Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/531

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.

 

MARCH, 1877.


 

EDUCATION AS A SCIENCE.
By ALEXANDER BAIN, LL. D.,

PROFESSOR IN THE UNIVERSITY OF ABERDEEN.

II.

The Retentive Faculty.

THIS is the faculty that most of all concerns us in the work of education. On it rests the possibility of mental growths or capabilities not given by Nature.

Every impression made upon us, if sufficient to awaken consciousness at the time, has a certain permanence; it can persist after the original ceases to work; and it can be restored afterward as an idea or remembered impression. The bursting out of a flame arouses our attention, gives a strong visible impression, and becomes an idea or deposit of memory. It is thought of afterward without being actually seen.

It is not often that one single occurrence leaves a permanent and recoverable idea; usually, we need several repetitions for the purpose. The process of fixing the impression occupies a certain length of time; either we must prolong the first shock, or renew it on several successive occasions. This is the first law of memory, Retention or Acquisition: "Practice makes perfect;" "exercise is the means of strengthening a faculty," etc. The good old rule of the schoolmaster is simply to make the pupil repeat, rehearse, or persist at a lesson until it is learned.

All improvement in the art of teaching consists in having regard to the various circumstances that facilitate acquirement, or lessen the number of repetitions for a given effect. Much is possible in the way of economizing the plastic power of the human system; and when we have pushed this economy to the utmost, we have made perfect the Art of Education in one leading department. It is thus necessary