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Education, And Case Of Appeal
by [?]

We now pass to the other characteristics of the new system, which seem to lie chiefly in what relates to economy of time, rewards and punishments, the motives to exertion, and voluntary labour. For, as to the musical performances (which occur more than twenty times a day), we see no practical use in them except that they regulate the marching; and the marching it is said teaches to measure time: and measuring time accurately contributes ‘to the order and celerity with which the various evolutions of the school are performed,’ and also the conquest of ‘serious impediments of speech.’ But the latter case not occurring (we presume) very frequently, and marching accurately not being wholly dependant on music,–it appears to us that a practice, which tends to throw an air of fanciful trifling over the excellent good sense of the system in other respects, would be better omitted. Division into classes again, though insisted on by the Experimentalist (see pp. 290, 291) in a way which would lead us to suppose it a novelty in his own neighbourhood, is next to universal in England; and in all the great grammar schools has been established for ages. All that distinguishes this arrangement in his use of it–is this, that the classes are variable: that is, the school forms by different combinations according to the subject of study; the boys, who study Greek together, are not the same who study arithmetic together. Dismissing therefore these two arrangements as either not characteristic or not laudably characteristic, we shall make a brief exposition of the others. 1. Economy of Time:–‘We have been startled at the reflection’ (says the Experimentalist)–‘that if, by a faulty arrangement, one minute be lost to sixty of our boys, the injury sustained would be equal to the waste of an hour by a single individual.’ Hence, as the Experimentalist justly argues, the use of classes; by means of which ten minutes spent by the tutor in explaining a difficult point to a class of ten boys become equal to 100 minutes distributed amongst them severally. Great improvement in the economising of time was on this system derived from exacting ‘an almost superstitious punctuality’ of the monitor, whose duty it is to summon the school to all its changes of employment by ringing a bell. It is worthy of notice, but to us not at all surprising, that–‘when the duty of the monitor was easy, and he had time for play, the exact moment for ringing the bell was but seldom observed: but when, as the system grew more complex, he was more constantly in requisition, it was found that with increased labour came increased perfection: and the same boy who had complained of the difficulty of being punctual when he had to ring the bell only ten times in the day, found his duty comparatively easy when his memory was taxed to a four-fold amount. It is amusing to see what a living timepiece the giddiest boy will become during his week of office. The succession of monitors gradually infuses a habit, and somewhat of a love of punctuality, into the body scholastic itself. The masters also cannot think of being absent when the scholars are waiting for them: and thus the nominal and the real hours of attendance become exactly the same.’–2. Motives to Exertion.‘After furnishing the pupil with the opportunity of spending his time to the greatest advantage, our next case was to examine how we had supplied him with motives‘ for so spending it (p. 92). These are ranged under five heads,–‘Love of knowledge–love of employment–emulation–hope of reward–and fear of punishment,’–and according to what the Experimentalist rightly thinks ‘their order of excellence.’ The three last, he alleges, are stimuli; and of necessity lose their power by constant use. Love of employment, though a more durable motive, leaves the pupil open to the attractions of any other employment that may chance to offer itself in competition with knowledge. Love of knowledge for its own sake therefore is the mainspring relied on; insomuch that the Experimentalist gives it as his opinion (p. 96) that ‘if it were possible for the pupil to acquire a love of knowledge, and that only during the time he remained at school, he would have done more towards insuring a stock of knowledge in maturer age than if he had been the recipient of as much learning as ever was infused into the passive school-boy’ by any means which fell short of generating such a principle of exertion. We heartily agree with him: and we are further of opinion that this love needs not to be generated as an independent birth previously to our commencing the labour of tuition, but that every system of tuition in proportion as it approaches to a good one will inevitably involve the generation of this love of knowledge concurrently with the generation of knowledge itself. Most melancholy are the cases which have come under our immediate notice of good faculties wholly lost to their possessor and an incurable disgust for literature and knowledge founded to our certain knowledge solely on the stupidity and false methods of the teacher, who alike in