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those which, in their full development and energy, make the
of gravitating planets; he must be acquainted with phenomena, before he can be instructed in the laws, which harmonize their conflicting appearances ; and he must know something of the relations of men, before he is qualified to infer the duties that spring from thein.
Nor should the first lessons be simple and elementary, in regard to the subject only; but the language of the earliest ones should be literal. All figurative or metaphorical expression is based upon the literal, and can have no intelligible existence without it. After a clear apprehension of the literal meaning of words, there is a charm in their figurative applications; because a comparison is silently made between the figurative and the literal meanings, and the resemblance perceived awakens a delightful emotion. And this pleasure is proportioned to the distinctness of the related ideas. But how can a child understand those figures of speech, where a part is put for the whole, or the whole for a part, when he knows nothing either of whole or part ;-where sensible objects are put for intelligible, or animate things for inanimate, when he is wholly ignorant of the subjects, likened or contrasted? How can there be any such thing as tautology to a child, who is unacquainted with what went before ; or how can he perceive antithesis if both extremes are visible ? In writings, beautiful from the richness of their suggestion. the tacit reference to collateral ideas is wholly lost; and yet it is the highest proof of a master, to interweave ideas with which pleasurable ernotions have become associated. Hence, a child, put into reading lessons which are beyond his ability, not only reads with a dormant understanding, but all the faculties, productive of taste, refinement, elegance, beauty, are torpid also. The faculties being unemployed, the reading, which otherwise would have been a pleasure, becomes irksome and repulsive. There is another pernicious consequence, inseparable from the practice of depositing, in the memory of children, those general and synoptical views, which they do not understand. It leads to an opposite exireine in instruction; for when children, whose memory only has been cultivated, are really to be taught any subject with thoroughness, and for practical application; it then becomes necessary to simplify and degrade it to the level of their feeble apprehension. But why cannot the faculties be strengthened by exercise, so that, in process of time, they can master more difficult subjects, as well as to degrade subjects to the level of weak faculties?
In communicating the elements of knowledge to children, there is, at first, but little danger of being too minute and particular. Expansion, explanation, illustration, circumlocution,all are necessary. But, as the child advances, less diffuseness
is requisite. The prolix becomes concise. Different and more comprehensive words are used, or the same, in an enlarged sig. nification. What was pulverized and examined in aloms, is now collected and handled in masses. Care, however, is to be taken at every step, in the first place, that what is presented to the learner should demand a conscious effort on his part, for without such an effort, there will be no increase of strength; and, in the next place, that what is presented should be attain. able by an effort, for without success, discouragement and despair will ensue. School books, bowever, are made for classes and not for individual minds, and hence the best books will be more precisely adapted to some minds than to others. This difference, it is the duty of the teacher to equalize, by giving more copious explanations to the dull and unintelligent, and by tasking the strong and apprehensive with more difficult questions, connected with the text. Every sentence will have related ideas of cause and effect, of what is antecedent, consequent or collateral, which may be explored to the precise extent, indicated by different abilities. The old Balearic islanders of the Mediterranean, famed among the ancients for being the best bowmen and slingsmen, in the then known world, had in this respect a true idea of Education. They placed the food of their children upon the branches of the trees, at different heights from the ground, according to age and proficiency, and when the children had dislodged it, by bow or sling, they had their meals, but not before.
Tested by this criterion, are not many of the reading books in our schools, 100 elevated for the scholars? It seems generally to have been the object of the compilers of these books, to cull the most profound and brilliant passages, contained in a language, in which the highest efforts of learning, talent and genius have been embalmed. Had there been a rivalry, like that at the ancient Olympic games, where emulous nations, instead of individuals, had entered the classic lists, as competitors for renown, and our fame as a people had been staked upon our eloquent, school book miscellanies, we should have questioned the integrity of the umpire, had we not won the prize. Certainly from no ancient, probably from no other modern language, could such a selection of literary excellencies be made, as some of them exhibit;—demonstrative arguments on the most abstruse and recondite subjects, tasking the acuteness of practised logicians, and applicable only by them ;-brilliant passages of parliamentary debates, whose force would be irresistible, provided only that one were familiar with all contemporary institutions and events ;-scenes from dramas, beautiful if understood, but unintelligible without an acquaintance with heathen mythology ;-wit, poetry, eloquence, whose shafts, to the vision of educated minds, are quick and refulgent as lightning, but giving out to the ignorant, only an empty rumbling of words;everything, in fine, may be found in iheir pages, which can make them, at once, worthy the highest admiration of the learned, and wholly unintelligible to children. If I may recur to the illustration of the Balearic islanders, given above; the prize of the young slingers and archers is invaluable, if it can be obtained, but it is placed so high as to be wholly invisible. Children can advance from the proposition, that one and one make two, up to the measurement of planetary distances, but an immense number of steps must be taken in traversing the intermediate spaces. And it is only by a similar gradation and progressiveness, that a child can advance from understanding such nursery talk, as "the ball rolls," " the dog barks," "the horse trots, until his mind acquires such compass and velocity of movement, that when he reads the brief declaration of the Psalmist, “ Oh, Lord, how manifold are thy works; in wisdom hast thou made them all !" his swift conception will sweep over all known parts of the universe in an instant, and return glowing with adoration of their Creator.
