Percy Arthur Barnett.

Common sense in education and teaching; an introduction to practice online

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life in certain most important aspects. And we admit
no leisure part in education. A study is profitable in
making character, or it is not. If it is not, we have no
concern with it. But in spite of unconscionable exaggera-
tion, Mr. Spencer's claim on behalf of science in edu-
cation is the locus classicus in which its moralising power
is celebrated.

Although the fine arts are not " based upon science/ 1
yet knowledge of detail and the eye for it,

A knowledge , . , . . .

of items does com bmed with the inspiration and enthusiasm
not confer that are unanalysable, undoubtedly make the
creative completer artist. We may, however, push
power nor our knowledge of detail ever so far, we may
master all the systems of rhetoric and know

works of art J

the uses of all figures of speech and schemes
of prosody ; there still remains something in the finest work
of art which defies all analysis, which, indeed, testifies tc
its spiritual originality and independence. We may
be able to say in what modes creative genius expresses
itself, by what channels or instruments ; but we do nol|
know what makes the result so wonderful. An artist!

Mathematics and Physical Science 241

a painter or poet, may be inaccurate in pictorial or
descriptive detail and yet profoundly effective ; as
Shakespeare is in spite of his disregard of " the unities,"
or what a niggling criticism would call " accuracy".
" Scientific " accuracy may even be impertinent.

Still it remains true that the more we understand of
the order of the universe, and the connected details of
phenomena, the better able we should be to see their
beauty. Patient and minute observation, intimate know-
ledge, combined with a reverent temperament, undoubt-
edly confer this gift of appreciation, as they did in the case
of Sir Isaac Newton, in the case of Huxley, and as they
may do in the case of Mr. Spencer himself. But without
reverence and humility, it may become mere arrogance.
For it is just what we do not understand, the part of our
experience that evades analysis, it is this which is the
source of aesthetic pleasure. No doubt the rounded
rock marked with parallel scratches may call up less
Doetry in an ignorant mind than in the mind of a geolo-
gist, who knows that over this rock a glacier slid a
million years ago. But the poetry is in part the result
of the geologist's not knowing exactly what set the
glacier in motion and who ordered the million years.
If nothing were left to wonder at, there would be no
Doetry and no religion. Science should therefore culti-
vate reverence and humility, if it is really science.

As a mental discipline, again, the claims of science
ire very high. Accuracy in observation re- Science both
quires that we should eliminate from our con- feeds and
Jciousness all the points that do not matter, in exercises the
Drder to note those that do ; this is the way in mind
.vhicri we cultivate attention, the first thing necessary
"or successful mental effort of the simplest kind. Most
)f us go through our daily life with very little continuous


242 Common Sense in Education

concentration on phenomena ; there is, indeed, little need
for us to be habitually " attending " to the things about
us. It is even better to let our minds be reasonably
" vacant " than to be in a state of perpetual effort.
But just as in morals it is salutary, and even essential,
that we should have frequent opportunities for the exer-
cise of self-denial (such as domestic life provides for
most of us), so in order to keep the intellectual powers
fresh, we ought to have frequent calls for the concentra-
tion of our attention. The observation of experiments,
the vigilant detection of results and their accurate
measurement, are just what experimental science pro-

Most of our practical intellectual errors arise from the
haziness of our ideas ; for instance, we confuse
trains the one c ^ ass ^ things w ith another class, we
mind best by define one term in such a way as to include
referringcon- other terms not in question. Several people
sciousiy to may mean several different things when they
speak of gas, or of the British Constitution, or
of a republic ; when a child says that a noun is
something that tells you what a person or object does or
suffers, his definition may cover a book, a verb, a phono-
graph, and many other things.

