Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 27.djvu/45

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33
METHODS OF TEACHING POLITICAL ECONOMY.

of the principles and a provocation to apply them to practical things as he reads. Then he comes to the class-room as intelligently familiar with the principles as his reading can make him. Now comes the work of the instructor. At first it is surprising how easy it is to show even to the best men a gap in their knowledge, or a misunderstanding of the principle. Present an illustration different from that of the book, and ask them to explain the situation. The necessity of seeing the essential point in the facts, and the attempt to describe the operation of the principle, will effectually rout the man who has merely memorized the book, and teach him to think out the matter more thoroughly for himself in the future. The teacher, also, will try to find out the accidental obstacles which in a young mind obstruct the understanding of the point in question. Let the pupil be asked to state the matter, and let the teacher note the imperfections. Now he can stimulate another student by questioning him as to one of these imperfections. If a clear correction is not obtained from a member of the class, let the instructor apply the Socratic method. At first ask a question which the learner readily understands, and then lead him naturally and gradually by logical steps up to the point wherein he had failed of understanding. He will then see his own difficulty, and at the same time he has had a little robust exercise for his mind. If this is carried on before his fellows, it will the better cultivate coolness and self-control before an audience.

3. Above all, the hour should not be wasted in simply rehearsing what has been read in the book. The student should go away from the class-room feeling that he has received some new idea, or some interesting fact which illustrates his subject. The work of the class-room should be cumulative in its effect as compared with the fruits of text-book reading. The teacher should in every way stimulate questions from members of his class, and urge the statement by them, either orally or in writing, of their doubts and difficulties. If there is some timidity in presenting a weakness in the presence of a class, ask some more manly person of the number, and the timid student will soon see that others are not much better off than he. In fact, all will have difficulties in understanding, or in interpreting principles, some trivial, some serious; and the pupil will become discouraged unless these are removed. When each one sees that others are also hindered by obstacles, there will be a greater freedom in asking questions. Moreover, in order to keep up a steady and regular training, which will produce the best disciplinary results, let the questions of the instructor every day run backward in review, and especially aim to bring out the connection of one part of the subject with another. It will be very effective if done just about the time that the past work is growing a little dim before the presence of newer ideas. In no subject, perhaps, more than in political economy, is it necessary to know the preliminary stages in order to understand the later work; so that