« AnteriorContinuar »
“Regular” means according to rule; there is some point in which examples given under that head agree, hence they can be classified. If, then, things are said to be “irregular," one naturally assumes that they are not capable of classification; but what is the case with these nouns and verbs that are termed irregular? I may be able better to illustrate this point by relating my own experience. I remember, when teaching a country academy, thirty or more years ago, of taking a class of boys and girls of eight to ten years of age and beginning to teach them grammar in my own way. Now the ordinary text-books tell us that the regular plural of nouns is formed by adding s or es to the singular, and all other plurals are irregular; such as, for instance, goose, geese. But, why are these called “irregular? ” I asked. “Because they are not according to rule.” “Not according to any rule? What is the plural of foot ?” “Feet.” “Of Tooth ?” “ Teeth.” “Are not these three plurals, geese, feet, teeth, formed in a similar way ? " “Yes,” was the reply. “Are they not according to a seeming rule ?” “Yes.” And in such a case, young pupils cannot only be made to see that there is a rule of formation, but they can be led to discover and state that rule themselves. They will see that these words like mouse, mice, etc., form their plural by a regular internal change; but not in any irregular way. Precisely the same may be said with regard to the irregular verbs, which are the oldest regular verbs in the language, as the pupil will show by a comparison of examples like sing, sang, sung, ring, rang, rung, etc., to which you call his attention. Instead of calling verbs regular and irregular, it is far better to adopt the terms given in the advanced grammars, such as weak and strong. These terms are at least capable of being explained and justified. All the weak verbs require an addition from without; the strong undergo an internal change, and need no such outside help. If technical terms are taught, let them be correct, and let the scholars be taught what is meant by the terms. Personally, I would introduce very few technical terms when teaching children.
And here, as Professor Hill is not present, let me defend him against a charge I heard made after the reading of his paper this morning; namely, that after saying he would teach little or no technical grammar, he went on to specify many things in grammar which he thought was necessary to be taught in learning the En. glish language He meant, I presume, that he should teach very little “technical” grammar in the dry, memoriter way, which is worse than useless, and not only stultifying but stupefying to teacher and pupil. He would, I suppose, teach the essentials of grammar in å familiar way in connection with the general study of language,-teach a good deal of grammar, but not in the old, bad way.
SUPT. MAXWELL, Brooklyn, N. Y.; Would you have the definitions that are given in our grammars memorized by the pupils ? The essence of the old, bad way, I think, was in memorizing much of these definitions and rules. If so, and if, under the new, good way, it is necessary still to understand the technical terms, how is the pupil to accomplish this end? Is it not a mere matter of names?
MR. ROLFE: As to the difference between regular and irregular on the one hand, and strong and weak on the other, being a mere matter of names, I think not. Irregular is false as a technicality; it is an absurdity. Irregular is contrary to rule, and here as an antithesis to regular, it is pointless; while as weak and strong are simple and expressive words, you can give an explanation to them that assists the memory. If technical terms are introduced, they should certainly be accurate and intelligible. Technical terms which have some meaning which the scholar can see, are also more likely to be remembered. The main use, however, of technical terms, as some eminent critic has said, is “for convenience' sake in talking about a thing." They should therefore be introduced only so far as they are found necessary in giving explanations; and then, not till the facts have been taught without the technical terms. For instance, after explaining in a familiar way what we mean by gender and number, the technical terms may be given. In classifying nouns, after making it clear by comparison of examples that there are certain classes, you may introduce the terms applied by grammarians to these classes.
DR. PHILBRICK: When the word irregular is defined to the pupil as it is given in the grammars, does it not become a technical term, and is it not as good as any other one? Is this not a mere question of terms ?
MR. ROLFE: Of course you can lay down a single rule and call all nouns or verbs that do not come under this rule irregular, but the name in itself is a lie. It confuses the young mind; it is stupid as well as dishonest. You can, on the other hand, give these nouns and verbs a name which will suggest some common characteristic, and thereby assist the memory. And are not such names preferable to terms which are false and absurd on the face of them? In this way a technical grammar might be made which would be consistent. And it would only be following a precedent; we have already dropped the term imperfect, which was originally borrowed from the Latin grammars. The older grammarians applied it, in English, to the past tense of any verb. But the past tense is not an imperfect tense. The objection was seen to be a valid one, and the word disappeared accordingly - past has taken its place. Hence the principle is a sound one. If we are to have technical terms and can change them - and they are changing in our grammars—if we are going to have them, let them be accurate, expressive in themselves, and let the pupil be made to see why they are used. The same argument applies to what are called participial nouns, about which there is the most absurd confusion in our grammars, wholly different things being put under this head.
