« ForrigeFortsæt »
training. The beginning of the work is therefore most important, because when the child is young and tender, the impressions which it is desirable to fix permanently are then most easily made. "No evil propensity of the human heart is so powerful," says Seneca, "that it may not be subdued by discipline."
The true method of education follows the course of nature. It may commence long before the weaning of the infant. The child is not to be thwarted in any aspiration, or crippled in peculiar bent of mind, but should receive that very training which shall give to it its legitimate field of activity. There ought to be no discord between the perception native in children and the treatment which they habitually receive. The sense of right is very keen, so far as they are themselves concerned; they are quick to detect injustice and to resent it. This is the point to begin at, and it is vitally important to be strict in regard to it. The sentiment of justice to others belongs to a later period, and the endeavor to develop it prematurely is like hurrying the immature bud to its blossoming. They should be taught to be truthful and sincere; but any unnatural forcing process, as Dickens has illustrated in the example of the contributions which the Jellaby children were required to make for foreign missions, generally blights the very qualities and dispositions which it was intended to establish as settled rules of action. "The best way to train the young," says Plato, "is to train yourself at the same time; not to be continually admonishing them, but always carrying out your own principles into practice."
The oldest of our faculties, the first and last that appears in our term of existence on earth, is the imagination. It is an antenna of the Supreme Reason. Insight, understanding and will are co-ordinate with it. All the play of the child is suggested by this faculty, and is an endeavor to understand the drama of life. The soul reaching forth from its hidden abidingplace into Time is seeking to discern the nature of the earthly career upon which it has entered. All art, all our knowledge, begins with imagination. The effort to compress this faculty as if into Chinese shoes, and conventional swaddling-bands, is
a crippling operation, if not murderous outright. The little child demands stories and exercises its wit about their curious particulars, trying to embrace them in its consciousness as something which it is actually recalling to memory. The poorest tale is rich to the little listener. The growing child craves a similar literature, and will eagerly fly to it from the austere lessons of the school-room. It is the attempt of nature to assert her own dominion. The child must speak, understand, and think as a child.
Many of our modern school-methods are to be deplored. have a perfect aversion toward the cramming process whic seems to be their chief characteristic. The branches of science which are prescribed in the curriculum are often too many at a time, as well as unsuitable for certain of the pupils. That which is committed to memory under these conditions, a great deal of it, is seldom of any considerable utility. It is not received into the thought and so implanted in the mind and assimilated. More commonly the pupil forgets it outright, as we naturally drop whatever is disagreeable out of our conscious memory. It is generally fortunate to do this. A mental dyspepsia is very liable to occur under the teaching processes now in vogue, and is as earnestly to be shunned as a bodily indigestion. Each is pernicious and opens the way for what is worse. It is a pertinent question at the present time, how these unwholesome influences can best be avoided. A child is better off unborn than untaught, but the end of all proper instruction is to develop and make perfect.
It appears conclusive, that the right curriculum will correspond with the order of the faculties and their period of development. It will provide duly for every form and variety of capacity. In the first stage it will be principally restricted to the faculty of observation; in the next, it will involve more or less of scientific discipline.
"Every thing relating to arithmetic and geometry," says Plato, meaning observation and generalising, “and all the previous instruction which the young should receive before they learn the technic of logical reasoning, ought to be set before them while they are children, and after such a method of
teaching that they may learn without any sense of being compelled. A free man ought to acquire no kind of learning while he is under conditions of bondage; the soul can tolerate no compulsory discipline. Do not force them to their learning; but train them up by amusements, in order that you may be the better able to discern the bent of each one's genius. Afterward, those studies which they pursued miscellaneously during their early life, should be brought before them in one view, in order that they may see the connection of the whole with each, and with the nature of real being. This is the only kind of instruction which will abide permanently."
