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NATURE'S NORMAL SCHOOL. The True Model for a National Education. By James Gall. Author of "End and Essence of Sabbath School Teaching," &c. Edinburgh: Gall and Inglis. London: Houlston and Wright. pp. x., 272.
Ir is not an every day occurrence to notice the production of a writer over whose head "the snows of nearly fourscore winters have passed." In this instance, the duty is as pleasant as it is rare. Mr. Gall has set forth, in the volume before us, principles which he has been actively engaged in developing from almost the commencement of the present century, and which he enunciates with much earnestness and ability.
Starting with the proposition that nature in all her operations is the best, the surest, the most successful guide, he proceeds to argue for the close study and imitation of her processes in the education and training of the young.
The results of many years' diligent and painstaking investigation, of numerous interesting experiments, and of a multifarious experience, are freely drawn upon for confirmation and illustration of the opinions of the writer. In several instances, Mr. Gall enters on somewhat debatable ground; but we are confident that the sterling sense which characterises the work will secure for it a thoughtful consideration from very many readers, who cannot fail to be largely profited by its perusal. The contrast between nature's mode of communicating knowledge, and man's method of storing the memory with mere words, is well shown in the following extract:
"Nature, in conveying truth, does so generally, as we have shown in a previous chapter, without the use of words at all.
"All the knowledge derived by the young by observation, reflection, and reasoning, which assuredly forms a very large proportion of the whole, is acquired without words, and independent of them. Of this, every teacher and educationist ought to be aware; as the contrast between the two sources,-that of knowledge obtained by observation without words, and the communication of knowledge by means of words-is very great, both in their nature and in their efficiency. The one is acquired almost instantaneously, without exertion, without irritation, and without fatigue; while knowledge communicated by means of words, is more or less laborious, according to the manner in which the use of words is employed. We shall endeavour to illustrate this by a simple experiment, which any person may conduct, and which will show the superiority of nature's method of conveying knowledge, without the use of words at all,-to the common mode of conveying it by words, whether orally, or by reading, or by committing the words to memory.
"In prosecuting the proposed experiment for the purpose above-mentioned, we must suppose a child's tea-party met in the nursery or drawing-room, and the whole of the children, male and female, in different groups, amusing themselves at various exercises, games, and amusements.
"Let now, any intelligent boy or girl,-who, be it observed, must be perfectly acquainted with every one of the party,-enter the room, and take notice of what is going on, only for one minute.
"That would be sufficient for him to observe and remember all the persons,— their positions, sitting, standing, speaking, or playing-their dress, attitude, appearance, and the employments of the whole company.
"He goes down stairs and is requested to describe what he saw. He has committed the whole to memory; the whole scene is pictured upon his imagination, and he can remember all or any part of it.
"He begins and describes each group separately, one by one, each after the other, and in order. A friend writes it down as he tells it; and this lesson of
only one minute, taken down upon paper in his own words, is found to fill five, six, or eight pages of common writing paper. This closes the first of four distinct acts in this simple experiment in education.
"Let us now suppose that the boy wishes to communicate the several facts he observed to another companion, who also knows the whole of the parties; and let us take notice how he would proceed. It has to be communicated, no doubt, in words; but his one minute's observation now requires many more minutes to communicate it. But he has the whole clear on his memory, and he now, with great glee, describes the whole scene once again to his young companion. This is done with more ease, more accuracy, and with much greater amplitude than at first; and, what is worthy of notice, there will scarcely be found a single sentence of the whole narrative precisely the same as that on the paper. The listener has heard the narrative by the living voice only once; and by attention to that one hearing, he also has committed the whole narrative to memory. Being familiar with the persons, his imagination has pictured every scene as described; and he now could, in his turn, also communicate it to others. This is act second of this experiment.
"Let us now suppose that the six or eight pages of writing are put into the hands of a third boy to read for himself, that he may become acquainted with the facts there recorded. He reads it attentively, and but once; and as he also is acquainted with the parties, he is able to master the story, and has, in fact, in his turn, while reading, committed the whole narrative to memory, although not so perfectly as if he had heard it by the living voice; and to all the three boys it has become a part of their knowledge, and yet they are not conscious of the precise words of a single sentence they have either read or uttered. This, then, is the third act of the experiment. And now for the fourth.
"A fourth boy is now called in, and he gets the written words to commit to memory, and then to repeat them. He begins his task, and labours at it for hours before he has completed it. And, when he has finished, what does nature, reason, and the most stringent experiments, tell us is the result? It is this, that he can now, like a parrot, repeat a certain form of words; but this exercise of committing the words to memory has not added a single idea or truth to his knowledge.
