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measure, its power of accurate discrimination. It is easily satisfied with confused representations of truth, and is apt with a multitude of words to be led away by mere sophistries. It is not disposed to demand explicit statements and conclusive evidence.
A mind, on the other hand, which has always been dealing with facts in education, and has been accustomed to look beyond mere sounds to their signification, and to have clear conceptions of what its memory has stored up, is ever prepared to scan the words that are addressed to it for their real meaning. It is not apt to be entrapped by an ingeniously wrought network of words. It instinctively strips a fallacy of the mass of words with which it may be enveloped. It appreciates clear enunciations of truth, and draws the line definitely between the proved and what is merely supposed.
The abolition of the method of learning by rote, and the full introduction of the opposite plan, would vastly multiply the clear thinkers in all classes of society. If the great learning and reading world were trained under such a plan through the whole course of their education, we should not so often see whole audiences even of intelligent persons carried away by flimsy fallacies, nor would wordy and ill constructed books find such favor as they now do even with educated men. The common mind would be skilled in sifting both literature and science, and it would find that the chaff to be winnowed out is by no means small in amount. Wordiness, and confused and false ideas, are legitimate results of an habitual unmeaning use of words, and these results abound in prose as well as in poetry, in science as well as in literature.
Let me not be understood to say, that the very prevalent custom of learning by rote is the sole cause of such results. That it is one of the causes no one will deny. The only question is as to the extent of its influence. That it exerts a large influence in this way will be apparent, if we consider that it ordinarily operates upon the mind through all its stages of development even from the beginning, long before the drilling of the school commences. Its influence is not only exerted a long time, but it is especially exerted when the mind is most plastic, and therefore most obedient to the operation of causes in the formation of its habits.
One of the last things in which learning by rote will be given up is poetry. Here the charm of rhyme and measure comes in, and gives gratification to the mind when there may be a very dim understanding of the truth, or even none at all. And as the habit is found in childhood of disregarding the sense, and being satisfied with the sounds merely, in adult age we are very apt to tolerate poetry that sounds well, which, if put into prose, we should deem execrable. The couplet of Prior in regard to poetry, is too often acted upon both by poet and reader —
“For rhyme with reason may dispense,
And sound has right to govern sense.” In this connection it will be proper to say a word in regard to the influence of too exclusive an attention to the mere learning of language upon the mental powers. This represses their growth, just as learning by rote does. In this case things, or facts, which are the basis of knowledge, are neglected, and the attention is too largely devoted to the mere signs of these things. Such a course not only limits the knowledge of the mind, but represses the growth both of its perceptive and its reflective faculties. The Chinese language furnishes us with a striking example of this influence. It is said that ten years study is required to get an ordinary knowledge of it. The mind of the whole Chinese nation is dwarfed by this cause. Accordingly their literature, although there is much learning among them, is of the most trivial character, and the maxims of Confucius are almost the only thing in it which has any value. And with all the light that may be poured in upon that people, I see no effectual remedy for the evil pointed out, except in an alteration in the framework of their language, and this of course it will be very difficult, perhaps impossible to effect. The Chinese are therefore probably destined to be a nation of intellectual dwarfs in comparison with most other nations. It is unfortunate that our own language is so complicated in its structure, and has so many irregularities. If we could have in it the same compass in expression, and yet have its framework more regular, we should get rid of the waste, for it is a waste, of time, in learning its irregularities. But these irregularities seem to be a necessary evil. They have resulted from the composite character
of the language, and it is this character which gives it its wonderful compass and variety.
In the plan of education contemplated in this lecture, while facts or phenomena from all quarters, from the mental and moral, as well as from the physical world, are to be made the material of instruction, special prominence is to be given to physical phenomena, especially in the first part of the course of education. The spiritual is for the most part too intangible for the comprehension of the mind of the child. It must be led up from the physical, which it can observe, with its instruments, the senses, to the unseen spiritual. Great skill is required to arrange properly all the steps of the gradation, which should be followed in the training of the mind, from its dawn in infancy up to its full development in adult age. It would be interesting to go into this subject, but the narrow limits of a lecture forbid it.
The study of nature which I would have made so prominent in education from its very beginning, is, as I have before said, almost entirely excluded from the school-room in early education, and is but sparingly admitted in its latter stages. Observe for a moment the absurdity and unnaturalness of this exclusion. We are surrounded by a material world, animate and inanimate, and have daily converse, so to speak, with material forms of every variety, presenting phenomena of the highest interest and of endless diversity. As we examine these phenomena, there open to us beautiful and extensive analogies, which we find running through all nature. We see, too, that the abstract principles of science taught in the books, derive all their
especially the living forms of nature all about us. And yet, though almost all the period of childhood, and perhaps we may say youth also, this book of nature, so rich in interest, and at the same time so easily read, is in the school-room very nearly a sealed book. The very process of education shuts in the pupil from this broad contemplation of the world in which he lives. While he is drilled through spelling, reading, grammar, &c., he is left in total ignorance of the beautiful flowers and majestic trees outside of the school-room. How very few even of thoroughly educated adults know the processes by which a plant or a tree grows! And the same can be said of other phenomena of nature. If the study of nature should be made as prominent as I claim that it should be in education, it would change to a great extent the intellectual character of intelligent society. The resources for thought, and of course for conversation also, would be largely multiplied in all classes. The man of common intelligence would be put in some measure
ness. He would be a scientific observer, although he has not passed from the school to the college. Having learned from childhood to study the phenomena of the animate and inanimate world around him, wherever he turns he would find something interesting to observe, and therefore something interesting to talk about in the family and in the