James Pyle Wickersham.

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ditioned, results from no mere blind consciousness,
as some have said, but it is certain 'knowledge. We


see the light but we cannot approach or analyze it.
Our reason gives us a firm ground for belief in the
existence of God, but here we must be content with
an imperfect knowledge of Him.

II. Principles Inferable from the Nature of

I mean by knowledge the means made use of in
the work of education. These means exist both in
the form of ascertained and unascertained truth. A
teacher may content himself in making his pupils
acquainted with what knowledge he finds in books
and what he knows himself, or he, may lead them
to try their strength in wrenching new truth from
nature ; but whether ascertained truth be taught or
unascertained truth be sought for, the nature of the
truth employed will vary the methods of imparting
it. The principle that the methods of operating
upon a thing are modified by the means used in the
operation, is susceptible of many illustrations. The
farmer considers the nature of his fertilizers before
he adopts a method of applying them upon his fields,
the physician regards the properties of his medicines
in his . methods of administering them, and the
mechanic handles his jack-plane in one way and
his hand-saw in another. That the teacher must
perform his work in obedience to the same principle
will be abundantly proven to one who will consider
the propositions which follow.

1. The several branches oe Knowledge can be
made to furnish the intellectual faculties with


Exercise proper in jcind and quantity. — The intel-
lectual faculties grow only by exercising them, and
bountiful provision is made for sucli exercise. It is
furnished by noting the vast multitude of facts and
phenomena with which we become aquainted our-
selves or of which we learn from others, and by the
study of N^atural Science, Language, Mathematics,
Metaphysics, History. In this manner the Senses,
Perception, Memory, Recollection, Imagination, Un-
derstanding and Reason can all receive due exercise.
All this will be clear to any one who will analyze a
branch of knowledge, and learn how its several parts
adapt themselves to the different intellectual facul-
ties. The intellectual faculties, however, will not
grow stronger without effort. A merely passive state
of mind weakens it. We must knock at the door of
knowledge before it will be opened. We must
smite heavily the rock of truth before its fountains
will gush forth their waters for the thirsting spirit.
Mature everywhere ignores the indolent. She eats
away their strength as rust destroys iron. I^or will
it do to look on while others work. 'No Sedan
chairs can be used for carrying passengers along the
paths that lead to the temple of knowledge. Labor
is the inexorable condition of success in study.

Knowledge, too, is easy or difficult and thus adapts
itself both to the weak and the strong. Many of
nature's facts and phenomena appear openly to the
senses, but more require careful searching to find
them. She allows some truths to lie loosely upon
the surface, but others she conceals deep down in
her very heart. Both a child and a philosopher may-
observe an apple fall from a tree, or a soap-bubble


float away in the sunliglit, and each iind suitable
intellectual exercise in so doing. The great is every-
where found in the little, and the little in the great,
that the intellect in its several stages of growth may
have exercise proper in kind and quantity.

2. Educational Means can be found adapted to
GIVE Culture to every Capability of Mind. — A
plant is beautifully adapted to the circumstances
that surround its growth. It needs mineral ele-
ments, and its little rootlets seek and find them in
the soil. It feeds on gases, and millions of minute
pore-mouths suck them in. It needs moisture, and
the rain falls about it. It needs heat and light,
and the sunshine warms its roots and plays among
its branches. So, too, an adaptation exists be-
tween our intellectual wants and the means of
supplying them. Each distinct intellectual faculty
requires a difl:erent kind of culture, but educational
means are as diversified as the wants they are
intended to supply.

We have senses, and there are things to be seen,
and heard, and handled. We have perception, and
there are objects and phenomena that constantly,
and on' every hand, attract observation and court
examination. We have memory, and the world is
full of things to be remembered — the object-matter
of science and art, the words of language, the facts
of history, the products of all that the mind does.
We have recollection and imagination, and the
stores of the memory must be brought forth, held
up for contemplation, and represented in new forms.
We have Understanding, and the whole work of


elaborating systems of science — forming classes,
making generalizations, and demonstrating princi-
ples, must be done. We have reason, and we know
there is something beyond the conditioned, universal,
and necessary principles, and a Being with infinite
perfections, God. If any intellectual power lacks
in discipline, it is not because means are wanting
adapted to the purpose.


Means which the Creator intended to be used for
THE Purposes of Education. — All men are not
naturally alike in taste or talent. To discharge the
various duties of life different kinds of ability are
required. Unity in diversity seems to be E'ature's
greatest maxim.

If God made men unlike, did He provide means
for preserving the difterence ? It cannot be doubted
that some men are peculiarly fitted to observe and
investigate the works of nature, and to build up
systems of natural science ; and is not their field of
labor boundless ? There are men who seem spe-
cially endowed with a talent for Mathematics, can
they ever exhaust the laws which may be evolved
from number and form ? There are men whose
penetrating glance can pierce the shifting phe-
nomena of sense, and perceive the very foundations
and ends of things. Philosophers — and surely things
have foundations and ends. Are there no materials
left out of which Poetry and Music can be made ?
none that the artist can express on canvass or in


marble ? Has God so fully revealed Himself that
prophecies are no longer possible ?

