« PreviousContinue »
a sad and grievous slavery, in which the unfortunate senses were left almost destitute of any pleasure, stimulus, or refreshment, and without any cultivation by use. The eyes of the younger pupils were more active, because they had not been so long in slavery. There were however some exceptions among the older ones, in the cases of those whose early experience had obliged them to use their eyes; as in some miners and smelters, young people from the country, and a painter's son.
This dullness of eye was partly bodily, but chiefly mental. It was only very gradually that the torpid bodily senses grew more acute, and that the active reciprocal stimulating influence between mind and senses, so long disused, was re-established. What made this re-establishment specially difficult was the fact that most of them, brought up under oral instruction on all subjects whatever, partook of the prevailing belief that every thing in the world could be communicated orally, even mineralogy; and that therefore there was no need whatever for a direct observation of nature by the senses. They were in despair at any attempt to induce them to make such observations; and intimated that their teacher was pre-eminently endowed for that purpose by nature, and that it would be far wiser for him to tell them what his good, well-trained eyes saw in the minerals than to try to make them see, with their incapable and untaught eyes. There were but few of them whom I could make understand why mere oral lectures were useless in this pursuit; and I succeeded but with a few, who were practicing bodily exercises. I said to them that they needed to exercise their eyes in this study, as much as they did their arms and legs in their gymnastics; and that they might as well expect to learn to run and leap by attending lectures on Jahn's Gymnastics as to become acquainted with minerals by lectures on them. This made the case clear to these few.
Again, there was another class of pupils with whom I had great difficulty in being understood. This new requirement, to use their torpid eyes, and to examine the minerals attentively and quietly, seemed very extraordinary to them. It was as if I was making them read a book in a foreign language, which I could translate, and which, out of obstinacy, I would not. Innumerable questions betrayed their thoughts. I ought at least to tell them the names, before they examined the minerals. And when I replied, that those pupils who gained clear and definite ideas of the appearance of the minerals, without knowing their names, would please me infinitely more than those who should remember their names without their appearance, they did not understand me; for they had usually been accustomed, in their study of geography, history, &c., to satisfy their teacher with
the emptiest memorization of names. I had the most trouble with some grown-up persons, whose powers of thought had been unnaturally stimulated, and who had thus lost that quiet mood of mind which is indispensable for enjoying the benefit of a real thorough and intelligent receptivity. They were incessantly interrupted and diverted by notions that occurred to them-the untimely misconceptions of a cursory, superficial mode of observation.
But this will suffice for these unfortunate experiences; which I do not lay to the account of my pupils, but which were the necessary outgrowth of the period. I am the less disposed to blame my pupils for these things because I myself, when a scholar, had the same experience, even sometimes to a greater degree. I was even earlier in my conviction that every thing could be learned out of a book; and in feeling the same despair at being set to use my eyes. During subsequent years, especially, I have enjoyed a large overplus of pleasant experiences, even with pupils who were at first exceedingly awkward. If the visual powers are once awakened, if the least mutual stimulation is awakened between the senses and the mind, the susceptibilities of the mind and the senses increase with every day.
It appears, from what has been said, that every pupil develops himself in his own peculiar manner. Some of them were lucid, intelligent, prompt, appropriate, definite, and certain in answering; while others were more inclined to feeling, quiet and withdrawn within themselves, slower to understand and later in attaining power of expression.
Some seemed to have equal talents for every thing; while others were inclined in some one direction. Some, particularly, seemed to have a remarkable susceptibility to color and luster, but to be quite wanting in perception of form; while others were precisely the contrary, having an acute eye for form, but being deficient in feeling for luster or color. These last were often inclined to proceed quickly from actual observation of objects to mathematical treatment of them; some even carrying this tendency so far as to begin it altogether prematurely, and as to be entirely indifferent whether an octahedron was the most beautiful diamond, or a wooden one. In this way they forgot the most important consideration for them; namely, that they were dealing with the marvelous creations of God, not with the mere thoughts of men.
The active and sensitive eyes of those who had a feeling for color and luster, on the contrary, became gradually educated to a full apprehension of the crystals, in all the beauty of their forms and modifications. They also comprehended the mathematical laws of these
forms, so far as they could be deduced immediately from actual observation of them; but showed a want of facility in mastering the pure mathematics of the subject, and a dislike for it.
Some pupils showed similar tendencies toward particular groups of minerals, and dislikes for others; and they mastered more easily a knowledge of those they liked, even when they seemed, to one free from any prepossession on the subject, much more difficult than the others.
These and other peculiarities of pupils, which I can not fully describe without giving an account of each individual pupil, became the cause of my opinion that teaching exclusively in one general method is quite impossible.
IX. INSTRUCTION IN BOTANY.
In the private school at Nuremberg, where I instructed for three years, I also taught botany. The plants used were found in the neighborhood of the city, or in the garden of the institution. The most common garden-plants, as being best known and most useful, were made most prominent-as domestic animals were in zoology. When the boys returned from their excursions, the plants they had collected were laid fresh together on a table, examined, and named. At the end of the lesson, each pupil entered the names on a paper, and afterward in a book, divided as follows::
The pupils might write under "Remarks" whatever they chose; and each, of course, inserted what had struck him most in looking at the plant. I have already observed that I considered it a very great error to require from beginners a complete and exhaustive description; inasmuch as this must be based upon a previous analysis of a total conception, which they have not yet attained.
