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ART. I.-Thoughts on Primary Education.-Elementary Instruction in the English Language.

Ir is a matter of dispute among those who have reflected on the subject, what ought first to be taught to children. On this head it may suffice for the present to remark that we ought to follow nature; in cultivating language, form, and number, simultaneously, or nearly so. Children are usually sent to school to learn the English alphabet, in the first place; and this is the first thing usually taught. And here suffer me to observe, that it is my opinion, from the best evidence on the subject I have it in my power to obtain, that no child should be taught his letters at first. Whole words should be presented to his eyes in the first place, if we would teach understandingly, or follow the order of nature. The most familiar words should be given him, such as hat, head, eye, mouth, fire, book, candle, table, chicken, rose, &c. It is better not to give him words of more than two syllables. These should be read as if they were Chinese symbols, without paying any attention to the letters, but special regard should be had to the meaning. When the child can read whole words with facility, then, and not till then in my opinion, he ought to be taught the alphabet and syllabic spelling. Thus we first learn words, and afterwards analyze them. For teaching on this plan, Mr Worcester has prepared an excellent First book or primer, as it is modestly called- -a book which I wish was in the hands of every instructer.

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The common practice of presenting the whole alphabet to the learner at once is very erroneous. One, or at most two letters, are sufficient for a single lesson. Care should be taken not to fix, or attempt to fix, the learner's attention two long on a particular letter, so as to disgust him; for in so doing, you inevitably do him a great and lasting injury. I have seen children who had received so defective instruction that they would pronounce the letters at once with correctness and with rapidity by beginning at A, and proceeding through the alphabet in the order in which they are usually arranged in spelling books, while they scarcely knew one in six of their letters when shown them promiscuously. This last way of teaching, if it be not completely out of fashion, at least ought to be. Various devices might be used to forward children in the practice of analyzing words, such as colouring the vowels, giving each vowel a different shade &c. The different sounds of the several vowels ought also to have a particular mark, so that the learner might readily distinguish them.

Teaching columns of words by rote, is quite as objectionable as teaching the alphabet in the same manner. And one reason among many others why we have so few good readers, is, that we are taught to spell and read words by wrote only; which is the same in effect as not being taught at all. For to what purpose do we learn that which we can apply to no practical use? Instead of teaching letters or words by rote; instead of studying either the alphabet or spelling lessons in course, òr as an insulated exercise, they should doubtless be taught simultaneously.

As children who are taught the alphabet by rote, find it exceedingly difficult to recollect the names of the several letters composing the same, when they see them placed in a different order, as in words; just so, after being taught to spell columns by rote, they experience a difficulty of recollecting and recognizing those words when they see them stand, or hear them pronounced, in a different order. I have been sometimes surprised at the awkwardness of scholars in spelling or reading words promiscuously, while they would repeat from memory whole columns and pages which contained the very same words, with the utmost accuracy. When we reflect, however, our surprise ceases. committing the letters of the alphabet to memory, it is obvious that we connect by association the sounds of the various letters together; so that the pronouncing of any given letter, suggests


to our minds the name of the next; and so on. Now the case is precisely the same in regard to words which have been committed to memory by column. The reading or pronouncing of the first word, reminds us of the second-the second suggests the third; the third, the fourth, &c. It is no wonder then, that when a child sees a word disconnected from its former associates, or associated differently from what it was in the column of the table, he should be puzzled. The wonder would be to see it otherwise. The fact is, committing words to memory merely, is not learning; it is an attempt at it, to be sure; but an attempt which must forever be vain. To cultivate one faculty of the mind to the neglect of the rest; must always produce, so far as we succeed, a distorted intellect. Attention, association, comparison, judgment, all need cultivation at the same time with the memory, to produce soundness of mind. Too much of our effort has hitherto been expended in loading the memory, to the partial or total neglect of the other faculties. When any one remonstrates, an answer is always ready, namely, that he who commits useful and important matter to memory, is laying up in store for future years, and at the same time strengthening the mind.

