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PSYCHOLOGICAL ASPECTS OF EDUCATION.
By Brother AZARIAS, Professor in Rock Hill College, Ellicott City, Md.
It is my object, in the present paper, to throw out a few suggestionssuggestions that, I doubt not, are many of them familiar to you all— upon some psychological aspects of education, by way of determining, as a practical result, how far, if at all, the pursuit of special studies is to be encouraged in our colleges. Now, in order to the solution of every educational problem, two elements must enter as necessary factors, namely, the intellect which would be served and the rules it would be governed by; and these two should be suited one to the other. But it seems to me that their proper bearings to each other are not always taken into account. When, for instance, I take up some college catalogues, I must confess that I have great misgivings as to whether or no the persons preparing those catalogues ever realized the fact that it was for a student's intellect they were drawing up their course of studies. Another serious doubt enters my mind, and it is this: Do they themselves know the nature and bearing of the studies they assign to a beginner in such matters? For example, it is nothing new to find one year's course in mental philosophy embracing text-books and subjectmatter enough for three years' hard study. It is pretended to familiarize the young men with all the philosophical systems from Confucius to Emerson, in less time than they could have learned to know thoroughly the difference between the quantity and quality of a proposition, or to tell the figure and mode of a syllogism. The same blundering may be found in the physical science course. Indeed, to him who knows how to read between lines, a catalogue may be made the criterion of a school. But it seems to me that the planning of such impracticable courses as I have alluded to, is due in a great measure to a want of thoughtful consideration of the nature of the human intellect, its habits and requirements, as well as to a lack of clearness of apprehension as to what constitutes the aim of a collegiate education.
II. The human intellect is at all times active; for this reason it is always remembering, or imagining, or comparing, or drawing conclusions. Its inquisitiveness is never satisfied; its observing power never wearies. It takes note of phenomena; it generalizes its particular experiences, and by the aid of the primary principles of pure reason that lie back of all experience, it deduces laws that become the guiding truths of life. It is continually gathering up and assimilating materials from every available quarter, and unwittingly the materials so assimilated give color to all its thoughts and influence all its conclusions. They are silent but powerful agencies in determining action and giving special bias to opinion. They are more cogent than the syllogism; they are stronger than argument; they are not easily detected, for they lurk in the most unsuspected positions. They give force of resistance to our prejudices. Frequently, when the mind is evenly balanced between two arguments of equal weight, these silent influences step upon the scales and weigh it down in favor of that which strengthens them. These influences are not the work of an hour or a day; they began with our birth; they have grown with our growth and strengthened with our strength; and they will cease to be an element of our thought only
when life itself shall have ceased. They do not arise from any single source; they are the outcome of various unseen and unnamed causes. The ways and doings of the home circle, the company one keeps, the air and climate in which one lives, the daily occupations that fill up one's life, the dispositions of one's organic temperament-all are so many agencies secretly working their way into one's mental constitution and determining the worth of one's ideas. They are the real finishers of a man's education; they make him vulgar, or provincial, or refined, according to the tone and character they impart to his thought and language. The educator will not neglect them. Especially in the collegiate course, when the mind is somewhat matured, and when they begin to tell upon it for good or for ill, will he watch them, and suppress or encourage them according to their nature and tendency.
I take it as a principle in the economy of nature that all man's faculties have been given him for a purpose. They are all of them necessary; it follows that each and every one ought to be cultivated. In the harmonious development of all consist the perfection and efficient use of each. And it is one of the elementary duties of a collegiate training that it supply subject-matter to exercise every faculty upon. To do otherwise to develop one faculty of the mind or one quality of the soul at the expense of all others-were to shape an intellectual monster. And it would be well through life to keep in view the necessity of preserving a certain equilibrium between the various powers of the intellect. If one's taste or occupation involve the undue exercise of a special faculty, this strain in one direction ought to be counterbalanced by devoting part of one's leisure time to the cultivation of the other and diverse faculties. A man, for example, is a lawyer, who spends his business hours in searching precedents and reading up arguments for and against a case in hand, or he is an engineer poring all day over the figures of a complicated estimate; it behooves the one or the other to devote some time daily to the reading of poetry or fiction, or history, or criticism, or any book which will refresh the mind, and draw out more prominently the æsthetic sense and purely imaginative powers. Or a student is passionately fond of literature; with all the more reason ought he to overcome whatever repugnance he may have for mathematical studies or severe scientific pursuits. Nor need the time so spent be regarded as lost. Thə exercise is invigorating. It is adding either directly or indirectly to the strength of all the faculties.
