Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

knowledge and full command of the language, which it is his province to teach, together with as much other useful information as the passage may suggest and circumstances will admit. As in parsing, accordingly, no good teacher would be satisfied with examining his pupil upon the syntactic construction of the passage before him as it stands, and making him repeat the rules of that construction, but would also, at the same time, call upon him to notice the variations which must necessarily be made in certain hypothetical circumstances; so also in the department of which we are now treating, he will not consider it enough that the child may have, from the context or otherwise, formed a general notion of the meaning of a whole passage, but will also, with a view to future exigencies, direct his attention to the full force and signification of the particular terms employed, and likewise, in some cases at least, to their roots, derivatives, and compounds. Thus, for example, if in any lesson the scholar read of one having done an unprecedented act,' it might be quite sufficient for understanding the meaning of that particular passage, to tell him that ‘no other person had ever done the like;' but this would by no means fully accomplish the object we have in view. The child would thus receive no clear notion of the word unprecedented, and would therefore, in all probability, on the very next occasion of its recurrence, or of the recurrence of other words from the same root, be as much at a loss as before. But direct his attention to the threefold composition of this word, the un, the pre, and the cede. Ask him the meaning of the syllable un, in composition, and tell him to point out to you, (or, if necessary, point out to him,) any other words in which it has this signification of not, (such as uncommon, uncivil,) and, if there be leisure, any other syllables which have in composition a similar effect, such as in, with all its modification of ig, il, im, ir, also dis and non, with examples. Next investigate the meaning of the syllable pre in composition, and illustrate it with examples (such as previous, premature.) Then examine, in like manner, the meaning of the syllable cede; and having shown that in composition it generally signifies to go, demand the signification of its various compounds, precede, proceed, succeed, accede, recede, exceed, intercede. The pupil will, in this manner, acquire not only a much more distinct and lasting impression of the signification of the word in question, but a key also to a vast variety of other words in the language. This, too, he will do far more pleasingly and satisfactorily in the manner which is here recommended, than by being enjoined to commit them to memory from a vocabulary, at home, as a task. The latter practice, wherever it is introduced, is, we know, regarded by the children as an irksome drudgery; the former, on the contrary, is an amusement. The former makes a strong and lasting impression upon the mind; under the latter the information wished to be communicated is too often learned merely as the task of the day, and obliterated by that of the next. It is very true that it would not be possible to go over every word of a lesson with the same minuteness as that we have now instanced. A certain portion of time should therefore be set apart for this examination; and, after those explanations have been given, which are necessary to the right understanding of the passage,

such minuter investigation only may be gone into as time will admit. It is no more essential that every word should be gone over in this way than that every word should always be syntactically parsed. A single sentence well done may prove of the greatest service to the scholar in his future studies. It may, perhaps, be objected, that however useful such an examination may be with regard to a foreign language, it is quite superfluous with relation to a vernacular tongue. Nothing, however, can be a greater mistake. The humbler classes of society, in every sermon which they hear,-in every book which they read, however simple, and written peculiarly for their own use,-nay, in the Bible itself, meet with a multitude of words and expressions, even of frequent occurrence, which, from want of such a key, not only lose great part of their force, but are utterly unintelligible, and are often grossly misunderstood. We would, ourselves, have been in a great measure ignorant of the full extent of the disadvantage under which such persons labour in this respect, but for the representations of the lads in our evening school, many of whom were possessed of no ordinary abilities, and had received all the education formerly bestowed on persons in that rank of life. We were much struck, too, with a conversation which we had on this subject, on occasion of a recent visit to a seminary in Newhaven, under the excellent tuition of a young man who had received his education at the Sessional School. We there met with a fisherman, the parent of one of the pupils, well known in the village as one of the most respectable, intelligent, and well-educated of his class, He evidently took a deep interest in our proceedings, and while we were in the act of examining the children on the meaning of what they had read, he at length broke out in nearly the following manner :-—' Eh, Sir, you'll not know how little of this I understand, and how much I miss it! I learned to read, like my neighbours, but I never learned the meaning, and I find it a hard thing to turn up the dictionary for every word.' Can we wonder, if persons in this situation, in place of occupying their leisure hours with salutary reading, which is to them difficult and laborious, should too often devote them to more degrading and less innocent pursuits ? From the manner, too, in which the education of the lower orders has generally been hitherto conducted, parents in this rank of life have, for the most part, been quite satisfied that their children have received a good education when they have been taught to read, conceiving that this mechanical attainment is in some inexplicable way or other to act as a charm, though they be quite unable to apply it to any beneficial purpose.

“The pious grandson thy known handle takes,*
And (eyes lift up,) this savoury lecture makes ;
•Great A,' he gravely reads; the important sound,
The empty walls and hollow roof rebound ;
The expiring ancient reared his drooping head,

And thank'd his stars that Hodge had learned to read.'+ It is not, however, to the lower orders of society that this mode of education exclusively holds out its benefits How often have ladies and others not very conversant with the dead languages, feelingly expressed to us their deep regret that they had not

* Phę Hornbook.

+ Tickell.

been educated under the method practised in the Sessional School, and pointed out the disadvantages to which they have been thus exposed ! But why should we mention such alone? •If a gentleman,' Locke has well observed, be to study any language, it ought to be that of his own country; and unless this be made a particular object of his study, and his knowledge of other languages be brought directly to bear upon it, his education will be miserably deficient. He has very frequent occasion not to read merely, but to communicate his sentiments to others both in speech and writing; and what mode of discipline can better bestow upon him that command of language so essential for such purposes than an early tuition of the nature which we are now advocating ? Nor is it the knowledge of language alone that is to be communicated in this way. Along with every thing which is read, a judicious teacher will, at the same time, give his pupils all such general information as may tend either to illustrate what is read, or to receive illustration from it. Knowledge communicated in this incidental manner, we can well attest, often makes a far deeper and more lasting impression than when communicated by any more direct method.”

It will be perceived that this passage was peculiarly suited to my own views; and my gratification was no little heightened when I learned from the chapter on GRAMMAR that tasks were utterly unknown in the school; the principles of our language being taught, step by step, in the course of the exercises in reading. This was the

« AnteriorContinuar »