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(3) As a consequence of all this, it happens that, even when these subjects are taught, erroneous methods of teaching them are often adopted. Grammar is treated as an abstract science so abstract, in fact, as often to elude completely the grasp of the pupil. Made practical, on the one hand, by lessons in analysis and parsing, it is seldom, if ever, accompanied by lessons in synthesis, or composition. Definition is either the substitution of synonyms, (circulus in definiendo, as the old logicians call it,) e. g., justice is right, and right is justice; or, what is worse, perhaps, the interchange of negatives; e. g., wrong is not right. Even when no fault can be found with the definition, its practical value is destroyed by its not being used at once in composition. Exercises in composing short sentences containing the words defined used correctly in their several meanings, would "fix" indelibly (to use a dyer's word) the instruction given by the definer. Etymology is commonly restricted to the Latin and Greek side of our composite tongue, and neglects completely the Anglo-Saxon element, although, in some writers, this latter source of English words is represented by more than ninety per cent. of their entire vocabularies, and is at least sixty per cent. of all the words in our language.17 Practical exercises, too, are sadly wanted in the instruction in this subject, and could easily be arranged to include Definition as well as Etymology. Because this is not done, but the monotonous task of "overloading” is persisted in, the English studies of the school course come to be uninteresting, positive inflictions upon both teacher and pupil. These, therefore, entrench themselves behind a proverb that is true for poets, but not for writers, and declare that Composition “comes by nature," and not only needs no cultivation, but can not be cultivated. The English, therefore, is constantly neglected, or even entirely “hustled out of school.” Or, worse than this, the most conscientious efforts to teach Composition fail of their purpose. Strangely, too, confessions of this failure are most frequently heard from men who have been most successful in teaching other subjects, and from boys who have mastered everything else. Their one "hill of difficulty” is the Composition. In
17 See Marsh's Lectures on the Eng. Lang., I, pp. 118, sqq.
18 In both these respects Sargent's Etymology excels other books. It includes the Anglo-Saxon derivatives, and has suggestive exercises. The latter might be extended so as to require composition by the pupil,
the words of a most earnest friend, teaching Composition is no better than picking up stones from one heap, only to carry them across a field and pile them in another. "When I am done,” he has added sadly, “I have only a heap of stones."
It will no doubt be asked by what plan exactly these views may be reduced to practice. The answer will involve, perhaps, some repetition, but shall be made as brief as possible.
The average American boy does not usually enter a school of the grade implied in this article before he is nine years old. He is then able to read, make figures, write a little, and spell easy words. He is certainly able to understand a simple definition, and to frame a sentence that shall contain the word used in the meaning assigned to it by the definer. For example, the word defined is stove, a fireholder. After the word has been familiarized by an informal “talk," in which the pupil shall be stimulated to think for himself about the definition, and even to object to it, if he thinks it unsatisfactory, a sentence (or more than one, perhaps,) should be constructed in which the word shall be correctly used. The sentence-writing may be done at home or at school, on slate or paper, but should always be done again upon the blackboard, during recitation, after the word has been fully understood and assimilated as physicians say) by the pupil. It will be observed, of course, that more is gained by this exercise than definition and composition. Spelling is practiced and extended, neatness and orderly arrangement are inculcated, and a habit of careful thinking trained. This “ English” will require at least a year, (five lessons a week,) and the boy, therefore, be ten years old when he takes his next step.
This will carry him into his Etymology, but at first only to the prefixes and suffixes. Exercises will practice him in word-formation with given prefixes, stems and suffixes, and in the analysis of prefix and suffix from words assigned for the purpose. Definition will continue, spelling be made more and more familiar, and a new habit, analysis, be cultivated. A text-book will hardly be needed, but the teacher will find abundant material and suggestive exercises in Sargent's Manual, already alluded to. For this year, derivation may well be neglected, and the pupil's attention be directed to the auxiliary words only as separable and significant. Three lessons a week will, in most cases, be enough.
The third year-pupil's age, eleven ; recitations, three a week -will be the time for beginning elementary Grammar. The parts of speech and the regular inflections will supply work enough for the English of this year, when added to review lessons in Definition and Etymology. At every point efforts should be made to show the meaning of the terms employed and the origin and history of the words, in the simple fashion already indicated,) and to connect the part of speech, in all its forms, with the nature of the thought to be expressed. [This, of course, by the child's Logic, exemplified above.] Practical exercises will require both the distinction of words, as of this or that part of speech, and the framing of sentences to contain such or such a sort of word. By this means Composition will be carried further, and the previous studies reviewed, since Definition and Etymology may be combined or alternated with the more strictly grammatical work. Teachers who have examined Morris's Grammar, (a volume of Macmillan's Literature Primers,) will certainly agree in giving it a place in this part of the course. It is short, (pp. 115,) clear, historical and etymological, and fully in accord with the latest discoveries in English Philology. Here and there the opinions expressed may not agree with those which a given teacher has been in the habit of holding; but they will surely be either new views to which the study of English has driven the grammarian, or will concern such matters as admit of two equally possible explanations. One thing the teacher will always find true of such points in the book—that they are the views of a large majority of English philologists, or opinions held by most respectable individual grammarians.
