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INTRODUCTION. - In the prosecution of our labors as an educational journalist we have had occasion to draw largely from the pedagogical literature of the German language, which, beyond that of any other country, is pre-eminently rich in the historical development of education, both public and individual, and in the exhaustive discussion of the principles and methods of instruction. While we must accord to Italy the merit of preserving, and to Italy and France of transmitting and enlarging the ancient civilization, and to the British Isles of sending back to the continent the torch of christian culture when its light was almost extinguished in the devastations of civil war and successive waves of barbarian invasions, we find in the nations which belong to the great German family a succession of schools and teachers, in which and by whoin the work of human culture has been carried on with enthusiasm, in spite of civil war, and changing and belligerent dynasties. Since the great ecclesiastical upbreak of the sixteenth century, and particularly since the social and political agitations which grew out of the action of the French Revolution on European institutions, German writers, statesmen, and teachers have bestowed more thought on the problems and discussions of education, than have the same classes in any, or all other countries together. The results are now manifest to the world in the universality and high character of the public instruction, in the wealth of literary and scientific production, in the industrial development, and the military strength of the German people.
It is not creditable to English and American teachers and educators that a literature so rich in thorough historical research, profound speculation, and wise and varied experience from infant training to the broadest university culture, should have been so long neglected—especially when the German educational reformers were 80 prompt to appreciate and appropriate the broad generalizations of Bacon, and the practical common sense of Locke, as well as the suggestions of Rousseau and Pestalozzi, in this field.
The basis and aim of Beneke's pedagogical views must be found in his psychological publications. To establish the phenomena of mind on a scientific basis, to discard all uncertain speculation, and adhere only to the facts of observation, having ascertained all fixed antecedents, and uniform sequences in these phenomena was the great aim of all his teaching and all his publications, His separate work on Education and Instruction, which is highly valued in the best normal schools of Germany, is only the application of his psychological views to the work of the school-room. We give a brief analysis of his doctrine from two articles in the Museum and English Journal of Education of 1865.
Beneke's System of Psychology. Beneke sets down two false notions as the principal obstacles to the scientific treatment of psychology. The first one is the practice of regarding the mind in its very earliest stage as an aggregate of special faculties. The child is supposed to have born with him faculties of memory, of understanding, of reasoning, of will, and such like. These faculties are assigned to the child in spite of the fact that no one has really observed the infant recollecting, or reasoning, or deliberately willing. In truth, these faculties do not exist in the child at its birth. There is a power called soul, but it does not admit of farther definition. It does not become known to us until it acts on the outer world, and it is only. after long processes, which it is the business of psychology to observe, that it reaches the power of deliberate volition or of abstract reasouing.
But there is a second error which it is equally important to remove. All acts of retention are grouped together, and are assigned to a faculty called memory. All acts of reasoning are grouped together, and assigned to one faculty, called the reasoning faculty. And so on with other faculties. But this is a mistake. Psychologists like Sir William Hamilton and Mansel, allow that there are no such faculties, that the soul is one, and that these faculties are merely convenient names by which to group together similar phenomena. But the fiction leads to gross mistakes, both psychologically and educationally. If there were such a faculty as memory, then if a man's memory were good, he would remember every thing well. But we find that the same man remembers words well, but forgets ideas, remembers numbers well, but forgets tunes, remembers places well, but forgets faces. So we find a critic of art reason soundly, with wonderful acumen and insight, in the region of art, but he fails entirely in his reasoning in regard to religion or politics. How can this happen if he has but one reasoning faculty ?
The business of psychology, then, is to observe the activities of the human mind, to watch and classify all its acts, avoiding all hasty generalizations.
Now, in the first stage of the soul's existence here, we know it only as it comes into contact with external nature. We are, therefore, first to observe what takes place when the mind comes into contact with particular external objects. The results of this observation Beneke gave in what he called the four fundamental processes of the soul.
The first is, if the soul come into contact with an external object, it forms a sensation or sensuous perception. How it forms this sensation is not a ques
tion of psychology, for our consciousness does not speak even of the body as the means. We have to deal only with the facts of consciousness.