[The speaker here illustrated the difference between such verbal nouns as “Reading is useful,” and true participial nouns, as “ The Loving are the brave.”]
Such confusion is the result of former ignorant and mechanical work in the way of grammar-making, reacting upon the teacher. Till to-day, he treats things as if they were alike, when they are radically and historically different. As to the teaching of these differences, I never had any trouble in making them clear to scholars.
PROF. E. CONANT, Vermont : Should not this information as to words and grammar that is necessary for the pupil, be made plain and simple, and thus put into a form of words which he might learn?
MR. ROLFE: I should myself prefer to teach grammar orally. MR. CONANT: But would you have the pupils learn the terms ?
MR. ROLFE: I do not care how the facts are learned, if they are learned. For instance, to recur to participial nouns, socalled, I might give the words “A working-day” and “A workingman." I should then ask the pupil if the word “working” had precisely the same meaning in the two compounds, and should not be satisfied until he could tell me the difference between the two. Then I might tell him that working in working-day (a day for working), is a verbal noun, used adjectively, while working in a working-man (a man who works), is the participle. I might or I might not, according to the age and previous training of the pupils, go on to explain that the two forms are historically independent, and in old English had different endings, which afterwards became confused, until one of them was finally lost.
As for my own method, I should probably teach more grammar than is taught in an ordinary grammar school, but I should teach it in this untechnical (and to some extent historical) manner, and thus make it at once more interesting and more profitable. I might bring in some technicalities in this way not given in most grammars. For instance, I might speak to the scholars of diminutives in the English tongue and the method of formation, and should then set them to hunt them up. In contrast to these, aug. mentatives might be instanced. Ask your scholars to think of any. Lead them on by asking what we call a person who drinks too much- as drunkard. Call the attention to this ending of ard or art, and draw out from them such words as dullard, sluggard, laggard, braggart, etc., and so on. This is a single illustration out of many that might be given to show my meaning.
SUPT. LITTLEFIELD: We can all endorse in substance nearly everything that Mr. Metcalf has said in his able paper. Upon this one point of teaching grammar, however, since it is admitted that the principles of grammar are essential, I do not see any advantage in decrying present methods unless better ones are pointed out. In answer to my question, he mentions only one thing that he would omit, — namely, the conjugation of the verb, — and he cites in proof the wasted energy of a young lady recently examined who fluently recited the conjugation but who was only able with difficulty to answer his searching questions into the philosophy of the moods and tenses. Now, I submit, gentlemen, that if the young lady had not known the conjugation and been able to see it spread out in her mind as one sees the streets of a familiar city, she could have made no headway at all in answering Mr. Metcalf's more difficult general questions. She must know the particulars before she can be expected to generalize.
THE EDUCATIONAL READING OF TEACHERS.
By RAY GREENE Huling, A. M., FITCHBURG, Mass. In 1874 one who now has an enviable name among the teachers of our land wrote these words : “ The great majority of teachers, on entering the profession, have had little opportunity of becoming acquainted with principles and methods of teaching, and confine themselves mainly to the imitation of their teachers. This is apt to make their teaching mechanical, soulless, devoid of high aims, so that they exercise very little influence upon the development of intelligence and character in the pupils ; it prevents them from asserting their own individuality in their work, and thus keeps them from developing individuality in their pupils. At the same time, they are unable, for want of a firm basis, to contribute to the growth of correct principles in the profession, and are thus rather an impediment to progress.”*
The facts in the case are, I believe, the same for this year of grace 1884. Now if this great majority of teachers during their term of service pay little or no attention to educational reading, receiving no acquisition of information upon their chosen life-work beyond that contributed by an occasional attendance upon some teachers' meeting or by desultory visiting among teachers little better fitted than themselves, evidently routine and stag
* Hailmann's “ History of Pedagogy.”