The subsequent course, (to cover three years, with not more than two lessons a week,) will extend and finish the school-work in Etymology and Grammar, and so complete the training in Composition needed for admission to college. Etymology will take up the stems on which our English words are formed, and then proceed to the sources and composite character of our language ; Grammar will review and extend the simpler course of the year before, and then include Syntax, with Analysis and Parsing; while both will be supported by actual exercises in definition, derivation and composition of words, in framing sentences to illustrate every particular of inflection and syntax, regular and irregular, and in expressing thought, simple, complex and compound. Logic, (but still most elementary,) will assist the thinking, and Philology illustrate and embellish the
sterner truth. The number of hours assigned and the years devoted to this work will seem less strange, when it is remembered that Latin and Greek, Mathematics, History and (perhaps) one or two more studies, must share with English the hours of insiruction. Undoubtedly, the fewer the studies the better; so that each may have as many recitations in a week as possible. But the five daily hours must be divided, and in the last years the English studies may well give way—not in importance, but in frequency of recitation to the newer and more difficult classics and Algebra. The error in many schools is in dropping them, so that the boy comes “rusty" into college. If good ground is made in the early course, Composition can easily be “kept up" and materially extended by two recitations a week.
The text-books and exercises required in these last years deserve a more than a passing notice. The writer does not suppose that he is introducing them to his brother teachers; for they are not very new books. He has written this paper chiefly to call attention to a great defect which has been widely noticed among both boys and men, and to suggest a remedy for it. The remedy itself is not new. It was used in some schools years ago, but has too much fallen into disuse. But, as it is simply a course of study for which the books under review provide ample means, it seemed best to approach the subject through them. For this reason, the review of these particular books is not (it is hoped) an arrogant direction to gentlemen whose experience has been in many cases) vastly greater than the writer's, and with whom the latter would gladly be compared in scholarship, but an attempt to advance ends which both they and he have warmly at heart. If this writing secure anywhere a more systematic use of these or equivalent text-books, it will have achieved its purpose.
Of Sargent's Etymology, something has already been said. It is presented here as the preferable school-book on its subject, both for the reasons already stated, and for the further reason, that it alone, of all the books of its kind examined, sets forth the relations of English to its kindred tongues, classifies the sources whence our composite vocabulary is derived, and makes the study practical for the
19 And, in the opinion of many of our most experienced teachers, for an. other and better reason also. The more the mind is concentrated in study, the greater the mental discipline,
purposes of composition, by exercises which a judicious teacher can easily extend and vary, so as to secure the interest of the boy-writer.
Day's Art of English Composition, or Grammatical Synthesis, as Prof. Day20 himself calls it, is a successful reference of every fact and principle of Grammar to the laws of thought as indissolubly connected with speech. Written from the logical side of language, it does not neglect the historical view, and is withal not a difficult book. Every chapter is supplied with copious exercises, both oral and written, both analytic and synthetic-exercises which of themselves supply composition enough for the cleverest boys at school. They are entirely compatible, however, with the usual composition, which requires more inventive power than the exercises, and would be well supplemented by a monthly exercise in writing on a set theme. As compared, however, with the usual system of restricting composition to the latter work, they are infinitely more certain to promote the end in view. They are systematic, progressive, and require close thought. As a discipline for really strong, thought-full, effective writing, they are (perhaps) not to be surpassed. The whole work, indeed, strikes a deadly blow at “fine writing," being inspired (apparently) by a saying of Daniel Webster's, which Prof. Day seems fond of quoting: ?!—“All true power in writing is in the idea, not in the style;” and by the motto of its title-page :Coleridge's saying, “He who thinks loosely, will write loosely.”
With some points in Prof. Day's discussion of our grammatical system, however, most teachers and students of English will find fault. For example, he utterly disallows a Subjunctive Mood in English, contending that English grammarians have been too much influenced by their studies of Latin. The usual subjunctives he includes under the Potential Mood, and (as if by way of compensation) makes a new mood, the Necessary, to include all verbs with the auxiliary must. The Infinitive, in accordance with the tendency of modern thought,) he calls a noun, and the Participle he treats as either an adjective or a gerund. The exact nature of the copula, too, and the fundamental use of the verb, will both, perhaps, challenge opposition ; but neither these departures from usage, nor the seemingly greater one in the case of the moods, injures the book for com
20 H. N. Day, formerly professor in Western Reserve College. 21 See his “ Rhetorical Praxis,” Preface; and “ Art of Discourse,” page 40.