The second fundamental process is thus stated by Beneke: “New original powers are continually forming themselves in the human soul.” The phenomenon which we perceive is this. The mind is employed for the day in perceptions. It at first works vigorously, but gradually its power fails, and, like the body, it refuses to act. Sleep, however, comes on, and next morning the mind awakens refreshed, reinvigorated, able to form new sensations and perceptions.
The third process is thus stated: “All developments of our being are on the stretch every moment of our lives to equalize towards each other the movable elements which are given in them.” The movable elements require explanation. The result of the activities of the mind on external objects is different. In some cases the perceptions are steadfast. They are easily recalled. In other cases the perceptions are indistinct, the objects have not clearly impressed themselves on the mind. These become the movable elements. They pass easily from one group of perceptions to another. Now, in the case of these movable elements, the mind struggles to equalize them. For instance, good news comes to me. This feeling of gladness will give a color to all my perceptions which are not definitely fixed. The song of the bird will be the expression of its happy existence; the sun will smile amidst clouds, all nature will rejoice. Again, if I receive a strong impression of an object, the strength of the impression will communicate itself to the impression of the next object which I per.. ceive.
The last fundamental process which Beneke lays down is, “The same products of the human soul, and those similar, in proportion to their likeness, attract each other, and strive to enter into nearer combinations with each other.”
These are the four great fundamental processes of the human mind. Beneke rests them entirely on observation, and if our reader has understood them thoroughly, he will see how simple they are. These processes take place in the three divisions of the soul's activity, which were proposed by Kant, and since adopted by most psychologists; and Beneke applies his knowledge of them in explanation of the phenomena of the feelings and conations, as well as of those of our cognitions.
In the first fundamental act there are two factors,—the soul and the external object. If we turn our attention to the soul, we find that its capabilities in regard to external impressions may be described in a threefold manner. An object comes before the soul, and, in consequence, the soul takes a firm, strong impression from it. The object becomes firmly fixed in the soul. Or again, if an object comes before the soul, the soul seizes it in all its parts, it takes into its perception the minute features of the object. Or again, it may, in a speedy manner, lay hold of the object. At the earliest stage of the child's soul, it is impossible to define exactly what it is, because it is not until vast and complicated processes have been gone through, that the soul reaches the state in which we know it well. Therefore, Beneke does not assign to the soul, in its earliest stages, any of the latent powers commonly ascribed to it. He deals with it in its earliest stages, simply as its activity in sensations and perceptions exhibits it, and he generalizes the results in these three qualities, – strength, sensitiveness and liveliness. This generalization we consider of im.
mense value to the educator. If he watches his slow pupils carefully, with these characteristics in his mind, he will often be able to lay his hand at once on the defect that prevents progress. If the boy does not receive a strong impression from an external object, he can not remember it well; he can not recollect it when he is required to do so. This quality of the mind is the most essential to thought, and characteristic of the manly intellect. If the mind, again, is not sufficiently sensitive, it will fail to form a miuutely accurate notion of the object. This quality is characteristic of the female mind, and is not an upmixed good, if not combined with a sufficient amount of strength. If the mind does not take an impression in sufficient time, another object forces itself on the mind, a mere half-impression is produced, and the result is a weakening of the power of the mind. Or if the mind is too lively, and takes its impression too fast, there may be a deficiency of strength, and the pupil may be as ill off as the slowest in the class. Dunces, therefore, may be defective in the strength of their impressions, in the sensitiveness of their minds, in the too great slowness or fastness with which they receive impressions. These defects are defects of degree, and though it is in these qualities that one soul originally differs from another, yet much may be done by the teacher who has studied the matter psychologically to increase the strength and regulate the liveliness of the pupil's impressions.
