Imágenes de páginas



traced the means of execution. Their spontaneous activity was called out in every direction, as far as the elements of knowledge go: and I was brought to the firm conviction, that all instruction, to have a truly enlightening and cultivating influence, must be drawn out of the children, and, as it were, begotten within their minds. 'To this also I was brought chiefly by necessity. Seeing that I had no assistant-teachers, I placed a child of superior capacities between two of inferior powers. He threw his arms round their necks; he taught them what he knew, and they learned from him what they knew not. They sat by the side of each other with heart-felt affection. Joy and love animated their souls; the life which was awakened within them, and which had taken hold of their minds, carried both teachers and learners forward with a rapidity and cheerfulness which this process of mutual enlivening alone could produce.”

We cannot close this chapter without noticing another of the many gross misunderstandings, which have gone forth on the subject of Pestalozzi's method. Often, when inveighing against the monitorial system of Bell and Lancaster's methods, we have been replied to: “Pestalozzi himself made use of mutual instruction.” Such is the effect of the thoughtless use of mere words, that the most opposite things assume an appearance of sameness from a coincidence of sounds. Pestalozzi employed one child to teach another; this is mutual instruction, no doubt. Bell and Lancaster employ one child to teach another; this, too, is mutual instruction.

But Pestalozzi awakened in one child a consciousness of his

powers, and a tendency to mental self-activity; and the child so awakened he called in, to assist him in awakening other children in the same manner, by the same means. Pestalozzi led his children by the love which they bore him, by the moral ascendancy which he had gained over them, so that whithersoever he led the way, they were willing to follow; and in the same manner he taught his children to treat one another.

Bell and Lancaster, on the contrary, drill one child through an artificial machinery of lifeless tasks, and the child, so drilled, they employ to drill others in the same manner, and by the same means.

Bell and Lancaster restrain their children by fear, and excite them by artificial and mercenary



motives, that, for hire's sake, the natures of the children may yield themselves to the unnature of the system; and the same means of direct and indirect compulsion they place in the hands of their subordinate drillers.

Is, then, Pestalozzi's mutual instruction the same with Bell's and Lancaster's? And if a man endeavour to expose the corruptness of a system calculated to foster at the same time the growth of the two basest feelings of the human bosom, despotism and servility, or if he represent the deadening influence which the mechanical driving on through a certain set of lesson-boards, and other tasks, must have upon the minds of children, is it fair to reply, that Pestalozzi himself was an advocate for mutual instruction ?

Oh, that men would not harden their hearts and their heads by the repetition of hollow sounds! Oh, that they would not substitute a clinging to terms of temporary popularity, for an adherence to the unalterable nature of things; or, at least, that men so hardened and so blinded against the real claims of human nature, and the true means of satisfying them, would not presume to regulate the moral and intellectual state of the rising generation! When will it be felt that education is a sanctuary in which none that is not duly prepared, should intrude himself? and, when will the most obvious truth be apprehended, that a guinea, or even a ten-guinea subscription, is no proof of the qualifications of the donor, though it may be of his intentions, for carrying forward the improvement of mankind? Let all the supporters of public institutions consider, that zeal without knowledge, and without humility, ever impedes the cause which it professes to promote.


The Experiment at Burgdorf-Nature the Schoolmaster's Guide

Leading Ideas.

AFTER the picture of the asylum at Stantz, given in the preceding chapter, our author proceeds to a somewhat lengthy account of the difficulties which he experienced, when, after the breaking up of that institution, he went, by the advice of his friends, to Burgdorf. The chief actors in this interlude, the petty rulers and pedantic schoolmasters of a small borough, having no claim whatever upon a personal introduction to the English public, we pass over all that concerns them and their intrigues for and against “the new system,” and resume the thread of Pestalozzi's narrative, after we find him, as has already been related in the fourth chapter, the last in rank among the moderators of the march of intellect in Burgdorf, bringing up the rear in a dame school, where the pupils being all infants, it was thought he could not do much harm.

“I began again crowing my A B C from morning to night; and, without any settled plan, continued that empiric march, in which I had been interrupted at Stantz. With indefatigable zeal, I joined syllables to syllables ; and wrote whole books full of spelling exercises, and numerical tables; I tried in every possible way to reduce the beginnings of spelling and ciphering to the greatest simplicity, by putting them into such forms, as would lead the child by slow degrees, and in a manner perfectly congenial with the nature of the human mind, from the first step to the second; and from this, without leap or omission, and with equal security, though more rapidly, to the third, then to the fourth, and so on. But instead of getting the children to form letters with their pencil, as I had done at Stantz, I now gave them angles, squares, straight lines, and curves to draw.



