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146

New Studies may be Introduced.

it is better, far better, to spell and read and write correctly, than by attempting a dozen branches, to acquire a thorough and practical knowledge of none. Our pupils "go through their grammars and geographies and histories and arithmetics, it is said, and yet know little more in reality on these very topics, than their fathers, who never studied them at all; while they are actually their inferiors, in point of reading and penmanship. Where then, it is asked, and certainly not without an appearance of reason, do we find proof of the importance of adding to a list, already too large, a multitude of new studies? We acknowledge the importance of the subjects and sciences you maintain ; we do not attempt to deny that it would be profitable and pleasurable to understand something of them all, but how can we?

This latter view of things has lately been advanced in some of our public papers, and pressed and defended with great sincerity and much ingenuity. Nor are we sure that the labors of Mr Brooks, of Hingham, and of others, to bring into public notice the Prussian system of Education, may not have contributed to bring out these essays. If it should prove so, we are not to be surprised at it. Indeed, it should be expected. If fifteen or twenty branches can be taught in the elementary schools of Prussia, it will much more readily be believed, by the mass of our citizens—by people we mean of plain common sense--that there are circumstances of society in Prussia, an absolute monarchy, which render the course practicable and feasible there, than that the same course, in this country, would be either feasible or possible.

What then can be done? Are the lessons of those who wish to improve our schools, and elevate the standard of education and instruction among us, to be overlooked or disregarded ; or, worse than this, are they to be set down as injurious ? Or, is there some way of reconciling two things, which, according to the statements we have just made, seem so obviously to clash with each other?

We believe the latter. We believe there is a way, by means of which, all that is said to be taught in the Prussian schools,religion, reading, spelling, writing, music, mathematics, geography, history, natural history, natural philosophy, technology, politics, political economy, foreign modern languages, logical exercises, (including grammar) metaphysics, composition and declamation, and much more, to wit: hygiene, physiology and psychology, unless indeed, these are comprehended under the general term natural history, can be taught, at least their elements, and without increased expense, except for female assistant teachers, in all our district schools. Perhaps we ought, however, to except the study of the foreign modern languages.

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New Exercise in Defining.

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Such an assumption—the assertion that we can teach even the elements of twenty or more different branches in a district school—will seem to many, so strange, not to say so utterly paradoxical, that it becomes our duty to state the methods by which such a result can be accomplished.

The truth is, that the elements of all these sciences, foreign languages and music excepted, may be taught by two or three simple exercises, in the most simple manner; and that too, without the usual array of hard names and tasks and books and apparatus.

The first of these exercises may be called spelling or defining; or spelling and defining ; or, if the teacher or parent be not over fond of names, he need not call it either. It is enough, if the thing itself be understood ; the name is of but secondary importance.

They may be required to take their slates and pencils,—for these are instruments which we always deem indispensable to every pupil who has a place in our school room, and with which, if necessary, we always furnish them, at our own expense--and write down certain words which we shall mention. Sometimes the words are dictated to them slowly ; at others, they are required to transcribe them from a spelling book, a dictionary, or a reading book.—Perhaps we give them, at first, a lesson of twenty words.

These words, they are requested to study, by means of a dictionary, or any other aids they can procure, in such a way as to get the fullest idea they possibly can, of their meaning. are not expected to commit them to memory; though if any pupils choose to do so, there can be no objection.

When the hour assigned for the purpose arrives, each word is taken up in its order, and conversed about. Every pupil is invited to ask questions, and speak his mind fully and freely. It is usually found that in the course of a single lesson, one or more words will lead to conversation involving geography or history; others to facts in geology, mineralogy, chemistry, or physiology ; others again to mathematics, or religion, or politics. And if these subjects should not be involved, all of them, in the first lessons, they and many more will be, in subsequent ones.-Of course, every lesson will, of necessity, teach spelling, defining, and writing; and if they are required to read, the authorities to whom they will soon learn occasionally to refer, will prove a reading exercise. . Those who have never tried it, can have little idea of the delight which most children take in these lessons. We say most children, but we have never yet known an exception. Nor is it

They

148

A Second New Exercise.

much more easy to those to whom the subject is wholly new, to conceive of the wide range of thought, and the variety of elementary ideas and facts which these conversational exercises, in the hands of an ingenious teacher, on twenty or twentyfive or thirty words,-simple ones, too,-may be made to involve.

The second exercise referred to, consists in incorporating or forming words into sentences. For this purpose, a lesson may be given out in the same way as the former, and should be written by each pupil on his slate, in the same manner. Then, either on the opposite side of the slate, or on paper, each word may be fitted or framed into some sentence, contrived by the pupil for the occasion ; no matter how simple. Most pupils will require a little showing at first, before they will know fully our meaning ; but when that is once understood, the exercise will be found delightful, interesting and profitable --none more so. It is, or may be, at one and the same time, a lesson in writing, spelling, reading, defining, arithmetic, grammar, geograpy, logic, &c. &c.; and above all, in composition.

