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quire an elaborate treatise on the principles of education. On the present occasion, being restricted by feeble health within narrow limits, I can only offer a few suggestions, without stopping to illustrate my meaning by examples, to prove the correctness of my views by facts and arguments, or to trace my principles to their various practical results.
1. The human mind is formed for activity. It is so constituted that the voluntary exercise of its various faculties on appropriate objects is a source of pleasure. But there are several ways in which the mind, especially of a child, may become fatigued, or wearied, or disgusted. Mental exertion may be too long continued. The mind may be too long confined to a single object. Exercise may be afforded to only one of the faculties, the memory for instance, while the other faculties, more important in their nature, and more interesting to the possessor, are suffered to lie dormant. The mind may be compelled, or reluctantly urged, to direct its attention to a specified object, at a moment when it happens to have a strong preference for some other employment; or it may be required to attend to something, to which it has imbibed an aversion in consequence of injudicious treatment or unfortunate associations of ideas. The pleasure naturally arising from intellectual effort may also be destroyed by keeping the body too long confined to the same posture. The intimate connexion and mutual influence of body and mind are well known. The body is formed for activity as well as the mind. If, for want of exercise, or from a confined posture, the blood does not circulate freely and all the vital functions go on briskly, the intellectual operations will be impeded. When the bones begin to ache,
or the blood to stagnate, the mind becomes dull, and that which otherwise would be very interesting, now loses its power to charm. Let, then, the parent or teacher carefully guard against all these counteracting influences, and he will find that the pupil will voluntatarily, and with pleasure, exercise his mental faculties and his bodily senses on such subjects and such objeets as are suited to his age and capacity.
But what are the subjects, and what are the objects, to which the attention of the mind should be invited ? In the case of children we may infer the design of nature, and may learn what is best suited to their capacity, by observing to what they, of their own accord, chiefly direct their attention and curiosity. It is to the colours, forms, and other sensible properties, together with the names and uses of material objects. Now, it is the part of a wise teacher to follow nature; to make the inquisitiveness of children the means of their improvement; and to gratify, encourage, and guide their curiosity, by giving them information, and assisting them to distinguish and describe the colours, forms, uses, &c., of the objects around them. Here is a wide field for inquiry and instruction. The various works of art, and the multiform productions of nature, animal, vegetable, and mineral, lie open to inspection. But even here a selection must be made, and only those facts and operations must be presented to the mind which it is capable of comprehending. And caution must be used, not to present too many new objects and new ideas in rapid succession. This distracts the mind, produces confusion of thought; precludes a careful observation of the properties, the differences, and resemblances of individual objects; and of course prevents anything valuable from
being treasured up in the memory. In such circumstances, the miud makes a desperate effort to grasp everything, and fails to secure anything. The disappointment is painful, and disgust and aversion are liable to ensue.
The same caution is necessary in teaching children or beginners any branch of learning whatever. An aversion to being taught is frequently imbibed while learning the alphabet. But this probably arises, in most instances, from the circumstance, that so many new characters, of various forms, are presented to the eye in such rapid succession, that the child, finding it impossible to distinguish and remember them, gives over the attempt in despair, and becomes listless, inattentive, and averse to the task. If the letters were presented one at a time, and each rendered familiar before a new one was introduced, they would be learned with ease and with pleasure. Geometrical lines, surfaces, and solids, are, however, better adapted to the faculties of a young child, as being in their forms more regular, and less complicated, than the alphabetic characters.
I have dwelt chiefly on the kind of instruction suitable for children, because it requires more skill to teach them than to teach older students, and because, if a fondness for learning is imbibed in childhood, and correct intellectual habits are then formed, the grand point is gained; the future improvement of the pupil is almost secure; that fondness and those habits can seldom fail to remain, to stimulate and guide the researches of future years. That the intellectual and moral character is frequently determined by early impressions, is a remark, trite indeed, but so important, that it ought to be repeated, again and again, in the ears of every parent and guardian, and teacher of the rising generation.
Have I digressed from my subjeet? I think notat least not far, The result to which we come is, that a most powerful means of stimulating the student is, to teach him in a judicious and skilful manner. Do this, and avoid all counteracting influences, and he will love to learn. The exercise of the faculties, and the acquisition of new ideas, are both naturally sources of pleasure to the mind. This pleasure, once tasted, will be again desired. This desire, which gains strength by fruition, is a stimulus, pure in its nature, safe in its operation, salutary in its influence, and powerful in its effects.
But there are many teachers who do not afford their pupils a proper opportunity to exert their faculties. Instead of setting their pupils to thinking and investigating, they, as far as possible, do all the thinking for them ; thus making them almost entirely passive in the acquisition of ideas, The teacher who wishes to stimulate his pupils to the highest degree of exertion should guard against this course, He should never do for his pupils what they can do for themselves. He should never tell them a thing which they can find out for themselves. And when they must be assisted, he should afford them only so much assistance that they can do the rest themselves. In a word, he should, as far as possible, in all the branches, pursue that inductive method which, we hope, will effect a greater advance in the intellectual improvement of the rising generation than can be effected by any other cause.
2. In connexion with the preceding remarks, we would recommend to aim at variety and novelty in the objects which are presented to the attention of the student. This is peculiarly necessary in the case of children. One great reason why they soon become weary with reading or committing words and sentences which they do not understand, is, that the charm of novelty is wanting. No food being afforded to the mind, the lesson consists merely of a succession of unmeaning sounds, which fall with dull monotonous sameness on the ear. It is in general advisable that a student should attend to different branches of study at different hours of the day. When he begins to be weary with application to a single branch of learning, to exchange it for another serves as a relaxation to the mind, and may frequently answer that purpose as well as modes of relaxation of a less profitable nature. Caution must be used, however, as already suggested, against dissipating the mind by directing it to too great a variety of objects in a day. And it may be added, that seldom, if ever, should two studies, that are entirely new, be commenced at the same time. But not a day, and, if possible, not a lesson should be suffered to pass, without the acquisition of some ideas, which the learner feels to be new. Too often, indeed, the learner is taught in such a way that he cannot distinguish new ideas from old ones; and too many teachers never think of enabling their pupils to make the distinction.
3, A student is stimulated to exertion by guarding against a wandering mind, and keeping the attention directed to the proper object. In order that this may be the case during the time of recitation, the questions should be so managed, that individuals cannot answer unless their attention be unremitted. This may be done, partly by expressing questions in such language that they cannot be understood without having attended to