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Can any system, we ask then, be more manifestly injudicious ? The fallacy of it would be still more apparent if we were to follow a similar plan in physical education. We lately met with some remarks upon this subject, so admirably conceived, and convincingly expressed, that, although they are somewhat long, we are sure our readers will not be angry with us for their insertion. “Put the case,” says the writer, “of a boy of a weakly constitution and effeminate habits; and suppose that family connections and interest make it seem desirable that he should enter the army; and that he be committed to the care of some one, an old soldier if you like, who professes to prepare him for his military career.” “At the end of four or five years his father may think it right to inquire into his fitness for his profession. “Have you studied tactics?" "No, sir.'-Have you studied gunnery?" No, sir.'-'Are you perfect in the last instructions issued from the Horse-Guards for the manœuvres of cavalry?' 'I have never seen them, sir.—Have you learnt the broad-sword exercise ?' 'No.'— Can you put a company of infantry through their drill ?" 'No.'_ Have you practised platoon firing?' 'No.'—Can you even fix a bayonet in a musket?' 'I never tried, sir.'- After such an examination we may imagine the father expostulating indignantly with the veteran under whose care his son was placed. The latter might reply, 'Sir, when you entrusted your son to my training, he was weak and sickly. He had little appetite, and was fastidious in his eating: he could bear no exposure to the weather: he could not walk two miles without fatigue: he was incapable of any severer exercise : he was unwilling, and indeed unable, to join in the athletic sports of boys of his age. Now he is in perfect health, and wants and wishes for no indulgence: he can make a hearty dinner on any wholesome food, or go without it, if need be: he will get wet through, and care nothing about it: he can walk ten or fifteen miles a day: he can ride; he can swim; he can skate; he can play a game at cricket, and enjoy it: though he has not learnt the broad-sword exercise, he fences well: though he has never handled a soldier's musket, he is an excellent shot with a fowling-piece. He has a firm foot, a quick eye, and a steady hand-he is a very pretty draughtsman; he is eager to enter his profession, and you may take my word for it, sir, he will make a brave and active officer.""*
Such an answer, we imagine, would be conclusive. Mental health and strength must be secured by the same system; and “the teacher cannot employ himself better than in thoroughly
* A lecture “On the Introduction of the Natural Sciences into General Education,” by Henry Malden, M.A., Professor of Greek, University College, London, and late Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge,
cultivating the intellect; in rendering this admirable instrument as perfect as possible, and thereby fitting the pupil for any situation in which he may hereafter be placed.”
It is true that in following up the system which we are advocating, parents will find at this period some of their greatest difficulties. The restlessness of children's dispositions, the quickness of their fancy, and their incapability of appreciating the value or utility of their present exercises, all unite to raise obstacles in the way of their instruction: but in the hands of careful and judicious parents there are placed many stimulants to arouse into activity the dormant understanding of the child : and we think the following remarks of Madame Necker are calculated to render very valuable assistance to the instructor at this period of the child's education.
“One mistake into which we are very apt to fall is that of requiring the first efforts of a child's attention, even before it has been exercised in any other way, to be directed to objects totally uninteresting to him. Thus before we have accustomed him to examine any thing, we desire him to distinguish A from B, from which he cannot possibly derive any pleasure. But as we have two difficulties to surmount—that of fixing his attention, and that of interesting him in objects not of a nature to afford him any gratification—it would surely be a better plan to undertake them sepa. rately. Let us, in the first place, lead children to observe and examine such things as are likely to interest them; as, for instance, the innume. rable amusing objects in nature, the various parts of flowers, particularly those which have any resemblance to familiar objects, such as boats, hammers, cups, &c., and afterwards let us exercise their ingenuity and attention by making them point out the representations of these objects in drawings or engravings. By these preparatory steps the labour of learning to read will be very much facilitated.”—Vol. ii. p. 69. Transl.
* But the most effective instrument the parent can employ for the advancement of his child, is placed entirely in himself. Let him be most particularly careful to observe a strict regularity in the course of his instruction; so that the hours, or rather minutes of the lessons may recur as nearly as possible at the same times; the child will thus return to his task, as to an affair of duty, and the feeling that it is a duty will lighten the fatigue ; his pride, in this case a proper pride, will be roused, to perform properly an act which gives him an importance to himself; and the smile of approbation, which plays upon his mother's face, will be doubly estimated if his conscience tells him that he has deserved it.
One danger is, however, to be avoided in the use and application of these admirable instruments, with which nature has supplied us for securing the attention of the young; not to overstrain their first exertions; nor to place that forced and constant pressure upon the mind, which cannot fail to produce a weariness, often a satiety and disgust, subversive of all present instruction, and liable in after years to prostrate our best endeavours, and to correct the progress of intellectual improvement.
“How many faults in this respect are constantly committed ! our very eagerness to encourage their tastes too often only tends to destroy them. Suppose a child is fond of drawing ; we begin perhaps by gently urging him to devote himself to the occupation; we try to make him ashamed of giving it up; he begins to feel a degree of restraint associated with the employment, and his pleasure in it vanishes; sometimes our over anxiety to afford children the means of indulging their tastes, only produces satiety. If they show an interest in natural history, we immediately overwhelm them with books and engravings; or we present them with ready-made little collections, and in so doing are almost sure to disgust them. These well-arranged specimens of minerals, &c., with their hard names written on bits of paper, which are on no account to be torn, are soon consigned to some empty cupboard. They are proudly exhibited once or twice, and then completely forgotten; nor does the hope of finding anything equally beautiful ever enter the imagination of the little owner."....
