Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/441

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425
EDUCATION AS A SCIENCE.

Bearings of Psychology.—The largest chapter in the science of education must be the following out of all the psychological laws that bear directly or indirectly upon the process of mental acquirement. Every branch of psychology will be found available; but more especially the psychology of the intellect. Of the three great functions of the intellect, in the ultimate analysis—discrimination, agreement, retentiveness—the last is the most completely identified with the education process; but the others enter in as constituents in a way peculiar to each. I will select for my present paper, Discrimination and Retentiveness; and will endeavor to extract, from the discussion of these great intellectual functions, everything that they appear to yield for the ends of the educator. Although I can impart no novelty to the general statement of these functions, it is possible to make some unhackneyed remarks on their educational consequences.

Discrimination.—Mind starts from discrimination. The consciousness of difference is the beginning of every intellectual exercise. To encounter a new impression is to be aware of change: if the heat of a room increases ten degrees, we are awakened to the circumstance by a change of feeling; if we have no change of feeling, no altered consciousness, the outward fact is lost upon us; we take no notice of it, we are said not to know it.

Our intelligence is, therefore, absolutely limited by our power of discrimination. The other functions of intellect, the retentive power, for example, are not called into play, until we have first discriminated a number of things. If we did not originally feel the difference between light and dark, black and white, red and yellow, there would be no visible scenes for us to remember: with the amplest endowment of retentiveness, the outer world could not enter into our recollection; the blank of sensation is a blank of memory.

Yet further. The minuteness or delicacy of the feeling of difference is the measure of the variety and multitude of our primary impressions, and therefore of our stirred-up recollections. He that hears only twelve discriminated notes on the musical scale has his remembrances of sounds bounded by these; he that feels a. hundred sensible differences has his ideas or recollections of sounds multiplied in the same proportion. The retentive power works up to the height of the discriminative power; it can do no more. Things are not remembered if they have not first been discriminated.

We have by nature a certain power of discrimination in each department of our sensibility. We can from the outset discriminate, more or less delicately, sights, sounds, touches, smells, tastes; and, in each sense, some persons much more than others. This is the deepest foundation of disparity of intellectual character, as well as of variety in likings and pursuits. If, from the beginning, one man can interpolate five shades of discrimination of color where another can feel but