It is often matter for wonder that teachers do not
spend more time in the direct cultivation of the power
of classification and definition. Botany, for instance, is
a common subject of school study, though by no means,
as used, one of the best forms of "science" ; and pupils
are taught to classify plants according to certain charac-
teristics. Here is the opportunity of the good teacher
to show the class the logic of classification and the
meaning of a good definition ; what precautions must
be taken to distinguish species from species, and species


Mathematics and Physical Science 243

rom genus ; and how to make a definition which is
clear and sufficient distinguishing the thing defined
from all other things, and just enough and no more for
its exact identification. We might well begin by point-
: ing out how the rules of logical classification and of
definition hold in geometry, and get pupils to apply the
same principles to classification and definition in (say)
their botany and their grammar. A vast advance is
made in profitable teaching if the pupil is induced to
recognise the validity of the same logical laws of classifi-
cation, definition, proof, and so forth, as well as the need
for logical precision, in every subject of investigation.
In every-day affairs, the knowledge on which we act is
gained mainly by induction, and we ought to teach our
pupils how to use inductive methods most surely. We
arrive at generalisations by a careful examination of
individual facts, and we should provide our pupils with
some standard for judging on what grounds they are
entitled to make inferences, and what pitfalls lie in the
way. Yet teachers perpetually encourage children to
make a general inference from one unanalysed particular,
a most pernicious practice. We are all liable to error
from hasty generalisation, and young people necessarily
more than others, whereas real knowledge can be
measured by the number of general truths which we
have arrived at for good and sufficient reasons. If,
then, the teacher of science physical or philological
will be at pains to show how each step which he takes is
secure on grounds of logic, he teaches his class a lesson
that is priceless because it is applicable over the whole
range of practical activity.

For reference : Dr. Wormell and Prof. Miall in Teaching and
Organisation. Prof. Matthews in The Aims and Practice of Teaching

244 Common Sense in Education

and the Educational World, Jan. 1899. Prof. Miall in Journal
of Education, 1895, p. 406. Report to (U.S.) Committee of Ten.
Bain's Education as a Science. Harris in Report of the (U.S.)
Committee of Fifteen. Stroud in Journal of Education, 1897, p. 44.
Welton's Logic. Adam son's Logic for Teachers.



/ am not here to teach you history. No man can do that. I am here
to teach you how to teach yourselves history. I will give you the scaffold-
ing as well as I can. You must build the house.


NOTHING has been proved more conclusively by scienti-
fic investigation than that man, whatever his Geography
origin, has been made what he is, to an and History
extent beyond our computation, by the m Educatlon
action of physical forces playing upon him from time
immemorial. If, then, it is essential in education that
we should know the world we live in and our relation
to it, we must obviously attach the highest importance
to the two great series of studies that tell us, first, the
nature and operation of the forces that have made the
earth's surface that is, the home of man what it is ;
and secondly, how these great physical forces in combina-
tion with spiritual forces have affected men collected
together in societies. The first is the substance of what
we call Geography ; the second, of History. Geography
helps us to a knowledge of what man's home or environ-
ment is and how it comes to be what it is ; History
helps us to a knowledge of what he has done and is
likely to do in it, and why.

If men were the result solely of physical forces,
geography might well be taken as an all-embracing

246 Common Sense in Education

and sufficient study. In that case, from a knowledge of
Geograph those facts which Professor Huxley compre-
and its bended under the name of Physiography, we

connexions should be able to explain all that man has
in the done, is doing, and is likely to do. But man

has all sorts of instincts and tendencies that
are unanalysable as the results of mere physical environ-
ment, and yet are clearly inseparable from his nature ;
so physiography must hand on the task to political
geography, and political geography requires the help of
history to explain the spiritual and intellectual influences
at work on man. Geography is thus on the one side
connected with the natural sciences, and on the other
with the " humanities " ; and if properly studied, must
concern itself with both. There is a kind of succes-
sion ; physiography investigates the great forces affecting
the whole world ; physical geography investigates the
results of these forces as they are expressed in the dis-
tribution of land and water ; political geography throws
light upon the action of these geographical results in
human societies, and vice versa. Thus, again, geography
is not merely physiography, because its scope of inquiry
is different ; it deals not with the general questions of
the action of great forces, but it introduces the limita-
tions of locality. It asks as physical geography what
local physical effect a particular physiographical fact
produces in a given place ; and as political geography,
it asks how this physiographical fact affects the political
and social relations of men in that given place, and how
men in their turn modify the conditions and fortunes of
their local surroundings.

