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Education Through The Senses
by [?]

{Proton chorton, eita stachyn, eita plere siton en to stachui}.

One of the chief sins of our time is hurry: it is helter-skelter, and devil take the hind-most. Off we go all too swift at starting, and we neither run so fast nor so far as we would have done, had we taken it cannily at first. This is true of a boy as well as of a blood colt. Not only are boys and colts made to do the work and the running of full-grown men and horses, but they are hurried out of themselves and their now, and pushed into the middle of next week where nobody is wanting them, and beyond which they frequently never get.

The main duty of those who care for the young is to secure their wholesome, their entire growth, for health is just the development of the whole nature in its due sequences and proportions: first the blade–then the ear–then, and not till then, the full corn in the ear; and thus, as Dr. Temple wisely says, “not to forget wisdom in teaching knowledge.” If the blade be forced, and usurp the capital it inherits; if it be robbed by you its guardian of its birthright, or squandered like a spendthrift, then there is not any ear, much less any corn; if the blade be blasted or dwarfed in our haste and greed for the full shock and its price, we spoil all three. It is not easy to keep this always before one’s mind, that the young “idea” is in a young body, and that healthy growth and harmless passing of the time are more to be cared for than what is vainly called accomplishment. We are preparing him to run his race, and accomplish that which is one of his chief ends; but we are too apt to start him off at his full speed, and he either bolts or breaks down–the worst thing for him generally being to win. In this way a child or boy should be regarded much more as a mean than as an end, and his cultivation should have reference to this; his mind, as old Montaigne said, should be forged, as well as–indeed, I would say, rather than–furnished, fed rather than filled,–two not always coincident conditions. Now exercise–the joy of interest, of origination, of activity, of excitement–the play of the faculties,–this is the true life of a boy, not the accumulation of mere words. Words–the coin of thought–unless as the means of buying something else, are just as useless as other coin when it is hoarded; and it is as silly, and in the true sense as much the part and lot of a miser, to amass words for their own sakes, as to keep all your guineas in a stocking and never spend them, but be satisfied with every now and then looking greedily at them and making them chink. Therefore it is that I dislike–as indeed who doesn’t?–the cramming system. The great thing with knowledge and the young is to secure that it shall be their own–that it be not merely external to their inner and real self, but shall go in succum et sanguinem; and therefore it is, that the self-teaching that a baby and a child give themselves remains with them forever–it is of their essence, whereas what is given them ab extra, especially if it be received mechanically, without relish, and without any energizing of the entire nature, remains pitifully useless and wersh. Try, therefore, always to get the resident teacher inside the skin, and who is forever giving his lessons, to help you and be on your side.

Now in children, as we all know, he works chiefly through the senses. The quantity of accurate observation–of induction, and of deduction too (both of a much better quality than most of Mr. Buckle’s); of reasoning from the known to the unknown; of inferring; the nicety of appreciation of the like and the unlike, the common and the rare, the odd and the even; the skill of the rough and the smooth–of form, of appearance, of texture, of weight, of all the minute and deep philosophies of the touch and of the other senses,–the amount of this sort of objective knowledge which every child of eight years has acquired–especially if he can play in the lap of nature and out of doors–and acquired for life, is, if we could only think of it, marvellous beyond any of our mightiest marches of intellect. Now, could we only get the knowledge of the school to go as sweetly and deeply and clearly into the vitals of the mind as this self-teaching has done, and this is the paradisiac way of it, we should make the young mind grow as well as learn, and be in understanding a man as well as in simplicity a child; we should get rid of much of that dreary, sheer endurance of their school-hours–that stolid lending of ears that do not hear–that objectless looking without ever once seeing, and straining their minds without an aim; alternating, it may be, with some feats of dexterity and effort, like a man trying to lift himself in his own arms, or take his head in his teeth, exploits as dangerous, as ungraceful, and as useless, except to glorify the showman and bring wages in, as the feats of an acrobat.