Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/578

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ratiocination and of volition. Hence a great deal which passes for education is really a degradation of the human brain to efforts below its natural capacities. This applies especially to book-work, in which the memory of sounds in given sequences is often the sole demand of the teacher, and in which the pupil, instead of knowing the meaning of the sounds, often does not know what "meaning" means. As soon as the sequence of the sounds is forgotten nothing remains, and we are then confronted by a question which was once proposed in an inspectorial report: "To what purpose in after-life is a boy taught if the intervention of a school vacation is to be a sufficient excuse for entirely forgetting his instruction?"

In order to avoid such faulty teaching, few agencies are more valuable than what are technically called "object" lessons, in which the faculties of the pupils are exercised about things instead of about words; and the suggestion of Sir John Lubbock would lead to object lessons of a very useful character. To be taught something about gravitation, about atmospheric pressure, about the effects of temperature, and other simple matters of like kind, which would admit of experimental illustration, and which would call upon the learner to make statements in his own words instead of in those of somebody else, would be so many steps toward real mental development. At the end of a vacation, even if the facts of any particular occurrence had become somewhat mixed, the pupils would nevertheless preserve an increased capacity for acquiring new facts, and would probably retain these for a longer period; and such are precisely the changes which it should be the province of education to bring about. We would even go further than Sir John Lubbock, and in elementary schools would give an important place to the art of drawing, which teaches accurate observation of the forms of things. The efforts of a wise teacher should always be guided with reference to the position and surroundings of a child at home, and should seek to supplement the deficiencies of home training and example. Among the wealthier classes the floating information of the family circle often, though by no means always, both excites and gratifies a curiosity about natural phenomena; but among the poor this stimulus to mental growth is almost, if not entirely, wanting. An explanation of the physical causes of common events, such, for instance, as the rising of water in a pump, would usually be a revelation to the pupils of a board school, and would start them upon a track which could hardly fail to render them more skillful workers in any department of industry, and which might even lead some of them to fortune. A wise and benevolent squire set on foot many years ago a school for the children of his laborers, in which drawing and the elements of natural science were carefully taught; and the result was, that the children educated there, instead of remaining at the plough's tail, passed, in an astonishingly large number of cases, into positions of responsibility and profit. On every ground, therefore, we hope that Sir John Lubbock's proposal will at no