Norman Allison Calkins.

Manual of object-teaching : with illustrative lessons in methods and the science of education online

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more we learn correctly, the more easily can we acquire
additional knowledge.


This is not a faculty of the mind, but rather a common
term used to express the results of the action of several
mental powers, prominent among which are those of per-
ceptiveness, conception, and attention. Inasmuch as in
the practical exercises of education the combined action
of these powers of mental acquisition is chiefly consid-
ered, rather than their individual qualities, I shall here
treat of them in this united capacity, under the name of

The act of observing springs from the natural desire to
know. This act, in turn, reacts on that desire, stimulat-
ing it and increasing the power of observation. A child,
whose powers of mental acquisition have been properly
exercised, will acquire the habit of observation, and thus
increase his ability to gain knowledge.

To observe is not merely to see, and hear, and feel, but
to see, and hear, and feel with such attention as to perceive
clearly and accurately. The more the observation is thus
employed, the more will be brought into the view of the
mind by sensations and perceptions.

Observation should first be employed upon those qual-
ities which act directly upon the senses; since the more
these are noticed, and the more ideas of them are asso-
ciated together, the better will be laid the foundation for
future knowledge. In the works of nature there is much
more to excite the observation of children, as well as
much more that can be made the subjects of pleasing in-
struction, than in the works of art ; but the judicious in-
structor will not be at a loss to find numerous objects


within doors, as well as without, to thus aid in the proc-
ess of mental culture, especially such as will stimulate the
mind to a careful observation of nature.

The habit of observation depends, in part, upon the
general culture of the mind, especially upon the asso-
ciated thoughts and feelings connected with external ob-
jects. The farmer's boy, with all the advantages that the
country and his employment afford him' for the excite-
ment of his observation, where no attention has been
given to this kind of education, sometimes will be found
extremely deficient in the habit of careful observation.
His perceptions are dull from lack of exercise, and his
mind is scarcely awakened. Sensations often repeated,
without being perceived, cease to excite the notice of
the mind, and its noble powers lie dormant from want
of exercise.

Those who have been engaged in the business of edu-
cation well know the different degrees of accuracy and
quickness of observation that are found in children, and
also how important it is, for progress in intellectual cult-
ure, that this habit should be early formed. Childhood
is the period of observation, and it should then be made
a primary object in training. Observation is of essential
value in every branch of education, and in every depart-
ment of life. The successful acquisition of every science
depending upon experiment indeed, the acquisition of
knowledge of every kind which depends upon the exer-
cise of the perceptive faculties, the cultivation of taste,
information relating to the common concerns of life, and
even the civilities of society require a constant exercise
of this habit.

So long as the observation of a child does not rest
merely with the immediate objects of perception, but con-
tinues to connect them with that information which the
instructor communicates, or which has been derived from


past observation, it is very -usefully employed. Whatever
method is found to invigorate and render the powers of
observation more accurate should be frequently employed.
Till the understanding has made considerable progress,
this should be a leading object in intellectual culture;
and in every period of it the habit should be frequently
brought into use. By a proper exercise of it the mem-
ory and judgment are directly cultivated ; and, while it
strengthens and rouses the energy of the mind, it fur-
nishes it with some of the most serviceable materials for
the understanding.*

Exercises for the culture of observation in young chil-
dren should be limited to a few minutes at one time ; but
these may be gradually lengthened as the children acquire
greater command over their attention, and manifest a
greater 'desire for information. Many objects should, at
first, be offered successively to their notice, because the
immaturity of their minds does not permit a minute in-
vestigation of each; and attention can then be kept up
only by variety and novelty. As their powers of obser-
vation increase by exercise, the subjects for consideration
may be gradually diminished, until one may suffice for a
single lesson. When advancement has been made, they
may be required to attend more closely to a single object
for a greater length of time, and thus attain more thor-
oughness of information. But let it never be forgotten
that long confinement and protracted application to one
subject should be carefully avoided with young children.
There should be no gloom, no misery, associated with the
first intellectual exertions. Happiness is the privilege of

It has already been shown that external objects exert
an influence upon the mind by means of the senses, and

* Principles of Education, by Rev. L. Carpenter, LL.D., contains many of
tlie ideas presented in the foregoing statements.


that the influences which are thus produced remain with
the mind as impressions or mental residua. " These re-
sidua manifest themselves as so many tendencies to recur-
rence^ and the larger the accumulation of them in any
given form, the stronger that tendency becomes. Hence
it is that men who are passionately devoted to any given
branch of knowledge find food for observation every-
where. The botanist has an eye for a thousand minute
plants which wholly escape the observation of the ordi-
nary beholder; the entomologist has the same for insects;
the geologist for the appearance of the soil, the rocks, and
the mountains. Wherever long observation has accumu-
lated vast stores of residua, the least stimulus will cause
them to recur, and every fresh object will add something
to the entire mass of our knowledge."*

In subsequent remarks on the Culture of Language several
suggestions will be presented which are also exceedingly appro-
priate for exercising observation.