what he knew or did not know was incapable of connecting one spark of pleasurable feeling with any science, by leading his pupils’ minds to re-act upon the knowledge he attempted to convey. Being thus important, how shall a love of knowledge be created? According to the Experimentalist, first of all (p. 97–to the word ‘zest’ in p. 107) by combining the sense of obvious utility with all the elementary exercises of the intellect:–secondly (from p. 108–to the word ‘rock’ in p. 114) by matching the difficulties of the learner exactly with his capacity:–thirdly (from p. 114–to the word ‘attention’ in p. 117) by connecting with the learner’s progress the sense of continual success:–fourthly (from p. 117–to the word ‘co-operation’ in p. 121) by communicating clear, vivid and accurate conceptions. The first means is illustrated by a reference to the art of learning a language–to arithmetic–to surveying, and to the writing of ‘themes.’ Can any boy, for instance, reconcile himself to the loathsome effort of learning ‘Propria quae maribus‘ by any [but] the dimmest sense of its future utility? No, we answer with the Experimentalist: and we go farther even than the Experimentalist is disposed to do (p. 98); for we deny the existence of any future utility. We, the reviewer of this book, at eight years of age, though even then passionately fond of study and disdainful of childish sports, passed some of the most wretched and ungenial days of our life in ‘learning by heart,’ as it is called (oh! most ironical misnomer!), Propria quae maribus, ‘Quae genus,’ and ‘As in praesenti,’ a three-headed monster worse than Cerberus: we did learn them ad unguem; and to this hour their accursed barbarisms cling to our memory as ineradicably as the golden lines of AEschylus or Shakspeare. And what was our profit from all this loathsome labour, and the loathsome heap of rubbish thus deposited in the memory? Attend, if you please, good reader: the first professes to teach the irregularities of nouns as to gender (i. e. which nouns having a masculine termination are yet feminine, etc.), the second to teach the irregularities of nouns as to number (i. e. which want the singular, which the plural), the third to teach the irregularities of verbs (i. e. their deviations from the generic forms of the preterite and the supine): this is what they profess to teach. Suppose then their professions realised, what is the result? Why that you have laboriously anticipated a case of anomaly which, if it do actually occur, could not possibly cost more trouble to explain at the time of its occurrence than you are thus premising. This is as if a man should sit down to cull all the difficult cases of action which could ever occur to him in his relations of son, father, citizen, neighbour, public functionary, etc. under the plea that he would thus have
got over the labour of discussion before the case itself arrived. Supposing that this could be accomplished, what would it effect but to cancel a benevolent arrangement of providence by which the difficulties of life are distributed with tolerable equality throughout its whole course, and obstinately to accumulate them all upon a particular period. Sufficient for the day is its own evil: dispatch your business as it arises, and every day clears itself: but suffer a few months of unaudited accounts, or of unanswered letters, to accumulate; and a mountain of arrears is before you which years seem insufficient to get rid of. This sort of accumulation arises in the shape of arrears: but any accumulation of trouble out of its proper place,–i. e. of a distributed trouble into a state of convergement,–no matter whether in the shape of needless anticipation or needless procrastination, has equally the practical effect of converting a light trouble (or none at all) into a heavy and hateful one. The daily experience of books, actual intercourse with Latin authors, is sufficient to teach all the irregularities of that language: just as the daily experience of an English child leads him without trouble into all the anomalies of his own language. And, to return to the question which we put–‘What was our profit from all this loathsome labour?’ In this way it was, viz. in the way of actual experience that we, the reviewer of this book, did actually in the end come to the knowledge of those irregularities which the three elegant poems in question profess to communicate. Mark this, reader: the logic of what we are saying–is first, that, if they did teach what they profess, they would attain that end by an artificial means far more laborious than the natural means: and secondly, that in fact they do not attain their end. The reason of this–is partly the perplexed and barbarous texture of the verse, which for metrical purposes, i. e. to keep the promise of metre to the mere technical scansion, is obliged to abandon all those natural beauties of metre in the fluent connection of the words, in the rhythmus, cadence, caesura, etc. which alone recommend metre as a better or more rememberable form for conveying knowledge than prose: prose, if it has no music, at any rate does not compel the most inartificial writer to dislocate, and distort it into non-intelligibility. Another reason is, that ‘As in praesenti‘ and its companions, are not so much adapted to the reading as to the writing of Latin. For instance, I remember (we will suppose) this sequence of ‘tango tetigi‘ from the ‘As in P.’ Now, if I am reading Latin I meet either with the tense ‘tango,’ or the tense ‘tetigi.’ In the former case, I have no difficulty; for there is as yet no irregularity: and therefore it is impertinent to offer assistance: in the latter case I do find a difficulty, for, according to the models of verbs which I have learned in my grammar, there is no possible verb which could yield tetigi: for such a verb as tetigo even ought to yield tetixi: here therefore I should be glad of some assistance; but just here it is that I obtain none: for, because I remember ‘tango tetigi‘ in the direct order, it is quite contrary to the laws of association which govern the memory in such a case, to suppose that I remember the inverted order of tetigi tango–any more than the forward repetition of the Lord’s prayer ensures its backward repetition. The practical applicability of ‘As in praesenti‘ is therefore solely to the act of writing Latin: for, having occasion to translate the words ‘I touched’ I search for the Latin equivalent to the English word touch–find that it is tango, and then am reminded (whilst forming the preterite) that tango makes not tanxi but ‘tetigi.’ Such a use therefore I might by possibility derive from my long labours: meantime even here the service is in all probability doubly superfluous: for, by the time that I am called on to write Latin at all, experience will have taught me that tango makes tetigi; or, supposing that I am required to write Latin as one of the earliest means for gaining experience, even in that case the very same dictionary which teaches me what is Latin for ‘touch‘ teaches me what is the irregular preterite and supine of tango. And thus the ‘upshot’ (to use a homely word) of the whole business–is that an effort of memory, so great as to be capable otherwise directed of mastering a science, and secondly (because directed to an unnatural composition, viz. an arrangement of metre, which is at once the rudest and the most elaborately artificial), so disgusting as that no accession of knowledge could compensate the injury thus done to the simplicity of the child’s understanding, by connecting pain and a sense of unintelligible mystery with his earliest steps in knowledge,–all this hyperbolical apparatus and machinery is worked for no one end or purpose that is not better answered by a question to his tutor, by consulting his dictionary, or by the insensible progress of daily experience. Even this argument derived from its utter uselessness does not however weigh so much with us as the other argument derived from the want of common-sense, involved in the wilful forestalling and artificial concentrating into one long rosary of anomalies, what else the nature of the case has by good luck dispersed over the whole territory of the Latin language. To be consistent, a tutor should take the same proleptical course with regard to the prosody of the Latin language: every Latin hyperdissyllable is manifestly accentuated according to the following law: if the penultimate be long, that syllable inevitably claims the accent; if short, inevitably it rejects it–i. e. gives it to the ante-penultimate. The determining syllable is therefore the penultimate; and for the due reading of Latin the sole question is about the quantity of the penultimate. According to the logic therefore which could ever have introduced ‘As in praesenti,’ the tutor ought to make his pupils commit to memory every individual word in which the quantity was not predetermined by a mechanical rule–(as it is e. g. in the gen. plural [=o]rum, of the second declension, the [=e]runt of the third per. plurals of the preterite, etc., or the cases where the vowel is long by position). But what man of sense would forbear to cry out in such a case–‘Leave the poor child to his daily reading: practice, under correct tuition, will give him insensibly and without effort all that you would thus endeavour to communicate through a most Herculean exertion.’ Whom has it cost any trouble to learn the accentuation of his own language? How has he learned that? Simply by copying others–and so much without effort, that the effort (and a very great effort) would have been not to copy them. In that way let him learn the quantity of Latin and Greek penultimates. That Edmund Burke could violate the quantity of the word ‘Vectigal’ was owing to his tutor’s ignorance, who had allowed him so to read it; that Lord North, and every other Etonian in the house, knew better–was owing not to any disproportionate effort of memory directed to that particular word, as though they had committed to memory a rule enjoining them to place the accent on the penultimate of the word vectigal: their knowledge no more rested on such an anticipation by express rules of their own experience, than Burke’s ignorance of the quantity on the want of such anticipation; the anticipation was needless–coming from a tutor who knew the quantity, and impossible–coming from a tutor who knew it not. At this moment a little boy (three years old) is standing by our table, and repeatedly using the word mans for men: his sister (five years old), at his age, made the very same mistake: but she is now correcting her brother’