But it can hardly be doubted that a real or philo-
sophical comprehension of political geography and of
history requires considerable knowledge of general geo-

Geography and History 247

graphy ; and that a knowledge of general geography is
! necessarily based on a knowledge of physio- In later
I graphy. It is possible, however, to treat stages, geo-
physiography, when we are dealing with the graphy is
later stage of school-life, that beginning " science
at fifteen, as the business of " science " teaching. We
must suppose that the school curriculum recognises some-
where that a well-instructed and well-prepared youth
should know something of the configuration of the earth's
surface, of meteorology and climate, and of the things
found in and on the earth minerals, animals, and the
like, the one set of phenomena being determined by the
other next above it in this case, physiography.

But the Geography lesson proper asks what is the
meaning of all these things to man, how this Geography,
particular " environment " affects him and his the meaning
affairs. The geography lesson as distinguished to Man
from the lesson in physiography must therefore deal
somewhat cursorily with subjects which are the main
matter of physiography. For instance, physiography has
little immediate concern with the density of population in
various centres of the earth ; but the geography lesson
makes a point of emphasising this. Density of population
is determined in very many cases by copious rainfall ;
but geography is content to note this fact of copious
rainfall, the full reasons for which are given by physio-
graphy, and to use it, together with other facts non-
physiographical, to explain, as a secondary result, density
of population, and, as tertiary or derivative results, those
divisions of the earth's surface which we call political.
Thus we see that though political distribution may
depend remotely, though in a direct line, on physio-
graphical causes, the lesson in geography cannot do
more than briefly accept the information supplied by

248 Common Sense in Education

physiography. Thus, again, the teacher's task is to
choose not how much but how little he is to teach, though
he must teach in such a way as to give his pupils the
power of knowing what facts are significant, and the
power of "going on".

If we are dealing with pupils who are not yet of an
age to apply themselves to intensive and detailed study
of physiography as such, physical geography as such, or
political geography as such, we must, of course, teach
the elements of the one with the elements of the others,
in order to make each interesting ; but we must bear in
mind that the natural divisions and features of the
surface of the earth are the result of physiographical fact,
and the administrative divisions are results of natural
divisions, more remotely in the series.

In any case it should be clear to us that, to be effectual
or sufficient, our knowledge of home surroundings can
be ultimately built solidly and philosophically only on
the larger or more general basis supplied by a knowledge
of great natural forces and their action in other places
beyond our sensible experience. We must teach some
physiography, and some general geography before we
can hope that our teaching of home geography is as
serviceable, and even as intelligible, as it may be. We
teach it roughly at first, by observation, such as it is ;
we can get our pupils to interpret these observations
aright ultimately by the more general studies.

The point of chief importance to notice here is that
Geography geography is, all through, an Inquiry into
as a core of causes and effects, and therefore, as a subject
instruction o f study, has the supreme merit of being well
concatenated, related in its parts, capable of being made
into a rational whole. This constitutes its great value
as a centre or core of instruction, if it is properly taught.

Geography and History 249

If taught unscientifically, it is of little consequence ; we
might as well set our pupils to " get up " a gazetteer. If
geography is not treated as a study of causal relations,
it is merely topography ; and topography is the main
part of the old-fashioned geography, which burdened
the memory with a great number of details which, on
any rational principle, were unconnected.