What adds to, or rather creates, the deep importance of attention to these qualities, is another doctrine which Beneke has established in a completely scien. tific manner. This doctrine is, that the only possibility of the soul's progress to a higher stage, is the thorough accomplishment of the work in the previous stage. At the first stage the child is predominantly sensuous. Unless his senses be fully exercised, unless he accomplish his intuitions effectively, unless, in one word, he has made many clear, strong intuitions in the course of his childhood, the second portion of his life's intellectual work will be badly performed. In the second stage, the boy becomes reproductive; and here, again, unless the reproductions are done thoroughly, and repeated often enough, it is impossible to acquire any thing like perfection in the third, or highest stage, the productive. If we observe a child's progress in his intuitions, and his movement from these to reproduction, we shall see the reason of all this. A child looks at a tree for the first time. He looks only for an exceedingly short time. He has had some sensation in consequence, which must leave some trace in the mind, however indefinite it may be. After an interval he looks again at the tree, and there arises a similar sensation, which, by the fourth fundamental process, blends with the trace of the first. After these sensations have been multiplied to a great extent, by a law which Beneke works out scientifically, the child at length perceives an object which we call a tree. Having made this perception, however, he could not recall the tree in his mind if he wished. But he makes the perception or intuition again and again; and he must make it a certain number of times, more or less (the number being dependent on the strength, sensitiveness, and liveliness of the soul), before he can reproduce the tree with. out the presence of the object. Now, after he has acquired the power of reproducing one tree, he must learn to reproduce others; and he can not form a notion of a tree, abstracted from all individual trees, until he has reproduced a considerable number of individual trees with tolerable exactness. He can not become a thinker in any department, until he has gained the power of reproduction in that particular department. Hence, also, the scientific establishment of the law in education, that the teacher must resolutely, and with great patience, practice the pupil in the concrete, before he proceeds to the abstract. Education must be primarily inductive, if it is to be successful. The pupil must be furnished in every study with numerous individual instances, before he can be fit to make the generalizations for himself ; and to furnish him with generalizations before he knows the instances, or even at the same time, is not to educate him, but to throw obstacles in the way of his education.
If we turn now from the soul to the other factor, the external object, in the first fundamental process, we shall find that it is calculated to affect the soul in five different ways. The object may produce a satisfactory impression, and then we have a perception. I look at a tree in daylight, I see it, and am satisfied. Again, it may produce an impression, accompanied with distinctly felt pleasure. I look at a beautiful face. I see it, and, more than that, I feel exquisite pleasure at the sight of it. In proportion, however, to the pleasure of which I am conscious, is my perception less distinct, and if I turn immediately away from it, possibly I could describe it only in the most vague terms,-terms indicative more of my pleasure than of its exact form. But then there is this difference between the object that simply satisfies, and that which excites pleasure. I at once dismiss the object that satisfies the mind, and do not care whether it returns or not. But I long for the return of the object which gives me pleasure, and as it returns again and again, I come to know it more completely, even in its various features. But there are objects that at first stimulate the mind pleasurably, but being permitted to act too long on it, create satiety, or even disgust. In that case, the mind has not received a satisfying perception of the object, but at the same time it has not only no desire to return to it, but positive aversion to it. The effect, consequently, is a weakening of the mind to this extent. Or again, the object is not calculated to produce a full impression. The light, for instance, is deficient. I look on an object at a distance in dim starlight. I see it indistinctly. The impression produced on my mind is un. satisfactory. I bave gained no real knowledge. So far the mind is weakened. Again, I gaze at the sun in its full blaze. The result is that I see nothing, but my eyes are dazzled, and I feel pain. There are thus five effects: a satisfactory intuition, an intuition accompanied with pleasure, an intuition accompanied with satiety, a defective intuition, and an intuition accompanied with pain. The first two streugthen the mind, the other three weaken it. The teacher must present his pupils only with the first two; the other three hinder his work. And, indeed, the division will apply to more things than intuitions. If the lesson given by a teacher produces either satiety or pain, or supplies the pupil only with halfimpressions, his work has been useless, and the boy would have been stronger in mind if the lesson had not been given. In every lesson the teacher must either satisfy the boy's mind, and then the knowledge will abide for some time, and become the basis of further knowledge; or he must stimulate the boy through pleasurable excitement, and then, though he may not remember so much of the instruction, there has been planted in his heart a craving for farther enlighten. ment, which may turn out to be more important than any particular knowledge communicated to him.
These views, and similar views, are elaborately set forth by Beneke in his Erziehungs-und- Unterrichtslehre.