James Pyle Wickersham.

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its acquisition, so may it be in text-books. A text-
book ought to present a subject in its natural order
and connections. One point, or one topic, or one
lesson ought to suggest the next. It may be well in
teaching sometimes to put questions concerning
things apart from their connections, but it is best to
first teach them in their connections.

10. The Matter of Knowledoe, as it lies in the
Memory, has Connections and Relations which
Increase its Availability. — If the connections
and relations of knowledge are observed in acquiring
it, it will preserve these connections and relations
as it lies in the memory, and the same conditions
that rendered its acquisition more easy, will also aid
in making it available. In addition, however, there
are other laws which apply to acquired knowledge
that do not apply to the objective realities from
which it was derived. Things originally discon-
nected or unrelated, may have been learned at the
same time, or in such way as to link them together
in the memory. Besides, the laws of association
seem constantly operative in assorting the materials
of knowledge as they exist in the mind. They bring
like things together, and separate things that are


unlike. A well disciplined memory has a place for
everything, and keeps everything in its place.

If the object-matter of knowledge, as it lies in the
memory, has such connections and relations as have
now been pointed out, they must make it more
available. A man of business can settle an account
in a few moments, it may be, if all the papers relat-
ing to it are kept together, but, if they are scattered
about, hours may be occupied in doing the same
work, and even then it may be done inaccurately.
It is just so with the materials of knowledge as they
lie in the memory. These materials are too vast to
be dealt with as individual things, they can only be
made available to the powers which recall and hold
them up for contemplation, by forming them into
trains, arranging them in clusters, uniting them in
series, or associating them in classes. Teachers,
who would not see much of their labor lost, must
conduct their work mindful of these facts.

11. New Discoveries in Science and ]^ew Inven-
tions IN the Arts are still possible, and Methods
OF Instruction should prompt the Young to make
them. — Discoveries are constantly being made in
all departments of science. ITever before was the
progress of science so rapid. The harvest seems
ripe, and every reaper is blessed with a share of
fruit. And still all that has been done is little in
comparison with what remains to be done.

What is true in the field of science is true also
in the field of art. It may be that the same rapid
progress is not apparent with respect to the Fine
Arts, but it is especially manifest in all departments


of the Mechanic and Useful Arts ; and still every
day human ingenuity brings to light some new

I take it that education means something more
than merely conning the facts and repeating the
reasonings of text-hooks. If properly instructed,
pupils will desire to look beyond what they have
been taught, or what they have simply learned.
They will feel that work has been left for them to
do, and they will desire to do it. The highest aim
of teaching is not to store the mind with the ac-
cumulated knowledge of ages, but to arm it with
energy and skill ; not to enable pupils merely to
solve problems in Mathematics, construe sentences
in Grammar, or answer questions in Philosophy,
but to inspire them with a love of study, to awaken
in their minds an animating, life-giving power, that
does not rest satisfied with present attainments but
is ever striving to open up new truths, to express
new beauty, or to contrive new ways of lessening
labor or eftecting good.

Few, if any, great thinkers were* ever made by
books. A mathematician very inferior to IN'ewton
or La Place can follow the reasoning of the Principia
or the Mecanique Celeste. Bacon and Locke are
read by school-boys who talk flippantly of the In-
ductive Philosophy and the doctrine of Innate Ideas.
When once conquered, nature's noblest truths grow
comparatively tame. To secure the best mental
discipline, we teach too much at second-hand. We
rely too much upon books. We sufler the mind's
productive powers to lie too nearly dormant. We
follow too closely in the paths beaten by others to


gain the advantage of that vigorous self- thinking,
which is necessary to wrench new truth from nature.
Those methods of teaching should be adopted which
would throw pupils most upon their own resources,
which would call out all the originality that they
may possess, which would lead them to repeat the
experiments and verify the conclusions of others,
and urge them on to add their mite to the sum of
human knowledge and human ingenuity.

