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notion is presented, one or more of the individuals
that fall under it come immediately to consciousness.
When we think horse, it is impossible not to call some
favorite horse into mind.

The last statement indicates the relationship prop-
erly existing between individual and general notions.
The latter are not creations entirely separated from
the former, but are intimately associated with them.

1 " The general notion is not a new mental product Relationship
existing apart from and outside of the concrete no-
tions, but it is thought out each time, inasmuch as a

notions.

person from among the numerous ideas of the same
kind (or also from only one idea) lifts exclusively the
essential characteristics into the centre of conscious-

1 Lange's " Apperception," p. 84.



5O METHOD OF RECITATION

ness, and endeavors to isolate them from the others,
which recede or withdraw (an attempt that is always,
of course, only partially successful). It is like a
melody that can be easily distinguished in a piece
of music of several parts on account of special em-
phasis or peculiar registering, while, however, it
never ceases to form a constituent part of the sepa-
rate accords. It happens to us regularly, when we
attempt really to think a concept and not simply to
repeat the words of the definition, that we involun-
tarily glide down among its individual notions; that
we hasten through these quickly and emphasize what
is common and essential, rejecting the non-essential.
The general is not really separated from the par-
ticular, but only distinguished from it ; for deep
down in consciousness it is always united with what
is concrete."



CHAPTER IV

WHY GENERAL NOTIONS OR CONCEPTS ARE THE GOAL
OF INSTRUCTION

THE declaration that logical notions are the goal
of all instruction is so far-reaching in its bearings
that it deserves further consideration. Pestalozzi
called the attention of teachers emphatically to
this truth, but he failed signally to apply it to his
own teaching. Since his time men have commonly
accepted his assertion as true, but, like him, have
expended little effort in applying it to school in-
struction. In consequence, one of the weightiest
thoughts in education has been largely overlooked
by educators. How effect reform in this direction ?
It is certain that teachers will not labor persistently
to reach after and apply generalizations in the class-
room until they have learned both to distinguish
between individual and general notions, and to ap-
preciate the great value of the latter. The preced-
ing chapter treated of the first of these two points
attempting to explain the difference between the
two kinds of notions ; the pre, c ^.nt chapter takes up
^.he second point and aims to show why instruction
culminates in generalizations.

51



METHOD OF RECITATION



Particular
notions
always the
raw material
of knowl-
edge.



Throughout this discussion it should be borne in
mind that the value of individual or concrete facts
as the basis of all knowledge is by no means ques-
tioned. Undoubtedly the senses furnish the ele-
ments of all thought; it is only through individual
notions, or percepts, that the higher notions, or con-
cepts, can ever be reached. Modern philosophers,
scientists, and teachers have demonstrated this prin-
ciple so completely that it needs no further proof.
Object lessons, excursions, pictures in class, etc.,
have been advocated so that learners might, through
them, secure vivid concrete notions. Much of the
recent reform in education has been along this line.
Nevertheless the percepts thus obtained do not
constitute the whole of knowledge ; they are only
its foundation ; or, using another figure, they are the
raw material out of which important thoughts are
produced. But if instruction simply presented these
facts and then ceased, it would be like the archi-
tect stopping when his foundation walls were
finished, or the manufacturer ceasing work as soon
as the wool was collected out of which cloth might
be made. Such work by itself is useless ; it must be
followed by something more. So in education, per-
cepts are not, in and by themselves, of vital impor-
tance to human beings ; their worth consists not in
themselves but in what they lead to or suggest beyond
themselves ; namely, concepts.

