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SCIENCE OF EDUCATION-ITS IMPORTANCE.
ried to high perfection, whilst the mathematics are in their infancy. Physical science may advance, whilst the science of interpretation is stationary. No science, however, can be independent of the science of education. By education their triumphs are made known; by education alone can they be multiplied.
Hence, thirdly, it is upon education that the progress of all other sciences depends. A science is a compilation of the laws of the universe on one particular subject. Its progress is marked by the number of these laws which it reveals, and the multiplicity of their relations which it unfolds. Now we have before shown that the number of laws which are discovered, will be in proportion to the skill of mind, the instrument which is to discover them. Hence, just in proportion to the progress of the science of education, will be the power which man obtains over nature, the extent of his knowledge of the laws of the universe, and the abundance of means of happiness which he enjoys.
If this be so, it would not seem arrogant to claim for education the rank of the most important of the sciences, excepting only the science of morals. And, hence, we infer, that it presents subjects vast enough, and interests grave enough, to task the highest effort of the most gifted intellect, in the full vigor of its powers. Is it not so? If it be so, on what principle of common sense is it, that a man is considered good enough for a teacher, because he has most satisfactorily proved himself good for no one thing else? Why is it, that the utter want of sufficient health to exercise any other profession, is frequently the only reason why a man should be thrust into this, which requires more active mental labor in the discharge of its duties, than any other profession whatsoever ? Alas! it is not by teachers such as these that the intellectual power of a people is to be created. To hear a scholar say a lesson, is not to educate him. He who is not able to leave his mark upon a pupil, never ought to have one. Let it never be forgotten, that, in the thrice resplendent days of the intellectual glory of
Greece, teachers were in her high places. Isocrates, Plato, Zeno, and Aristotle were, without question, stars of by very far the first magnitude, in that matchless constellation, which still surrounds with undiminished effulgence the name of the city of Minerva.
And lastly, if the science of education be thus important, is it not worthy of public patronage? Knowledge of every sort is valuable in a community, very far beyond what it costs to produce it. Hence it is for the interest of every man to furnish establishments by which knowledge can be increased. Of the manner in which this should be afforded, it belongs to political economists to treat. Let me suggest only a very few hints on the subject. Books are the repositories of the learning of past ages. Longer time than that of an individual's life, and greater wealth than falls to the lot of teachers, are required to collect them in numbers sufficient for extensive usefulness. The same may be said of instruments for philosophical research. Let these be furnished, and furnished amply. Let your instructers have the use of them, if you please, gratuitously; and if you do not please, not so, and then, on the principles which govern all other labor, let every teacher, like every other man, take care of himself. Give to every man prominent and distinct individuality. Remove all the useless barriers which shelter him from the full and direct effect of public opinion. Let it be supposed, that, by becoming a teacher, he has not lost all pretensions to common sense; and that he may possibly know as much about his own business as those, who, by confession, know nothing at all about it. In a word, make teaching the business of men, and you will have men to do the business of teaching. I know not that the cause of education, so far as teachers are concerned, requires any other patronage.
I come now to the second part of the subject, which, I am aware, it becomes me to treat with all possible brevity.
II. In what manner shall mind be thus rendered a fitter instrument to answer the purposes of its creation ?
To answer this question, let us go back a little. We have shown that the present constitution of things is constructed for man, and that man is constructed for the present constitution. As mind, then, is the instrument by which he avails himself of the laws of that constitution, it may be supposed that it was endowed with all the powers necessary to render it subservient to his best interests. Were it possible, therefore, it would be useless to attempt to give it any additional faculties. All that is possible, is, to cultivate to higher perfection those faculties which exist, or to vary their relations to each other. In other words, to cultivate to the utmost the original faculties of the mind, is to render it the fittest possible instrument for discovering, applying, and obeying the laws of its creation..