s grammar, which just at this moment he is stoutly defending–conceiving his dignity involved in the assertion of his own impeccability. Now whence came the little girl’s error and its correction? Following blindly the general analogy of the language, she formed her plural by adding an s to the singular: afterwards everybody about her became a daily monitor–a living Propria quae maribus, as she is in her turn to her brother, instructing her that this particular word ‘man‘ swerved, as to this one particular point, from the general analogy of the language. But the result is just as inevitable from daily intercourse with Latin books, as to the parallel anomalies in that language. In proportion as any case of anomaly could escape the practical regulation of such an intercourse, just in that proportion it must be a rare case, and less important to be known: whatsoever the future experience will be most like to demand, the past experience will be most likely to have furnished. All this we urge not against the Eton grammar in particular: on the contrary, as grammars go, we admire the Eton grammar;[8] and love it with a filial partiality from early associations (always excepting, however, the three lead-mines of the Eton grammar, ‘Propria quae maribus,’ etc. of which it is not extravagant to say, that the author, though possibly a good sort of a man in his way, has undoubtedly caused more human suffering than Nero, Robespierre, or any other enemy of the human race). Our opposition is to the general principle, which lies at the root of such treatises as the three we have been considering: it will be observed that, making a proper allowance for the smallness of the print, these three bodies of absurd anticipations of exceptions, are collectively about equal in quantity, and virtually for the effort to the memory far more than equal, to the whole body of the rules contained in the Accidence and the Syntax: i. e. that which exits on account of many thousand cases is put on the same level of value and burthen to the memory, as that which exists on account of itself alone. Here lies the original sin of grammars, the mortal taint on which they all demand regeneration: whosoever would show himself a great artist in the profound but as yet infant art of teaching, should regard all arbitrary taxes upon the memory with the same superstition that a wise lawgiver should regard the punishment of death: the lawgiver, who sets out with little knowledge (and therefore little veneration) of human nature, is perpetually invoking the thunders of the law to compensate the internal weakness of his own laws: and the same spirit of levity disposes inefficient teachers to put in motion the weightiest machinery of the mind for the most trifling purposes: but we are convinced that this law should be engraven on the title page of all elementary books–that the memory is degraded, if it be called in to deliver any individual fact, or any number of individual facts, or for any less purpose than that of delivering a comprehensive law, by means of which the understanding is to produce the individual cases of knowledge wanted. Wherever exceptions or insulated cases are noticed, except in notes, which are not designed to be committed to memory, this rule is violated; and the Scotch expression for particularising, viz. condescending upon, becomes applicable in a literal sense: when the Eton grammar, e. g. notices Deus as deviating in the vocative case from the general law for that declension, the memory is summoned to an unreasonable act of condescension–viz. to load itself almost as heavily for one particular word in one particular case, as it had done by the whole type of that declension (i. e. the implicit law for all words contained under it, which are possibly some thousands). But how then would we have such exceptions learnt, if not by an act of the memory? Precisely, we answer, as the meanings of all the words in the language are learned: how are they learned? They are known, and they are remembered: but how? Not by any act or effort of the memory: they are deposited in the memory from daily intercourse with them: just as the daily occurrences of our lives are recorded in our memories: not through any exertion on our part, or in consequence of previous determination on our parts that we will remember them: on the contrary, we take no pains about them, and often would willingly forget them: but they stay there in spite of us, and are pure depositions, settlings, or sediments, with or without our concurrence, from the stream of our daily experience.