« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
receive the blessings of elementary instruction. It is so in other countries ; why should it not be so in this."*
It was intended to have added further remarks on the subject of secondary education, and on the means of self-improvement after leaving school, through the medium of such Institutions as the Hants and Wilts Association, and others of a similar kind now rising up in different parts of the country, but having published them in a separate form, the reader is referred to a little work “Effective Primary Instruction, etc., etc.” R. D.
Deunery, Hereford, Jan. 1857,
INTRODUCTION. The following, with some slight alterations and omissions. formed the introduction to the earlier editions of this little work.
Addison, in one of his numbers of the “Spectator," tells us that the common people of his day were very fond of a little Latin, and intimates that the reason of this was, because they did not understand it. Now the opinion I have formed of the people of the present day is, that they do not like a thing unless they do understand it; and although I have placed a few Latin words in the title-page of this book, this is not because I think the words will be approved of where they are not understood, nor from any wish to make the book appear more learned than it is, but simply for this reason that the words themselves briefly express, in a portable shape for the memory, what I wish to have credit for in offering to the public à Second Edition of these “Suggestive Hints on Secular Teaching," viz. “a good intention;" and however imperfect they may be in other respects, with this impression on his mind, the reader will, I trust, overlook many defects which he might otherwise be inclined to criticise, and see something of usefulness in what is well meant, although it may not in reality be all that he had expected.
It is from no love of authorship that I am offering these remarks,— remarks, let it be observed, which have arisen entirely from experience in a parish school, but from a wish to promote that kind of education among the middle and lower classes, which at the same time that it bears upon their industrial pursuits, leads to an improved moral condition, by instilling in early life those feelings of self-respect and selfdependence, and those principles of honesty and truth, which * Sir John Pakington's address, published by Hatchard, Piccadilly. ought to be the guide of every one who lays claim to the character of a Christian man.
I am the more induced to do this, from seeing that the rising generation about me, and with whom I am more immediately concerned, are made happier and better by this education – that it leads to greater propriety of conduct in all the relations of life, and that those who have remained longest at school have generally turned out the best, and have given a proof, that the longer they remain the greater is the security of their becoming, in their respective stations, what the friends of education expect them to be.
The value of education of the labouring classes ; or, in fact, of any other class, cannot be said to depend solely on the amount of knowledge given at school, but rather on the tendency which such knowledge has, to make them alive to the humanities of life, to fit them for their industrial occupations, to raise them in the scale of thinking beings, and make them feel what they owe to themselves and to those around them - to open out to them those sources of fireside amusement and of instruction which the art of printing has brought within the reach of all who are educated.
Now to effect this, the mere reading by rote is not sufficient; and it should be the airn of the schoolmaster, as far as he has it in his power, to give the children a knowledge of the structure of their own language-to enable them to get at the grammar of a sentence - to take it to pieces and recorstruct it; and, unless children are left at school until this can be done, and they are enabled to get at the meaning of an ordinary book without difficulty, little use will, I fear, be made of it in after-life, and the fireside will not become, what it otherwise might be, through good books—a school through life.
A celebrated writer of the present day, has said, “The English language is a conglomerate of Latin words, bound together in a Saxon cement; the fragments of the Latin being partly portions introduced directly from the parent quarry, with all the sharp edges, and partly pebbles of the same material, obscured and shaped by long rolling in a Norman or some other channel.” Now, although this definition is somewhat geological in its language, as the author intended it to be, yet it is a very forcible one, and indicates clearly, that the way to get at the knowledge of this conglomerate mass, must be by taking it to pieces, and examining the separate parts; and, when the schoolmaster can do this himself, he will be able to bring his knowledge to bear in teaching others.
How important, then, that he should be able to unpack this conglomerate-to separate the cement from that which is imbedded in it to show to his more advanced classes the origin
of the different words of a sentence-how words of a Saxon or a Latin origin vary in the modes of inflection-how they have been introduced—to show how some belong direct to the parent quarry; how others, by rolling about in different channels, have had “their rough and sharp edges” rubbed offthe force and origin of the prefixes, etc.
This points out a most useful direction for the studies of the schoolmaster in this particular branch of knowledge.
With respect to this book itself, it does not profess to teach the schoolmaster the subjects he ought to have a knowledge of; its object is rather to point out to teachers, both in our elementary schools and in private families, commonsense modes of applying their knowledge, and of bringing it to bear upon their teaching; but without particularising the leading features of it, it is an attempt to introduce into our elementary schools more of science, and a knowledge of scientific facts bearing upon the arts of life, and of every-day things, than has been hitherto done.
It is a fact almost unaccountable, and certainly curious to reflect upon, how few there are, even in any class of life, educated or uneducated, who are acquainted with the philosophical principles of those things which they see in action every day of their lives, and which are in so many ways administering to the wants of social life,-truths easily understood when explained by experiment, and so important in themselves to mankind, that the names of the discoverers of them are handed down from one generation to another for the admiration of future ages, and as the great benefactors of their species.
