« AnteriorContinuar »
title. One may properly believe that sufficient data for the broadest, deepest truths concerning human progress are wanting, so that history cannot reveal such truths, even to advanced students; but one may still feel convinced that it is the purpose of history to present general truths of a lower order, as those just suggested.
Beginning reading is a study in which the mastery and use of arbitrary symbols play a very important part; yet there is a small nucleus of generalization upon which the study is organized. In good reading final consonants are enunciated with distinctness; soft tones are heard; and the voice is modulated in accordance with the thoughts expressed. It is such abstract statements as these that the learner must comprehend and apply before he can read well.
Finally, even spelling contains its rules. But these, you say, are partly useless because of their numerous exceptions. True; and that is one of the reasons why spelling fails to receive the respect accorded to other studies. Its want of reliable rules deprives it of scientific content, and it is regarded by many persons as an evil, though a very necessary
It is not a full study. In these various studies, therefore, we find the tendency predominant to concentrate effort upon the mastery of essential general truths. What is the reason for such uniformity? Is it simply blind custom, or have we been working out, consciously or
unconsciously, a fundamental principle in education ? Is it not the latter ? Whether conscious of it or not, text-book makers have been laboring for the nearest approach to a scientific statement and arrangement of general truths that each of the studies would permit. And while there has been much glib talk about freedom and originality in teaching, the text-books have held the great majority of teachers in a welldefined routine; have led them to do practically the same things, and in essentially the same way.
The striking similarity that marks each large class of text-books is one of the most noticeable characteristics of our education, and is in clear contrast to that variety of methods discussed at the beginning of this chapter. Education gravitates into these channels of generalized knowledge as surely as rivers work their way through the lowlands. Even in a democratic country where each community is free to adopt its own system and method of education, where no hierarchy of learned men in any way officially directs the educational policy, we see an almost universal tendency toward uniformity, based upon the broad sci
entific principles of any study. General If now we find that the ground for this uniformity truths the starting-point
is really a scientific idea, not only widely recognized, for a scientific but valid in psychology, we may fix a starting-point instruction. for a sound pedagogy. The mastery of the general
truths of a study must remain the direct purpose of instruction in each branch of knowledge. These
truths are what are known in psychology as general notions or concepts. They are the centres around which the knowledge of any subject is grouped and classified. It is the mastery of these rules and principles, and the ability to apply them, that are constantly aimed at in all the best school work. From an examination of the psychologies we detect that the treatment of the precept and the concept (the particular and the general notion) furnishes two leading chapters of mental science. The process of learning as explained by all the psychologies culminates in the general notion or concept. Psychology supplies, therefore, a strong support to our conclusion as to the basis of scientific method.
It would not be difficult to show that all the higher studies, as history, science, language, medicine, law, etc., become organized under general notions or principles; in fact, the definition of science is "generalized, classified knowledge.”
In the history of philosophy also the general notion plays a rôle not less important than in these other subjects. From the days of Socrates and Plato on, inductive and deductive reasoning have set the general notion as the centre of all thinking - as the thing aimed at in induction, and as the basis of all true deduction. When Herbert Spencer, therefore, calls his most fundamental book “First Principles,” he has in mind those general truths which lie at the basis of his entire system of thought.
In conclusion, we find that the general notion is a pivotal centre of discussion not only in elementary and higher studies of all sorts, but also in the great fields of psychology and philosophy.
It is not claimed that the method by which general notions have been worked out in our text-books is uniformly correct and valid. This is a question that we are not called upon to settle at this point. Whether or not an inductive or deductive approach to general truths is the correct one, we can leave for further consideration. But one leading aim of instruction in every important study is a mastery, in the full sense, of its general truths. Without this basis no method of instruction has any validity. It may be that the method by which this aim can be best realized has been so thoroughly misinterpreted and misapplied that we have approached a uniformity of error in our methods of teaching. It may be that definitions and abstract formulæ have been set too much in the forefront of every lesson, and also that systematically formulated knowledge has been forced prematurely into lower grades. Yet it is a great step in the right direction to have fixed clearly the aim of instruction, to have determined the goal toward which all proper mental movement tends. Assuming that our conclusions thus far are justified, we may move on to a discussion of the essential steps in a correct method of instruction.
ILLUSTRATIVE LESSONS SHOWING THE PROCESSES OF
REACHING GENERAL TRUTHS
In the first chapter, having located the goal of instruction in general notions and in their proper use, the question, how to reach them, now becomes paramount. In the present chapter a number of lessons is worked out to illustrate the different processes in vogue for mastering general truths. In each example two different methods are presented: first, that common to many of our text-books and to the usual practice of teachers; and second, the fuller inductive and developing method now followed in some schools.
The purpose of this chapter is not only to show the two ways of reaching a comprehension of such truths, but also to suggest other important phases of recitation work. In the discussions of recitation method which follow, these lessons may be kept in mind as illustrating the principles under treatment.
The lessons are taken from different studies, arithmetic, geography, literature, natural science, and history. They recognize generalizations as the goal of instruction, but leave open the question as to