III. Not in mental discipline, ladies and gentlemen, is the brainwaste. But I will tell you where it abounds. In the untrained efforts at evolving a thought, which, in all probability, when it is expressed, will be found to contain but a common-place notion; in the abortive struggle of an intellect to reason an issue out to the end, when that intellect never had severe drill upon any subject-matter; in the playing at words upon an idea that leaves behind only a sense of utter inability to cope with it; in a questionable facility for scattering thoughts upon paper without making them converge on a single point. In all this is there brain-waste. The improvisatore never becomes a great poet. Had Metastasio not abandoned the baneful practice in his youth, and subjected himself for years to a course of severe studies, he, too, might have aimlessly spent his intellectual force and fallen into oblivion, "a mute, inglorious" poet passed into the category of lost genuises. No faculty of the intellect can be neglected without detriment to the others. For, be it remembered, the faculties of the soul are not isolated; they
are not divided into as many separate apartments as they bear names; their distinct locations are not in the various cavities pointed out by the phrenologist; these are things of brain and blood and membrane-mere matter-though indispensable conditions, in the present order of life, for the soul's thinking. But they are not the thinking soul. That is one and simple, and is therefore indivisible. It cannot be cut up piece-meal. It cannot exercise one faculty whilst the others lie dormant. The reason cannot work without the imagination; the imagination cannot put forth its beautiful creations without the aid of both reason and understanding. Each faculty helps the other; all converge upon an object of thought.
And, ladies and gentlemen, as there is an intimate union of faculties, so are there an interlacing and overlapping of the various sciences. "They have," says John Henry Newman, "multiplied bearings one on another, and an internal sympathy, and admit, or rather demand comparison and adjustment. They complete, correct, balance each other." Ascending into the region of philosophy, we will find all departments of thought standing to each other in intimate relations. Those the remotest apart in their scope and bearing may be suggestive of ideas to one another. It is also true in the history of practical thought. You are occupied with the solution of a problem that has presented itself to your mind; it may be the discussion of a social or political issue, or it may be a philosophical question, or it may be a difficult mathematical equation; you find yourself unable to grapple with it; you cannot see your way clearly; in weariness of spirit you throw the subject aside, and take up another less fatiguing; an expression, a word, only a hint met with in the new subject throws a flood of light upon the abandoned problem, and puts you on the track of its correct solution. This is the epitome of many an intellectual struggle. And while it is so, we may justly applaud the wisdom of not allowing a student to stop short at the study of a single language or a single science, or the history of a single country. His knowledge becomes rounded and completed by co-ordinate and supplementary studies. One language explains the obscurities in another; one science assists another; one department of letters throws light upon another; and thus it is that ideas are corrected, improved, rendered accurate. Therefore it is rightly claimed that a collegiate education should be thorough; that it embrace all the important branches in science and letters, and combine in due proportion the useful and the ornamental. All this, you may tell me, collegiate education not only proposes to do, but actually accomplishes. Pardon me, ladies and gentlemen, but I must say that turn we to the north or the south, we will find efficient collegiate education a rare thing amongst us. The institutions bearing the name of college are numerous enough; those supporting the dignity of that name and efficiently fulfilling the duties attached to it, are comparatively few.
IV. It is a frequent and a pernicious mistake to crowd into a college course the work of a university. No student can do justice to more than one-third of the subject-matter mapped out for him in the time required. He is compelled to cram upon several, if not all, of the subjects upon which his final examination is based. Were man intended to be a mere repeating machine, this system might do well enough. But, to make him such is not the aim of a collegiate training. Its primary aim is to strengthen all the faculties by thorough mental discipline in such departments of knowledge as form a solid basis upon which the student may
afterwards build up. For this reason, it ought to deal with principles rather than with rules and methods. But the reverse is the process most frequently pursued. Rules and methods, which may be forgotten, are laid stress upon, while principles, which are scarcely ever forgotten when once they are well known, are ignored. And here let me add that a modern philosophical fallacy tends to give color of correctness to this evil. Cousin and others tell us that method is everything. Not at all, ladies and gentlemen. Method is nothing without the principle that gives it life and being. The method is informed by the principle; and where there is a method, there also may be found a principle; and he who, in investigating a method, stops short at the method as such, understands neither method nor principle. Would you say that he understood a rule who knew nothing of the reason for its existence? The same criterion holds for philosophic methods. And hence the worse than uselessness of learning mere systems without the principles that give them meaning.