Some of the facts of instruction are often felt to



THE GOAL OF INSTRUCTION 53

be too trivial for study. For example, who cares HOW to
what the name of the man was who assassinated between 13
William of Orange? Even if one knew it to be useful and

useless

Balthazar Gerard, what worth is there in the knowl- particular
edge ? Pestalozzi is said to have observed with care
the cracks and the knot holes in the schoolroom wall
with his pupils. But suppose that there are just
twenty-eight cracks in the plastering of any room,
you would smile at one's stating the fact, and would
remark, " What of it ? " On the other hand, any inci-
dents in the boyhood of George Washington are
highly treasured ; the details of his conduct at Brad-
dock's defeat, at Valley Forge, during his terms of
office as President, and in his family, are preserved
for all future generations. But why any concern
about such events ? Washington is dead, his age
is past, most of his actions are not directly related
to us. Why preserve them so carefully ? Or what
difference does it now make whether or not a certain
man named Guy Fawkes did attempt to blow up the
English Parliament with gunpowder in the year A.D.
1605 ? That was a long time ago, and our interests
have shifted to very different scenes. Knowledge of
that fact and its circumstances may happily prevent
the appearance of ignorance at some critical moment,
or help one to pass an examination creditably ; but of
what real use is it beyond that point ?

The reason for this difference in the value of de-
tails is suggested by an analogy, i.e. the history of



54 METHOD OF RECITATION

the attention given to falling apples. Probably apples
have been dropping from trees ever since Adam and
Eve tasted of the forbidden fruit; but such little
events have elicited no special interest until they
gave hints to a philosopher of the wonderful law
of gravitation. Their value, therefore, consists not
in themselves, but in what they suggest. The same
is true of Franklin's experiment with the kite and
electricity. It would be ridiculous to preserve all
the details of that incident if there were no uni-
versal truth involved in it; but since it led to the
discovery of another great natural law, it is justly
famous. Likewise, the daring deed of Guy Fawkes
is in itself without value; but if it is the means of
revealing a general truth, it becomes important. In
this historical event are revealed the boldness and
wickedness of a few human beings, and the hos-
tility that once threatened a strong government.
Such facts indicate the possible wickedness of
other human beings and the occasional hostility
that governments must encounter. These gener-
alizations act as warnings, and influence present
action. As far as Washington's character is con-
cerned, it would make little or no difference to us
if he did struggle with almost superhuman power
at Valley Forge, were not the qualities that he
there exhibited recognized as being in universal
demand. Seeing how he acted under adverse cir-
cumstances, we are reminded of the way in which



THE GOAL OF INSTRUCTION 55

all men should act. We forget that his was an in-
dividual character, and we idealize and universalize
it. Then, by comparison of our own lives with this
ideal, we recognize the demand made upon us for
nobler living. Thus, the Washington of one cen-
tury ago touches the men of to-day through the uni-
versal qualities of character that he presents. His
life bears no immediate relation to our own, but it
suggests rules of conduct which, being general or
universal, are binding upon all individuals alike. The
motives that controlled his actions could scarcely be
even matters of curiosity now, did they not seem
sufficiently admirable to possess this universal worth.
On the other hand, since the exact number of cracks
in a wall hint at no rule, it is worthless knowl-
edge. Likewise, the learning of names of capes in
geography, of margins of leaves, of dates, is likely
to prove valueless, because such facts usually hint
at nothing beyond, suggest no general truth or law.
If this standard for the worth of details were more
generally carried in mind, many facts ordinarily
taught would be omitted, and often others would
take their place.

The study of past events is valuable, therefore, to One peculiar
the extent that they suggest laws which are applica- gnera
ble at other times and in other places. Concrete facts " otlons 1S

c found m the

in all subjects of study are at least comparatively breadth of
worthless, unless they are recognized as instances application,
of general truths. Examples in arithmetic are or-



$6 METHOD OF RECITATION

dinarily worked, not primarily for their own sake,
but in order to reveal the law governing the pro-
cess involved.

Everywhere general notions are of especial value
because they find a broader application than indi-
vidual notions; they possess universality. This
thought has been tersely stated by Kant in his asser-
tion that, " Anschauungen ohne Begriffe sind blind"
or, Concrete notions without generalizations are
blind; they reveal nothing, they apply to nothing.
Hence we conclude that the first great use of gen-
eralizations is in securing unlimited application or
universality to knowledge. It is probably incorrect
to say that they are more important than individual
notions, for both are indispensable. One would
scarcely say that the light in a lighthouse is more
important than the lighthouse itself, for the latter is
the condition of the former ; yet the tower was con-
structed in order that it might contain the light, and
it would be worthless without it; hence it finds its
value in the light that it carries. The final object of
the entire structure is to furnish light. So the final
object, the goal of instruction, is the generalization,
although individual notions are indispensable in
attaining it.

