Amazing articles on just about every subject...


School Management - Intellectual Development

( Originally Published 1897 )



The Chief Work of the School, - The main business of the school is the intellectual development of the pupils. This statement does not mean that a higher object than growth in intelligence is not the end of education. In the formation of human character, it may be assumed that the proper order of mental faculties is (1) Will; (2) Sensibility; (3) Intellect. It is true, nevertheless, that the reflex action of sound intellectual culture is the principal means by which the propensities and tastes of an individual are ennobled, and his moral sense strengthened. Self-exertion is, in most respects, the only instrumentality that secures culture. None of the faculties can be developed except by exercise, and no exercise is to be commended that is not directed by intelligence. Hence the need of guiding children until they have acquired sufficient knowledge to direct their exercise themselves. The school furnishes the best means of enabling children to acquire that knowledge by which their mental and bodily powers may be intelligently directed and improved.

The Acquisition of Knowledge. - Intellectual development is mainly secured by the proper acquisition of knowledge. This implies that the teacher should possess the necessary knowledge, and have the ability to impart it aright. If reading, writing and arithmetic are considered in their possible applications, it is evident their acquisition may be regarded as the basis of school education. They furnish that elementary knowledge which is to serve as food for present mental and moral growth, and as a foundation and starting point for future acquisitions. If viewed as instruments of learning, it is clear the child needs real knowledge to fit him to discharge intelligently the duties of life. He must acquire information in those branches that contribute to his happiness and usefulness.

The possession of knowledge does not guarantee wisdom. The person who knows a great deal is not necessarily educated. An educated person has power and skill, which depend upon the proper acquisition of knowledge. Judgment and reason are not always characteristics of a mind stored with learning. It follows, therefore, that the methods of instruction in school have much to do with the usefulness of the information which children receive.

Cramming,-This is a term used to denote a faulty method of imparting knowledge. It implies the practice of filling the mind with badly arranged facts, and not allowing sufficient time to generalize them, to compare them with previous acquisitions, or to determine their full significance. Knowledge put into the mind in such a way is not digested or assimilated, and instead of furnishing power and skill, becomes useless lumber. Cramming and educating are not the same. The former is pouring something into the mind ; the latter is developing the mind by appropriate exercise. Cramming unduly develops the memory. Good teaching cultivates all the mental faculties in proper proportions.

In elementary education, cramming is especially pernicious. Crowding the memory with definitions, rules, facts, names, dates, etc., is one of the common forms it once assumed. The powers of the mind were also burdened with a multiplicity of studies. Its most noticeable form of late years is undue haste in promotions from one class to another. The imprudent desires of parents to see their children put in a higher class, and the habit of estimating a teacher's worth by the success of pupils at examinations, are obstacles in the way of checking the evil.

Unfair criticism is, however, often heard in this connection. There can be no mental growth without exertion. Intellectual activity is not a sign that cramming exists. A. school where. children are not earnest is poorly managed. Written examinations properly conducted are not an evil, but a benefit. To gain power and skill the acquisition of knowledge is necessary, and knowledge is of little intellectual value if it has not been the result of activity, labor, study, self-denial. In a school where pupils are not ambitious, desirous of being promoted, and anxious to pass examinations, the teaching is poor from a moral, as well as from an intellectual, point of view (Chapter VI.).

Instruction.-Instruction is the main process of imparting knowledge. To become intelligent, pupils must be trained to exercise the powers of the mind on the know-ledge they receive. In this way they become educated. Children are not necessarily being educated when they receive instruction. This is where mistakes are often made. Instruction is only a subordinate branch of education. The former enables the pupil to learn many things ; the latter, to use knowledge aright. Instruction gives resources for a course in life ; education furnishes rules serviceable for all times and for all careers.

All instruction should be educative. Its methods should cultivate the mind and the heart. Knowledge should throw light upon the rules of duty, and remove prejudices, unmanly passions and evil tendencies that are the result of ignorance. Instruction should supply mental food that can be digested. It should influence the feelings and the volitions. Nothing should be put into the mind that will not train and develop its powers. Instruction, to be educative, must follow natural laws. It must, therefore, develop in proper order the senses, the powers of observation, and the faculties of language, abstraction, generalization and reason.

Instruction, to be educative, must awaken interest. New matter must be added to the old by natural connection. What is familiar must be made the basis for acquiring what is unfamiliar (Chapter XVI.). Fondness for the subject must be cultivated. Dislike for a lesson must be removed. Satisfactory attention demands that there be no antagonism between teacher and pupil. Fear is opposed to interest.