–Returning from this long excursus on arbitrary taxations of the memory suggested to us by the mention of ‘Propria quae maribus,’ which the Experimentalist objects to as disgusting to children before they have had experience of the cases in which it furnishes assistance (but which we have objected to as in any case barren of all power to assist), we resume the course of our analysis. We left the Experimentalist insisting on the benefit of directing the studies of children into such channels as that the practical uses of their labours may become apprehensible to themselves–as the first mode of producing a love of knowledge. In some cases he admits that the pupil must pass through ‘dark defiles,’ confiding blindly in his tutor’s ‘assurance that he will at last emerge into light:’ but still contends that in many cases it is possible, and where possible–right, that he should ‘catch a glimpse of the promised land.’ Thus, for example, to construe the language he is learning–is an act of ‘some respectability in his eyes’ and its uses apparent: meantime the uses of the grammar are not so apparent until experience has brought him acquainted with the real cases to which it applies. On this account,–without laying aside the grammar, let him be advanced to the dignity of actual translation upon the very minimum of grammatical knowledge which will admit of it. Again, in arithmetic, it is the received practice to commence with ‘abstract numbers:’ but, instead of risking injury to the child’s intellect and to his temper by thus calling upon him to add together ‘long rows of figures’ to which no meaning is attached, he is taught ‘to calculate all the various little problems which may be constructed respecting his tops and marbles, their price, and their comparative value.’ Here the Experimentalist turns aside for about a page (from ‘while,’ p. 101–to ‘practicable,’ p. 102) to ‘acknowledge his obligations to what is called Mental Arithmetic–that is, calculation without the employment of written symbols.’ Jedediah Buxton’s preternatural powers in this way have been long published to the world, and may now be found recorded in Encyclopaedias: the Experimentalist refers also to the more recent cases of Porson and the American youth Zerah Colborn: amongst his own pupils it appears (p. 54) that this exercise is practised in the morning twilight, which for any other study would not furnish sufficient light: he does not pretend to any very splendid marvels: but the following facts, previously recited at pp. 16 and 17, he thinks may astonish ‘those who have not estimated the combined power of youth, ardour, and practice.’ The lower classes calculate, purely by the mind without any help from pen or pencil, questions respecting interest; determine whether a given year be bissextile or not, etc. etc. The upper classes determine the age of the moon at any given time, the day of the week which corresponds with any day of any month, and year, and Easter Sunday for a given year. They will square any number not exceeding a thousand, extract the square root of a number of not more than five places, determine the space through which a body falls in a given time, the circumference and areas of circles from their diameters, and solve many problems in mensuration: they practise also Mental Algebra, etc. In mental, no less than in written, Arithmetic, ‘by assimilating the questions to those which actually occur in th
e transactions of life,’ the pupil is made sensible that he is rising into the usefulness and respectability of real business. The imitative principle of man is thus made to blend with the motive derived from the sense of utility. The same blended feelings, combined with the pleasurable influences of open air, are relied upon for creating the love of knowledge in the practice of surveying. In this operation so large an aggregate of subsidiary knowledge is demanded,–of arithmetic, for instance–of mensuration–of trigonometry, together with ‘the manual facility of constructing maps and plans,’ that a sudden revelation is made to the pupils of the uses and indispensableness of many previous studies which hitherto they had imperfectly appreciated; they also ‘exercise their discretion in choosing points of observation; they learn expertness in the use, and care in the preservation of instruments: and, above all,–from this feeling that they are really at work, they acquire that sobriety and steadiness of conduct in which the elder school-boy is so often inferior to his less fortunate neighbour, who has been removed at an early age to the accompting-house.’–The value of the sense of utility the Experimentalist brings home forcibly to every reader’s recollections, by reminding him of the many cases in which a sudden desire for self-education breaks out in a few months after the close of an inefficient education: ‘and what,’ he asks, ‘produces the change? The experience, however short, of the utility of acquisitions, which were perhaps lately despised.’ Better then ‘to spare the future man many moments of painful retrospection,’ by educing this sense of utility, ‘while the time and opportunity of improvement remain unimpaired.’ Finally, the sense of utility is connected with the peculiar exercises in composition; ‘a department of education which we confess’ (says the Experimentalist) ‘has often caused us considerable uneasiness;’ an uneasiness which we, on our part, look upon as groundless. For starting ourselves from the same point with the Experimentalist and the authority he alleges–viz. that the matter of a good theme or essay altogether transcends the reflective powers and the opportunities for observing of a raw school-boy,–we yet come to a very different practical conclusion. The act of composition cannot, it is true, create thoughts in a boy’s head unless they exist previously. On this consideration, let all questions of general speculation be dismissed from school exercises: especially questions of moral speculation, which usually furnish the thesis of a school-boy’s essay: let us have no more themes on Justice–on Ambition–on Benevolence–on the Love of Fame, etc.: for all theses such as these, which treat moral qualities as pure abstractions, are stripped of their human interest: and few adults even could write endurably upon such subjects in such a shape; though many might have written very pleasingly and judiciously upon a moral casei. e. on a moral question in concreto. Grant that a school-boy has no independent thoughts of any value; yet every boy has thoughts dependent upon what he has read–thoughts involved in it–thoughts derived from it: but these he will (caeteris paribus) be more or less able to express, as he has been more or less accustomed to express them. The unevolved thoughts which pass through the youngest–the rudest–the most inexperienced brain, are innumerable; not detached–voluntary thoughts, but thoughts inherent in what is seen, talked of, experienced, or read of. To evolve these, to make them apprehensible by others, and often even to bring them within their own consciousness, is very difficult to most people; and at times to all people: and the power, by which this difficulty is conquered, admits of endless culture: and, amongst the modes of culture, is that of written composition. The true value of this exercise lies in the necessity which it imposes of forming distinct ideas–of connecting them–of disposing them into such an arrangement as that they can be connected–of clothing them in words–and many more acts of the mind: both analytic and synthetic. All that is necessary is–to determine for the young composer his choice of matter: require him therefore to narrate an interesting story which he has formerly read; to rehearse the most interesting particulars of a day’s excursion: in the case of more advanced students, let them read one of the English state trials, where the evidence is of a complex character (as the trials on Titus Oates’s plot), or a critical dissertation on some interesting question, or anything in short which admits of analysis–of abstraction–of expansion–or exhibition in an altered shape. Subjects for all this are innumerable; and, according to the selection made, more or less opportunity is given for collecting valuable knowledge: but this purpose is collateral to the one we are speaking of: the direct purpose is to exercise the mind in unravelling its own thoughts, which else lie huddled and tangled together in a state unfit for use, and but dimly developed to the possessor’s own consciousness.–The three other modes of producing a love of knowledge, which the Experimentalist relies on, viz. the proportioning the difficulties to the capacity of the learner, the pleasure of success, and the communication of clear, vivid, and accurate conceptions, are treated with good sense–but not with any great originality: the last indeed (to speak scholastically) contains the other three eminenter: for he, who has once arrived at clear conceptions in relation to the various objects of his study, will not fail to generate for himself the pleasure of success; and so of the rest. But the power of communicating ‘accurate conceptions’ involves so many other powers, that it is in strictness but another name for the faculty of teaching in general. We fully agree with the Experimentalist (at p. 118), that the tutor would do well ‘to provide himself with the various weights commonly spoken of, and the measures of content and of length; to portion off upon his play-ground a land-chain, a rood,’ etc. to furnish ‘maps’ tracing ‘the routes of armies;’ ‘plates exhibiting the costumes’ of different nations: and more especially we agree with him (at p. 135) that in teaching the classics the tutor should have at hand ‘plates or drawings of ships, temples, houses, altars, domestic and sacred utensils, robes, and of every object of which they are likely to read.’ ‘It is,’ as he says, ‘impossible to calculate the injury which the minds of children suffer from the habit of receiving imperfect ideas:’ and it is discreditable in the highest degree to the majority of good classical scholars that they have no accurate knowledge of the Roman calendar, and no knowledge at all of the classical coinage, etc.: not one out of every twenty scholars can state the relation of the sestertius to the denarius, of the Roman denarius to the Attic drachma, or express any of them in English money. All such defects are weighty: but they are not adequate illustrations of the injury which arises from inaccurate ideas in its most important shape. It is a subject however which we have here no room to enlarge upon.