* MorelPs Mental Philosophy.




IN considering the operations of the mind through the
Perceptive Faculties, the necessity for the use of language
does not become apparent. Sensations, perceptions, and
conceptions may exist, impressions may be taken into the
mind, and these may blend into ideas of objects, all with-
out the aid of language. But we now come to a point, in.
the development of the human mind, where a new ele-
ment is required; one which will enable the mind to
embody its ideas in signs external to ourselves, so that it
can safely store them away with the certainty of finding
them again when wanted ; and also of making them known
to others. This element is supplied by language.

When the mind has blended its residua into simple
ideas, and these simple ones have in turn combined into
generalized forms, language comes in with its symbols,
bringing order and fixity to our thoughts, and adding the
power of using them at will. A single word may sum up
the result of a vast series of individual impressions in
a generalized form. Language aids in condensing and
abbreviating our ideas. It thus acts in relation to our
thoughts the part which algebraic symbols perform in
higher mathematical calculations. As it would be impos-
sible to keep all the parts of a complicated calculation in
the mind without such symbols, so would it be beyond
the possibility of mental power to retain and use our in-
dividual ideas without being overwhelmed with their in-


finite multiplicity, could we not sum them up in symbols,
and use those symbols as representatives of certain men-
tal equivalents.

Although \ve perceive the world by means of the senses,
it is in and through the forms of language that we com-
prehend it. We are also brought into the general cur-
rent of human thoughts through the agency of language ;
and by means of it we are enabled to remember and com-
bine our ideas to an unlimited extent. Just as the sym-
bols of numbers in algebra give us the power of calculat-
ing the most comprehensive and distant results, so the
symbols of ideas in language enable us to combine our
thoughts and work out our reasonings to an extent other-
wise wholly unattainable.

The origin of language has long been a vexed question ;
but whether it sprung from the Divine Mind, and was
communicated to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden ; or
whether, after the Creator had furnished man with all the
necessary organs, and conferred on him the physical pow-
ers of speech, it developed itself in sounds as natural sym-
bols of the mind's ideas of objects, which gradually took
the form of words by common usage in representing the
same things, and thus ultimately grew up from necessity
into a means of communication between man and man, or
not, this fact, at least, may be asserted of it living lan-
guage is in the process of daily creation. It is neither
complete nor stationary. A dead language is a record of
some past development of a race ; a living language is the
record of the present thoughts and mental progress of
the nation, and of the individuals which use it.

Language furnishes the symbols of our ideas ; hence it
must change with the ideas of the people ; and the ex-
tent of these changes is such that some words now sym-
bolize ideas directly opposite in
they once represented.

17 'W7ERSIT7]

^ V A


" Man's expressive power seems to Lave consummated itself in
the phenomena of language. In this form his whole nature, ani-
mal, intellectual, and moral, finds effectual utterance ; and by this
instrumentality does he become pre-eminently a progressive be-
ing. Language is the channel in which the ceaseless stream of
mental action flows onward to its great results. Without this
outlet, his soul, imprisoned within itself, would stagnate, and its
wondrous powers perish from inaction.

" As the medium of communication between mind and mind,
language renders education practicable, and brings to the aid of
the individual the accumulated thoughts of all time and of all
men. Language is the peculiar and chosen province of education.
Every process of human culture is conducted through its agency ;
every result attained in human progress is recorded in its terms ;
and in every civilized and cultivated community language is just-
ly taken as the measure of individual and social attainment."*

The importance of language will be further considered
when treating of Memory.

Culture in the Use of Language. It has already
been seen that our ideas are symbolized by means of
words, and that language enables the mind to use its
thoughts at will. It is now proper to present a few sug-
gestions indicating how facility in the use of this simplest
form of language may be acquired.

It is well known to those who observe infants during
their early efforts at learning words that they first acquire
the names of things, afterward names of acts, and of
qualities. Since their commencement with language con-
sists in learning words which are the names of external
objects, great care should be taken to secure a correct un-
derstanding of these words, and a thorough symbolization
of ideas by them.

* From Intellectual Education, by Wm. Russell, A.M., in Barnard's Journal
of Education.