I grant that the mind seems to grow and expand in this way; but it is, and ever was, and ever must be, a sickly growth. As to treasuring up in the memory for future years that which we cannot now understand, it is a great error. Nothing should ever be taught a child but what he can see the utility of, in a greater or less degree, and reduce to practice. Let the order or method of communicating ideas be at the present time what it may, of one thing I am entirely convinced; which is, that those ideas, which naturally lie next to us should first be acquired. Every new idea should be precisely that which in the order of nature is most nearly related to, and intimately connected with, the next previous one. To illustrate my meaning. Suppose a child to have already acquired ten ideas, the eleventh should be that which seems best calculated to explain, strengthen, fix, and improve the others; at the same time it should be such an one as when associated with all or any of the preceding ten, will form correct and natural-not deficient and distorted associations. It is no matter whether the new idea be placed by authors in geometry, or natural history, or Webster's spelling book, or in any written book at all, provided it be the next in nature. These views are, if I understand him cerrectly, precisely those of Mr Locke.

It is with diffidence that I now proceed to suggest what I think would be, as far as it goes, a good method of teaching young children science. Give your child a piece of chalk, and a board or large slate, and encourage him to draw in imitation of you, a few of the objects in nature around him. Let the object itself be at hand if possible; but if not, you may substitute a cut, or if this cannot be had, the child should follow your copy solely. The characters or letters which stand as the sign of that object -I mean its name-should be annexed to the cut; there too the child should imitate, and be taught to pronounce often, till the cut suggests the name; and finally, till the characters suggest it, without the cut or copy. After this course has been pursued a while, I would substitute a pencil for the chalk; and before long I would commence the process of analyzing the names with which the child had become the most familiar. the same time that form and language were thus taught, I would teach numbers and the art of computing; at least so far that the child could add and subtract objects, and dots-for mental arithmetic should come in a little later; as the power of abstracting the mind from real objects is, to little children of two years of age, rather difficult.


When the pupil had gone thus far understandingly, and with self satisfaction-for no lesson ought ever to be continued so as to tire the child, or cloy his mental appetite, and he ought to proceed no faster than he perfectly understands; when he could draw the picture of a few of the most interesting natural objects around him with facility, write their names and analyze them readily, then, and not till then, he should be taught to combine words, and pronounce the combinations, as well as spell them. And when his acquirements would permit, I would give him words (nouns, at first,) to frame into sentences; that is, if I had no book better than Webster's spelling book at hand, I would take the column in his book beginning for instance with the word Baker; requesting him to form a sentence of his own contrivance which should embrace that word Baker, and at the same time make sense with it; and so of the rest of the words in that column of which he knew the meaning. Or if so large a lesson were too much, I would make it much shorter; for I would by all means avoid fatiguing the mind. This practice judiciously commenced and prosecuted, might be carried a great way. And it will be immediately seen that on this plan, arithmetic, writing, enunciation, spelling, reading, defining, and composing-nay,

and even grammar, might all go on simultaneously; and that attention, and all the other mental faculties would be cultivated, strengthened, and matured at the same time.

In pursuing this plan of teaching children it will be found that the child will acquire a good business hand in writing, without the task of spending weeks and months specially for that purpose. Much time has been spent in our schools in writing, or rather painting over paper to no purpose; to say nothing of the loss in knives, quills, rules, pencils, ink, and paper. As to rules and pencils in writing, they are quite useless, let us teach writing on what plan we may. Few will be found at the present day defending their utility, except in writing copyhand; but even here I know from experience they do more hurt than good. Besides I know of no good attained by writing copyhand at school at all. Let the child acquire a good running hand, and I have no doubt of his being able to write a few words in a much coarser hand occasionally, should it be necessary. Defining too, a thing which is almost universally neglected in most of our schools, would, on the above plan, be taught in the best and most expeditious manner; and be taught to some practical purpose. At present, when our teachers undertake to teach the definition of words, they borrow their definitions from dictionaries-and these too, being either synonymous or complex terms, want defining in their turn; so that little good is gained by learning them. As for composing, a thing which older scholars deem so difficult, and generally hate, it would be acquired without the least difficulty; and without ever viewing it as a task at all. Reading, which is but talking the ideas of another, and should of course be like talking, would thus be taught in such a manner that the learner would scarcely fail to read properly; for in reading his sentence, which he must of necessity understand, he would most certainly read them naturally. When I undertook to enumerate the sciences which might be carried on simultaneously, at the close of the last essay, I did not mean to exclude others, for I think that the elements of many more might be taught well enough; indeed, such is the connexion and dependence of the various branches of science, that it is more difficult to say which could not be taught in an elementary school, than which could.

I need not pursue this part of the subject further at this time. It will be objected to my views by this time that we want an elementary book. I grant it. The teacher wants one as a guide to himself until he shall become familiar with a rational plan of

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