No one denies the importance of this knowledge when applied to the arts of life, and how much the progress of civilization, and of the great interests of mankind have been advanced by it, which makes it the more strange that it should have had so small a part in the education of youth.
This is, perhaps, in some measure owing to its being supposed, that a considerable knowledge of mathematics and of arithmetic is necessary, and from a prevailing notion that such subjects are, even when illustrated by experiment, difficult to understand ; but Dr. Arnott, in the Introduction to his “Natural Philosophy," justly observes, “There are few persons in civilised society so ignorant as not to know that a square has four equal sides, and four equal corners or angles, or that every point in the circumference of a circle is at the same distance from the centre. Now, so much of unity, simplicity, and harmony is there in the universe, that such simple truths as these are what give exact cognisance of the most important circnmstances in the phenomena states of nature ;" an acquaintance with the common rules of arithmetic, and of the measures of quantity, which fit a man for ordinary occupations are quite sufficient for all that is wanted here.
Hitherto all classes seem to have taken for granted, that the labouring part of the community had no business with anything where the mind is concerned ; but why should not the miner, whose life may have been saved over and over again by the safety lamp of Sir Humphrey Davy, know something of the principle to which he owes his safety, and of the philosophy of it - many of the accidents which occur from mere carelessness would be avoided by it; or the plumber, whose business it is to make a pump, be taught, however much the sense of sight may mislead him, that air and gaseous substances, which he cannot see, have weight; and that these and fluid substances press equally in all directions, and he will then understand why his mechanism succeeds and the water rises, which, without some knowledge of this kind, must appear to him a kind of witchcraft; or why should not the labouring classes have it shewn to them during their education at school, that the burning of charcoal, or of chalk and limestone into lime, etc., gives rise to a kind of substance which they cannot see, but when breathed into the lungs is fatal to animal life, and its being heavier than common air, makes the burning of charcoal in small rooms a very dangerous thing. From a want of a knowledge of this, many lives have been lost.
With a view to encourage a knowledge of the application of science to the occupations of the country in my own neighbourhood, during the autumn of last year, a course of six lectures on the Chemistry of Agriculture* was given at the schoolroom, by a gentleman who had made the subject his professional study, and who was well qualified to give an interest to it, not only from his knowledge, but from being a good manipulator in the experiments necessary to illustrate it.
My first intention as to these lectures was for the instruction of the school itself, and of the schoolmasters of the neighbourhood, but finding that many of the gentlemen and also of the farmers in the neighbourhood wished to attend, I invited all to do so who were so inclined, and, with the exception of two extremely wet days, the attendance was good.
Many of the gentlemen took a considerable interest in them; and although the farmers, I have no doubt, felt they
* For these lectures I have to thank Mr. Edmonson, the head of the Queenwood Agricultural College, and Mr. Frankland, the chemical lecturer there, by whom they were given; both these genılemen entered into the subject from the same motives as myself, viz. a wish to promote the education of the neighbourhood. 847.1
could not carry away so much as they had expected, yet the indirect effect of such lectures is good in an educational point of view it creates a wish, and that a very natural and a very laudable one, on the part of the parents in the middle classes, that their children should have an opportunity of acquiring a knowledge of the appliances of science to those pursuits in life in which they are so much interested.
The conclusion which I drew from the experiment, and which I think is a correct one, was, that a short course of lectures, and made as practical as possible, and repeated at intervals in different parts of a county, would be attended with great good, and in the end lead to an improvement in the education of agricultural youth, which it is most desirable to effect. It is not to be expected that those who are grown up, and whose habits are formed, should enter into it as a science; their previous education has not fitted them for it, and their modes of thinking are against it; nor can they stand anything like a continuous course of lectures, but they carry away facts bearing upon some particular point which they understand, talk about them afterwards, persuade themselves that such knowledge is good for their children, and in this way an influence for good on the education of the rising generation is likely to spring up.
In the schoolrooms here, these lectures were turned to good account, both as instruction to the teachers, and to the older children, and the outline given filled up by experiments and explanations afterwards.
To speak even of teaching anything of science as a part of the education of village children, or of the teacher having such a knowledge of these subjects as to be able to bring it to bear upon his teaching, is, I am perfectly aware, by many looked upon as visionary, by some as useless, and by others, even as mischievous. Now, many of these are carried away by their prejudices against such instruction, without knowing or considering seriously what is meant by it; but, on the subject of chemistry, for instance, when it is considered that chemical processes are involved in everything which we eat or drink; in the preparation of every material used for our clothing; in every change of the material world, whether animate or inanimate, with which our senses can make us acquainted, some knowledge of these processes must be looked upon both as interesting and highly important, and ought to be understood by those with whose pursuits and employments in life they are so intimately connected.
Besides, it seems to me even highly instructive, that an intelligent child should be made to seize a firm hold of so much of this subject, as to enable the mind to get out of the habit of viewing all the different productions of nature as