The processes for aiding young children in learning
this class of words is very plain. Either the things them-
selves may be shown them, and the words properly asso-
ciated, or pictures can be employed to represent to the
mind what cannot be directly made the subject of obser-

The following extracts are from Language as a Means
of Mental Culture, by C. Marcel :

"From the moment that a child articulates distinctly, various
familiar objects should be offered to his notice, and their use ex-
plained; their names being, at the same time, clearly uttered for
him, he should be made to repeat them slowly and aloud. But
he must not be forced into premature efforts to speak, lest he
should acquire habits of indistinct and defective utterance. Pre-
mature walking is not more injurious to the organs of motion
than is premature speaking to the vocal organs. In order also to
guard against fatiguing him by a dry repetition of words, the
instructor should enliven the exercise by making, in plain lan-
guage and in a playful, manner, some simple observations on the
nature and use of the things which he is called upon to name.

" This exercise should at first be limited to a few objects at
one time, and the same things should be repeatedly presented
to him, associated with their names, until he perfectly knows
these words. His vocabulary should be gradually extended by
the introduction of new objects, which he is made to observe
and name, such as articles of dress, food, furniture everything
which he can hold in his hand, or which may be seen either
from the window or out-of-doors. This mode of proceeding
will soon put a young child in possession of a large number of
useful nouns.

" As the child's intellect opens and becomes capable of exam-
ining objects minutely, of distinguishing their resemblances and
differences, of noticing their parts, their matter, their color, their
form, and their number, his attention should be successively di-
rected to all these points. Thus will his mind be early brought


in contact with the external world, and be duly exercised by as-
cribing to every object of sense its qualities and peculiar condi-
tion. He will also easily remember the words, when the ideas
they signify are once clearly apprehended. A correct acquaint-
ance with the meaning and application of words must not be
deemed a matter of little moment in the first years of life. If
we consider the disastrous results to which ignorance on these
points has led, and the inconvenience which often arises to the
best educated among us from this single source, we shall find
that time well employed which is devoted to securing a knowl-
edge of the meaning of words.

"The instructor should employ every means in his power to
guard his pupils against using obscure terms, or words without
definite ideas attached to them. To this effect objects and facts
must not be brought under their notice in very rapid succession.
The introduction of a new expression should be preceded by
the perception of the thing signified, or the illustration of the
fact which it serves to designate. They should, as it were, be
made to feel the want of the word or expression. Then it will
serve, as it ought, both to retain the impression and to recall it
as occasion requires. By this means, also, their knowledge of
words will keep pace with their ideas. Some people have more
words than ideas ; others have more ideas than words. Of these
two evils, the second is the smaller ; for we only find it an incon-
venience not to be able adequately to express all our thoughts;
but we render ourselves ridiculous by misapplying words for
want of knowing their corresponding ideas.

" Children should be encouraged to state not only what they
know, but what they can discover; they should indirectly be
made to feel a wish for any information they require ; they
should be allowed frequent opportunities of asking questions and
unfolding their own ideas; they should be desired to account- for
facts, to state the causes of the effects which they witness."

When the minds of children have become stimulated
to such a degree as to lead them to be eager for informa-
tion, do not repress this desire for knowledge by refusing


to answer, nor allow them to ask all the questions them-
selves. Frequently ply them with questions which will
lead them to tell what they know of the objects that they
see, and the sounds which they hear ; and cause them also
to gain ability to answer, by observing carefully those
things about which the questions relate.

Request them to find resemblances and differences be-
tween two or more objects, and to name things which
possess in common any given property, and others which
have peculiar and distinct properties. Teach them to
judge by their senses alone of distances in length, in
height, or in depth ; also of the dimensions, weights, and
capacities of things. These trials of skill may be made
objects of playful competition between children.

"As one of the chief objects of these lessons is to acquire a
command of words, young people should not be allowed to answer
in monosyllables ; or, rather, questions should be put to them, so
as to require more than a mere word of assent or dissent. A
single yes, or no, often proceeds from a want of due considera-
tion of the subject. Let them be encouraged to express their
doubts freely on every subject, and the little discussions arising
therefrom will be profitable, provided the confidence and vivacity
with which they are carried on be tempered by modesty and
courtesy. They will remove that awkward diffidence which,
when not early counteracted, often proves an obstacle to success
in after-life.

" These conversations are admirably calculated for inuring the
young to mental labor, and preparing them for future exertion
in every walk of science and literature. There is not a subject
which could not, by easy transition, be entered upon, no infor^
mation which could not be introduced. Things the most famil-
iar, circumstances the most trivial, may give rise to instructive
and interesting observations, and to the highest contemplations.
Any object in the house, in the street, or in the fields, a toy
anything which is within reach, or within view all that nature


has produced, or art has modified, can be made a subject of ob-
servation. The humblest as well as the noblest objects in crea-
tion may furnish inexhaustible topics of conversation, and lead,
by a contemplation of the works of the Creator, to the manifes-
tation of his infinite power, wisdom, and goodness.