12. ISTature everywhere courts Investigation by
A System of Attractions which enlist the Atten-
tion, AND induce Increased Activity in the Powers
BY which we Remember, Reflect, Reason and
Philosophize ; and, therefore. Methods of Teaching
SHOULD BE Suggestive. — Pupils should not be made
mere passive recipients of knowledge. Many teachers
tell too much. They communicate facts, answer
questions, solve problems, and their pupils receive
their instruction in blank wonder or stupid indiffer-
ence. "With such teaching knowledge is merely
received like grain into a granary or freight into
the hold. of a ship. Such teachers are like apothe-
caries or grocers, and simply deal out their stock in
trade to their waiting customers. At the best they
can only store the memory with facts which must
lie there, cumbrous, undigested, and useless.

The search for knowledge should not be charac-
terized by a blind activity on the part of the pupil.
"We have just seen that a teacher may aid his pupils
too much, it is just as true that he may aid them
too little. A due regard to the economy of the
mental forces will not admit of their useless expendi-


ture. Pupils T\'itliout direction as to what or how
to study may waste their time in fruitless efforts.
A traveller in a strange city without a guide may
easily lose his strength in ill-directed efforts to find
his way, so a timely hint from a teacher may relieve
a pupil from a difficulty that is wearing away his
time and wear^dng his patience without conducing
to any useful end. The teacher can guide his pupil
without carrying him along, he can direct his work
without performing it, he can pilot his hark without
doing all the rowing.

Progress in study should not be merely mechani-
cal. It is easily possible for pupils to go over studies
without learning them. Their progress is measured
too often by the quantity of the work looked at,
rather than the quality of the work done. Some
teachers are at great pains to relieve their pupils
from the trouble of thinking. They are constantly
watchful to remove every difficulty from their path-
way, and, by leading questions, make them seem to
know that of which in reality they are ignorant. If
learning could be obtained in this way, the road to *
it would be a "royal" one — a kind of rail-road,
ready-graded and well provided with cars and mo-
tive power, to transport swiftly along those who are
in search of Iviiowledge, and who meanwhile can sit
or sleep.

In opposition to those methods of teaching which
make the condition of the learner one of passive
reception, one of blind activity, or one of mechanical
progression, we say that methods of teaching should
be suggestive — should prompt pupils to earnest self-
exertion. Facts should be communicated in such a


manner as to suggest other facts; one eiFort in
reasoning, stimulate to other eftbrts ; one trial of
strength, induce other trials; one difficulty over-
come, excite an ambition to triumph over other
difficulties. The teacher should create interest in
study, incite curiosity, promote inquiry, prompt in-
vestigation, inspire self-confidence, give hints, make
suggestions, tempt pupils on to try their strength
and test their skill.

ITature teaches according to the suggestive method.
The phenomena of animal and vegetable organisms
of earth, and air, and sky, are so many hints to in-
duce man to investigate her mysteries. Grecian
artists take a hint from plants and trees, and Doric
alid Corinthian columns adorn their country's proud-
est cities ; Kewton takes a hint from a falling apple,
and the ponderous planets roll in harmonious gran-
deur about the universe, in obedience to his law of
gravitation ; Watt takes a hint from ^ hissing tea-
urn, and we have the steam-engine; Hugh Miller
takes a hint from the curious fossils which his boyish
pranks exhumed, and the Old Red Sandstone of his
loved Scotland spreads forth its treasures in a voice
so eloquent that the whole world listens.
* Nature teaches according to the suggestive method.
She has her picture galleries, and her galleries of
statues, her stupendous architecture, her rich mu-
seums, and her immense zoological and botanic
gardens; to all the enjoyments of which she invites
men eagerly, freely, without money and without

Nature teaches according to the suggestive method.
She excites curiosity, courts investigation, asks to


have lier riddles read ; sometimes, silently persuad-
ing the willing to examine her treasures, and some-
times compelling the indolent to study her laws by
making obedience to them essential to their well-