Equally pernicious is that custom which has filtered into our primary schools of placing young children, before they know how to read or parse, at nearly all the learned 'ologies of the day. It is productive of incalculable evil. It gives disgust for all study; it imbues the hearts of youth with a large share of self-conceit and self-opinion, so that it is difficult for them to mend their short-comings, for they are seldom aware of their ignorance. It impedes the purposes of education. It incumbers the mind; it over-taxes its powers; it weakens its activities; it destroys its effectiveness for life. It places it in a condition that ignorance were preferable; for then at least the mind would be possessed of its natural force and elasticity; and excited by the stimulus of seeing new sights and hearing new truths, it would mature into a much more healthy condition. Man can never bocome too educated. His capacity is far greater than any artificial limits which may be placed upon it. But he may be so educated that his mind becomes strained; or he may get so absorbed in and weighed down by the thoughts of others, that he forgets he has a mind of his own, and knows not what it is to form an independent opinion. And let me ask you, candidly, is this not the desolation to which our modern systems of teaching youth everything till they know nothing is bringing us? Surely, no one who has given a moment's consideration to the matter will say othorwise. Wise heads and great thinkers long ago recognized the evil. Among others, no words that I could quote will have greater weight with you on the matter than the caustic words of that ingenious thinker and great master of English prose, John Henry Newman: "I will tell you," says he, "what has been the practical error of the last twenty years"-and let me add, parenthetically, that the error has been growing since these words were spoken in 1852 "not to load the memory of the student with a mass of indigested knowledge, but to force upon him so much that he has rejected all. It has been the error of distracting and enfeebling the mind by an unmeaning profusion of subjects; of implying that a smattering in a dozen branches of study is not shallowness, which it really is, but enlargement, is not; of considering an acquaintance with the learned names of things and persons, and the possession of clever duodecimos, and attendance on eloquent lectures, and membership with scientific institutions, and the sight of the experiments of a platform and the specimens of a museum, that all this was not dissipation of mind, but progress. All things now are to be learned at once-not first one thing, then another;
not one well, but many badly. Learning is to be without exertion, without attention, without toil, withont grounding, without advance, without finishing." The picture, ladies and gentlemen, is not overdrawn. It portrays a crying abuse; and the abuse exists because educators persist in ignoring the workings of the human intellect. I am sure it has never occurred to the advocates and promoters of this free-and-easy method of dabling in all branches, without ever learning any, how difficult a thing it is for an idea to filter through the mind and pervade one's thinking till it becomes in a manner elementary in his thought. It may not take him long to get up the idea; he may be able to repeat it correctly; he may even apply it to concrete issues with a certain degree of accuracy; but all that does not imply that he has made the idea his own. He may go on repeating it for years, when all at once he stumbles upon a fact that sets him thinking; he finds for it no explanation in the light of the idea he has been holding; going back of that idea, he reconsiders the grounds upon which he held it, and he forth with discovers that it is all wrong, or that it only partially expresses the truth, and for the first time in his life the whole truth comes home to him with a realizing force. Nor can he consider the labor still over. There remains for him to rearrange and systematize all his thoughts so as to place them in keeping with the new idea. To any or all of us may this slow and painful process of acquiring knowledge and experience occur. How frequently does it not happen that men of mature minds find themselves compelled to abandon a religious opinion or a scientific theory or a political maxim upon the truth of which they had framed their lives and thoughts? And for this reason it is all the more necessary that the educational foundation be laid slowly, cautiously, solidly, and that the intellect be so drilled and disciplined, that when these crises in our thinking occur, we may be able to meet them with vigor and energy.
Let us not ignore the fact, ladies and gentlemen, that the human intellect, in its ordinary and undeveloped phases, is weak and imperfect. It is the duty of education to recognize its short-comings and deal with it accordingly. The student requires to be disciplined upon what he learns. His lesson should be taken apart and placed before hlm piecemeal; then, when it is ascertained that the terms and expressions used evoke corresponding ideas in his mind, the subject-matter should be presented to him as a whole. The good educator does not weary of repetition, and each time he repeats he places his ideas in a new light, and thus he reaches the greatest number of intelligences. Each individual mind has its idiosyncracies. These must be consulted. The aspect of a subject that brings it home to one student may leave another entirely in the dark concerning its true bearing; moreover, upon first presentation, any idea can only be apprehended in a vague manner; the mind has simply received one among many aspects that belong to the idea; it has not yet begun to grasp it in all its comprehension. That is a laborious work for everybody but the genius. It is the result of a process much slower than many are willing to admit. To realize an idea, one must think over it long and seriously. Far better is it that a student, as the result of his college training, bear away with him a single idea, well digested and applied, than that he leave, a diploma in his hand, his mind laden down with an overwhelming mass of learned names and scientific symbols, and ill-understood facts, and his soul
*Idea of a University, p. 142.