Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/683

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EDUCATION AS A SCIENCE.

nearly all the purposes of the teacher to know the best means of overcoming the repugnance and the abstruseness of general knowledge.

Waiving for a time the niceties of the abstract idea, and the obstacles in the way of its being readily comprehended, we may here adduce certain motives that coƶperate with the teacher's endeavors to impress it. A little attention, however, must first be given to the various kinds of interest that attach to individual or particular facts.

Any kind of knowledge, whether particular or more or less general, that is obviously involved in any of the strong feelings or emotions that we have passed in review, is by that very fact interesting. Now, a great many kinds of knowledge are implicated with those various feelings. To avoid pains, and obtain pleasures, it is often necessary to know certain things, and we willingly apply our minds to learn those things; and the more so, the more evident their bearing upon the gratification of our desires. A vast quantity of information respecting the world, and respecting human beings, is gained in this way; and it constitutes an important basis of even the highest acquisitions.

The readiness to imbibe this immediately fructifying knowledge is qualified by its being difficult or abstruse; we often prefer ignorance, even in matters of consequence, to intellectual labor.

All the natural objects that bear upon our subsistence, our wants, our pleasures, our exemptions from pain, are individually interesting to us, and become known in respect of their special efficacy. Our food, and all the means of procuring it, our clothing and shelter, our means of protection, our sense-stimulants, are studied with avidity, and remembered with ease. This department of knowledge, notwithstanding its vital concern, is apt to be considered as groveling; it has, however, the recommendation of truth. We do not encourage ourselves in any deceptions in such matters; and, if we make mistakes, it is owing to the obscurity of the case, rather than to our indifference, or to any motive for perverting the facts. Indeed, this is the department that first supplied to mankind the best criterion of certainty.

There is a different class of objects that appeal, not to the more pressing utilities of subsistence, safety, and comfort, but to the gratifications of the higher senses and the emotions: the pleasures of touch, sight, and hearing; the social and anti-social emotions. These comprise all the more striking objects of the world: the sun and celestial sphere, the earth's gay coloring and sublime vastness; the innumerable objects, inanimate and animate, that tickle some sense or emotion. In proportion as human beings are set free from the struggle for subsistence do they lay themselves open to the seinfluences, and so enlarge the sphere of natural knowledge. Individual things become interesting and known from inspiring these feelings. The culminating interest, however, is in living beings, and especially persons of our own species. The intellectual impressions thus left upon us are lively, but not necessarily correct as to the facts.