The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Our Library

Book Review by Victor H. Allemandy
Volume 12, 1901, pgs. 226-229

The Editor of the Parents' Review has asked me to review one or two books a month from the P.N.E.U. Library, in order that members may have a certain amount of guidance in the choice of a volume. Of many works--especially those relating to education--it is often a difficult matter to gauge the contents from the title, and the same difficulty exists with regard to those which belong to a public library. As an aid in choosing a volume from our library, a brief summary of the contents will be given in each case, together with extracts, giving an idea not only of its style but also of its subject-matter.

Many of the volumes I have selected for review contain gems of thought pertaining to educational matters well worth remembering for all time, and I would strongly recommend every reader to be systematic in his reading. To read for the sake of passing an hour or two is an insult to an author; whilst desultory reading is practically worthless. In order that reading my be profitable, and I am now speaking of educational works, I would recommend every reader to keep a small note-book, wherein a brief summary and a few important extracts may be jotted down and referred to when occasion arises. Not only does this enable us to fix certain ideas in our mind, but it also gives us an opportunity of referring to them when the book itself is not available. With this introduction let us now plunge in medias res ["in the middle of things"].

Educational Ends, by S. Bryant, D.Sc.

"This is one of the books which every thoughtful parent and teacher ought to read," says Mr. J. Welton in a critical notice--an opinion which may be heartily endorsed here, but our readers must not expect to find this a suitable book for the arm-chair; on the contrary, it will require the utmost concentration and thought.

The book is divided into two main sections. (1) Ethical Development and (2) Logical Development. In the former section there are chapters on Self and the World: Duty; Self and Duty: Virtue; The Quest of Freedom: Self-Devotion; The System of Virtues; The Object and Measure of Moral Devotion: Social Virtue; and The Sovereign Self in the Sovereign Community. The second portion contains chapters on Unity of Momentary Consciousness: Perception; Arrangement of Experiences: Classes and Names; Permanent Basis of Experience: Concepts and Discourse; The Universe of Judgment: Quality, Number, Measure; The Quest of Necessity; The Unity of Complete and Universal Experience: Science and Philosophy; and The Sound Intellect set on Truth. There is a concluding chapter devoted to The Unity of Educational Ends.

In the introduction, the position of an educator is defined in the following terms: "The educator is a person engaged in a practical occupation. He performs certain acts, and presumably he proposes to himself from their performance certain results. Whether as artist or as mechanic, he follows a purpose--if with insight, as an artist; if without it, as a mechanic. He always aims at some result, though it may be that the results as he proposes them are not consistent with each other, and it may be that he half forgets them often in the engrossing claims of actual routine."

The first section of the volume discusses ethics from an educational standpoint, namely, "What is good character, and what is the process of its development?" "A vigorous personality," says Mrs. Bryant, "needs nothing so much as material out of which to construct its practical ideas. As active, it requires deeds to do; as humanly active, it requires objects to work for, ends to realize, causes to live, and if need be, die for. Grown-up people often forget their childhood and forget, therefore, the intense longing so common, I believe, in children for an object in life." The second section, devoted to Logical Development, is even more interesting than the first. Consciousness, cram, attention, sound perception, "things before names," judgment, etc., are dealt with in turn.

Before closing our brief survey of this book, one extract of importance claims our attention. Who is not familiar with a child's constant questioning on every conceivable topic? The author discusses three ways of making an answer. "We may make it blankly, as a stop put on all further workings of thought in the direction of discovery and thus check not only inquiry into the causes of Nature, but also interest in her mysteries; or we may make it with simple reverence, as a great mystery--unknown and unknowable--on which it befits the mind of man to dwell with wonder and awe; or again, we may make it equal with reverence, as surpassing, for the present, our powers of comprehension and still more the child's undeveloped powers, but yet as a mystery before which it is the inherent duty of man not simply to prostrate his intellect, but into which it is his duty ceaselessly to inquire that he may understand it."

Psychology Applied to Education, by G. Compayré

From beginning to end our interest in this volume has been thoroughly maintained, and our great difficulty is to select suitable passages for quotation, so numerous are they. M. Compayré is the author of Elements of Psychology, History of Pedagogy, Lectures on Teaching, etc., and his volume on Psychology Applied to Education is useful alike to parents and teachers. There is not one dull page throughout. The work is divided into three sections--(1) Physical Education; (2) Intellectual Education; and (3) Moral Education. Numerous quotations are given from such writers as Spencer, Dr. F. Lagrange, Montaigne, Locke, Gréard, Bain, Rollin, Rousseau, Horace Mann, and many others. An admirably condensed summary appears at the conclusion of each chapter.

The following paragraph from the first page deserves to be circulated broadcast amongst those interested in education:--"To undertake the direction of education without having analysed the faculties of human nature, would be to run the risk of committing the grossest errors; it would be to go astray, to walk at random like a traveller in an unknown country without a map before him. On the other hand, equipped with proper psychological observations, the educator is prepared to determine the theoretical and general laws which govern the development of mind and character; and, moreover, what is not less important, he is prepared easily to discern the tendencies and inclinations which are peculiar to the individual nature of each of his pupils. It is not possible to act effectively on the character of a child until we have come to know it. Now, without the key which psychology puts into our hands, the child would remain to us an insoluble enigma."

The section devoted to Hygiene should be carefully read, but we propose dealing with this subject more fully when considering Locke's Thoughts on Education, and Dr. Dukes' Health at School. "Intellectual education," says M. Compayré, "has a two-fold purpose: to store the mind with the greatest possible amount of knowledge or truth; and, at the same time, to form the mind itself, to develop the faculties of the intelligence."

The paragraphs devoted to Curiosity, Attention, Observation, Imagination, Judgment and Reasoning, demand careful thought. "Observation, or in other terms, intuition, is the necessary beginning of all instruction, as of all science. Certain educators have wished to make intuition a special method complete in itself. This is as absurd as if one should wish, in the sciences, to reduce everything to the simple observation of facts. The truth is, that intuition is a part of method, one of the essential elements of all instruction truly rational and adapted to the aptitudes of the child. One could not multiply too much, especially in the beginning of instruction, the direct perceptions which insure a clear and vivid intuition of objects."

Learning by rote is being discredited by many modern educationists, but the author advocates it in the following instances: quotations from authors, dates in history, definitions in geography, rules in grammar, and formulae in the physical sciences. "We agree with Mr. Spencer," he says, "that it is not bad to teach the multiplication table by the experimental method; but we defy anyone to stop at this and exempt the child from learning it by heart." It is needless to add that, before committing anything to memory, a child should thoroughly understand what he is learning by heart. "Répétez sans cesse," [repeat again and again] says Jacotot, and this is absolutely necessary in the above instances.

The essentials of Moral Education consist of
(1) The study of instincts and dispositions;
(2) The formation of habits;
(3) The culture of feelings;
(4) The education of the will; and
(5) Discipline.

Such topics as Habits, Will, Character, Instincts, Dispositions, should prove of incalculable value to all parents, for they themselves are concerned with Moral Education to a far greater extent than teachers.

Proofread May 2011, LNL