Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/29

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19
NATURAL OR SCIENTIFIC METHOD IN EDUCATION.

I complain because it was worse. It was a fearful injustice to that noble organization with which, we are endowed. The case has improved in a fair proportion of our schools, but we are far, far from the true way still. We are also deluded by the spirit of our age, that aims too much at quantity and too little at quality. In elementary schools especially the culture and the method are, beyond all comparison, of more importance than the facts learned.

Given a youth developing aright, and we find him continuing that natural and happy life he began as an infant. He exercises his senses on the world around him, and is learning under guidance to group his facts—that is, his sensations—and to deduce general laws. This is science, and should be pleasant to every normally constituted human being, and experience proves that such is the case.

The students at our colleges are beginning themselves, after having had a taste of real knowledge, to cry out for more practical work and fewer formal lectures.

You will perceive that the conclusions drawn apply more or less to all studies, even purely literary ones. Literature abounds in descriptions of Nature. These must mean more to him who has actually observed than to the closet student. Much of all poetry, notably such as Scott's, for example, is but feebly realized by those unfamiliar with Nature; to put it otherwise, by those who have not had the sensory impressions essential to realization.

It must now appear that in the true sense education is simply furnishing an environment which is favorable to the development or unfolding the organization of the child. I use the term organization rather than mind because it seems to me that as a human being is a complex, we can never in actual practice consider one part of a child's nature absolutely apart from another. There is no such thing as mental development apart from moral and physical effects; and all experience goes to show that, when any part of the organization of a human being is ignored, the very ends aimed at in any one direction are but imperfectly attained. It has been shown that the infant develops through movements. The boy develops through rambles in the fields or through his games, and the methods are after Nature, though not as perfect when the subject is not under' guidance, as he always should be—to an extent not sufficient, however, to interfere with spontaneity. The sooner we get rid of the idea that education is imparting instruction, and that teachers exist to hear lessons, the sooner will we be prepared to enter on the right path.

It has of late years dawned on a few minds that this natural development, which is in a hap-hazard way accomplished by the child in its sports, might be carried out in a systematic way by what is termed manual training, and I allude to the subject in