them as though they really meant something. Yet more-they can see that the teacher accepts them as though all was right. Now here is a double evil. The teacher is a stranger to the child's real condition, and the child supposes he is actually learning something.
One reason why so many are opposed to Object Teaching—or Reality Teaching it should be called—is the simple fact that they can not readily free themselves from the impression that their knowledge of the subjects to be taught is somehow necessarily connected with the language of the text-book. They have never tried to disengage it from the particular forms into which some author has molded it. They use technical terms—and the worst of technical terms—because they know no other. There is an almost servile dependence upon the use of certain terms. And if the whole truth were known, it might appear that the idea is not sufficiently mag
tered to disengage it from the term. How can such a teacher do otherwise than cling to authority ?
Yet the very essence of teaching lies in a living apprehension of the subject itself—such an apprehension as will enable the teacher to adapt his instruction to the child's real wants—just wbat a textbook, if good, can not do. “Teach realities" is the true teacher's motto. To this he commits himself;—nay, crosses the river and burns the bridge. He is ashamed of his teaching if it is any thing short of this. Hence, his ingenuity, his aptness, his versatility, bis varied resorts in an emergency. He can teach with a text-book, or without it. A text-book in his hand becomes alive. It must be understood.
Would you really know whether a candidate for the teacher's office is a good teacher or not? You need not examine him with difficult questions in Arithmetic, in Algebra, in Geography, or in History. You need not examine him at all. But put him into the school-room, take from it every printed page for the use of the teacher or pupil. Give him blackboards,-give them slates. Let him have ears of corn, pine cones, shells, and as many other objects as he chooses to collect, and then require him to give lessons in reading, spelling, arithmetic, geography, and the English language. If the children come home full of curious questions --if they love to talk of what they do at school, if at the end of a week you find them thinking earnestly of their occupation at school, -deeply interested, -intent upon their school exercises,—then employ him,-employ him at any price, though he may not have graduated at the University, the Academy, or even the Normal School. Whenever needed, allow him or the children books. You are sure of a good school.
How much is the spirit of that teacher improved who leads his pupil directly to the fountain of truth, and pays willing homage to it as truth! Teachers may be divided in this respect into three classes. The first are those who are servilely bound to a textbook; who are scarcely able to conceive a truth apart from the ancient term employed to express it; who never see it in its freshness; sticklers for exact verbal recitations; formalists, not to say dogmatists; inveterate advocates for authority, and firm defenders of what they regard as a healthful conservatism in education.
The second are those who have so far broken away from the trammels of methods and forms as to investigate the truth for themselves; who taste its vivifying power, draw from its pure sources, but who are anxious to promulgate and perpetuate, not so much the truth, as truth, as, their own opinions of it; who would make themselves the head of a party or school, having followers who think as they think, believe as they believe, employ terms as they employ terms, defend methods and forms as they defend them; influential they are and must be. They do good; they are lights in the profession.
The third class are those who are anxious,--not that their pupils should see the truth just as they see it, but that they should see and experience the truth itself;—solicitous, not to propogate views, but living truth; not the Rabbi who would reject the audible voice from above, if not uttered first to the priest and through him to the people, but rather Eli bidding the young prophet elect, about to succeed him in office, to enter the audience chamber of the Almighty to hear the voice for himself;—nay, Eli directing the boy, his own pupil, to return with a faithful report of what he hears.
These are they who rise to the true dignity of the teacher's profession; who lead their pupils into communion with nature, because she unfolds the thoughts of the Eternal One; who reverence truth, rather than the dogmas of any sect or party; who aim rather to render their own services unnecessary, than to restrain, for any selfish end, a free access to the truth.
Such are some of the uses of Object Teaching in the broad and true sense of the term. That any faultless system can be devised to carry it ont we may not hope. That all persons will be equally successful in practicing it is too much to expect. That something called Object Teaching has been tried and failed as, with the methods employed, it ought to do, no one denies. That some have
pursued a kind of Object Teaching, and have met with indifferent success, is also conceded. It should never be the only exercise of the school-room. It should never displace regular work, but rather become a part of it. It should give life and zest to it. It should never be made a hobby, or carried to an extreme. It should never be used as an end. On this point Mr. Pickard, a member of the committee, says:
(1.) I fear that Object Teaching, as generally conducted, looks rather to immediate than to less showy, but more valuable, results.
(2.) Its tendency, unless very carefully checked, is to make of children passive recipients, while teachers talk more than they instruct.
(3.) Carefully used, it will awaken to new thought, and will encourage to the mastery of difficulties suggested or rather thrown in the way of pupils. But only master minds can so use it. Not every school teacher has the power of Agassiz.
(4.) And yet the nature of the child demands such teaching, and will not be satisfied without it, though not by any means, as I conceive, to the exclusion of other methods of teaching. Object Teaching is very good; but if it have no object, it is thenceforth good for nothing but to be trodden under foot of men.
Again, object lessons should not be allowed to fall into a mere routine, or to follow implicitly the models of some text-book, and not the leadings of the subject in question, gathering inspiration from some incidental circumstance which may change the shape of the lesson. They may often be made more apt and opportune by some occurrence, as a thunder-storm, or the presence of some impressive scene. They should be varied with every varying occasion, varied in form, varied in matter, varied in the manner of giving them, and cease as formal exercises whenever the pupil can draw thoughts skillfully and successfully from the abstract statements of a text-book.
There remains yet one subject to be considered. Shall children never begin with the abstract ? Shall they never commit to memory forms which are beyond their comprehension? These are fair questions, and should be candidly and fairly answered.
We will not say, that in no case should such matter be committed to memory. It has been the practice for ages.
Able aud distinguished educators have advocated it. The custom of requiring simple memoriter recitations prevails in many of our schools. Shall it continue? Or shall all intelligent and earnest educators enter upon an important reform in this direction?
The most strenuous advocates of this kind of teaching do not claim that for intellectual purposes abstract statements are of any material value till explained or illustrated, or till the mind of the learner has grown up to them. They readily admit that, while borne in mind by mere force of memory as words, they can yield no immediate fruit. But they claim
1. That such work furnishes the children something to do in the way of private or solitary study between the hours of recitation, and does much towards establishing early habits of study.
2. That the very act of committing to memory is a good discipline for that faculty.
3. That the terse and well-considered statements of a good textbook are better than any that the learner can substitute, and are, therefore, good models of the use of language.
4. That, if held in the memory sufficiently long, these statements will at length yield up their meaning, at first faintly, later along more clearly, and finally with their full significance and breadth of meaning.
5. That they are ever furnishing the child, ready at hand, subjects for an intellectual struggle, being results which minds more mature than his have reached by processes of thought to which he should always aspire.