Using incomprehensible reading books draws after it the ineritable consequence of bad reading. Except the mental part is well done, it is impossible to read with any rhetorical grace or propriety. Could any one, ignorant of the Latin and French languages, expect to read a Latin or French author with just modulations and expressiveness of voice, at the first or at the ten thousandth trial ? And it matters not what language we read, provided the mechanical process is animated by no vitality of thought. Something, doubtless, depends upon flexibility and pliancy of physical organs; but should they be ever so perfect, a fitting style of delivery is born of intelligence and feeling only, and can have no other parentage. Without these, there will be no perception of impropriety, though epitaphs and epigrams are read in the same manner. If the pieces of which the reading books consist, are among the most difficult in the English language, is it not absurd to expect, that the least instructed portion of the people, speaking English-the very children-should be able to display their meaning with grace and fulness? To encourage children to strive after a supposed natural way of expressing emotions and sentiments they do not feel, encourages deception, not sincerity; a discord, not a harmony between the movements of mind and tongue. No rules, in regard to reading, can supply a defect in understanding what is read. Rhetorical directions, though they should equal the variety of musical notation, would not suffice to indicate the slower or swifter enunciation of emphatic or unemphatic words, or those modulations of the human voice, which are said to amount to bundreds of thousands in number. Inflections and the rate of uiterance, are too volatile and changeful to be guided by rules ; though perceptible, they are indescribable. All good reading of dramatic or poetic works springs from emotion. Nothing but the greatest histrionic power, can express an emotion without feeling it. But, once let the subject matter of the reading lesson be understood, and, almost universally, nature will supply the proper
variations of voice. A child makes no mistake in talking, for the simple reason, that he never undertakes to say what he does not understand. Nature is the only master of rhetoric on the play-ground. Yet there, earnestness gives a quick and emphatic utterance ; the voice is roughened by combative feelings; it is softened by all joyous and grateful emotions, and it is projected, as by the accuracy of an engineer, to strike the ear of a distant play-fellow. Nay, so perfect are undrilled children in this matter, that if any one of a group of twenty makes a false cadence or emphasis, or utters interrogatively what he meant to affirm, a simultaneous shout proclaims an observance of the blunder; yet, if the same group were immediately put to reading from some of our school books, their many.sounding voices would shrink from their wide compass, into a one-toned instrument; or what is far worse, if they affected an expression of sentiment, they would cast it so promiscuously over the sentences as to make good taste shudder. Occasionally, in some of the reading books, there are lessons which the scholars fully understand ; and I presume it is within the observation of every person, conversant with schools, that the classes learn more from those lessons, than from the residue of the book. The inoment such lessons are reached, the dull machinery quickens into life; the moment they are passed, it becomes droning machinery again. Even the mechanical part of reading, therefore, is dependent for all its force, gracefulness and variety upon the mental.
There are other features of our reading books, too important to be unnoticed, even in a brief discussion of their merits. Two prominent characteristics are, the incompleteness of the subjects of the reading lessons, considered each by itself; and the discordance between them, when viewed in succession. Lord Kaimes maintains, in substance, that there is an original, instinctive propensity or faculty of the mind, which demands the coinpletion or finishing of what has been begun, and is displeased by an untimely or abrupt termination. Other metaphysicians attest the same doctrine. Whether such mental tendency be native or superinduced, its practical value can hardly be over