Imágenes de página

quent upon long-continued efforts in teaching the ordinary and more mechanical branches of learning, and enables him to introduce his pupils, or at least some portion of them, to more advanced and important studies than he would be able to do if his attention and services were constantly required for the instruction of each individual pupil.

These five points, it is believed, are the principal ones upon which the advocates for the system of mutual instruction found their claims for the preference. Some of them are of the greatest importance, and are fairly entitled to the highest consideration.

We shall proceed to speak of each of them more particularly

1. The monitorial system, by the same means, and within the same amount of time, provides for the tuition of a far greater number of pupils thun are taught by the ordinary method.

It has been found that by the use of monitors, or assistant teachers in miniature, one principal instructor may conduct the studies of two hundred and fifty or three hundred boys, thus performing the duties of at least five teachers. In many places, particularly in crowded cities and in extensive manufacturing districts, such an advantage is of incalculable importance. The amount of time usually allotted to children in such situations for obtaining some acquaintance with the simpler elements of knowledge is extremely limited, and this small portion ought to be most constantly occupied and sedulously improved. In such cases, the system under consideration, as it affords the means of obtaining the greater amount of instruction in the smaller portion of time, though that instruction is, from the nature of the

case, quite superficial, possesses unquestionable claims for the preference. This application of the system, and this alone, it is believed, was that contemplated by the originator or originators of it. At any rate, it is certainly the case that it was originally applied to the children of the lower classes in crowded cities for the laudable purpose of affording them what they had never before been blessed with, some small portion of instruc. tion; which instruction, from the peculiar exigency of the case, was necessarily imparted with a prudent economy both of time and of money. Where but little instruction, therefore, can be communicated, and that little, sparing as it is, must be given in an extremely limited portion of time, we know of no better method of procedure than that of adopting the system under consideration.

2. The method of mutual instruction insures no inconsiderable


of time. In a school of one hundred and fifty members, taught by the customary method, the actual amount of time during which each scholar is entitled to the personal attention of his teacher, is precisely two minutes and two-fifths. Were there two instructors, he would be entitled to the double of this portion. Now let us suppose the school to be conducted on the monitorial system, and that there is employed one instructor, who has under him two divisions of monitors, each consisting of twenty persons. We will suppose the instructor to be constantly occupied with these two divisions in alternate order, and that the division not under immediate instruction is employed in the tuition of subdivisions of pupils. The twenty individuals around the teacher will receive, in the course of the customary six hours of daily

school-time, eighteen minutes of personal instruction, and the members of the subdivisions under the care of monitors will receive (being reduced in numbers, by the deduction of the monitors, to one hundred and ten), sixty-five minutes and a half of monitorial teaching, equivalent perhaps, in point of value, to the eighteen minutes of teaching given by the presiding monitor, the master, to his division. On this supposition, which will show fairly enough the usual routine of a monitorial school, each scholar receives nine times as much instruction as he would do in an ordinary case. Nor are the monitors, when actually employed in teaching, losing or wasting time; for we are undoubtedly all well aware that there is no better method of learning and securing the knowledge of any particular branch of study, than, after acquiring some little acquaintance with it, to be diligently engaged in teaching it. So that it has been rightly said, that the best way to learn is to teach. It is a most lamentable fact, that in all our common schools there is (not because of any fault of the teacher, but from the very defects of the common school system) a most profuse and shameful waste of time. This lavishness of the best and most precious of Heaven's gifts, and doubly precious to the growing mind, exists mostly in that part of the scholars who are at their desks apart froin the teacher, and who ought to be employed in preparing an assigned exercise for recitation. Yet they, from that unfortunate peculiarity of human nature which tempts us to prefer ease to labour, suffer themselves to be employed only so long as will suffice for the preparation of, in most instances, a defective and miserable recitation. There they sit, as even the most unobserving spectator of our ordinary schools cannot but notice, wasting the priceless energies of mind and of body, and acquiring habits of inattention and of idleness, the most miserable influence of which not the lapse of years nor the utmost labour of maturer days can ever wholly eradicate. To so unfortunate a profuseness of time we contend that any employment, even the most unsatisfactory, is preferable. Let it not be said that we require too much of the youny, that we would keep them too constantly employed, that we would unwisely strain their youthful powers in the accomplishment of impossibilities. The time apportioned to school exercises is sparing enough ; and the residue of the day, and the frequent recurrence of vacations and of holidays, give them the most ample opportunities for relaxation. But it


be said- Arcum nec semper tendit Apollo. True. But he never unbent it when in the fury of the chase. He never relaxed the keenness of his aim till the prey was prostrate at his feet.

3. A third advantage is, that in a school where this system is adopted every individual is kept in constant employment.

No one, as we have already observed, who is even but partially acquainted with the state of our schools under the ordinary management, can avoid observing how very great a portion of the customary school hours is wasted in absolute idleness. Let us suppose an instance of a teacher having the supervision and instruction of a school of forty members, who are divided into four classes. These four classes, we will suppose, are to recite in regular rotation, commencing with the lowest. While this class is employed with the teacher, the other three classes are, or ought to be, engaged in the preparation of a lesson. Now it is usually the case that the

lessons assigned to lads do not, or, from their fault, will not, occupy them more than three-quarters of an hour, or, at the most, an entire hour. The class reciting will perhaps occupy about the same amount of time; and when the teacher shall have finished with them, there are the three other classes, each and all prepared to recite at the same time. Now but a single one can be attended to, and the other two inust and do sit absolutely unoccupied. Nay, so far as the discipline of the school and their own benefit is concerned, they are worse than idle, since they will be sure to resort to some mischievous expedients to kill the monster Time, till their turn for recitation comes round. But where the monitorial system, or something equivalent or better is adopted, no such difficulties can occur, because, as it in truth always ought to be the case, recitation occupies more of school time than study. We have supposed what we believe to be a favourable instance in the selection of a school of forty members. And if so much time be there worse than wasted, what shall we say of one which contains from one hundred and fifty to two hundred scholars? These last numbers give the usual amount committed to the charge of a single teacher in all our large towns; and we hazard nothing in making the assertion, that of this large number one half are unemployed, so far as the acquisition of knowledge is concerned, more than one half of their time. Nay, even in the very best regulated schools, where but a single master is employed in the instruction of any considerable number of pupils, and without any assistance from them, this evil exists in a most alarming measure.

We conceive this difficulty to be the grand and most discouraging obstacle to the advancement of our com

« AnteriorContinuar »