The answer to all these questions is easy. The
creation is infinite in all directions. E'o one man
can explore the whole of it. ~^o one man can per-
form all the world's work. If all men were simi-
larly endowed with talents, or gifted with tastes,
there must come a time when all progress would
cease. Divide labor, let each do what he can do
best, give all employment, and this field of life will
bring forth its most abundant harvests. With such
an arrangement need any one be idle ? ITot until
the finite becomes the infinite.

Much is said in w^orks on education in regard to
the harmonious culture of our mental faculties. If
it is merely meant that all our faculties should
receive due culture, the sentiment is faultless ; but
if it is meant that each individual should receive an
even culture, that the powers of his mind should
be balanced, that the chief business of education
consists in suppressing talents where talents have
been given, and attempting to create talents where
talents have been denied, I must be permitted to
enter my protest against the doctrine. The interests
of science and the duties of life no less than our
diversity of gifts forbid it.

What is above said applies to the difference re-
quired in the education of the sexes. Individuals
may learn wdiatever they are capable of learning.
The tastes and talents God gave to women they may
use as well as men ; and just so far as their tastes
and talents differ from those of men should their
education differ. It need scarcely be added that all


women can find fit food for tlieir mental appetites
as well as all men.

4. ISTature presents to the Inquirer, first the


THEN Words or Signs for Things ; first Facts and
Phenomena, and then Laws and Principles; first
Wholes, and then Parts and Collections of Wholes
— thus indicating to the Teacher the propriety of
confining his Elementary Instruction mainly to
Lessons on Objects whose properties can be
directly perceived, for the purpose of making the
Experience of the Young as extensive as possi-
ble. — The perceptive are relatively tlie strongest
intellectual faculties possessed by the young, and
they are the first to be made use of in the search
for knowledge.

l^ature presents to the inquirer first the concrete
and then the abstract. This is true of course with
respect to all objects of i^Tatural History ; but it is
also true of the so-called abstract sciences. The
first step in Arithmetic was counting the fingers or
counting something else. The first step in Geometry
was the measurement of land. The first Music was
the song of birds or the tones of the human voice.

K'ature presents first things and then words or
sisrns for thinsrs. All that we know of the oris^in of
language goes to confirm this view. Many corres-
pondences are found in the primitive languages,
and some in all languages, between the sounds of
words and the things signified by them. Qualities
were noticed and then names applied. The Bible


tells US, too, that animals were brought before Adam
to see what he would call them.

ISTature presents first facts and phenomena, and
then laws and principles. The genesis of all science
is confirmatory of this statement. It is true that
when a science reaches a certain stage of advance-
ment and its laws and principles become well-
established, they can be applied to new facts and
phenomena; but science in its earlier stages of
growth is now alone in question.

Nature presents first wholes and then parts and
collections of wholes. The whole of an object
must be observed before it can be analyzed into
parts ; and the mind must pass from one individual
whole to others before it can make a synthesis of
the collection.

If these statements are true, they must have an
important bearing upon elementary education. JSTa-
ture plainly indicates the first steps in learning. To
attempt to teach in contravention of her plan is to
damage the intellect under training, and to lay a
foundation upon which science can never rest
securely. The great aim of elementary education
should be to communicate the elements of know-
ledge — to make more extensive the experience of
the young.

5. E"ature opens up her Truths in a certain
order and that order must be followed in investi-
GATION AND Study. — The elements of all knowledge
are cotemporary in origin. A child may begin the
study of all branches of science, for in their begin-
nings all seem equally simple. Progress in science


is from a united base to divided brandies, or from
the homogeneous to the heterogeneous. The ob-
servations a child may make as he stands in a garden
or walks throusch a meadow will serve as the first
steps in all kinds of learning. From this root
several trunks spring, and divide and subdivide like
the branches of a tree.

The object-matter of knowledge is arranged like
successive strata, that beneath not being approacha-
able except by passing through that above. First,
we find qualities and facts disconnected and frag-
mentary. They lie upon the surface. Deeper down
we find other facts and other qualities. Second, we
notice the likeness and unlikeness of things. They
appear to us in clusters or classes. Those we notice
first are very apparent, but identity and difiFerence
extend down to the very heart of things. Third,
we begin to see that particulars can be reduced to
generals, that individuals belong to classes, and
species to genera, that many phenomena are the
result of a single law. 'No limits can be fixed to
this work. Fourth, seeing efifects, we search for
causes, We . inquire why ? and wherefore ? We
construct syllogisms and carry on processes of rea-
soning. No end can be found to the chain of causa-
tive. Fifth, we realize that something exists that
no process of reasoning can reach — that we can think
things that we could never know by experience ;
that we can catch glimpses, at least, of. the infinite,
the pure, and the perfect. Here we find God, and
our work is done.