How gener-
alizations are Second, generalizations are a necessary condition

thinkingand both f r thinking and for the expression of thought,
to the Probably very little thinking takes place without the

expression of

thought. help of words, or symbols that are equivalent to



THE GOAL OF INSTRUCTION 57

words ; they are the only track upon which thought
glides along smoothly. That being the case, it is
evident that if all words signified individuals, as
do proper nouns, thought would be very much
limited. Without general terms, i.e. without com-
mon nouns and the other seven parts of speech, all
general notions, rules, maxims, laws, etc., would fail
us. Argument would be impossible, and logical con-
clusions could not be drawn. But when general
terms are allowed, and when the concepts for which
they stand are abundant, thought becomes free. Not
only that, but when concepts are well developed, a
great impetus is given to thought. For example, if
the general truths are well established in one's mind
that heat expands and cold contracts, or that every-
thing that happens has an adequate cause, one is
prompted to make many applications of this law to
practical affairs. Philosophers, scientists, etc., who
have reached a large number of such generalizations,
are continually occupied in using them as the basis
for new hypotheses. Thus great mental activity is
secured and valuable conclusions are reached.

The free expression of thought to others is also
involved in the existence of concepts. If two per-
sons were continually seeing different objects and
having different experiences, while general terms
were wanting, there would be no way for one to
communicate his ideas to the other. Any word em-
ployed would signify only the particular experience



58 METHOD OF RECITATION

of a certain individual. But with an abundance of
concepts and terms for the same, thoughts can be
readily communicated ; then, even though people be
not acquainted with the same individual objects, the
common use of the same terms allows any word to
signify essentially the same thing to each mind.
HOW general A third important consideration is that the pos-

notions are . _ r n j i i v .

related to the session of carefully developed generalizations signi-
orgamzation fj es a pr OO( j classification of one's knowledge. In

of knowl-
edge, order to be of practical use the books in a library

must be carefully classified or arranged in groups,
those of a kind being placed together. This is a
matter of so much importance that in any large
library several men devote all of their time to this
work. Without such care books are forgotten or can-
not be found, and hence they prove useless. The
mind is practically a great library in which ideas
need likewise to be carefully grouped. It is of little
value for a man to collect a large number of precious
experiences if they cannot be found when wanted.
Chaos is as utterly opposed to utility in the case of
ideas as in the case of household furniture, toilet
articles, books, etc.

As already seen, nature compels some degree of
classification of our notions, for the essential charac-
teristics of an object are presented to us in each
individual of a class, while the non-essentials are
likely to appear only once, or a few times. Conse-
quently the class notions are especially impressed



THE GOAL OF INSTRUCTION 59

upon the mind. But this help of nature, or this
natural tendency to classify, is not sufficient. Special
effort must be made to harmonize and rightly group
our ideas ; otherwise they will be often contradictory
to one another, or poorly defined ; and those which
are quite unrelated will be found in the same group,
just as books under widely varying titles may by
accident be placed together.

But proper classification involves more than the
careful separation of experiences into groups ; it
involves the ranking of the same according to their
relative worth. Some facts are of far more value
than others, just as the officers of an army are far
more important than an equal number of common
soldiers. Unless one's generalizations have been
carefully developed, one is likely to overlook this
matter of relative worth and to neglect the higher
and especially important notions. Teachers who
have had no professional training show this ten-
dency plainly. Their minds are so occupied with
the details of teaching that they fail to distinguish
more important from less important matters, and the
idea of supreme importance, namely, the chief aim
of instruction, is the one most neglected in their
daily thought.