Instruction, to be educative, must keep in view the chief aim of teaching. Knowledge must be regarded only as an instrument. In giving instruction, the teacher must deliberately ask if the information imparted fits into the harmonious development of the child's powers. The whole future of the child must be considered (Chapter VI.).

Observation.-Before entering school, children have acquired many ideas from their environments. Their powers of observation have already received considerable development. Their senses have been cultivated. They have formed impressions. Their powers of perception lead to the reproduction of simple ideas, to simple generalization and to simple abstraction. Conception, or the faculty by which the products of perception are grouped, supplies them with a variety of materials for thought. It is evident, therefore, that young children should be furnished with plenty of objects on which to exercise the senses.

Ideas and words should go together. Instead of the maxim, " Things before words," the principle to be followed is, " Things and words." Sound teaching calls for the direct progress from ideas to words, and also the converse process which comes from going back to things from words.

It is clear that the instruction given to pupils during the first years of school life should be mainly from their surroundings. Elementary science should have a place in the course, for the purpose of developing and training the senses and creating the habit of observation. The eye learns to see by seeing, the ear learns to hear by hearing, and in like manner the other senses are trained. The maxim of Comenius is true, "Let things that have to be done be learned by doing them."

Children must be directed so that they may learn to observe with order, regularity, accuracy and rapidity. It is not so much what is acquired that is valuable, as the habit of observation acquired. The child, properly trained, gains knowledge with little expenditure of time or labor, and with constant pleasure. The powers of observation are extended to facts of geography, history, drawing and a variety of subjects besides natural phenomena. Observation goes on with the development of memory, imagination and reason.

Attention.*-The power of continuous attention is the most valuable result of intellectual training. Ability to fix the mind upon that which is brought before it shows a high degree of mental development. The aim of the teacher should be to instil such habits of self-control as will train his pupils to direct at will their own intellectual activities. Power to interest pupils in the early stages of instruction is most valuable. Young children need constant change of exercises, short and well-adapted lessons, and the presentation of the known before the unknown, the simple before the complex, and the concrete before the abstract. It is a serious mistake to expect a young pupil to be able to fix his mind long on one subject. It is a grave wrong to scold a child for. not doing that which is beyond his strength. -Like other powers both of body and mind, attention grows in strength and vivacity by being frequently exercised. Pupils are not all interested alike. Skill is needed to hit upon devices that will keep a number of children steadily active in one direction for a long time. Care must be taken to keep them in good spirits. To cultivate a love for knowledge is more valuable than to impart knowledge. Haste in study weakens the power of attention, and it is to be condemned.

Imagination.-The faculty of imagination, or the power of reproducing fictitious combinations of conceptions, exists to a greater or less degree in every mind, and has its effect in moral and intellectual actions. The neglect of its cultivation is pernicious, but not more injurious than its abuse by undue stimulation. The work of the imagination is complementary to that of observation. Its function is to lift the mind from the contemplation of the actual and to carry it beyond the field of mere observation. Almost every branch pursued in school affords some means for the cultivation of the imagination. Its best fields are found in geography, history, and poetry. Stories told to children may, if used with discretion, afford a most valuable opportunity for the purpose. The delineation of ideal life which is true to nature should be pictured to children. That in which the sentiments are ambiguous in character, or morbid in action, should be carefully avoided.

For young children pictures which do not give details are the best means of exercising the imagination. With older pupils elaboration, attention to artistic finish, and description in language, may be used with advantage, When the teacher can throw himself into his subject so as to excite the curiosity of his class, and carry his pupils along with him by the force of sympathy, the effect will be intensified. In all cases it is the duty of the teacher to watch carefully the trend of the child's imagination. The power gained must be such as will promote the right kind of intellectual and moral development.

"It is natural for the imagination to project itself ; to attempt to embody its images in outward form. These outward modes of expression may be very largely guided and controlled without interfering unduly with the inward moods and dispositions whence they flow. Drawing, modelling, designing, even plaiting, stick-laying and machine work may be made, not only means of training the impulses, the sense organs and the functions of intelligence, but also the imagination. Composition work and essay writing are means which should not be neglected ; the choice of subjects and the mode of treatment both being of importance."-McLellan.