I cannot claim that what has just been said is an
accurate expression of the order in which the mind



proceeds in acquainting itself Avitli the object-matter
of knowledge, for I well know that more or fewer
steps may be made ; but I think it will convey to
the mind of the reader with sufficient clearness the
great educational truth under consideration.

The contents of a text-book must be arranged in
accordance with the law now stated. In commenc-
ing the study of a branch of learning, it is clear
that there is a first step which should be taken, a
second that ought to follow, and this introduces a
third; and so a whole subject, to be properly studied,
must be made up of a series of logically connected
parts. A pupil enters school knowing something.
The teacher must acquaint himself with what his
pupil knows, and then detach from what is unknown
to him appropriate matter, and link the known and
the unknown together.

6. The Empirical and the Rational Sciences
REQUIRE Different Methods of Instruction. —
Knowledge has two sources, the Senses and the
Keason. All science based upon the evidence of
experience may be call Empirical sci-ence, and all
science based upon the intuitions of the Reason may
be called Rational science. Methods of teaching
these two classes of sciences are different.

An Empirical science differs from a Rational
science in its data^ in its end^ and in its j^roc^sses of
reasoning. The data of an Empirical science are
facts ; its end is the attainment of general laws, and
its processes of reasoning are inductive. The data of
a Rational science are necessary and universal princi-
ples or ideas; its end is the attainment of particular


principles, or less general ideas, and its processes of
reasoning are deductive. Chemistry is an Empirical
science, and Geometry, including its axioms and
definitions, has the form of a Rational science; to
those acquainted with the nature of both no further
exposition is necessary.

There are two modes by which an Empirical
science may be taught. By the first, facts are pre-
sented, and then the laws that may be inferred from
them. By the second, an hypothesis may be
assumed, and afterwards search may be made for
the facts by which it can be tested ; or laws, fully
established, may be stated to the unlearned in the
form of propositions, and the facts upon which they
rest adduced to prove them. In the more advanced
stages of an Empirical science, it is possible to an-
ticipate the existence of unascertained facts from a
knowledge of the general laws which must control
them. In the first mode there are given facts to
find laws, and in the second there are given laws,
either ascertained or hypothecated, to find facts.

There are likewise two modes of teachino^ a
Rational science. The necessary and universal prin-
ciples which form the data of such a science may be
first communicated, and this may be followed by
the demonstration of the particular truths contained
in them. This is the first mode. A particular truth
or principle may be assumed, and the proof of it
be sought for in the necessary and universal princi-
ples of which it is a part. This is the second mode.
The first mode consists in the evolution of the con-
tents of axioms, definitions, intuitions of the reason ;
the second consists in demonstrating particular


truths, by showing their conformity with universal
and necessary truth.

The two modes of teaching an Empirical science
differ from the two modes of teaching a Rational
science. Take the modes first named with reference
to each, and compare them. The source of our
knowledge of facts is the Senses, the source of our
knowledge of universal and necessary principles is
the Reason. When we infer general laws from par-
ticular facts we proceed in one way, inductively; but
when we attempt to analyze the pure products of
the Reason we proceed in quite another, deduc-
tively. The conclusion in one case is but the gen-
eralization of experience and cannot extend beyond
the facts observed, while in, the other the conclusion
is exact and positive knowledge.

The same differences will appear if we compare
the two modes last mentioned. Starting out with
an hypothesis or an ascertained law in Empirical
Science may be the same as commencing with the
assumption of a particular trath in a Rational
Science, but here the similarity between the two
modes of procedure ends, for proving a principle
by facts differs very materially from demonstrating
it by reasoning.

7. The First Form of Instruction must be
Qualitative, next Quantitative, and then a Com-
parison OF Relations. — Things are known only by
their qualities. They are the Alphabet of nature.
They are the medium of introduction between that
which is to know and that which is to be known.

The first form of instruction must be qualitative.