We have thus endeavored to show-in a very brief way, it is true, but we hope we have been intelligible-that the elements of all the more important and necessary sciences may be taught by two simple exercises. We are aware that pupils will not become profound students in all of these branches, without pursuing them in a different manner afterward; but they will in this way, at least acquire the keys to all of them, and such a thirst for knowledge in general, that we may be pretty sure of their successful future progress. The greatest difficulty of success in these exercises would be the ignorant impatience of some parents; who, because their children were not going over and through a multitude of class books, would be apt to think nothing was doing. This is indeed a difficulty, at present almost insurmountable.

Some of our readers may require further illustrations of the mode of pursuing the foregoing exercises, though to us they seem so simple as to need none. For the benefit

of those individuals, we propose to present a few such in future numbers.

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Errors in Teaching Geography,

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PREPARATORY GEOGRAPHY.

No person who is acquainted with the superficial method of elementary instruction common among us, should be surprised to find children, every where, greatly ignorant of geography, even the geography of the United States. It is not merely the oldest pupils of our common schools, those perhaps, who have been through' Woodbridge's or Olney's Geography, that is, have recited lessons from it--who often betray the most profound ig. norance on the subject; there are those who have been through higher schools, who are little wiser, in practice, than they. We met not long ago, with a manufacturer, in the country, who is generally esteemed intelligent-and who has been well.schooled' in human nature at least-who spoke of Virginia as a township merely; and this too, in a way which showed that he was as utterly ignorant of the geography of the Union we are so tenacious of maintaining, as was a boy in Boston whom we once met fresh from one of the public schools, who, on being asked, what lay next north of Boston, could not tell; and when told it was Charlestown, and asked what lay next to Charlestown, said he believed it was England. A respectable looking lady in a steamboat on Long Island Sound, lately, asked a friend of ours, in great gravity, whether there was any water on the opposite side of the island. And worse-much worse-than all this, we once met with a lady who had been previously employed for some time as an assistant in one of our most popular city schools, who asked a friend whether or not New Jersey was in Elizabethtown.

The truth is, that geography, as well as grammar, arithmetic, and most of the other branches of a common English education, are 'murdered,' rather than studied, in most of our schools. The best which is done is to commit to memory the words of the book, and point to places on the map, without either understanding the one, or getting any real ideas of the location of the other. By far the greater part of our pupils, however, not so much as even this is accomplished. The recitation is so imperfect, and the mapology so blundering, that no one could reasonably expect, in after life, any thing but ignorance. No one could expect a better knowledge of the nature of an island than that possessed by the lady we have mentioned, who was doubtful whether or it had water on two sides of it; or that of the teacher, who was uncertain whether New Jersey was in Elizabethtown, or Elizabethtown in New Jersey.

150

Illustrations of this Error.

causes.

Again : where shall we find pupils in our schools, even of those who have recited their geographies through three or four times, who can answer without recurrence to the map, such questions as the following ? If a line were drawn from your native town or village, twentyfour miles south, what townships, rivers, mountains, ponds, or lakes would it cross? If the line was extended one hundred miles, what would it cross ? If one hundred miles east, west and north, what towns, counties, rivers, mountains, lakes and cities would be crossed? What States would be crossed by a line running directly from your home to New Orleans ? About how many miles is it to the city of Mexico ? — What countries on the Eastern continent would be crossed by a line running exactly east from the spot where you stand, to the Ocean eastward of China ? This state of things in our schools, may be traced to several

1. A want of suitable preparation for the study of geography. 2. An imperfect knowledge on the part of the teacher. 3. A want of skill in communicating what is really known. 4. A supposed want of time to do anything thoroughly in school. 5. A want of interest on the part of the pupils.

Two of these five causes, viz., the want of interest in the pupils, and of knowledge in the teacher, may be traced to the first, --the want of suitable preparation for the study of books and maps. It is of little use to talk to a pupil about feet, and yards, and rods, and miles, or to give bim lessons in which these terms are perpetually occurring, while he has not the least conception how much a foot, a yard, or a mile is. And yet how few of the pupils in our schools are possessed of this necessary preliminary knowledge ?

They read perhaps of the rock of Gibraltar ; that it presents a perpendicular front of 440 yards. Now, how many of them are able to form a just estimate, in an instant, of this space? How many are able to reduce the 410 yards to feet, and quick as thought, find the product to be 1320; and then too, quick as thought, and without any pause or break in the reading, or even in the thinking, perceive that the height is just about equal to that of eight churches-such as they may happen to be acquainted with-with their spires, set one upon the top of another? Is there one in a hundred, who is able to do this? Or, suppose they read or hear that James river in Virginia, though not more than five hundred miles long, when near its mouth spreads out to a width of ten miles or more.

Now,
how

many who read this, ever think, instantly, that ten miles is about equal to some distance with which they happen to be acquainted- say the distance from Boston to Dedham--and that 500 miles are equal to

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