"The imagination of the pupil can be led by means of the classical works of creative imagination to the formation of a good taste both as regards ethical merit and beauty of form. The proper classical works for youth are those which nations have produced in the childhood of their culture. These works bring children face to face with the picture of the world which the human mind has sketched for itself in one of the necessary stages of its development. This is the real reason why our children never weary of reading Homer and the stories of the Old Testament."-Rosenkranz.

Memory.-The power of reproduction is an important acquisition. Ability to retain and recall the ideas we have formed is a valuable feature of intellectual development, Without memory the fruits of conception and imagination would go to waste. The memory is efficient according to the accuracy with which it retains ideas, and the promptness with which it produces them when required. A good memory will exhibit fidelity, tenacity and readiness. Ability to retain and reproduce impressions is largely a matter of cultivation. In training the memory a wise discrimination is needed. What is important, general, or principal must be remembered, instead of what is trifling, specific, or subordinate. Much help may be gained by attention to classification, order, localization as to time or place, similarity in character and points of contrast. With the same object in view instruction should be definite, hurry should be avoided, and attention and perseverance should be constantly cultivated. (Chapter XIV.)

An impression is reproducible in proportion to the strength and vivacity with which it is first made. It follows that for the purpose of fixing an impression, a real object is better than any picture of it, and that a picture of it is better than a mere verbal description. Direct sensations, concentrated attention and frequent repetition, develop the power of reproduction. It should be under-stood that forgetfulness is not necessarily a sign of carelessness ; but rather an indication that the impression formed is weak and that repetition is required.

A pupil must acquire much on faith, but it is irrational to insist upon committing to memory words, rules and formulae without connecting with them some intelligent apprehension of their meaning. Memorizing which calls forth no exercise of the pupil's conceptive power, no exercise of the imagination, or no cultivation of the reasoning faculties, is not to be defended. Memorizing, or "learning by heart," in order to produce a show of knowledge, should be condemned. Children must, how-ever, commit to memory many things they do not rightly understand. With the young, memory is strong and logical perception weak.

" It sounds very fascinating to talk about understanding every-thing, learning everything thoroughly, and all those broad phrases, which plump down on a difficulty, and hide it. Put in practice, they are about on a par with exhorting a boy to mind he does not go into the water until he can swim."-Thring.

Language Training.-Training in language and in ideas should go on concurrently. The habit of giving what are called " language lessons " is liable to much abuse. There is no necessity of any artificial plan to help the child to give expressions for his perceptions. The ordinary conversations will suffice. An attempt to force the development of speech may lead to vain and thoughtless garrulity, or to the production of erroneous impressions.

The school is concerned in the correction of the bad habits of speaking that may be formed in early childhood, and in that development of language which comes from knowledge and the necessary association of words and ideas. There is considerable diversity of opinion regarding the best methods of teaching grammar, composition, reading and other subjects that give exercise to the language faculties. It is clear that from the inseparable connection between words and conceptions, every subject of the curriculum should be used to some extent for purposes of language training. It therefore follows that the teachers of mathematics, science, etc., are responsible, along with the teacher of English, for perfecting the pupil in his vernacular language.

Ability to use the English language well shows a high stage of mental development. The power to express valuable thoughts in choice composition comes from the best kind of intellectual training. Perhaps there is no better test of sound scholarship and of a well-cultivated mind than the reproduction in writing of what a person has studied, considered or investigated.

The Reasoning Faculties.-The prevalence of error and the force of prejudices show the need of training in that which will enable one to form correct opinions. Children should be taught at an early age to check selfish motives, to search for true principles of action, and to exercise due caution in restraining their emotions. The child soon learns to observe with exactness, to compare readily, to trace analogies, to detect differences, and to come to simple decisions. Gradually the cultivation of the judgment may be extended to matters that are complex and abstract, and moral questions may receive consideration.

An attempt at sustained argument is out of place in elementary classes. To some extent, however, there may be a beginning in formal demonstration before Euclid is taken up. The great difficulty which some children experience in mathematics is due partly to haste, and partly to an entire neglect of any preliminary training of the reasoning faculties. Ability to reason well is not possessed by many. It implies good thinking, and good thinking is not to be expected without wide culture. While it is a mistake to expect a high development of the reasoning faculties from every student, it is also a mistake to suppose that any child can be made intellectually or morally strong if denied the aid that comes from those subjects that are known to be valuable for this purpose. Children need to be warned against hasty induction, against taking a mere accidental circumstance for a condition or cause. They should also be directed to draw conclusions from principles, and cautioned against making wrong deductions.



Home | More Articles | Email: info@oldandsold.com