Mark liow a child learns. He perceives that things
are hard or soft, large or small, few or many, long
or short, tough or brittle, hot or cold, white or black,
red or yellow, heavy or light, sweet or sour, w^ithout
at all stopping to measure their several degrees.
He distinguishes objects from one another by their
kind of qualities. He will learn for instance to
distinguish a horse from a cow before he can dis-
tinguish horses or cows from one another. The
same thing may be inferred from the language of a
child, as his first speech is made up of words which
stand for man. dog, clock, cat, &c., &c. He even uses
pa and ma in a general sense. All this goes to prove
the truth that stands at the head of this paragraph,
and suggests lessons on objects, lessons on form,
consistency, color, and the qualities of things gen-

The second form which instruction should take
is quantitative. After having observed a quality
we soon begin to limit it — to limit it in space, in
time, and in degree. We inquire how large or how
small? how long or how short? how much or how
little ? We invent weights, measures, coins. It is
evident that to learn quantities requires closer, more
precise, better defined thought than to observe quali-
ties ; and such thought is necessary to build up a
science. When children have learned the qualities
of objects, let them be made to attend to them more
closely, to quantify them. They should not merely
name the form of an object, but tell its length,
breadth and thickness ; not merely say that a thing
is large or small but state how large or how small ;
they should be taught to measure in ounces and


pounds, in pints and quarts, in shades, in degrees,
and in numbers.

After instruction lias passed tlirougli the qualita-
tive and quantitative stages, its further progress
must be by a comparison of relations. "We discri-
minate qualities and measure quantities by compari-
son, but this kind of comparison is not a comparison
of relations. We employ such a comparison when
we compare causes and effects, means and ends, and
the inherent identities and differences of things ; and
such a comparison is only possible when we are in
possession of the qualities and quantities used as data
in our reasoning. All works of science, properly so
called, are the results of a comparison of relations, and
the teacher has, therefore, ample material for impart-
ing the kind of instruction implied in the premises.


Object-matter of Knowledge, Methods or Teach-
ing MUST BE Inductive or Deductive, Analytical
OR Synthetical. — The whole objective world is made
up of existences and the laws which control them.
Science is made up of such of these as men have
been able to observe and find out. Induction means
ascending from facts to principles, and this method
may be adopted in teaching.

When in the possession of the generalizations of
induction, we can use them in the interpretation of
new facts and phenomena, and this process is some-
times called deduction, but it is rather a part of
induction and is so considered here. 'No science
can be well taught without its use.

It has been shown that the intuitions of the Reason


enable us to apprehend certain necessary and uni-
versal principles and that these contain other prin-
ciples embodied in them. Deduction, as I under-
stand it, is the evolution of particular principles
from necessary and universal principles, and as such
must be the method of study in all the Eational
Sciences. Properly there is no induction in Mathe-
matics or Logic, and surely there is none in Ethics
or Esthetics.

As the inductive is the only method applicable
to the Empirical Sciences, and the deductive is the
only method applicable to the Rational Sciences,
and as all science may be included in these classes,
it follows that methods of teaching must be either
inductive or deductive.

Apart from mere perception or intuition, every
operation we are capable of performing upon the
object-matter of knowledge maybe generalized into
the processes of multiplication and division. In our
investigations of nature, she never presents herself
to us in her minutest subdivisions. With solvents,
dissecting-knives, and microscopes we must search
for these. Earth, water, air, animal and vegetable
organisms are made to yield up their hidden ele-
ments. This is the process of division or analysis.

I^ature does not anywhere, to our view, complete
herself. She ignores fractions. We see a number
of her animals, her plants, her rocks, her stars, and
infer the rest. We laboriously search out laws and
truths and combine what we discover into systems
of science ; but, at best, we know little in com-
parison with what remains unknown. Science
grows ; every day adds something to the world's


stock of knowledge. Tins is the process of multi-
plication, or synthesis.

All knowledge, as presented in books for study,
is a synthesis. The materials of which such know-
ledge is made up, howeyer, must haye been obtained
mainly by means of analysis. If in teaching a
science we follow the method by which it grew up,
the process must be synthetical, but if we take it as
it is, and diyide and subdiyide it into parts until we
find the elements upon which it is based, the process
is analytical. Both processes are equally legitimate,
and both should be used in almost eyery lesson.
Authors of text-books are accustomed to apply the
terms analytical and synthetical to their works with
yery little judgment. Both analysis and synthesis
must be made use of in writing a text-book on any
subject, and in teaching it, and no other methods
haying the same aim are possible.

9. The Object-Matter of Knowledge, as it


AS TO Facilitate its Acquisition. — The suggestive
powers of the mind and the connections of matter
correlate. We can imagine a world with its parts
confused, disjointed, fragmentary. In ours complete
isolation is unknown. TJie motto E plurihus unum
could nowhere be so well applied as to the uniyerse.
It is the connections and relations of natural
objects that render science possible. Surely there
is a foundation in the things themselyes for the for-
mation of classes, genera, and species. If a student
makes the acquaintance of one fact, that will intro-
duce him to another, and so on in endless succession.


ITature is arranged like a suit of rooms, each with a
door opening to the next, A student in sympathy
with nature hears voices caUing him, and sees hands
beckoning him on at every step in his progress, and
before him ever floats "the banner with the strange
device, excelsior.''

If the object-matter of knowledge, as it exists in
nature, is so connected and arranged as to facilitate

Online LibraryJames Pyle WickershamMethods of instruction .. → online text (page 4 of 31)