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Wm. M. Scribner, Chicago, Ill.
St., New-York City. Serena J. Tompkins, 128 W. 17th St.,
M. E. Wadsworth, Mazomanie, Wis.
phia, Pa. S. H. White, Peoria, Ili. Mrs. S. H. White, Peoria, Ill. Harriet J. Willard, Chicago, IU. Isaac Walker, Ware, Mass. Mrs. Dr. A. F. Wate, Newton, Mass. R. C. Waterston, Boston, Mass. Joseph White, Boston, Mass. A. E. Winship, Reading, Mass. Sarah Wilbur, Chelsea, Mass. G. A. Walton, Westfield, Mass. Susie A. Wilson, Cleveland, Ohio. J. E. Young, West Chester, N. Y. Ed. J. Young, Cambridge, Mass.
LIFE MEMBER, 1872.
E. M. Stone, Providence, Rhode Island.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 6th, 1872. At half past two o'clock, P. M., the Department of Elementary Instruction was called to order by the President, Miss D. A. LATROP, of Cincinnati, Ohio, who said: We have a great deal of work to do, and no time to spare in idle talk. We want the ripest thoughts of those who have had experience, and we want them presented in the shortest, most definite and most fitting fashion. One mistake made in educational meetings is that of for ever talking over the same things. Precisely the same questions are propounded in precisely the same terms, and are discussed in precisely the same way, and decided in precisely the same manner, without a dissenting voice. It seems to me it is about time to stop and see if we have any bottom, any educational basis; whether two thousand years, more or less, in the study of educational matters, has not brought out some principles that we may put at the foundation of our educational philosophy. I do not know of any such now; I do not know a principle that is so settled 'but that is brought up and boxed about and talked over in educational meetings. Is it not time that we try to fix something and bring out some principle behind which we can stand. Then, and not till then, shall we be able to build up an educational structure. Is it not the prerogative of this Association to fix upon and settle this, in stead of discussing minor points?
This department is the place where this work can be most efficiently done. We are nearer the springs of human action, and we want to begin at the begining. We are where we can act upon the mind in its beginning. It is not necessary to make any comparison between our work and that of the other departments. We understand that our work is just as important and just as honorable; that the work of the primary school teacher is just as noble as that in any other department of education.
I have been watching for a week or two past a little bird that has been feeding its young; and I learned a lesson. The little bird flitted back and forth incessantly without giving itself any rest from dawn till dark. I was astonished to see it work with such assiduity, as it would come and drop some little insect for its young, and then dart away again; and I wondered whether that was the work of birds, whether it was not to sing in stead of doing this hard work. And then I remembered that the bird was doing the work, not simply to sustain the life of its own little birds, but was doing it for you and for me and for all organized animal life; and because the little bird did just this, we are able to work and do work. Break this chain in animal life, and the whole goes to pieces. We do not see the end of our work. There is no use in talking about the dignity of our work. Perhaps we do not know any more of this than the little bird. So that the dignity of our work is simply that it is in God's plan; and it makes no difference in what department we work, as we do not know the limitations at all.
W. P. HÈston, of St. Louis, was chosen to fill the vacancy occasioned by the absence of the Secretary.
The President appointed J. B. MERWIN, of Missouri, member of the Publishing Committee for this department.
The first paper presented was by N. A. CALKỈNS, Assistant Superintendent of Schools, New York City, on
OBJECTIVE TEACHING: ITS VALUE, AND THE EXTENT OF ITS
ADAPTATION TO SCHOOL INSTRUCTION.
The laws of human development, the order in which the faculties of children unfold the subjects and means most suitable to educe mental activity, and the manner in which the mind gains knowledge, are among the most important things to be regarded by teachers.
Those who arrange the plans and direct the methods for the development and early culture of the minds of children need to possess a thorough knowledge of their natural powers and tendencies, and also of the manner in which these may be influenced by external agencies; for upon the thoroughness of the adaptation of methods to conditions will depend the success of the development and the extent of the culture. The natural development of mind begins with its activity through the organs of sense, and its progress in the acquisition of knowledge corresponds to the facility which it attains in gaining ideas through the influence of surrounding objects. It must therefore be apparent that the amount of knowledge obtained will depend to a great extent upon the clearness of the ideas derived through the senses. If these chief gateways of learning be but partially opened, the elements of ideas must pass through them with difficulty, and they may become much distorted by the passage; but with these windows and doors to the mind wide open, all other obstacles to mental acquisition may be readily overcome, for clearness of perception leads to completeness of knowledge.
The various facts which children gather from carefully noticing the objects and movements around them assume the form of knowledge so fast as their chief relations are recognized and properly grouped or classified. Knowledge consists in classified facts and relations. A little knowledge embraces but a few classified facts; much knowledge includes many facts, and wider relations and conditions. The facility and strength of the powers of classification depend largely upon the early influences, in this direction, by those with whom children are surrounded.
If early led to notice every thing about them with care, and to understand the uses and relations of objects and their movements, children will soon form habits of careful observation and classification that will lead to accurate and extensive knowledge. Such habits are a permanent guaranty of success in after years.
