Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/409

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EDUCATION AS A SCIENCE.

3. The cumulation of the instances is essential to the driving home of a generality. A continuous, undistracted iteration of the point of agreement is the only way to produce an adequate impression of a great general idea. I cannot now consider the various obstacles encountered in this attempt, nor explain how seldom it can he adhered to in the highest examples. It must suffice to remark that the interest special to the individual examples is perpetually carrying off the attention; and pupil and master are both liable to be turned aside by the seduction.

There is another aspect of the power of similarity, under which it is a valuable aid to memory or retention. When we have to learn an exercise absolutely new, we must ingrain every step by the plastic adhesiveness of the brain, and must give time and opportunity for the adhesive links to be matured. But when we come to an exercise containing parts already acquired by the plastic operation, we are saved the labor of forging fresh links as regards these, and need only to master what is new to us. When we have known all about one plant, we can easily learn the other plants of the same species or genus; we need only to master the points of variety.

The bearing of this circumstance on mental growth must be apparent at once. After a certain number of acquirements in the various regions of study—manual art, language, visible pictures—nothing that occurs is absolutely new; the amount of novel matter is continually decreasing as our knowledge increases. Our adhesive faculty is not improving as we grow in years; very much the contrary: but our facility in taking in new knowledge improves steadily; the fact being that the knowledge is so little new that the forging of fresh adhesions is reduced to a very limited compass. The most original air of music that the most original genius could compose would be very soon learned by an instructed musician.

In the practice of the schoolmaster's art, this great fact will be perpetually manifesting itself. The operation can be aided and guided in those cases where the agreement really existing is not felt. It is one of the teaching arts to make the pupils see the old in the new, as far as the agreement reaches; and to pose them upon this very circumstance. The obstacles are the very same as already described, and the means of overcoming them the same. Orderly juxtaposition is requsite for matters of complexity; and we may have also to counterwork the attractions of individuality.

Constructiveness.—In many parts of our education, the stress lies not in simple memory, or the tenacious holding of what has been presented to the mind, but in making us perform some new operation, something that we were previously unable to do. Such are the first stages of our instruction in speaking, in writing, and in all the mechanical or manual arts. So also in the higher intellectual processes, as in the imagining of what we have not seen. I do not go so far as