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varieties to common structural forms and simple classes.
Hence, while there is a large element in teaching that is always variable, according to the branch of study and the differing personality of teacher or pupils, may there not be essential uniformity; some great underlying principles of method ?
Could these principles be discovered, no one would deny their value; we are not so enamoured of individual freedom as to refuse submission to rational, regulated processes.
Definite and valuable principles of action, while they check one's freedom along foolish lines, guide effort into the channels of efficiency. Too much freedom becomes positively oppressive. Whether travelling over a continent or through a field of thought, erecting a mansion, or developing a high moral character, whoever would keep his bearings and work forward to an important end, must have a guide. Whether it be a compass, a model, or an ideal, he must look to it continually for direction. Any one engaged in a work so important and difficult as teaching is much in need of fixed principles which outline for him the ideal of method. If convinced that no one method is right, that no ideal can be set up, he is like a sea captain who is persuaded that whatever course he may choose for his vessel is at least possibly good. He acknowledges the possession of no standard of excellence, and sees chiefly fog in his chosen course. He is subject, therefore, to halfhearted action, for energy and encouragement are not born of uncertainty and confusion.
No one, therefore, will object to a search for the unity that may underlie the variety of good methods in teaching
Our text-books supply us with a definite formula- The uniformtion of methods of teaching. They are generally in text-books.
ity of method constructed out of the experience of the better teachers and in conformity with those traditional ideas and practices which are common to the great body of instructors. The examination and comparison of our most widely used text-books in grammar, arithmetic, history, geography, reading, etc., will show a uniformity in at least one very important respect.
It may be said that our text-books in English grammar are built on a single plan. As surely as an ordinary dwelling has parlor, sitting room, and kitchen, so grammar has orthography, etymology, and syntax. This is one kind of uniformity; namely, that of leading topics in the subject-matter. But, what is more to our purpose, the general truths contained in these materials are singled out as the central aim of study. In grammar everything culminates in the definitions and rules, whose complete mastery gives us the scientific grasp of the structure and meaning of language. In most books even the method of reaching the rules and definitions is stereotyped. Definitions, examples, and applications constitute the regular order in the
treatment of every topic. Green's grammar is an illustration. Some of the more recent books have modified the order of topics and have adopted an inductive method of treatment; but under all changes the definitions and principles expressing the functions of the parts of speech and the syntactical relations of the elements of the sentence have remained the central aim of instruction.
An examination of a score of the best arithmetics in use will show a striking uniformity in the series of important topics treated. The following series is very familiar: the four fundamental operations, factoring, common fractions, decimals, compound numbers, percentage, ratio, proportion, involution, and evolution. But this external uniformity of subjectmatter is only a sign of that deeper-lying uniformity which aims at the development and use of fundamental principles. The elementary general truths of arithmetic lie at the basis of all the important topics handled. The solution, analysis, and explanation of problems are simply means for bringing the important principles clearly to light. When the principles can be explicitly stated and intelligently applied, the essential aim of arithmetic has been reached. In most books even the method of procedure in mastering the rule is the same, first one or two simple problems worked out and explained, then the rule, followed by a series of applications growing more complex and difficult.
In algebra and geometry the essential principles which constitute the framework of these studies are still more strikingly prominent as the aim of study. While the methods of approach to principles vary somewhat, the definitions, theorems, and propositions, when finally reached, are formulated in nearly the same language.
In mathematics, therefore, as in grammar, instruction centres in the principles to be understood and applied. All variations in method, whether inductive or deductive, are different modes of presenting these generalizations.
A comparative study of the leading commonschool geographies will show a similar agreement in aim. No study is richer in the abundance and variety of concrete material than geography, but the books follow a strong traditional tendency and are really modelled on a single plan. Not only the outline of leading topics is the same, such as mathematical geography, physical features of the continents, the political divisions and populations, the chief occupations, as agriculture, commerce, mining, and manufacturing, but in these topics the chief purpose is to give a distinct emphasis to the general truths which underlie all the variety of geographical detail.
Some of these truths, for example, are the following: soil comes from rock; slopes are necessary for drainage, and drainage for farming; mountains greatly influence temperature and rainfall; the roads of a country are an index of its civilization; great cities owe their growth largely to the advantages of their location for transportation; coal and iron ore are the two most important mineral products; climate and occupation greatly affect the character of a people. The location of points, the fixing of boundaries, etc., are of use, to be sure, but interest in geography centres primarily in such truths as these.
In history every important event is typical or representative in character, setting forth a truth common to many other events, or reappearing in the lives of many persons. In Hamilton's life and thinking as a statesman the notion of a strong central power of government was potent. This idea appears, also, in other statesmen, as in Webster, Washington, and Lincoln, and has gradually become an idea common to all patriotic Americans. The building of the old national road was a particular event, but it illustrated the principle of the right of the federal government under the constitution to make internal improvements. So every event in history, that is worth learning, helps point the way to a more general truth. History, therefore, has a large number of general truths in store, and it is the deeper, broader meaning of these general ideas which we seek, through particular events, to disclose.
This statement may be accepted without committing one's self in favor of a philosophy of history, such as that presented in Hegel's noted work bearing that