It should be clear to us, then, that our geography, to
be really profitable, must contain a general The general
element ; and this in two main ways. We can element in
easily see how close is the bearing of the facts Geography
of physiography on geography, that is, how the action of
the great master forces must be understood before we
can explain their local effects. But more ; we must also
step out beyond the borders of our own political limits
so as to get means and material for comparison and
contrast. We must know other lands as well as England
before we can understand England. " What should they
know of England who only England know ? " To confine
English learners to a study of the "geography of Great
Britain " might result in a minute knowledge of the
topography of their own country, but it would not be
geography, although this kind of limitation is much less
perilous in the case of Geography than of its sister study

It would seem desirable therefore, first, to base geo-
graphical study on a study of physiography and then to
direct the pupil's attention at as early a stage as possible
to countries outside his own, so that he may recognise
the features common to all. Here another question
emerges. How are we to begin ? Are we to postpone
all knowledge of detail until the basis is well and truly
laid in physiography ? Or can we profitably teach the
elements of physiography and of geography, physical

250 Common Sense in Education

and political, side by side? The answer that will be
given by the practical teacher probably admits of no
doubt. We must begin with what the young learner can
see and verify ; we must interest him first of all in the
things about him. A plan of the school or house, a map
of the familiar neighbourhood, would seem to be an in-
dispensable beginning to the most profitable course of
geographical lessons, invaluable if we can get a child
to make them, however imperfectly, for himself. But it
would be mere pedantry to try to work in this way con-
tinuously. We begin with our pupil, it is true, when he
is quite young. As in Mathematics, we take measures
from time to time to convince him that what he is learn-
The"con- * n as abstractions have a concrete reality,
crete" me- But we can soon quit our little beginnings,
thodmust our schoolroom, or house, or neighbourhood;
not be used an( j w hen once the step has been taken, it is
the privilege of civilised beings for whom
maps are made to be able to travel by mental effort a
thousand miles away, if need be, from their own doors.
The chief business of this early introduction to topo-
graphical geography should be to teach the class to
understand the language of maps and other graphic re-
cords of geographical facts ; to read them as an accom-
plished musician reads a score. Under very favourable
circumstances, when we have hills and rivers within the
compass of a walk, we may go farther and get children
to realise their maps more truly, but our chief purpose
in this first stage must be to enable our pupils to inter-
pret the mapped records of position, distance, area, and
so forth. Moreover, in these days of model-making and
pictures, it would be mere wastefulness not to use them
for the purpose of giving our children some working
notions of the commonest physical features of the earth

Geography and History 251

rivers, mountains, plains, valleys, islands, and so on,
those first which are next to the child's experience, and
therefore psychologically fitted for early presentation.
Here the abstract must be used to correct the concrete.
Pupils brought up on coarse and monstrously ill-propor-
tioned models may get seriously erroneous views as to
geographical or physiographical facts.

Side by side with this somewhat topographical study,
we may well introduce the class to the more Meteorology
familiar phenomena of meteorology and climate and climate
rain, clouds, snow, hail, wind, and sea ; and later still,
to the phenomena caused by the planetary character of
the earth, its atmosphere and tides and currents ; and
finally the effect of climate and physical configuration
on animals and vegetation.

It is obvious that we shall soon have to supplement
the map by a "globe," as soon, indeed, as it becomes
necessary to get our pupil to take account of the fact
that the earth is round ; we cannot otherwise explain
the phenomena of day and night, latitude and longitude,
tides and currents, and the like.