During these endeavours, the idea of making an alphabet of forms* was gradually developed in me. I had not, however, at first, a very distinct notion of it myself, but in proportion as the subject emerged in my mind from its obscurity, my conviction of its importance for the whole of my proposed method of instruction increased. It lasted a long time before I saw quite clearly in it; my progress was inconceivably slow. I had for several months, already, been engaged in the attempt of bringing the different means of instruction back to their elements, and taken great pains to reduce them to the utmost simplicity; yet I was still ignorant of the connexion which they have with each other; or, at least, I had not come to a clear conciousness of it, though I felt hourly, that I was advancing, and with rapid strides.

“By handling every, even the most dusty part of school duties, and that in a manner which was any thing but superficial; by teaching away from eight in the morning till seven in the evening, with the interruption of but a few hours, I could not but hit every moment upon facts clearly attesting the existence of certain physical and mechanical laws, to which our mind is subject in the receiving and fixing of external perceptions. I had a sort of feeling of these laws, by which I was daily more influenced in the organization of my means of instruction ; but I had no clear conception of the principle on which I proceeded. At length, having endeavoured last summer to explain the nature of my experiments to Mr. Clayre, of the executive government, he said to me : Vous voulez mécaniser l'éducation.' At that time I understood very little French : I thought he meant to say, that my intention was to bring the different means of education and instruction into regular courses, adapted to the nature and progressive development of the human faculties; and taking the term mécaniser' in this sense, he certainly was quite right. I imagined at the time, the word which he had put into my mouth, was expressive of the very essence both of my purpose and my means. I might have gone on for a good while longer without hitting upon an adequate term, because I was not in the habit of giving a clear account to myself of what I met with in my progress. On the contrary, I abandoned myself entirely to instinctive feelings, which gave me no clearness, but much life; much practical security, but no theoretical knowledge. It was not in my power to do otherwise. For these last thirty years I have read no book, nor have I been able to read any; I had no language left for abstract notions; in my mind there was nothing but living truths, brought to my consciousness in an intuitive manner, in the course of my experience; but I was no more able to analyze those truths, than to bring

• That is to say, a series of elementary geometrical figures, by the composition of which, any given form might be produced in a similar manner, as the words in language by the composition of the letters of that series of sounds, commonly called the alphabet. B.



to my recollection the details of the observations by which I had been led to their discovery.

“Perfect unconsciousness, as to the principles on which my proceedings rested, was, at that time, the leading feature of my experiments. In explaining to the children the nature of different objects, I confined myself to such as were within reach of their own senses, and this led me to pursue the various branches of tuition to their very first elements. On the other hand, I endeavoured to investigate the exact time of life when instruction begins, and I soon arrived at the conviction, that the first hour of instruction is the hour of birth : the first tutor is nature; and her tuition begins from the moment, when the child's senses are opened to the impressions of the surrounding world: he feeling of novelty by which lífe first surprises the infant, is in itself nothing else than the first waking up of the capability of receiving those impressions; it is the arousing of all the germs of physical powers, whose growth is completed, and whose whole energy and sole tendency is now directed towards their expansion and cultivation; the animal is entirely formed, and something above the animal is awakened in it, which, while it clearly testifies the destination of the new-born being for a human existence, gives him at the same time a positive impulse towards the attainment of that purpose.

“Whatever, therefore, man may attempt to do by his tuition, he can, at best, do no more than assist the child's nature in the effort which it makes for its own development; and to do this, so that the impressions made upon the child may always be commensurate to, and in harmony with, the measure and character of the powers already unfolded in him, is the great secret of education. The perceptions to which the child is to be led by his instruction, must, therefore, necessarily be subjected to a certain order of succession, the beginning of which must be adapted to the very first unfolding of the child's powers, and its progress kept exactly parallel with that of the child's own development. To discover those successions throughout the whole range of human knowledge, but especially in those essentials, in which the development of the human mind takes its beginning,—this I soon perceived to be the simplest and the only way, ever to establish really instructive school-books, such as would correspond to the natural constitution of the mind, and satisfy its wants. I saw, moreover, that in the composition of such books, it must be of the highest importance to keep the different parts of instruction distinct from one another, and to introduce them in a manner adapted to the natural progress of the child's mind : for it is only by determining with the greatest accuracy, what is calculated for every age and every stage of development, that we shall avoid either withholding any thing of which the child is capable, or burdening and confounding him with things which he cannot yet grasp.

« This much I saw clearly, that the child may be brought to a high degree of knowledge, both of things, and of language, before it would be

« AnteriorContinuar »