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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/518

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

original constructive work is next to impossible. And if, as so often happens through the training given, the critical faculty of the pupil is developed in advance of the constructive ability, and of the power to use language with ease and accuracy, the result is fatal to progress in composition. The first rude efforts fall so far short of the polish demanded by the critical spirit that the sense of discouragement is overmastering.

There is still another view of the case that makes for the same distrust of promiscuous criticism. The errors of the early compositions are soon naturally and spontaneously outgrown through the constant effort at clearness of expression, and through the rapidly increased power over language gained by this continuous practice. In this way the mastery of language came incidentally, and we avoided the stiff awkwardness of the conventional composition.

In the study of English we did what we could to awaken the literary sense to some degree in all our pupils. We knew that each one came into the world with definite mental limitations. The literary sense, like any other form of the artistic faculty, seems, with rare exceptions, to require several generations of culture in a scholarly atmosphere before it attains to a fine discrimination. But we could at least make a real beginning. We could find out the present state of their taste, and carry forward their development by guiding their course of reading. Advantage was taken of events to bring before them some special poem, or some impassioned prose composition, having relation to the event in question. We could thus awaken a susceptibility of the soul, that through repeated impressions would develop into an instinctive sense of the beauty of true literary art-forms.

This was our aim, and quite subsidiary to this was the acquisition of knowledge about literature. The history, bibliography, and philosophy of English literature must come later instead of usurping the first place, as is commonly the case in schools.

In language. Prof. Campbell prepared an exercise which proved of great value. He selected about three hundred of the most productive roots of English words, and gave them one by one to the class. They traced these roots back to the various languages entering into the English tongue, and thus acquired a broader view of the origin and relations of English words. The study thus bestowed upon the vernacular was further valuable as furnishing a basis for the study of other languages.

When the student in Latin, French, or German finds that a large number of the new words he is learning have the roots with which he is familiar in his mother-tongue, the difficulties of his work are greatly diminished.

Mental and moral philosophy were taken up objectively and