One of my best lessons in teaching was taught me
by a robin. It was in my garden, and the mother-
robin was teaching her young brood to fly. A little
robin sat upon the nest and seemed afraid to move.
The m.other-bird came and stood by its side, stroked
it with her bill, and then hopped to a neighboring
twig and stood awhile as if to induce the little bird
to follow. Again and again she repeated her caresses,
and then hopped nimbly to the same twig. At
length the little bird gained courage, and to the
great joy of its mother, shook its weak wings, started
and stood by her side. Another more distant twig
was now selected, and further effort brought the
little bird to it also. And so the process was re-
peated many times, until the timid fledgling now
grown quite bold could sail away with its mother
over woodlands, fields, and meadows.

13. The Study of the Sciences does not in itself
LEAD TO Virtue. — Virtue may be defined as con-
formity of conduct to the rule of right, and a virtu-
ous man is one who conforms his conduct to the
rule of right. But the rule of right cannot be found
to inhere in things — neither in their fitness, their
harmony, nor their relations, ^o study of the
sciences, however profound, can reveal it, although
such study may prepare the way for its full appre-


Looking to the same conclusion is the fact that
many great scholars have heen bacl men, and many
good men have been poor scholars.

But while no searching among the sciences will
discover the rule of right, we intuitively conceive an
ideal of the • perfection and worth of the human
spirit. That there is a real thing corresponding to
this ideal conception is most certain, although it
cannot he made an object of scientific investigation.
The right is to add perfection and worth to the
human spirit, and study when pursued with this end
in view is virtuous. Those means are virtuous
which are legitimately used to attain virtuous ends.

In the light of what has been said it is easy to
• define the relation of intellectual education to wrong-
doing or crime. The moral value of an intellectual
education depends upon the end for which it is
sought. It is bad if sought for selfish or wicked
purposes. It is good if sought for the purpose of
benefiting mankind, of dignifying the human
character, or of honoring God ; if sought to gain
knowledge, to attain discipline — ends within itself,
^ although among its gettings one will not find
wisdom, yet its tendencies must be indirectly on
virtue's side.

14. "What we can Know is everywhere Bounded


from a tree in a garden. A wise man, watching it,
is moved to search for the cause. He observes many
similar phenomena, and ascertains that all of them
are controlled by a. common law. He calls it the
law of gravitation, and finds, after careful investiga-


tiou, that its influence extends to the heavenly
bodies and keeps the planets in their orbits. But
can any one tell us what the law of gravitation is in
itself? or what may be its cause ? A Geologist may
trace with indefatigable labor the changes through
which our earth has passed ; he may ascend from
the present condition of things to that which imme-
diately preceded it, and from that to the next, and
so on until he finds the earth at first to have been
w^ithout form and void, and with darkness resting on
tUe face of the deep, or until it appears as a vast
nebulous mass of fluid-matter floating in space, and
yet be compelled to leave the whole mystery of
creation unsolved. Who can define space ? Who
can measure time ? Who can mount up to the
beginning of things, or fathom their end ? Who,
indeed, can take up the ends of the thread of his
own consciousness ?

What we can know is everywhere bounded by
what must remain unknown. But what can we
know ? We can know all that is finite and relative,
although we cannot number the years it will take
the race to do it. We can do more, we can know
that there is an iTfftmte, an absolute, a Crod, but what
they are it is beyond our power to find out. Phi-
losophy, mis-called so, has never been able to exclude
from the human consciousness the idea that there
is something that extends beyond all possible expe-
rience, that back of all phenomena there is some
actuality in which they inhere, or from which they
spring, that there must be a great First Cause. The
human consciousness is right. This idea must be
answered by a reality. It is impossible not to be-


lieve it. It must be or nothing can be. But while
we have firm ground for faith in such a reality,
we can construct no science of the unconditioned.
What we know must be derived from Revelation.
We see with human vision, but cannot understand
without supernatural assistance.