We can not add a new faculty to the mind by any process of teaching, nor change the natural mode of its development; but we can surround it with new influences adapted to awaken its slumbering forces, and thus increase its powers of activity.
These new influences may consist of the modes of training children during the first years of school instruction. The manner of learning, as well as the facts learned, develops the mind and gives it habits that influence all its subsequent attainments. It becomes, therefore, a matter of no small moment what methods of teaching shall be employed, since upon these must depend the habits of learning that will control all the future career of the pupils.
Let us briefly examine the two great classes of methods of teaching which embrace the various modes of instruction usually found in our schools.
One class comprises those methods which are founded upon the idea that all useful knowledge is treasured up in books, and that the best way to obtain it is to memorize what the books contain.
The other class includes the methods known by the terms kindergarten, object lessons, objective teaching, oral instruction, experiments, etc.
The first class of methods requires that the preliminary steps of instruction shall consist in teaching the elements of written language. These elements, being wholly artificial, possess no natural relation to the subjects of which the written language treats; neither do they contain any innate attraction for children.
During all the time spent in learning these elements the children are prevented from exercising their senses in a natural manner. These methods of teaching are unlike the modes of learning which nature presents to the young; hence the proper development of their minds is retarded, rather than hastened.
No habits of carefully noticing every thing around them are formed by the unnatural means used by the teacher. No taste for the observation of plants, leaves and flowers, with their varied forms and beautifully-tinted hues, is cultivated. No love for studying the structure, movements and interesting habits of animals is gratified. No knowledge of objects, of their properties and uses, or of the common events of life, is presented to satisfy the cravings of young minds for information about what they daily see around them. The pleasant ways in which God fitted children to go in the pursuit of knowledge are shunned, while they are led in artificial and uninteresting by-ways till they care but little whither they are going, and know less of why they are conducted over the toilsome and cheerless route. If their feet lag, they are hastened on by telling them that they are ascending the “hill of science,” that glorious views will greet them when the summit is attained. Again and again their weary steps falter while gazing at cloud-capped summits far above them, and the toilers wonder why they are still urged onward by their guides to be enshrouded in an impenetrable mist.
Children want to see with their own eyes the beautiful forms, and colors, and movements of every thing about them; to hear the sweet songs of birds and the sounds of babbling brooks; to touch and taste and smell, that they may know the various properties and qualities of objects; but their eyes and ears and hands are confined within the walls of a school-room, from which all the attractions of nature are excluded. Books are made to take the place of forms and colors and objects and motions and sounds and tastes. The real things are kept out of sight, and artificial symbols are substituted in their stead. In place of beholding the charms of nature face to face, pupils are told to study what others say about them.
Observe a class of pupils trying to memorize the table of distance before they have been trained to distinguish differences in lengths; or the table of weight when they have no definite conception of relative lightness and heaviness; or the tables of liquid and dry measure without associating them with the common measures in daily use at home. Hear these same pupils repeat the definitions of capes and islands without knowing that those points of land which they have so often seen projecting into the river or pond are real capes, or that those verdure-crowned portions of rocks and earth in the middle of the little stream near their own homes are true islands.
Behold these students poring over their text-books on botany, trying to remember which parts of the flower are called stamens, pistils, petals, corolla or peduncle. Notice the vacant expression on the face of the lad who is reciting his lesson in zoology, as he tries to remember the difference between rodents and carnivora, or pachyderms and marsupials. Then contrast this lad's expression with the enthusiasm of one who is comparing the teeth of the cat and dog with those of mice and squirrels, as he discovers that the teeth of his pets are fitted for tearing and eating flesh, while those of the mouse and squirrel are like chisels, and fitted for obtaining food by cutting open hard shells of nuts. No wonder that these pupils hail with unbounded joy the holiday that allows them to run in field and forest, and gratify those tastes which God implanted in their natures so deeply that they well up through all the debris of stultifying methods of the school-room.
Let us now turn to the other class of methods. Observe a child for the first five years of its life, and consider the vast amount of information which it acquires in that period, also remember that during all this time the artificial methods of teaching from books are unknown to the rapid learner. Watch the little one as it recognizes those whom it daily sees around it, and learns to distinguish the forms, colors, sounds and names and uses of the various animals about its home. Observe how it learns to understand and use a difficult language, and then point out, if you can, during the period when teachers are trying to make him learn from books, an equal amount of mental attainments in twice five years. Why this difference in the progress of development between the period when nature is the chief instructor, and that when the child enters the school-room and teachers attempt to guide it in the single path of learning from books. Is it not because the mode in which the young child learns is a natural one and in accordance with the laws of mental development, while the methods employed in the other cases are unnatural, and attempt to force the mind to do that for which it is not yet fitted?
C'ompare the means for training hands, fingers, eyes and ears in the plays of the Kindergarten with the ways by which the child learns before it is five years of age, and notice the adaptation of these first steps in systematic instruc