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“ WHAT IS NEEDED IN A LATIN GRAMMAR FOR SCHOOLS?" ........ Page 421
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“ WHAT IS NEEDED IN A LATIN GRAMMAR FOR
SCHOOLS ?” [Paper read before the High-School Section of the Massachusetts
Teachers' Association, Oct. 21, 1870, by M. G. Daniell, of Boston.]
This question is not one of my own choosing, and I must confess that I have many misgivings about attempting to answer it. This hesitancy arises from what appear to me to be the inherent difficulties of the subject. Where so much depends upon the living teacher, and upon his thorough mastery of what he has to teach, and upon his skill and enthusiasm in imparting his knowledge, and directing his pupils to right methods of study and babits of research, - it would scem almost superfluous to prescribe what should be put into a text-book, and above all a text-book of grammar, for him to teach. What one teacher would have his pupils learn from a text-book, another would prefer to teach them without reference to a text-book. There are few, if any, Latin grammars that do not contain many things that many teachers would as lief have omitted, and no Latin grammar can be made to contain all that every good teacher finds it necessary to teach about the language. In what grammar can you find all that Dr. Taylor told is last February about ipse and quidam ?
I may as well say at the outset that I have nothing new or startling to say on this subject. I have not the presumption to suppose that I am expected to arraign here the various Latin grammars of the day, point out their defects, praise their excellencies, and sum up by telling how I could make one better adapted for our schools than any of them.
I have no fault to find with Latin grammars as we have them. If I had my choice among a number, I should undoubtedly find reasons for preferring one before all others for use in my classes. But the differences between the various grammars in common use are not so great as to drive me to making a new one rather than use whichever one might be assigned me to teach from. One has one excellence, another has another. The first has one defect, the second has another. None is perfect, none is unmitigatedly bad.
The main point is, how to use the grammars we have, and
Indeed, I find it wbolly impossible to discuss this question without continual reference to methods of teaching; and hence when the question is put to me, “ What is needed in a Latin grammar for schools ?” my first reply is, " That depends entirely upon how you teach Latin grammar." Those who act upon the principle that the language must first be studied in its abstract principles, the application of the principles coming afterwards, — that a pupil must learn the rules of syntax that apply to the genitive case, for example, before he has seen and read and observed and studied many instances of the use of the genitive case, — would probably require a very different grammar from those who teach upon the principle that, in the acquisition of a language, the concrete should precede the abstract, that the rule of syntax covering a certain construction should be deduced from an observation of the usages of the language. The former class of teachers are at the mercy of their grammars, – the poorer the grammar, the more difficult their task, — while the latter are wellnigh independent of grammars, so far as their use by the pupils is concerned.
The fact that this question is asked, may, perhaps, of itself show that a dissatisfaction exists, not so much with the text-books in Latin grammar, as with some of the methods of using them; and he who reads even a little of the educational literature of the day must have observed frequent expressions of this dissatisfaction. The strongest point, perhaps, that is raised against classical studies is the disproportionate amount of time given to them in school and college curriculums, as compared with that given to other studies which are considered, whether rightly or wrongly, as of more prac
tical importance. If classical studies are to hold their ground as necessary parts of high-school and college instruction, classical teachers must look well to their methods, and see if much of the time now taken to accomplish certain results may not be saved for other studies without losing anything of permanent value to be derived from the classics.
The subject may be divided, for convenience of discussion, somewhat as follows: First, what should a Latin grammar contain to be committed to memory? Secondly, what should a Latin grammar contain to be used merely for reference ?
First, what should be committed to memory ? This question must be divided into two parts; — what is to be memorized directly from the book, by main force, and what is to be lodged in the memory by indirection, as it were? By this I mean such facts and princi. ples as, from their frequent recurrence, and consequent frequent reference, though never given as a set lesson to be learned, are nevertheless fairly and fully committed to memory, so as to be used whenever occasion requires, just as much as the paradigms of declension and conjugation.
There will be no controversy about the necessity of mere memoriter exercises in learning the paradigms. There is more than one way of doing this work, but of methods I will say nothing in this connection. Full paradigmis, then, should be given of all kinds of nouns, adjectives, pronouns, and verbs, in all their various formations; and of these there is, in my opinion, more danger of giving too few than too many. The saving of a few pages more or less in the size of the book will not atone for any difficulties or obscurities left in the way of the pupil. If it is necessary for him to know the declension of the noun Achilles, present it to him fairly and squarely, in tabular form, with all its different caseendings, and not put him to the inconvenience of picking it out from fine-print remarks on the different cases.
After providing for the necessary paradigms, wherein lies the main part of our work in that part of grammar called etymology, we come to consider what is necessary for the pupil in connection with the paradigms. We have pretty nearly done now with purely memoriter work, as I believe, but we have still much to
provide for our pupil's use. Take, for instance, the rules for gender, with their numerous exceptions. If a scholar were only to read Latin, it seems to me that for bim only the most general roles for gender need to be learned. In making out a translation with dictionary or vocabulary, it is enough that the gender may be
were based upon any well-recognized principle, that could be applied in every case, instead of being quite arbitrary, there would be some reason in devoting a good deal of time to the acquisition of them, even though no practical benefit resulted from the study.
But Latin composition is an essential part of the study of Latin. In this practice the pupil must be familiar with the gender of the nouns that he uses. How is he to learn it? The general rules
at once; and since these rules must be given in the grammar, the existence of exceptions must of course be noticed; and if the
be all put down for convenience of reference. But, for charity's sako, don't make your scholar learn more or faster than he needs for actual use! I never would have a scholar learn a list of exceptions in which are words that he will probably never use in writing, and perhaps never see in reading. I would rarely, if ever, have a scholar commit to memory any list of exceptions, or any list of words at all, until he had met with all or nearly all of the words in the course of his reading. When your pupil learns that is is a feminine ending, show him that long list of exceptions, and teach him always to look with a suspicious eye upon words in is, and whenever he has to look out such a word in his vocabulary, teach him to notice then and there the gender. The additional labor of noticing the gender when learning the meaning is but slight, and the habit of observation thus gained is of incalculable value to the pupil for any study or pursuit whatever. Here I may say that this method should be used as often as possible, and only departed from when the advantages likely to arise from the memoriter method are clearly seen to be very great. Furthermore, I would have pupils learn in the first instance many things from their vocabularies that are sonetimes learned from the grammar,