It is, on the whole, the organization of knowledge
that is here involved. In this age of unbounded
faith in the efficiency of organization in all fields,
the. organization of thoughts should not be neglected.



6O METHOD OF RECITATION

It is the most economical means of caring for one's
knowledge. Ideas that exist in a chaotic state are
wasted ; the more valuable the collection of them,
the greater the waste. Until they are assorted ac-
cording to their essential characteristics, and ranked
according to their worth, it is impossible to retain
them in memory, to survey them easily, and to find
them at the moment of need. Since to generalize
means to sort and rank notions, the reason is plain
why instruction should culminate in generalizations.
HOW general There is a fourth reason for regarding generaliza-

notions aid , . f . T-., , .

the acquisi- tions of supreme importance. They are the means
tion of o f apperceiving new experiences of any kind. It is

through them that it becomes possible to acquire
knowledge quickly and easily. Just as a new book
readily finds its proper place in a well-classified
library, so strange ideas readily find classification in
a mind whose contents have been carefully arranged.
This is seen in the reading of books on education.
One who approaches a pedagogical work with an or-
ganized or systematized body of educational thought
has a framework into which to place the ideas.
He knows quickly where each idea belongs, so
that even if the arrangement of points in the book
is poor, it need not be poor in the mind of the
reader. Also, as in an army the relative rank of
men can be quickly determined, so the relative
worth of the many thoughts can be recognized.
The system of thought (or the organized generali-



THE GOAL OF INSTRUCTION 6 1

zations) already at hand is both the framework in
which all ideas can be pigeonholed, and also the
standard according to which their value can be
measured. Thus, the profit from reading, from
sight-seeing, and from conversation is directly de-
pendent upon the extent to which one's ideas are
brought into order and ranked. It is only through
classification that much confusion and loss of time
in the acquisition of knowledge can be avoided.
Generalizations are, then, to the thinker what the
compass is to the seaman : they enable him to keep
his bearings, to remain free from confusion in new
regions.

That generalizations play such an important part
in the acquisition and organization of knowledge, sug-
gests an important requirement bearing on the selec-
tion of leading topics in each study of the school
course.

We are getting into the way of thinking out large HOW gencr-

, . , . . r .1 IT alizations art.

topics as units of instruction in many of the school the basis for
studies. In reading and literature we treat whole divisionof

studies into

poems, stories, and even the longer masterpieces as large topics,
units of thought. In history we select biographical
stories and commanding topics, like the Puritan emi-
gration or the growth of our territory, or internal
improvements as units of instruction. The study of
geography and natural science by types is also a
distinct movement toward the use of large units
of study.



62 METHOD OF RECITATION

Now general notions afford an excellent basis for
division of subject-matter into large topics, as is shown
in our two chapters of illustrative lessons in this book.
In each of those examples the general truth is what
gives connectedness and unity to the whole. For in-
stance, the general truth, " In unity is strength," es-
tablishes a close relation, or sequence, among a large
number of particular facts, and thus groups them into
one large topic. Likewise in the Metamorphosis of
the Milkweed Butterfly, in the Golden Touch, in Min-
neapolis as a Trade Centre, and in the Addition of
Fractions there is the same organization of materials
into one large unit. So, in every study, the entire
subject-matter should be arranged in these large
topics ; that is, the teacher should determine be-
forehand the general truths to be taught, and should
collect and arrange the details in each case which
lead to them. Fortunately, in arithmetic this has
already been done completely, and each lesson con-
tributes to some rule, apparent even to the children.

But where this is not done, miscellaneous collec-
tions of facts are made and committed to memory, as
when children in beginning the geography of New
England are asked to learn a list of products, as fol-
lows : boots and shoes, granite, cotton goods, lumber,
firearms, fish, paper, ships, wooden ware, maple
sugar, etc. This means disorder and confusion.

The prime defect in such cases lies in the original
selection and arrangement of the subject-matter with-



THE GOAL OF INSTRUCTION 63

out much regard to controlling principles. A study
is looked upon as a large accumulation of single
facts, when t should be considered as a series of
large topics, each containing a general truth.