“ There is a fastidious delicacy attendant on these tastes, which flourishes best on a spare diet, and sinks under too great an abundance of nourishment. You may create a taste for science by means of the pebbles in your garden walk, and destroy it by the possession of a museum.”_Vol. ii. pp. 72, 73. Transl.
Although it may be well, however, to spread as many flowers as we can over the first approaches to learning, we consider it to be most mistaken and inconsiderate kindness to allow the child to follow only the inclination of his own will. Difficulties, trials, and privations, are the sad and inevitable attendants upon humanity, our natural and necessary inheritance; and surely, therefore, those parents are guilty of a serious mistake who forbear to inure their children to them in time, from a weak and unreasonable apprehension of too soon anticipating their approach.
“ Hence, arose,” says Madame Necker, “a multitude of little inventions and stratagems for communicating knowledge to children under the disguise of amusement. But, besides the deficiency of this system in many other respects, it was wanting in what is absolutely essential to the success of everv plan-truth.” “Bv pretending to have an end in view which is not the real object, we lose both the respect and love of children. Suppose, for instance, a mother wishes to commence the instruction of her child by teaching him to read. How does she set about the task ? Having made her preparatory arrangements, she tells him that she has got a new and amusing game to show him. Coloured ivory counters, pictures of animals or flowers on card, smart, gay-looking books, are produced to captivate his imagination. For a time he is completely the dupe of all this artifice; and as long as the attraction of novelty remains, comes with eagerness to his lesson. But in a little while he finds it more entertaining to vary the sounds of the different letters, and when A is pointed out to him, will call it O; or he will amuse himself with performing some feat of agility between the naming of each letter, or will choose rather to build houses with the cards than put them to their proper use. His mother wishing to preserve the idea of amusement, and yet at the same time to accomplish the end she has in view, endeavours with an ill-assumed gaiety to recall his wandering attention ; but he sees through her purpose, and while taking care to frustrate it, derives entertainment from her vexation; and a disposition most deplorable in itself, but the inevitable consequence of such a system of deception, is thus fostered. Declare openly your intention of teaching, and the child soon submits; his respect for you is even augmented; but if vou try to deceive him with a false pretext, he will cling to your pretended object with determined obstinacy, and will oblige you to preserve your consistency, by making that really an amusement which you announced as such.”—Vol. ii. pp. 120, 121.
We have thus endeavoured to call attention to a system adapted to cultivate the child's powers of attention; and to secure that intellectual strength and firmness which will form the best foundation for any future superstructure. For the improvement and full development of the reasoning and inquiring powers, nothing is more essential than to possess within ourselves a spirit of investigation, and a love of information, as well as a willingness to associate our children in the pleasure which we receive from our pursuits.
“If our children,” says Madame Necker,“ see our interest is awakened, and our curiosity excited by the idea of making some new observation, or ascertaining some new fact, they will soon try to anticipate our discoveries. If they observe us interested in the cultivation of flowers, in watching the labours of the bee, or the metamorphosis of insects, they will soon be delighted themselves with these occupations. Example, emulation, curiosity,—the most natural stimulants at an age when pleasure is so vividly enjoyed, and the idea of utility so indistinct, —will all act in unison.”—Vol. ii. pp. 73, 74. Transl.
In short, it is by a constant and unwearying attention on our parts, by a quick readiness to lay hold of every passing thought, and by our willingness to return a prompt answer to every inquiry, that we shall most effectually call forth and mature the rational and reflecting faculties of the child.
“ Nothing tends so much to strengthen this feeling—nothing keeps it so constantly alive, as giving the pupil an interest in his own education. If we frequently consult him on the best means of increasing his application, his industry, his goodness, if we judiciously examine with him the various obstacles which prevent the accomplishment of his good intentions, he will soon begin to have a pleasure in pointing out what he thinks would be the best plan to be pursued; he will be interested in the success of what he has suggested, and will at last regard the performance of his duty as the most important object of his life.”Vol. ii. pp. 60, 61. Transl.
But while we are thus directing the attention to the gradual development of the mental powers, we must be particularly careful not to lose sight of that which must be the end and aim of all moral culture,—we mean religion. It is in vain to fertilize the intellect, if we suffer the heart to continue sterile. The objects of all true and proper education must be twofold; one of these, to accustom the child to habits of thought and selfinvestigation; we must teach him to reason, to reflect, to analyse; to draw deductions from all he hears, sees, reads, or feels : from conversation, from nature, from passing events. The grander and more important object is, at all periods of the child's progressive instruction, to cultivate the pure affections of his heart; to imbue him with a fervent feeling of love to God, and benevolence to man; and to impress deeply and indelibly upon him the proud and vivifying thought, that he has within him a pure Intelligence, sent down from God; which will gradually advance him to perfection.
Our space is too limited, and we have already drawn too largely from these interesting volumes, to follow Madame Necker through the remainder of this early course. The parent who thinks with her that “all the power of reasoning, of which children are capable, should be exercised, and combined with their best feelings, in order to lead them to submission,” will do well to read the chapter on “ Willing or Deliberative Obedience.” We have already shown that the vital, actuating principle of education must be religion; it should be made the prime mover in the child's heart of all his motives, and the main spring of all his moral and intellectual exertions; the parent, therefore, will derive much valuable advice from the chapters of her work, devoted by Madame Necker exclusively to 66 the Foundation of Morality," " the Development of the Religious Feelings,” and “ the Auxiliary Means to be employed.” We have not space to enter into the delicate and much-disputed subject of rewards and punishments. At present we can only say, that, for the most part, we coincide