This is, however, an answer to the question in the abstract, and without any regard to time. But the question to us, is not an abstract question; it has regard to time. That is to say, we do not ask simply what is the best mode of cultivating mind, but what is the best mode of doing it now, when so many ages have elapsed, and so many of the laws of the universe have been discovered. Much knowledge has already been acquired by the human race, and this knowledge is to be communicated to the pupil.
All this every one sees at first glance to be true. Nearly all the time spent in pupilage, under the most favorable circumstances, is in fact employed in the acquisition of those laws which have been already discovered. Without a knowledge of them, education would be almost useless. Without it, there could evidently be no progressive improvement of the species. Education, considered in this light alone, has very many and very important ends to accomplish. It is desirable that the pupil should be taught thoroughly; that is, that he should have as exact and definite a knowledge as possible of the law and of its relations. It is desirable that he be taught permanently; that is, that the truth communicated be so associated with his other knowledge, that the lapse of time will not easily erase it from his memory. It is important,
also, that no more time be consumed in the process than is absolutely necessary. He who occupies two years in teaching what might as well be taught with a little more industry in one year, does his pupil a far greater injury than would be done by simply abridging his life by a year. He not only abstracts from his pupil's acquisition that year's improvement, but all the knowledge which would have been the fruit of it for the remainder of his being.
If, then, all that portion of our time which is devoted to education must be occupied in acquiring the laws of the universe, how shall opportunity be afforded for cultivating the original powers of the mind ?
I answer, an all-wise Creator has provided for this necessity of our intellectual nature. His laws, in this, as in every other case, are in full and perfect harmony.
For, first, the original powers of the mind are cultivated by use. This law, I believe, obtains in respect to all our powers, physical, intellectual, and moral. But it must be by the use of each several faculty. The improvement of the memory does not, of necessity, strengthen the power of discrimination; nor does the improvement of natural logical acuteness of necessity add sensibility to the taste. The law on this subject seems to be, that every several faculty is strengthened and rendered more perfect exactly in proportion as it is subjected to habitual and active exercise.
And, secondly, it will be found that the secret of teaching most thoroughly, permanently, and in the shortest time; that is, of giving to the pupil in a given time the greatest amount of knowledge, consists in so teaching as to give the most active exercise to the original faculties of the mind. So that it is perfectly true, that if you wished so to teach as to make the mind the fittest possible instrument for discovering, applying and obeying the laws of the Creator, you would so teach as to give to the mind the greatest amount of knowledge; and, on the contrary, if you wished so to teach as to give to a pupil, in a given time, the greatest amount of knowledge, you
would so teach as to render his mind the fittest instrument for discovering applying and obeying the laws of its Creator.
I do not forget that the discussion of the practical business of teaching is, on this occasion, committed to other hands. You will, however, I trust, allow me to suggest here, one or two principles which seem to me common to all teaching, and which are in their nature calculated to produce the results to which I have referred.
1. Let a pupil understand everything that it is designed to teach him. If he cannot understand a thing this year, it was not designed by his Creator that he should learn it this year. But let it not be forgotten, that precisely here is seen the power of a skilful teacher. It is his business to make a pupil, if possible, understand. Very few things are incapable of being understood, if they be reduced to their ultimate elements. Hence the reason why the power of accurate and natural analysis is so invaluable to a teacher. By simplification and patience, it is astonishing to observe how easily abstruse subjects may be brought within the grasp of even the faculties of children. Let a teacher, then, first understand a subject himself. Let him know that he understands it. Let him reduce it to its natural divisions and its simplest elements. And then, let him see that his pupils understand it. This is the first step
2. I would recommend the frequent repetition of whatever has been acquired. For want of this, an almost incalculable amount of invaluable time is annually wasted. Who of us has not forgotten far more than he at present knows ? What is understood to-day, may with pleasure be reviewed to-morrow. If it be frequently reviewed, it will be associated with all our other knowledge, and be thoroughly engraven on the memory. If it be laid aside for a month or two, it will be almost as difficult to recover it as to acquire a new truth; and it is, moreover, destitute of the interest derived only from novelty. If this be the case with us generally, I