If we can once get this idea of large units of in-
struction, each determined and organized by a cen-
tral truth, we can more easily understand and apply
a rational method of dealing with such units. The
following chapters endeavor to bring this truth out
more fully.



CHAPTER V

DO GENERALIZATIONS PRECEDE OR FOLLOW INDI-
VIDUAL NOTIONS ?

IT has been shown that general truths are the cen-
tral objects of interest in instruction. The process
of acquiring knowledge consists in securing an in-
sight into them and the ability to apply them easily
in all possible directions. For instance, one has
added much to his knowledge when he has come
to see clearly the single general truth that the pres-
ence of a definite aim is the condition of effective
work in any line ; the teacher may apply this gen-
eralization first of all to the school, seeking out the
great purpose of instruction ; then to each branch
of study, and to each recitation ; finally, he may
apply it to other spheres of activity, as to that of the
lawyer, of the minister, and even to human life as a
whole ; one may never finish the application of such
a broad truth, but knowledge grows as insight into it
and ability to apply it are increased.

The inquiry next in place touches the manner in
which generalizations should be reached. Should
they precede or follow the study of individual no-

64



ORDER OF GENERAL AND INDIVIDUAL NOTIONS 65

tions ? The first distinction between good and bad
method, or the first test of method, is found in the
answer to this question.

It is scarcely possible to conceive that primitive HOW the race
man began work with an outfit of general notions. a cquire
On the contrary, he certainly had to discover the knowled g e -
simplest facts for himself.

By experiment in its childhood the race learned
that flint makes good arrowheads, that meat spoils
quickly in warm weather, that the deer has certain
habits. Higher truths have been reached by more
developed peoples, but by the same route. Very
slowly have the laws been attained that pertain to
falling bodies, to the properties of gases, the pres-
sure of air, etc. The data for the same have been
recorded one after another, and often centuries have
elapsed between the time when the data for a great
law were recorded and the time when the latter was
really brought to light. In other words, the prog-
ress of the race has been necessarily experimental
and inductive ; it has reached the abstract or general
through the concrete or individual,

In many respects the child is an imitator of the HOW the

_ , . - child must

race. It is asserted by numerous eminent authon- beg j n .
ties that the chief stages in his development corre-
spond in a large way with those of the race. If
he passes through the same great culture epochs
as his ancestors, it is quite possible, then, that his
approach to general truths is the same as theirs.



66 METHOD OF RECITATION

Herbert Spencer is of the opinion that this is the case.
He says, in substance, that the mind of humanity,
placed in the midst of phenomena and striving to
comprehend them, has, after endless comparisons,
speculations, experiments, and theories, reached its
present knowledge of each subject by a specific
route ; that the relationship between mind and phe-
nomena, it may rationally be inferred, is such as to
prevent this knowledge from being reached by any
other route; and that, as each child's mind stands
in the same relationship to phenomena as that of
humanity, they can be accessible to it only through
the same route. 1

Aside from this argument, the proper answer to
the question whether the statement of generaliza-
tions should precede or follow the study of individ-
ual notions, seems almost self-evident from the
discussion in the previous chapter.
Another Since concepts or general truths can be drawn

reason why . . j j i -^

concepts on v from percepts or individual instances, it seems
should follow necessary that these latter should be presented and

percepts.

discussed before the former are deduced and worded.
Just as the acorn must be present before the oak
can be produced, so the concrete example must pre-
cede the abstract rule ; in both cases growth is in-
volved : in the one instance it is a material growth,
in the other a psychological one. One might as
well expect noise without vibrations as generaliza-
1 "Education,". Chapter II.



ORDER OF GENERAL AND INDIVIDUAL NOTIONS 6j

tions without particulars. And the order in which
individual and general notions are produced should
fully determine the order in which they should be
studied by children. To think them out clearly
means indeed to produce them.

General truths are not a finished product that can


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Online LibraryCharles Alexander McMurryThe method of the recitation → online text (page 4 of 21)