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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/72

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the teacher must make the presentation. The consequence is, that all the points of a subject are set forth as clearly as possible by the teacher, and a summary closes the first stage of the instruction. Teachers often acquire excellent reputations by thus illustrating their skill in developing a subject logically and bracketing out the syllabus of the work, as some one has said, "on a rod of blackboard." Then comes the reproduction or presentation by the pupil, and, if he does not reproduce the instruction well, the subject is thought not to have been presented clearly enough, and often the presentation is repeated. This method is said to be psychological and scientific; nevertheless, it induces passivity, a habit of waiting to be told what to do, and a wrong attitude for the work of investigation. It is distinctively a literary method that is carried over into science work with disastrous results.

The best presentation of a thing is made by the thing itself, which must be suitable for the grade in which it is used, being simple in form, color, and parts for low grades—not necessarily of simple and regular form, nor of one color, nor of two parts. "The presumption of brains" must apply to the youngest pupils of school age. Experience shows that pupils who are permitted to draw and describe in writing simple, natural objects, guided only by a very few words written on the blackboard, acquire such a habit of application and power of expression as can be developed in no other way as well or as soon. They are so pleased with the expression of their own ideas, when they have been well started, that the disposition to appropriate other persons' ideas to save themselves from thinking or to copy the expression of them is counteracted. Their most imperative needs are opportunities to work by themselves, skillful guidance, and generous encouragement.

The question-and-answer method is the principal method of instruction in both the normal schools and the scientific schools. It appears to be the most scientific method generally known, and accordingly is the method used in teaching science. The teacher, in giving a lesson on a natural object, prepares her questions carefully in a systematic order, anticipates the probable answers of the pupils, and determines the exact answers which they must give at last. To do this heavy work a multitude of "leading questions" is necessary, and to ask and answer the questions consumes much time and calls for exhausting labor on the part of the teacher. The questions are put in order with considerable difficulty, which varies with the amount of freedom permitted, and the pupils are said to be led to investigate for themselves. The answers of the brightest pupils are frequently written on the blackboard, where the dullest pupils may read them and try afterward to pass them off as their own. The process insures con-