Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

of knowledge, by a gradual but well-secured progress from the first ele

ments.

“ 2. Exercises concerning lines, angles, curves, &c. (such as I began to introduce at that time,) are calculated to give children such a distinctness and precision in the perception of objects, as will enable them to form a clear notion of whatever falls within the sphere of their observation.

“3. The mode of beginning arithmetical instruction by means of real objects, or at least strokes and dots, representing the different numbers, gives great precision and certainty in the elements, and secures the farther progress of the child against error and confusion.

“4. The sentences, descriptive of the acts of walking, standing, lying, sitting, &c. which I gave the children to learn, led Kruesi to perceive the connexion between the beginnings of my instruction, and the purpose at which I was aiming, viz. to produce a general clearness in the mind on all subjects. He soon felt, that if children are made to describe in this manner things which are so clear to them that experience cannot render them any clearer, they must thereby be checked in the presumption of describing things of which they have no knowledge; and, at the same time, they must acquire the power of describing whatever they do know, to a degree which will enable them to give consistent, definite, concise, and comprehensive descriptions of whatever falls within reach of their observation.

5. A few words which I dropped on one occasion, on the tendency of my method to abate prejudice, struck him very forcibly. Speaking of the manifold exertions, and the tedious arguments, by which prejudices are generally combated, I observed, that these means had about as much power to counteract them as the ringing of bells had to disperse thunderstorms,* but that the only true safeguard against the influences of prejudice was a conviction of the truth, founded upon self-observation. For truth, so acquired, is in its very nature an impediment to the reception of prejudice and error in the mind; so, much so that if men thus taught are made acquainted with the existence of prevailing false notions by the never-ceasing cant of society, there is not in their minds any ground for that ignoble seed to rest on, or to grow up in, and the effect must therefore be very different from what it proves to be in the common-place men of our age, who have both truth and error thrust into their imagination, not by intuition and observation, but by the mere charm of words, as it were by a magic lantern.

“When reflecting upon these remarks, he came to the conviction, that the silence with which, in my plan of instruction, errors and prejudice were passed over, was likely to prove more effectual in counteracting them than

• It is a superstitious practice, kept up to this day in many parts of Switzerland and Germany, to ring the church bells at the approach of a thunderstorm, under an impression that the sacred toll will eflectually remove the danger.

QUICKENING OF A NATIVE IMPULSE.

191

all the endless verbiage which he had hitherto seen employed for that purpose.

“6. In consequence of our gathering plants, during the summer, and of the conversations to which this gave rise, he was brought to the conviction that the whole round of knowledge, to the acquisition of which our senses are instrumental, depended on an attentive observation of nature, and on a careful collection and preservation of whatever she presents to our thirst of knowledge.

“ These were the views, on the ground of which he conceived the possibility of establishing such a method of instruction as he felt was most needed, viz. one which would cause all the branches of knowledge to bear upon one another, with such coherence and consistency, as would require, on the part of the master, nothing but a knowledge of the mode of applying it, and, with that knowledge, would enable him to obtain, not only for his children, but even for himself, all that is considered to be the object of instruction. That is to say, he saw, that with this method positive learning might be dispensed with, and that nothing was wanted but sound common sense, and practicable ability in teaching, in order not only to lead the minds of children to the acquirement of solid information, but likewise to bring parents and teachers to a satisfactory degree of independence and unfettered mental activity concerning those branches of knowledge, in which they would submit themselves to the course prescribed by the method.

“During his six years' experience, as village-schoolmaster, a considerable number of children, of all ages, had passed through his hands; but with all the pains he took, he had never seen the faculties of the children developed to the degree to which they were carried by my plan; nor had he ever witnessed in them such an extent and solidity of knowledge, precision of thought, and independence of feeling.

“Ile inquired into the causes of the difference between his school and mine.

“He found, in the first instance, that even at the earliest period of instruction, a certain feeling of energy was not so much produced,-for it exists in every mind not enervated by artificial treatment, as an evidence of innate power,-as kept alive in consequence of my beginning at the very easiest task, and exercising it to a point of practical perfection before I proceeded; which, again, was not done in an incoherent manner, but by a gradual and almost insensible addition to what the child had already acquired.

“With this method, he used to say, you need not push on children, you have only to lead them. Formerly, whatever he wanted to teach, he was obliged to introduce by some such phrase as this: ‘Pray, do think, if you please!' 'Can't you remember, now?'