"It may be said that he does now know something of that which took place in the drawing-room, and, therefore, his committing the words of the narrative to memory increased his knowledge; but this is a mere deception. His reading what he was to commit to memory, as he also is well acquainted with the parties, may, perhaps, have given him a side glance at the facts; but that was got in the ordinary way, as in the case of the third boy above mentioned; and his committing the words to memory, did, in fact, help greatly to neutralise or obliterate it. This ends act fourth of this simple experiment.
"In the result of this experiment with these four boys, we have a pretty accurate picture and specimen of four kinds of teaching and of communicating knowledge. The first is nature's plan of storing the memory with ideas, truths, and real knowledge, without the use of words at all: the second is her plan of storing the memory with ideas, truths, and useful knowledge, by the living voice: the third is her method of storing the memory with ideas, truths, and knowledge, by reading: and the fourth is man's method of storing the memory with words, independent of the ideas, truths, or knowledge of any kind, which these words may contain.
"And we would now ask how they look when they are seen together? Yet, strange to say, in this nineteenth century, this fourth plan has its apologists, its adherents, its admirers, its defenders, its apostles, its champions, and, alas! we must add, its millions of martyrs. Can we wonder, in such case, at the deeprooted ignorance that still prevails among the masses, even though surrounded by so many schools; or at the low state of the science of education, amid the triumph of all the other sciences?"-pp. 62, et seq.
NEAR THE CROss; or a Believer's Meditation. By the Rev. J. Hiles HitchLondon: John Snow. pp. 31. Price 2d.
A meditation on John xix. 25, By the cross of Jesus," and bringing out the thoughts and feelings which will occupy the mind of the believer, when a crucified Redeemer is seen by faith as near at hand. It will be very profitable to the devout soul.
REPOSING IN JESUS. By G. W. Mylne. London: Wertheim, Macintosh, and Hunt. pp. 242.
THIS Volume is the result of thought and a desire to recommend the Gospel of Jesus, which it does most thoroughly. No Christian can read it without benefit, as it reminds him of the only source from which our spiritual supplies can be obtained. The following extract is one out of many to show what repose in Jesus is.
"How sweet to feel the heart-and-soul companionship of Jesus! To feel that Christ and we are not twain, but one! To feel that our heart and the heart of Jesus are melted into one! Earthly companions cannot know each other's minds, except they tell them. But Jesus moves in the very heart. Our very springs of thought are deep laid in the companionship of Jesus. There is not a spiritual perception that flits across the mind, but it is the common property, as it is the joint sensation of the great companion of our hearts. The companionship of Jesus and the Saints is the sweet and inevitable consequence of their unity with each other.
"Believer, may you not repose on the companionship of Jesus? May you not be sure he loves your company? The needle is not more surely drawn to the magnet, than the heart of Jesus is to thine. He cannot do otherwise than love to be with thee-to be always with thee-never to be absent from thee. There is a holy, a loving necessity, on the part of Jesus, to be ever in thy company. Thou art a very portion of himself, how can He but flow to thee? Thou art of His very nature, how can He but assimilate with thee? It were violence to the heart of Jesus to be separated from thee; to have this companionship dissolved would be to undo the law of the kingdom-to subvert the principle of the divine nature. Then, Christian reader, may you and I repose upon Jesus as a faithful companion!"-p. 147.
THE PRIMARY SCHOOL. By William J. Unwin, M.A. First Part. School Management. Longman & Co., pp. xx. 74, with plates of Schoolrooms, &c. As may be supposed, Mr. Unwin, Principal of the Congregational School Training College, at Homerton, is no friend of Government grants for Education. He gives, in the Introduction to the present little volume, briefly and cogently, his objections to such grants. To many, his little work will be chiefly valuable as containing the thoughts and practical suggestions of a firm and intelligent friend of popular knowledge, on the best way in which that great boon to large portions of our rising youth may be secured: What the schoolroom, its furniture and stock should be; what school managers should be; how teachers may most efficiently carry on their work; and in what way parents may best aid them, are explained and enforced in these pages with clearness, point, and brevity, which are quite refreshing. We make no extracts, for every page is equally excellent, and we trust the book itself will find its way to every teacher's hand, understanding, and heart.
COMMON-LIFE SERMONS. By J. Erskine Clarke, M.A., Vicar of St. Michael's, Derby, and Editor of the Parish Magazine. London: Morgan. 12mo., pp. vi. 212.
Twenty sermons on homely, every-day subjects, are contained in this volume, suggesting exhortations on the varied topics of every-day life. "The children playing in the streets of the city," "The lads of the parish," "Young men and maidens," "The mothers and sisters," "The parents," and "The whole family in heaven," are the titles of the first six of these lively and instructive addresses. Among the remaining topics, we have "The gospel of the body," a sermon against injuring the health of the body, defiling, or neglecting it. "Some temptations of trade," a sermon against the trade practices of those who will be rich. "Over-dress," "Bargain-driving," and "Causes of raggedness," the topics discussed in which will be easily imagined, without our extracting pithy, pointed, pregnant paragraphs. Such paragraphs abound in the volume. We have seldom read sermons which we can more conscientiously and heartily commend.