" The abundance of matter in these lessons always affords the
means of making instruction interesting to young people. Every
new object which is submitted to their examination becomes val-
uable, not only because it exercises the mind and gives positive
information, but also because the facts to which it leads are nec-
essarily connected in their minds with similar facts previously as-
certained. The more numerous the facts which children collect,
the more will their judgment be rectified and invigorated, and
the more clear and extensive will be their knowledge of words.

" These lessons cultivate in young people the talent of rational
conversation, which, in ordinary education, is entirely left to
chance, although it is the most useful, the most social, and the
most intellectual of all talents. They impart the free, excursive
acquaintance with various learning which makes the pleasing
and instructive companion ; and if they were generally adopted,
they would not fail, in the course of time, to raise the tone of
conversation in society. The powers of language of the learners
being constantly called forth in proposing and answering ques-
tions, in stating the results of their observations, and in making
verbal or written summaries of the subjects on which they have
conversed, they will necessarily acquire great facility of expres-
sion in connection with great clearness of thought. And if they
excel in conversation, they have every prospect of success in pub-
lic speaking and writing.

" The variety of sensations and the pleasing action of the men-
tal faculties throughout these animated lessons will, by arousing
the creative powers of imagination, produce fertility of thought
and aptitude for extempore speaking. Under the influence of
the agreeable emotions arising from the contemplation of nature
and the admiration of its wonders, the power of association in
the young will retain that vividness and that freshness which are
the life-springs of eloquence. The most beautiful images of ora-


tory are those which it borrows from the material realities of
nature. The more diversified the instruction, the greater will be
the number of ascertained facts, and the more extensive the com-
mand of language. Expressions and facts thus treasured up by
the mind will remain ready for future use."



THOSE mental operations by which ideas are produced
have already been considered. Intimately connected with,
and following these, appear a new class of mental mani-
festations those exhibited in retaining and recalling ideas'
that have been previously acquired. The powers of the
mind manifested by these processes are called Memory.
Although we speak of memory as a faculty of the mind,
we by no means regard it as a single mental power, but
rather as a combination of several powers, the idea of
which is represented by the term memory. The impor-
tance of this faculty is probably more generally appre-
ciated than that of any other power belonging to the
mind ; yet how we remember, and what definite plans of
instruction should be pursued to render memory the most
serviceable to us, is very imperfectly understood.

The power of memory depends upon attention, and the
order and system which we give to the arrangement of
our ideas by classification and association through the aid
of language.

" No one with any amount of attention could retain a perfect
mental representation of the stars and groups of stars in the sky,
were there no further mental activity exercised upon them than
their mere perception. But let some principle of order and ar-
rangement be brought in ; let the groups be classified, and let
the relative positions be marked by association ; let the whole
firmament be thus mapped out upon some intelligible principle,
and there is a clew given by which the whole can be retained in
the memory, and the separate portions at any time be recalled.
And what is true here is equally true, according to its measure,


in every other case. Nothing that we see, hear, or think of ex-
ists alone. Everything stands in the midst of a system of ideas
of which it forms a part, and with which it has numberless con-
nections ; and it is by surrounding a fact with a net-work of such
ideas, all duly ordered and arranged, that we are enabled to go
back to the exact point in the system where we shall be able to
recover it, and bring it forth to our consciousness."*

Suppose we wish to remember a certain flower. By
means of the perceptive faculties we examine it carefully,
and locate the facts obtained in due order in some well-
arranged system of botany. Then, in subsequent efforts,
to recall those facts, as the mind passes along from the
class to the family, and the genus and species, its charac-
teristics readily recur to the memory.

It does not matter, so far as the principle of memory is
concerned, whether the links which connect our ideas in
a systematic arrangement be logical or practical, whether
natural or artificial ; the important feature is order and
system in blending, classifying, and associating our ideas.
However, it is very desirable, in cultivating the memory,
to acquire habits of forming natural connections in asso-
ciating ideas, since the links thus forged are stronger and
of a wider use to the mind than those produced by artifi-
cial associations. Nevertheless, it is often necessary to
create artificial links between our ideas, where very few
natural ones exist. This is especially the case in the mat-
ter of dates and numbers. The whole principle of every
system of mnemonics is based upon the plan of creating
a connected series of artificial links to aid the memory,
so that, when any one part of the series is given, the mind
can pass by regular steps to any other, and thus drop
down upon any particular number or date that may be

* Morell's Mental Philosophy.

Online LibraryNorman Allison CalkinsManual of object-teaching : with illustrative lessons in methods and the science of education → online text (page 29 of 35)