If these views are true they will prevent an over-
estimate of the extent and value of scientific attain-
ments. They show that the knowable has limits ;
and they show, too, that even the basis of the
knowable is faith. Science will thus learn to walk
in the humble sphere God designed for her.

They will also furnish a ground upon which to
establish the doctrines of Religion. They are
equally at variance with Atheism on the one hand,
and Pantheism on the other. They make certain
our knowledge of the existence of God, but in limit-
ing our knowledge of Him to this fact, they neces-
sitate a Revelation, and leave room for the most
exalted faith.


The I^aturalist finds classification necessary to
enable him to handle the immense number of facts
which observation brings to light in any one branch
of science. It will surprise no one, then, that in a
discussion concerning Methods of Instruction, which
requires the whole object-matter of knowledge to
be kept in view, some systematic arrangement of
the various branches of knowledge is necessary as a
preliminary condition.

A certain amount of knowledge is now in the
possession of mankind. If we could determine the
process by which it was obtained, or how it grew up
in the mind, a great step would be taken in the way
of ascertaining a correct method of teaching, for
knowledge must be imparted in the manner it can
best be learned. If History tells anything on this
point, it ought to be consulted.

It is not a matter of indifierence as to what kind
of knowledge is first imparted. There is much
which a child can understand, and much that can
only be comprehended by full-grown men. In any
particular branch of knowledge some things depend
upon other things, and thus necessitate a series of
connected steps in teaching.

In building a foundation for our proposed Methods
of Instruction, it may be well to consider:



I. The Classification of Knowledge.
II. The Genesis of Knowledge.
III. The Order of Study.

The close attention of the student is- invited to
the discussion of each of these topics, as he will find
therein a key to much that follows :

I. The Classification of Knowledge.

A classification of knowledge is possible from two
stand-points. Its object-matter consists of the uni-
versal whole of things. The w^iole of things has its
divisions and subdivisions — its kingdoms, classes,
orders, genera, and species. It is for Philosophy to
find the trunk, and trace out the branches of the
tree of knowledge ; or it is for Philosophy to find
a principle of classification, and apply it. This
stand-point is that of the objective relations of

Laws control all our mental operations. Science
could not result from lawless thought. If we could
mark the point at which the thinking process begins
and measure the successive stages of its unfolding,
we might be able to classify knoAvledge from the
order in w^hich its several parts are evolved. This
stand-point is that of the subjective laws of thought.

To a mind with infinite powers a classification of
knowledge is possible, both from the relations of
things and from the laws of thought; but the
results of one mode would be the same as of the
other. When men attempt to classif}^ knowledge,
they must proceed in the same way ; but their
imperfect understanding of the relations of things


on the one hand, and of the laws of thought on the
other must always render their results incomplete,
if it does not cause them to be erroneous.

Since knowledge is the product of the mind
within upon the world without, it would seem that
there could be formed a classification of knowledge
founded upon its historical development, which
would be sufficient at least for practical purposes,
combining, as it might, the advantages of both the
preceding methods; but even here there is little
agreement among those who have attempted it.

Before any systematic discussion respecting Meth-
ods of Instruction can take place, some scheme for
the classification of knowledge must be adopted;
and, seeing this, diligent search has been made to
find one suited to the purpose. Many have been
examined, but all of them seemed open to serious
objection. Comte's is the best known classification
of the sciences, made with respect to the matter of
which they are composed. His classification is as
follows : Mathematics, Astronomy, Physics, Chem-
istry, Physiology, Social Physics. The principle
which determines the order of the series is the
relative degree of simplicity in their subject-matter.
Without naming the several objections that may be
made to this classification of the sciences as such, it
is enough to show its want of adaptation to the pur-
poses of teaching to say that the mental nature of
no child will admit his being first taught Mathe-
matics, next Astronomy, and so on to the end of
the series. Hegel may be taken as the ablest repre-
sentative of the class of Philosophers who classify
the sciences with respect to the laws of thought by