A GLANCE AT THE UNIVERSE. By Nicholas Odgers, Stithians, Cornwall. London: H. J. Tresidder, 12mo. pp. 130.
This is a devout and suggestive glance at the universe, ranged under fourteen topics, designed to assist young persons to form a comprehensive idea of the universe as a whole." It will be useful to others than the miners' children, whom chiefly the worthy author must have to instruct. A few sentences will give an idea of what the book is.
"Look at a particle of dust-the smallest we can conceive! In that speck of dust there may exist more suns, stars, and planets, than our eyes behold in the heavens over us. And upon them may exist inhabitants, surpassing far in strength and mind the most intellectual of all earthly men. who knows but that thousands of years are spent by them in studying the works of God-in grasping their relations, and the laws which govern them, and in discovering and tracing heaven's wisdom and power in their creation and preservation!"
Mr. Odgers, whatever attention he would awaken to the magnificent and the grand, does not overlook the minute, towards which, indeed, his tastes seem specially to incline, and, perhaps, too closely.
LIFE UNFOLDING; a Poem for the Young. By Elizabeth Ann Campbell. PART 3. THE HOPE OF THE WORLD. London: Wertheim & Co. pp. 96. WE reviewed the 1st Part of this poem in our number for March last year, and did not give any encouragement to the publication of Part 2. That, however, we have not seen, but Part 3 confirms our impression, that while the authoress seems to have a pretty correct knowledge of scripture facts and history, she mistakes her forte when she sets about presenting these facts in poetic dress. Her verses have neither the smoothness of rhythm, the liveliness of fancy, nor the fervour of poetry.
BIRD MURDER; or Good Words for poor Birds. A Tract for the Times. By a Country Clergyman. London: Wertheim & Co. pp. 31. square 12mo.
GARDENERS and farmers, spare the birds! is the burden of these pages— and a very good burden too. The cherries, currants, and gooseberries, which during a few weeks the birds may devour, are as nothing when compared with what would have been prevented from coming to perfection, but for the services they render in feeding upon the grubs and insects, which are by very far the deadlier enemies to our fields and gardens.
"The blackbird is the most inveterate plunderer of fruit, but at other seasons he does very great good by feeding on caterpillars, grubs, worms, &c. &c. The thrush, though unable to resist the temptation of ripe fruit, surely earns an occasional meal, in return for the thousands of slugs and snails he devours throughout the year."
In a similar manner the author pleads for the starling and the rook. He would have the wholesale destruction of birds prevented; sparrow clubs discouraged in every way possible; bird catchers forbidden to ply their skill; birds' nests let alone; the value of birds to man well-studied; and head money, often paid out of the church-rate, for birds killed, protested against, and withheld. Spare the birds, our author says, and we say it too: and that even in the interest of our ripe and fragrant garden fruits, as well as in that of our abundant and smiling corn fields.
WATCHWORDS FOR THE CHURCH MILITANT. By Newman Hall, LL.B. "Watch and Pray." London: James Nisbet & Co. pp. 64. Price Three-pence.
THIS is another of that series of small books by which Mr. Hall has increased his usefulness beyond the sphere of the living voice. In exhorting Christians to watch against " the world," he adverts powerfully to the care necessary in reference to the ungodly world—the worldliness of fashion— the worldliness of pleasure-worldliness in business-the worldliness of wealth. The following extract will evince how judiciously this seasonable exhortation is framed :
"The divine life in the human soul is one of exertion and dependence. Both are essential, and they are intimately associated. We cannot work effectually without Divine help, nor is this ever given but as a stimulus to self-help. The same law prevails in daily life. We can do nothing for ourselves without God, and He will do nothing for us without our co-operation up to the limit of our ability. We plough and sow, but He maintains our life, and sends the rain and the sunshine. Both His working and our own are necessary to secure the harvest. So we work out our own salvation, for it is God who worketh in us both to will and to do.' We must give 'diligence to make our calling and election sure,' but by grace we are saved, not of ourselves, it is the gift of God.' We can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth us,' but without him we can do nothing. We err when we unduly exalt human effort, we also err when we exclusively direct attention to the need of Divine grace. The Bible exhibits both phases of truth with impartial distinctness, reminding us now of the necessity of effort- Watch!' now of our, dependence upon Divine grace'Pray;' and often blending both admonitions- Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.'" pp. 5, 6.