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6. That the power to utter forms of thought at present not conprehended inspires in the learner a most salutary habit of paying due deference to authority; of looking with veneration-even reverence-upon the productions of the gifted minds both of our own times and of the distant past, and that there can be no better cure for flippancy and self-conceit.
To consider these points, which we hope have been fairly stated, and to which we are inclined to give due weight, let us resume the subject of conceptions or concepts, partially examined in a previous part of this report.
When all the parts, attributes, marks, or qualities, etc., which make up an individual object, are brought together into one whole, we have a concept only in its depth or intention. If we give it a name—which for the present shall apply to this one object alonethe name calls up the conception, and we realize it by its form and image. Let us call it a concrete concept. At an earlier period the faculty of comparison is called into exercise. The understanding begins to elaborate the material which the perceptive faculty has received. The terrier with which the child has played so often resembles others which he meets, in so many particulars, that he instinctively applies the term terrier to each and all which bear the characteristic marks of this species. But to do this he has sacrificed so many individual characteristics, such as form, size, color, etc., that the concept thus extended has lost its power of presenting to the eye of the mind any individual of the species, and must continue so until to some one of the class the mind restores all the marks, qualitics, or characteristics which have been taken away—that is, abstracted from it. It extends to many individuals, but has deprived each of many characteristic marks. The concept or conception, thus considered, may be called abstract, and can not be realized by form or image as before.
But the work of abstraction does not stop here. Deprive this concept of a few of its marks, do the same with that of the spaniel, the hound, the mastiff, the pointer, etc., and the remaining marks unite in one higher concept, embracing each species directly and each individual indirectly, and thus we have the one concept of concepts, called dog. In a similar manner we rise to the higher concept carnivora; still higher to mammalia ; and so on to animal; till at length we end in thing or being. And here we have an abstract concept of the highest order. Now it is perfectly obvious that, at every stage of advancement in this hierarchy of concepts, what is gained in one direction is lost in the other. At every stage the concept is more difficult to be realized. Almost
child would shrink from the attempt to ascend the scale. And yet how often children must use such terms as being, science, art, etc., if they learn the definitions contained in books!
Now in the judgment of mature minds it is the peculiar merit of a text-book or treatise, that it is comprehensive ; that is, that its terms are so abstract as so embrace the whole subject. And to a thoroughly disciplined mind, the test of an author's skill is his nice adjustment of these abstract terms. Hence you hear the commendation, "I admire the comprehensiveness of his rules and definitions.” This is a commendation for any text-book. And that which makes it so good for the scholar is what makes it so bad for the child. He commits the beautifully comprehensive
the memory, but nothing to the understanding, simply because he has never been able to ascend the lofty scale of abstractions sufficiently high to reach the meaning.
All philosophy unites in condemning the practice of descending with children so deep into concrete forms as to draw out distinctions and terms which belong to science. Such work should be postported.
What philosophy is that which would bid a child pass to the other extreme, and bear in his memory for
the names of conceptions which can be realized only by ascending through a continued series of abstractions ?
The true philosophy would seem to be to begin with the concrete forms around us, and while we should be careful on the one hand not to penetrate too deep in our search of individual attributes and characteristics, we should be equally careful, on the other hand, not to rise too high into the regions of abstract thought, but advance in both directions as the growing capacities of the learner will admit.
With this aspect of our conceptions, let us examine the several arguments for committing to memory abstract statements as yet not understood.
That the committing to memory of such statements does furnish employment for the children all will admit. That the employment is a good one is not so clear. Yet it is better than none—always preferable to unmitigated idleness. Ragged and hungry children had better be employed in providing food and clothing for their prospective wants at the period of maturity rather than be allowed to roam the streets without occupation. But in looking upon their present pressing needs, you could bnt exclaim at the misfortune of their lot, when all around them the most attracting fields, with rewards for present use, were inviting them to ·labor. So it is in school. Children may be fully occupied upon concrete forms which are fitted for present use, will contribute to their intellectual growth, and will give zest and enjoyment at the same time, and aid them in rising to the simpler abstractions.
As to the second argument, that the act of committing to memory even words is an exercise of the memory. We admit it, but can not call it a good one. How much better the exercise would be if at the same time thoughts were understood; how much more readily the memory would retain the expressions themselves; how much more philosophical and natural the associations; how much more healthful the habits which would ensue; and how needless the practice when the children can just as well be required to commit what they understand!
In respect to the cultivation of language enough has already been said. No more unphilosophical or ineffectual method could be adopted than to force upon the memory even the choicest expressions if they convey no thought.