which they are evolved. But he begins with Logic,
or the science of pure ideas — a science he has
scarcely made clear to the wisest men, to say nothing
of children. Herbert Spencer's classification of the
sciences, founded upon the relative degree of
abstractness in the matter of the various classes
comprised in it, is more exhaustive, and, I think,
more philosophical than that of Comte, but it can-
not be used to any more advantage in teaching, as
his first class comprises what is most abstract, while
the work of instruction must commence with what
is wholl}^ concrete. Our own countryman, Rev. Dr.
Hill, President of Harvard University, has arranged
and expounded with great ability a classification of
the sciences based upon the order in which the
several sciences are developed; but, as has been
already intimated, and as will be more fully shown
hereafter, the elements of all the sciences are so
nearly cotemporaneous in origin that it is practi-
cally impossible to fix their position in an order of
time. A course of study, therefore, must com-
mence with the elements of all the sciences, and not
as Dr. Hill states in the order of his classes, Alathe-
sis. Physics, History, Psychology, and Theology.
It ought to be added, however, that, somewhat in
violation of his own theory, as it seems to me, Dr.
Hill advocates in practice the simultaneous study
of the different branches of knowledge.

Failing to find in any of the schemes of classifica-
tion known to me, those requisites which the dis-
cussion contemplated seems to demand, I will group
into several great classes the matter taught in our
schools, trusting to the Philosopher of a future day


to accomplisli what I now feel myself unable to do.
These classes have been formed with special refer-
ence to teaching. They differ most in the elements
they contain capable of modifying 3fethods of Instruc-
tion. Still, branches of knowledge have not been
thrown together independent of what is considered
to be their essential relationships, nor in the gen-
eral arrangement is all reference to the order of
growth in which knowledge is built up in the mind
overlooked. It will be perceived, however, that
these classes of studies often involve one another.
From the nature of the case, it is impossible to form
a classification to which this may not be made an
objection. The principles of the various branches
of knowledge necessarily overlap and interlace, for
there is in reality but one science. Nature is a
whole, and one science must be involved in all other
sciences. It ought to be remarked further that the
elements of all the sciences are, in their beginnings,
equally simple. Kor can one science ever attain
perfection without help from the other sciences.
The simplest fact that can be observed must have a
connection with the most profound truths. There
is no proper hierarchy of the sciences.

The classes it is thought proper to make, are the
following :

First Class. — The Elements of Knowledge. — The
elements of knowledge are the perceptions of the
sense and the intuitions of the reason. Upon these,
as a basis, all knowledge is built up.

By perceptions of the sense is meant whatever
can be seen, heard, felt, or directly known by the


senses — facts and phenomena. Included in this
class are the color, form, size, weight, and number
of objects; such qualities as hardness and softness,
smoothness and roughness, sweetness and sourness,
loudness and softness; and such phenomena as
appear to the senses in the world about us.

By intuitions of the reason are meant those regu-
lative principles of the human mind which render
all experience possible. A child may be wholly
unconscious of them, it may be a long time before
he can give them verbal expression, but they are
ever operative, universal, and necessary. It cannot
be supposed that any mental operation, even the
simplest act of perception, tak^s place without the
control of law; and a careful analysis of such acts
will reveal the fact that they involve certain uni-
versal and necessary principles which admit of
statement. A very young child, for example, knows
its mother, but the law of identity and difference,
by which it does so, cannot, of course, be under-
stood. A boy who has his ball in his pocket is
quite sure it cannot be in the pocket of another boy,
although he may not be able to appreciate the axiom
that " A thing cannot be in different places at the
same time." He knows, too, that a whole pie is
equal to the sum of all the pieces into which it is
cut, if he can find no fit expression for the principle
that enables him to know it. Pages of illustrations
might be given, but these are sufiicient to show that
the principles upon which the profoundest Philoso-
phy must rest are found operative in the minds of
children, and must be considered among the ele-

Online LibraryJames Pyle WickershamMethods of instruction .. → online text (page 5 of 31)