“ It could not be otherwise. If, for instance, in arithmetic, he asked: “How many times seven are there in sixty-three ? the child had no palpable basis, on which to rest his inquiry for the answer, and was, therefore,

192

INTUITION TO BE MADE THE BASIS.

unable to solve the question, otherwise than by a wearisome process of recollection; but, according to my method, he has nine times seven objects before him, which he has learned to count as nine sevens; the answer to the above question is therefore, with him, not a matter of memory; for although the question, perhaps, may be put to him for the first time, yet he knew long ago, by intuition and practice, that in sixty-three there are nine sevens : and the same is the case in all the other branches of my method.

“To adduce another instance: he had in vain endeavoured to accustom his children to write the initials of substantives with capital letters; * the rule by which they were to go, was constantly forgotten. Now, on the contrary, the same children, having read through some pages of a vocabulary constructed on my plan, conceived, of themselves, the idea of continuing that vocabulary out of their own resources, and by writing long lists of substantives, proved that they had a clear notion of the distinctive character of that sort of words. The remark which Kruesi made, that with this method children do not want to be pushed on, is so correct, that it may be considered as a proof of something imperfect in the mode of instruction, if the child still requires any kind of stimulus to thought; and the method can be considered as perfect only, where every exercise proposed to the child is so immediately the result of what he has learned before, that it requires no other exertion on his part, than the application of what he already knows.

“ Kruesi farther observed, that the detached words and pictures, which I used to lay before the children in teaching them to read, produced upon their minds a very different effect from that of the compound phrases commonly used in schools. He, therefore, now began to examine these phrases themselves somewhat more closely, and he found that it was utterly impossible for children to form any distinct notions of the different words of which they are composed ; because they do not consist of simple elements before known to the children, and put together in an obvious connexion, but that they are unintelligible combinations of objects mostly or entirely unknown. To employ children's minds in the unravelling of such phrases, is contrary to nature; it exceeds their powers, and leads to delusion, inasmuch as it introduces them to trains of ideas which are perfectly foreign to them, as regards not only the nature of the objects to which they refer, but likewise the artificial language in which they are clothed, and of which the children have not even acquired the bare elements. Kruesi saw that I was no advocate for this hodge-podge of pedantry; but that I did with my children, as nature does with savages, first bringing an image

In the German language, every substantive, and every word used as a substantive, is written, at the beginning, with a capital letter; and as the Germans do not excel the English in the art of teaching grammar in a popular and intelligible manner, of course great difficulties arise in the application of that rule.

IMAGES AND PHRASES.

193

before their eyes, and then seeking a word to express the perception to which it gives rise. He saw that from so simple an acquaintance with the object, no conclusions, no inferences followed ; that there was no doctrine, no point of opinion inculcated, nothing that would prematurely excite them to decide between truth and error; it was a mere matter of intuition, a real basis for conclusions and inferences to be drawn hereafter; a guide to future discoveries, which, as well as their past experience, they might associate with the substantial knowledge thus acquired.

“ He entered more and more into the spirit of my method; he perceived that every thing depended on reducing the different branches of knowledge to their very simplest elements, and proceeding from them in an uninterrupted progress, by small and gradual additions. He became every day better fitted to second me in the experiments which I myself made on the ground of the above principles, and, with his assistance, I completed, in a short time, spelling-book, and a course of arithmetic, upon my own plan.”

a

CHAPTER XIX.

Tobler's Account of himself--His View of Pestalozzi's E.xperiment.

Next in order follows an account of Tobler, who had, like Kruesi, previously taken upon himself the office of a teacher, and by the ill success of his labours had been prepared for the reception of Pestalozzi's ideas. There was, however, between the two mea this difference, that while Kruesi had striven to emerge from a state of positive ignorance, and to emancipate himself from the shackles of a narrow system in his village school, Tobler had been combating the confusion arising from the accumulation of superficial knowledge; bewildered by the boundless prospect of “omne scibile," and conscious that in his indefinite rambles through the different provinces of learning he had lost both the straight road and a firm footing, he was looking out for a guide at whose hand he might pursue his course with more security, an hope of success.

But although Tobler was in literary and scientific acquirements much superior to Kruesi, yet he was far from being what is termed a regular scholar: his early education had been entirely neglected, and it was not until the age of twenty-two that he entered the career of learning. All his zeal and talent were, from that moment, devoted to the acquisition of that wisdom which is to be gathered from books; and so long as he remained a passive receptacle of their contents, he continued to enjoy that illusory satisfaction, which ignorance, clothed with the vain trappings of apparent knowledge, and girt with the armour of prejudice, never fails

« AnteriorContinuar »