In regard to brain-culture, as teaching is sometimes denominated, it is proper for me, in justice to myself, to state that I am not one of those thinkers who consider the brain as essentially the mind, and the bodily structure as the individual. Yet, for what I really think them to be, I would desire the best care to be taken of them. It is hardly a correct use of language, however, to designate the teaching of children as culture of the brain in any important respect, so long as that instruction relates to objects and their arrangement. It is a training of the perceptive and scientific faculties rather than an employment of cerebration and the higher intellect. Indeed, the modern methods are radically at fault by reason of their subordinating of the nobler to the lower faculties, and so making the brain, with its lofty powers, a minister to the sensuous and passional nature. The vehicle is esteemed as belonging in advance of the propelling energy. It is a vivid illustration of this reversing of the true order, that pecuniary wealth with the power and sensuous delights which it confers, is made the chief aim and good of life, and every nobler end is held by the many in low esteem. Mental habits are also shaped artificially after the manner analogous to the Aztec or Flathead Indian establishing the shape of his children's skulls.
Let us, however, waive any such nice distinction of terms and consider brain-culture as including all psychophrenic discipline, and the cultivation of the observing and scientific. faculties. It is not the head, with its auxiliaries, however— the cerebro-spinal system-that altogether affords the mental
powers their support and enables them to act. That organism is itself dependent upon the blood for its vitalisation, every moment of time, and flags upon the instant when the supply is withheld or obstructed. Every little mass of nerve-matter of which the brain and its associate ganglia are composed, is arranged in clusters around the arterial extremities and branchlets, receiving by their agency its nourishment and energy from the blood and the nerve-aura which is imparted by the blood. The arteries themselves were originally produced and are sustained from that other great nervous system that has its beginning and centre at the phrenic and epigastric region of the body. Whatever task or functional action is executed by the brain is accompanied by an immediate draft upon this primitive nervous system for the requisite vital energy; and whenever fatigue or any lesion affects the encephalic organism, this all-pervading tissue is required to sustain the loss and injury and repair them. For this reason the blood flows more readily to the head in any excitement, and any diversion of the current arrests or paralyses brainaction. The origin and focal point of the ganglionic system being in the intestinal structure, the health and vigor of that structure are essential to the maintenance of all cerebral activity.
Mental and physical culture are therefore dependent directly upon the condition of the vital and nutritive organs. Henry Ward Beecher declares that an individual with a dyspeptic stomach cannot be a good Christian. It is very certain that he cannot be a clear thinker nor a proficient scholar. A stomach laboring with food which it cannot properly dissolve, will hardly be able to derive enargy enough by its means to sustain the brain in the process of elaborating the nicer, profounder, more elaborate subtilties. The cause of trouble may be that the stomach had been debilitated from previous fatigue, or that the food was innutritious, unwholesome, or in excess. The event will be a starving, all the same. The energy which should be acquired in the digestion is, in a great degree, wasted in disposing of the mischievous burden, and the allotment for other uses of the body is accordingly insufficient. A starved
brain will not work properly. When the body, or any part of it is fatigued or exhausted, from whatever cause, the stomach participates in the debility, and the brain is in consequence likewise weary and enfeebled.
There ought great stress to be laid upon this subject. Fatigue is the worm that gnaws at the core, deteriorating the health, and finally imperilling and destroying the life. We do not contract disease except when our physical integrity has been impinged. The integrity of the body is its health, its wholeness. Fatigue is a result of muscular or mental exertion, or of exhaustion by exposure to heat, cold, privation or other malefic influence. The stomach suffers from inanition and from food which it cannot properly digest; and the brain is impaired in turn, both from overwork and from failure, through the impotency of the stomach, to receive a normal supply of vital energy.
The Bishops Ambrose, Augustin and Athanasius, were the most influential of all the Fathers of the Christian Church, in impressing their individuality and their peculiar tenets upon their associates, and those who came after them. The doctrines of the Trinity, total depravity and ecclesiastical supremacy became the received dogmas of the Catholic Church through their stalwart championship. Much of their influence must be ascribed to their high health and superior vigor of body. It was so likewise with the philosophers. Pythagoras was expert in boxing, Plato was a successful wrestler, Sokrates was unsurpassed for ability to endure cold and privation; and Kleanthes, the author of the sublime Hymn, was also distinguished for proficiency in athletic exercises, and worked by night as a common laborer, in order to be able in the daytime to attend the lectures of Zeno. Indeed, it is by no means improbable that his robust strength enabled him, in a very considerable degree, to bring about the ascendency which the Stoic Philosophy gained over the more spiritual Academy. The men who led the American Revolution from its inception till the establisment of the new nation, were generally strong in body as well as keen in understanding; and the brawn of the little Continental Army was produced and hardened for use in