It is true that mere expressions may be retained in the memory,– and it is also true that they'may, after a time, yield their appropriate meaning,—but admitting this, how much better it would be for children to commit to memory what they can understand, what will administer to their present growth! Besides, the habits of retaining in the mind undigested expressions has, in one respect, a most pernicious effect. The mind becomes hardened into a state of intellectual indifference as to the meaning of words-a kind of mental dyspepsia which it is extremely difficult to eradicate. Then, again, instead of faint glimmerings of the true meaning, children are quite as apt to attach to abstract expressions fanciful, inappropriate, or absurd significations, which haunt and annoy them up to mature life, In all this we refer to expressions wholly beyond their capacity.
The time will come when children must deal with abstract thought presented in text-books; when instead of passing from objects to terms, from verities to statements, the order must be reversed; they must interpret terms, verify statements; in other words, draw thoughts from books. And this is an important part of school training. If wisely arranged, their studies will lie within their reach. The thoughts, though abstract, will not be fonnd so high in the scale of conceptions as to be wholly beyond their capacity,though higher, it may be, than they have as yet ascended. Shall they commit the statements of such thoughts to merfory? That is, in preparing their lessons from books, if some passages shall not be intended or believed that instruction from books will be any less in quantity or quality than now. It would be simply zeal without knowledge, to undertake to form a child's character without giving him something to do. It is the special province of all wise instruction to arouse the sluggish to activity, and then to keep such and all others most diligently employed. This, without reference to choice, becomes a pure necessity, if the teacher would keep temptation and wrong-doing at a safe distance from his pupils. Next, it is not contemplated that peculiarities of religious creeds shall in any manner mingle with the proposed better formation of character, While the foundation principles of integrity and purity must be drawn from the Scriptures, and can by no possibility be drawn from any other source,
be instilled into the hearts of children without giving offense to any right-minded parent. For, surely, no father can desire to see his son grow up utterly outside of all the precepts and influences of Christianity, soon to be shipwrecked, and a nuisance to the world. And if, in the depths of his depravity and hostility to revealed truth, he should so wish, is there any good reason why his desire should be gratified? Our city authorities do not allow a material nuisance to be kept, even a few hours, on any man's premises. Is there any greater abridgment of civil or relig ious liberty in restraining a man from turning a moral nuisance loose upon community, to strew desolation and ruin in his path until an indignant public shuts him in prison, or death ends his career? It may be well further to remark, that no sudden or violent changes are contemplated in the school instruction, by the adoption of the principle proposed. While a change in the direction of the teacher's labor is expected at some time and to some extent, this change must be gradual, so that all duties and labors shall harmonize.
Next, let us thread out in practice some of the results of a general public recognition of the doctrine, that the right formation of character is the chief end of school instruction. In the administration of school discipline teachers meet with cases of vicious conduct, sometimes restricted to one or two pupils, and sometimes amounting to clanship and threatening to undermine the authority of the teacher, or to exert a demoralizing influence upon the school, and yet there is such a sort of surface civility that no investigation may be undertaken or, if undertaken, the teacher is at once reminded by the offenders, and probably by their parents, that the teacher's duty in the school-room extends simply to giving instruction and keeping order. It would be some satisfaction at least, in such cases, that the teacher should be able to point to well-settled authority to probe all
disorderly conduct to the bottom, and when sullen and sympathizing witnesses are asked to give information, that they shall not evade the command by any direct or indirect appeal to want of rightful authority of the teacher to demand his testimony. Make character the chief end of school instruction, and the rights and duties of all parties become clear in such cases.
Again, let us see how our teachers and grades of schools would stand in relation to each other, under the proposed new arrangement. If the time shall ever come when there shall be any marked success in building up strength and solidity of character, that work must be commenced in the primary school, and the teacher must enter her school-room with the clear and explicit understanding that this is to be the first and chief end of all her labors, and all other things subordinate. She must clearly understand that the first great work for the child must be done in her school-room. That it will be a sad and sorrowful task for the teacher in the grade above, to find two years lost, far worse than lost, to the child in its moral training. All this must not only be distinctly understood as a matter of theory, but it must enter into all her plans of labor in the school-room, and into all her convictions of duty and usefulness for this world. And she must hold herself responsible, other teachers must hold her responsible, and the public must hold her responsible, that all that the circumstances will allow her to do for the right training of her pupils must be done.
But how shall such work be commenced? First, it would be necessary for the teacher, as early and as rapidly as possible, to become personally and intimately acquainted with each pupil. The family circumstances and the family discipline at home should, as far as possible, be at once understood. Then the habits of the child, its health, its peculiar disposition, its associates in school and out of school, should be inquired into, so that, besides all general methods employed to make children dutiful, the teacher can treat each individual pupil as its case may require. Using the general methods now common in our schools, for interesting all the children in right conduct, more frequently, and more faithfully and spiritedly, will be the first work to be done. Very probably, in a school of fifty scholars, there might be groups of six to ten that might need similar words of reproof or encouragement, by themselves; and again, half that number might require specific instruction of another sort.
Lastly, each individual pupil should be a subject of special study by the teacher, for each will probably need specific instruction of some sort, if not for any present wrong-doing, then to fortify against