There seems to be no reason why we should not
accustom boys and girls to know a good many of the
more obvious topographical details about places whose
names are familiar to them. Learning useless lists is one
thing, but knowing the relative positions of places that
are frequently mentioned is quite another. To this end
it is desirable not indeed that lists should be committed
to memory, but that our pupils should be encouraged to
con the map, and to use it very freely, whenever a well-
known place is mentioned in the course of any of their

Hitherto we have been dealing with the material and
methods which may be supposed to be fitted for the

252 Common Sense in Education

teaching of geography up to the fourteenth or fifteenth
year, and it may be taken that the line thus indicated
would cover a course complete in itself, so far as it went,
for that period, and would also be a satisfactory prepara-
tion for a more detailed and intensive study in school-
life prolonged farther. We must recognise in every
subject, but particularly in subjects like history and
Different g eo g ra phy> where breadth and generality of
ages require conception depend on widening experience of
different the world, that it is necessary to begin by
procedure teaching the more striking and interesting ele-
ments with strict reference to the capacity of youth to
understand ; and that we must be prepared to go over
the same ground again, perhaps more than once, in a dif-
ferent way, in accordance with the growing expansion of
a learner's horizon and power of conception. Thus we
shall teach the facts concerning rivers and mountains
differently to children of seven years and ten years and
fifteen years of age. At each stage we shall begin, in a
logical sense, farther back ; with matter covering a larger
area. You would say nothing to a little child about the
shrinkage of the earth's crust, but a pupil of fifteen or
sixteen would find little difficulty in conceiving such a
fact, and could be easily got to recognise the confirma-
tion of our teaching in accessible areas of observation.
If we remember this, we shall not be puzzled by the
apparent quarrel between those on the one hand who
would have geography to be " a demonstrative " science,
derived directly from the premisses supplied remotely by
mechanics and then by physiography, and those, on the
other hand, who declare that we ought to start from home
and teach the learner to observe, in ever-widening circles,
with his own eyes, and accept no " facts " which he has
not himself acquired through his own observations,

Geography and History 253

The same is true of History studies. The history of
>ur own country, which is most sedulously History and]
.aught in our schools, must be related to the histories
general history of the world on the one hand and to the
listory of other countries on the other. It would other-
vise fail to produce its most profitable effect as a branch
)f education, first the widening of the intellectual and
noral horizon, and secondly the cultivation of the power
>f weighing evidence.

The chief essential in both History and Geography to
prevent either from becoming a mere list of Comparison
acts is constant comparison and contrast, and contrast
The facts concatenated in history as causes continually
md effects will still remain mere catalogues necessar y
)f things in succession unless they are generalised by
Deing shown to be like other causes and other effects in
imilar succession. So, too, in geography. As a begin-
ling of geographical study, we must needs secure a rough
nastery of our immediate surroundings, and the isolated
>osition of England makes the step at once natural and
onvenient ; but this done, we should proceed at once

a more extensive consideration of little points. We
hould compare the size and shape of England with
hat of all other countries in Europe ; then the mountain
ystems of one marked physical section with that of
mother in the same continent ; and then the river sys-
ems in like manner. To take political divisions as
he order of successive teaching is a much less rational
md a much less useful method of teaching, even as

1 means of memorising. If then (to make a practical
uggestion), we have to teach a class of children the geo-
graphy of the chief political divisions of Europe in a given
ime, we shall certainly gain by choosing the rational
)rder rather than the order of arbitrary succession.

254 Common Sense in Education

"Commercial" or "Economic" geography is not a 1
Commercial kind of geography different from the sort I
or Economic which the school should teach, but rather a
Geography special application to particular problems ot
the general capacity trained in school. The geographi-
cal problems of commerce and economics may with
great advantage be treated as an occasional part of the
school exercise in geography, as " riders " so to speak.
In school we give the same general training in mathe-
matics to the man who is to be an accountant, an
engineer, a surveyor, a gunner, or the like ; but each
subsequently devotes especial attention to the kind of
problem likely to help him in the discharge 01 his pro-
fessional duties. So in geography ; we give the indis-
pensable general training before we apply the capacity
thus trained to special purposes.

" The root of all geographical ability," say Mr. Mac-
kinder, " lies in being at home with maps." This does
not imply a mere familiarity with multitudinous details,
which constitute a mere burden to the memory, but

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Online LibraryPercy Arthur BarnettCommon sense in education and teaching; an introduction to practice → online text (page 19 of 25)