Imágenes de página

gogical warfare. Now we maintain that this will not answer, We maintain that every teacher, to perform his duties faithfully and successfully, should be a person of studious habits, of extensive reading, and of very considerable acquisitions in every branch of learning which has any relation to the particular course of study adapted for the school into which it may be his fortune to be thrown. We do not mean that a man to teach arithmetic successfully should be extensively learned in the Latin and the Greek languages; or that he whose province it may be to teach history or geography, , should be profoundly versed in mathematical learning. But, in the former case, he will be far more likely to be successful, and certainly he will perform his labours with more satisfaction to himself, if he possess a good knowledge of the ordinary branches of the mathematics ; and, in the latter case, it is indispensable that he be familiar with the general history of the world, and even more than familiar with the particular history of individual countries. Now, that a mere child, or a mere school-boy (for they are the monitors) should possess this knowledge is by no means to be expected; and that they should perform the duties of teaching these branches of study with a desired success is as little to be expected. We are willing, indeed, to make some exception with regard to teaching, or rather superintending, the performance of the merely mechanical parts of arithmetical or other science. But in the other instance adduced we cannot see how any, exception can be made. How many subjects, but cursorily or darkly hinted at in our little compends of history, can the well-informed teacher fully and satisfactorily elucidate! How much interest can he call forth from his youthful auditory, by

entering at large into the narration of some important and interesting subject, which the limited nature of the text-book has allowed to be but incidentally mentioned! How much light will a good knowledge of mathematics enable him to throw upon many of the rules and investigations of common arithmetic! For there are, as we all know, very many problems given for solution in our ordinary arithmetical treatises, which can only be demonstrated and understood by a reference to some principles of algebra or of geometry. Now, can we expect all these elucidations, desirable as they are, from the mouth of a common monitor to his fellow pupils ? Most assuredly not; for so far as monitorial recitation goes, it is solely and purely mechanical, and altogether restricted to the prescribed text-book, or to an answer printed down in the books, and numbered to accord with a certain question. We know that the difficulty is still greater in those schools in which instruction in the ancient and modern languages is given by monitors. To make a young person familiar with the principles and the pronunciation of a language, even of his own, requires a long continued and persevering course of instruction. Of the Greek, Latin, and French languages this is particularly true. To pronounce either of the former correctly requires a perfect familiarity with the quantity of every word in the language, and this familiarity is not acquired in one, two, or even three years. Of the difficulties in acquiring a correct pronunciation of the latter we are all aware, and we are all as well aware of the great difficulty of acquiring the language from any other mouth than from that of a native teacher. How then can a common school monitor impart satisfactory instruction in these two in


stances? We have been witnesses to the vain attempt. We have heard reiterated errors in the pronunciation of both the former languages pass entirely unheeded and uncorrected by the presiding monitor. We will not distract your ears by repeating what these errors were. Let it suffice merely to say, that they were terrific enough to make the bones of Porson rattle beneath the incumbent ground, and to frighten the manes of Bentley into annihilation. We do not think that any blame can, in the instance to which we allude, attach itself to the monitor himself. For his sin was the sin of igno

He was but little better informed upon the subject than the individuals over whose recitation he was presiding. He had, indeed, received instruction in advance of his division, and instruction of a very good quality ; but it is useless to expect faultlessness and a perfect readiness in every particular, on the part of persons of so little experience as lads at school must necessarily possess. It may be said that the head-master himself was injudicious in his selection. In reply to this we would say, that we believe that the best selection was made which the nature of the case permitted. The fault was neither in the teacher nor in the monitor, but was then, and is now, absolutely inherent in the system itself. For that system directs us to place reliance upon those resources from which it is perfectly impossible that good and sufficient support should be obtained. Years of study, and the most extensive reading, and the most perfect familiarity with any language, ancient or modern, are, in our opinion necessary, nay, indispensable, if a man would teach it thoroughly and satisfactorily.

3. Our third objection is founded upon a belief that in

a school conducted upon the monitorial srsten, the principal instructor cannot be sa ieiendly we l acquainted with the particular merits and falings of each individual pupil.

This acquaintance we esteem to be of the very highest importance. He is not at home in his school-room, nor does he know the materials with which he is to labour, who is not perfectly familiar with the disposition, talents, and acquirements of every individual in it. He must be unable to designate the good and the bad, the industrious and the indolent, the gentle and the stubborn, the incorrigible and the yielding. He cannot praise and promote the one, and judiciously punish or degrade the other, because he does not sufficiently know them. The power to understand and to discriminate should be in the teacher almost an innate capacity. He who is destitute of this capacity, or who neglects to cultivate and to improve it to the highest degree of excellence, is culpable in the extreme. And it is equally unfortunate for him, if the peculiar constitution and organization of his establishment put the means of acquiring this knowledge beyond his reach. Now that this is the case in monitorial schools we are fully persuaded. The great distance at which many of the pupils, not under the immediate supervision and instruction of the principal teacher, are necessarily kept, from the circumstance of their being disciplined and taught by the intervention of others, renders it impossible that the case should be otherwise.

4. Our fourth and final objection to this system is, that we believe its legitimate tendency is to make anything but thorough scholars, and to introduce into all, excepting the more mechanical departments of know

ledge, a degree of superficialness and of inaccuracy highly prejudicial to the best interests of sound learning

Were there no other objection to be brought against the monitorial system, as a whole,--let me be distinctly understood,--this alone would possess power enough to overthrow almost every argument which could be adduced in its favour. It is not our object here to enter into any disquisition upon the importance of a deep and thorough knowledge of whatever branch of learning we undertake to become acquainted with. The praises of sound learning have often and even recently been uttered in your ears, and we will not repeat the thrice-told though still delightful tale. In your own bosoms, if there live there, as we most sincerely hope there does, that richly merited veneration for profound and unyielding investigation, to whatever department of learning it may be directed, in your own bosoms 'these praises must have found a responsive voice.

“ Drink deep, or taste not the Piërian spring,” is a line of peerless merit, and fraught with the wisest counsel; counsel of more than ordinary value in these degenerated days of surface and of skimming, the prevailing genius of which is, we fear, becoming more and more averse to that uncompromising toil and patient labour, which can alone fast bind the bays and the laurels around the scholar's brow. We hold it to be self-evident, that no man is fairly entitled to the meed of sound classical scholarship, unless he be deeply versed in the grammatical principles of ancient language, unless he be extensively acquainted with the splendid productions of ancient learning, and unless he be almost a worshipper of every letter in every

« AnteriorContinuar »