These registers of plants served afterward as botanical calendars, from which could be seen where and at what time certain plants could be found; as, saxifrage at Mögeldorf, in May, &c. They also now began, of their own accord, to classify the species into genera. A boy brought in a plant, and was told that it was a speedwell, and after a few days he brought in another, and very correctly said, "Here is another sort of speedwell." So simple and natural, in stronglymarked plants, is the arrangement into genera of species.
It will be found judicious, lest this scientific examination should make them indifferent to the beauty of the flowers, and make them too exclusively occupied with the use of the intellect alone, to employ such as show sufficient taste for it, in drawing flowers.
During the first summer my pupils acquired a knowledge of between three and four hundred varieties. This is rather too great a number than too small; it is better to get a thorough and permanent acquaintance with a few plants than an indistinct and superficial one of many.
X. NECESSARY INCONSISTENCY.
Bacon says, "There is scarce any entrance to the domain of human science than to the kingdom of heaven, into which one can not enter unless he become as a little child."
The poet makes a similar demand upon the public, at the representation of his dramatized plays; where he demands that the spectators shall for a time forget their education and their knowledge, and "become children again." But the people answer him, "We thank God that we are no longer children; our education cost us pains and sweat enough."
I have before complained that the pupils at our schools of learning dive so entirely among books and lectures-in a world of words, and so entirely shut out from any active intercourse with nature and life— that they have usually, by the time that they enter the university, forgotten the first impressions of nature which they received in childhood, and seem even to have lost the child's capacity of receiving them. Their minds, in this case, must now be first awakened anew to nature, and brought back to their former childlike condition, not exclusively by actual observation, but chiefly by words—by the stimulus of properly-directed oral lectures.
It was from this point of view that I endeavored to perform my task of lecturing on general natural history. And even in my lectures on mineralogy, I accommodated myself to the necessities of the case. That is, although I regularly instructed my younger scholars in the manner I have described, yet in the subsequent academical lectures I varied, in one respect, from it. In order to render oral instruction possible, I was forced, whether I would or no, to begin with instruction in external marks; with a practical explanation of the technical mineralogical terms. In other respects I remained quite true to my earlier method.
Instruction in mineralogy, botany, and zoology leads, as we have seen, from actual inspection to the development of the ideas of species, genera, &c., which are component parts of created beings, and are revealed by examining their appearances. These ideas connect what are of like kinds, and separate them from those unlike them.
*Nov. Org., I., 68.
Tieck, in "Puss in Boots," (Phantasus,) 2, 247.
"Thou stand'st mysteriously revealed." Goethe's "Winter Journey to the Harz." (Harzreife im Winter.)
But when we have correctly learned and expressed these generic ideas, have we thus arrived at the actuality of their existence?-have we learned what is the essence of their being and life?
Haller, who all his long life unweariedly and honestly investigated nature, may answer:
"No spirit, however creative, can pierce the secrets of nature."
No created spirit he meant, of course; the Creator is to be excepted. And the great Bacon agrees with Haller: "It is falsely claimed that the senses of man are the measure of things; on the other hand, all the apprehensions, both of the senses and of the intellect, correspond to the essential nature of man, not to that of the universe. The human understanding is like an uneven mirror in reflecting objectsit mingles up its own nature with their nature, and confuses and colors them." And Newton's doctrine is the same, when he says, "We see only the forms and colors of bodies, hear only their sounds, feel only their outer surfaces, smell only their perfume, taste only their flavor; the essence of their being we can perceive by no sense and by no reflection."
Goethe at one time controverted Haller's assertion, but afterward agreed with it. He says, "The true, identical with the divine, will never permit itself to be directly perceived by us; we discern it only in reflections, examples, symbols; in single and related phenomena; we become aware of its existence as an incomprehensible life, and yet can not escape the desire of comprehending it."
Cuvier repeatedly admits that there are incomprehensible mysteries in his science. Thus he says, "The operation of external things upon the consciousness, the awakening of a perception, a conception, is a secret impenetrable to our reason." The great zoologist, who has surpassed all in investigating the laws of the animal creation, comes upon the question-what is life? and how does it exist? and he confesses that these important questions can not be answered; that life is a profound mystery.§
We often hear the confession, "How vast is that of which we are ignorant!" We readily admit that we know nothing of the interior of Africa, or of the lands near the poles; that probably many new plants, animals, and minerals may be discovered there, and the like;
Nov. Org., I., 41.
Principia, 3, 1. 675. (Le Seur's ed., 1760 ) "Their essence we can perceive by no sense, no reflection; and much less have we any idea of the essential substance of God." * Works, 51, 254.
$ Cuvier's "Animal Kingdom," translated by Voigt, vol. 1. 9, 10. "All the endeavors of physicists have been unable to inform us how life is organized; whether of itself, or from some external source" The existence of organized bodies is therefore the greatest secret of organic economy, and of all nature"