Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/376

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the balance. That corrective may, in certain cases, be supplied by the subject-matter of the books read, if it is required that they shall be intelligently understood. At the same time, such a requirement must be very positive and direct in order not to be evaded. Though the Education Department does at the present moment require from children in elementary schools, not merely an intelligent style of reading, but also (in the upper standards) an acquaintance with the subject matter of the books read, it would naturally be felt to be extremely hard that a child should be declared to have failed in reading because he or she showed a want of proper observation. But we should like to see this whole topic of intelligent acquaintance with the subject matter of the books read removed from the mere art of reading, and constituted into a separate subject by itself—say into a class subject, such as geography and grammar are now. If this were done, it would not be hard upon a child to demand from it some amount of observation as well as intelligence. If, for instance, the reading-book referred to any agricultural operation, such as harvesting, or to some well known plant or flower or vegetable, or to cattle, or to birds, whether migratory or permanent in the country, then in a country school the children might fairly be questioned so as to bring out what they themselves had observed on these matters. In a town school questions might be asked on other matters to which reading-books would also now and then make reference—railways, stations, the different public buildings and their uses, the trades or manufactures specially practiced in the town. We can not but think that there is a real gap in the training of children in the poorer classes, and that the step we here recommend might do much to fill it.

It is true, and we note the fact with pleasure, that the Education Department has of late encouraged methods of teaching geography which brine: out that side in which it is connected with direct observation. The suggestion that in every school the meridian line should be marked on the floor, in order that the points of the compass may be practically known, is a valuable one in this direction. Still more so is the suggestion, almost amounting to a requirement, that "good maps of the parish or immediate neighborhood in which the school is situated should be affixed to the walls." But of course the value of these appliances depends on the way in which they are used. The meridian line may be marked with exactness, the map of the parish may be unexceptionable, but if the knowledge of these points is not interwoven with the daily teaching it will be fruitless. And we can not but regret that the Education Department should treat geography as a subject inferior in importance to grammar. This is to place the abstract before the concrete, which is contrary to all natural and true method. We are sure that it needs far greater skill to render a grammar-lesson really fruitful and beneficial than to render a geography lesson so. When grammar is made almost a necessity, while geogra-