Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/15

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5
LIBERAL EDUCATION.

ment. That we have such a completed practical psychology, or any such logical and symmetrical course or courses of study based upon it, is more than can be asserted, for education, as a science, is still in its infancy; but we certainly have attained to certain general principles which are fundamental as regards the elementary education of the future; and the most important of these, which is even now revolutionizing all our methods of elementary teaching, is the direct result of the progress of modern physical science. It is, that education begins with the concrete, and not with the abstract, and that the right method for the teaching even of language itself is the right training and development of the child's senses. The Latin grammar, therefore, as the right instrument for training the youthful mind, is fast disappearing, along with that birch which was its material symbol and needful complement, and a striking witness to the absurdity of the use we put it to. Requiescat in pace! The lovers of the noble science of classical philology may well be congratulated on its emancipation from such degrading servitude.

In place of this rude and crude, and now happily obsolescent theory, a deeper philosophy is leading us to inquire into the nature of the undeveloped mind, and the true order of the development of its faculties, and is, at the same time, guiding us to the right choice of means for stimulating their natural and healthful growth and unfolding. And here I will say that the answer which psychology gives to these questions seems to me a little in danger of being misinterpreted for the time being by one class of educational reformers. In their reaction against the premature and unnatural stimulus given to the powers of abstraction by the old system, they are in danger of running into the opposite extreme of paying a too exclusive attention to the development of the observing powers in the new—a tendency which the influence of modern physical science on our educational ideas, especially, tends to foster. I doubt whether one extreme will prove any better than the other, for both are equally one-sided. The true lesson we are to learn is, above all things, to have regard to balance and proportion. The youthful mind is not a different thing from the same mind in its maturity. The germs of all faculties exist in it, and their development is in no linear order, but rather like rays diverging from one centre; and the true conception of the different stages of education is, as being divided by concentric circles, cutting those rays at equal distances from the centre. The child's observing powers should furnish him with intellectual material no faster than his powers of abstraction can work it up into intellectual products, or than the development of his powers of expression can give form to them. On the other hand, his powers of expression should never be developed in empty words, beyond the limits of his acquisition of the ideas words stand for, as is now the case with so much of our word-mongering education. Again, his imagination should never outrun his reason on the