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sentiment, of ingenious philological speculation and literary criticism, which comes before us under the title of Day Dreams of a Schoolmaster ? The author hints to us in his happily chosen motto, that his book is meant to be “not a dream, but a blessing.” If from nothing else, yet from his fine and touching dedication, we should gather that it was written under the influence of serious feeling, and with the hope of effecting some worthy object. That object may be briefly described as the elevation of his own profession. We do not mean solely or chiefly its elevation in social estimation; although he has expressed without bitterness, but with proper pride, his sense of the vulgar prejudices which unfortunately have not yet ceased to disgrace the public opinion of Scotland in this matter. In no position of life is it more important to employ a gentleman and a man of superior culture than in that of a teacher of boys who are expected themselves to become gentlemen and men of educated minds; nor is it possible for a community to secure the hearty and willing services of such men so long as their professional position is a drawback, and not, as in all other cases of professional position, an advantage to them. But although he touches this in passing, it is not the burden which Mr. Thompson feels intolerable, and which he wants to get rid of. He seems long to have felt that there is something radically wrong in all our elementary teaching ; that it is a dreary and monotonous routine, wearisome and unprofitable alike to teacher and taught. He dwells in a vein of genial discontent on his own experience in both capacities. It is not with the subject but with the method of instruction that he finds fault. He upholds the advantages of linguistic training and of high classical culture in the education of the mind; and he fully realizes the pleasure as well as the profit which attend the more advanced stages of a classical education. But he is oppressed by the sense of the long uninteresting road which leads to these stages; he sees that only a few of those who start upon it proceed to their journey's end, and that they reach it fatigued rather than refreshed, and perhaps weakened rather than invigorated. He fancies that this road can be made shorter, easier, more attractive; and he desires for the sake both of master and pupils that the elementary teaching of the ancient languages may become a refined and intellectual exercise to the former, and their acquisition a natural and delightful process to the latter.
Before expressing our assent to or dissent from these sanguine views, we shall quote a passage in which Mr. Thompson expresses them in his own language :
“ And all the while, we should be endeavouring to deceive our little fellows, by concealing from them the real amount of their increasing Proposed Reform in Classical Teaching.
stores. So long as we abstained from using a pedantic and dull grammar, we should easily deceive, in this respect, a number of their parents, who would be firmly persuaded that their children were learning nothing. For in the minds of many people, education is inseparably connected with the idea of difficulty and tediousness. They imagine that a great deal must be accomplishing, when painful efforts are being made. They find a grim satisfaction in the feeling of obstruction. So, when you row a boat against the stream, you hear the water ruckling at the prow,
feel virtue go out of you at every sweep of the oar; and the boat is almost stationary. But, when you row with the current, you hear no noise of rippling; you scarcely feel your oar; and the boat is gliding like a swan.
“ Some such method as that above—and remember, a vivâ voce method can, at the best, be drawn in but faintest outline upon paperwould lead boys to catch with rapidity sentences of great length, so long as the construction were not involved. They would almost insensibly be brought to think in Latin ; that is to say, it would very soon sound as ridiculous in their ears, to put ille after amo as to put he after I love ; and this intuitive perception of the grammar of a language, as connected with its musical sound, is one of the first requisites for a subsequent thorough knowledge of, and capacity of easy handling the same. And the process for acquiring this intuitive perception is not so difficult as it is usually thought to be. It is, in fact, not a very high mental process. It is acquired by postilions abroad and foreign waiters here, without great difficulty or delay. But although it is not a highly intellectual acquisition, it is a wonderfully useful one, to serve as a foundation for a really intellectual structure. And I am convinced that some such process should be employed with a novice in Latin, and in any language he may be approaching; and that it is a positive cruelty to pin him wholly down for a year to monotonous lessons of memory, or to worry bim too soon with formal rules for parsing."
We think the main value of Mr. Thompson's book, apart from its literary interest, is, that he has raised this question. He is contending against a real evil, and his position and experience render him an important witness both as to the evil and its remedy. Some reform is undoubtedly needed, chiefly for this reason, that a large number of boys never acquire the elements of Latin and Greek thoroughly, while they find no time for learning anything else. We wish to see a change in both of these points, and Mr. Thompson's book will be very useful if it direct attention to the subject. Still his evidence and his suggestions must, we think, be received with considerable qualifications. We think that he exaggerates the sense of dreariness which boys experience in grappling with the difficulties of Latin and Greek as they are usually taught. No one indeed looks back on the struggle with those difficulties as among the bright memories of his school-days. Yet we doubt if any boy is conscious of that sense of barren and wasted labour which a
man of superior mind must often feel when he is obliged to teach subjects on a level with boyish capacities. The discontent with established methods of teaching arises in part from the disappointment which a man of active mind experiences in not being able to enjoy the exercise of his higher faculties in the ordinary work of his class. He rebels against its routine and drudgery, and transfers something of his own feeling to his pupils, forgetting perhaps that, at their ages, he himself was equally incapable of feeling the tedium of routine work, and of deriving enjoyment from the exercise of thought. We think also that Mr. Thompson entertains far too sanguine views in regard to the intellectual pleasure of which boys are capable. He seems almost to fancy that the acquisition of the ancient languages, which to the mass of boys is chiefly valuable as a rigid discipline, might be made as pleasant as listening to a fairy-tale. We notice particularly that he would make this acquisition as much a receptive process as possible,-that he would be inclined to spare boys even the trouble of turning up dictionaries and vocabularies. We have known instances of boys and girls too who had been taught Latin for a year or two on something like this principle, who were supposed to acquire an easy command of the language almost imperceptibly, and who at the end of that time knew so little, and that little so inaccurately, that it was found necessary to make them begin the study anew on the old conventional method. Perhaps, too, Mr. Thompson's plan of giving more rational explanations of the forms and uses of cases, etc., and his scheme of teaching English, French, German, Latin, and Greek as dialects of one common language,” would puzzle rather than enlighten the young understanding. We fear that it is a part of the constitution of things that boys as well as men must find a good deal of their work disagreeable. They must learn, both mentally and morally, on authority, and cannot be expected to understand the reason of everything. They are, in general, blessed with lively and retentive memories, and it is chiefly through that faculty that the foundations of their future culture must be laid. It is, comparatively speaking, of little moment that a boy should have for the time keen enjoyment in his lessons, provided that he acquires thorough habits of application without being overtasked, and acquires some command over instruments which may by and by afford exercise and enjoyment to the various faculties of his mind, as they begin to unfold themselves. Such instruments the classical languages and literatures are in their higher stages, and healthy boys have so many other sources and capacities of amusement, that we do not look upon their condition as very deplorable, even if they cannot be brought thoroughly to like their Latin grammar.
Still, after saying so much on the other side of the question, we heartily agree with Mr. Thompson in thinking that there are some important and remediable mistakes in our system of classical instruction. Much must always depend on the individual master; and, if we were to judge from the powers of clear statement, and from the vivacity of mind displayed in the book now under review, we could think of no one more likely than its author to beguile the youthful mind into the pleasant paths of learning :
“ Ut puerorum ætas improvida ludificetur
Laborum tenus, interea perpotet amarum
Sed potius tali pacto recreata valescat." There is no reason why our elementary grammars and schoolbooks should not be simplified, and at the same time (without being burdened with recondite philology) be reformed in accordance with the results of recent grammatical and philological research. Mr. Thompson thinks that “the Syntax," necessary to be learned, may be included in “two pages ;” and in another place (at page 119), he says :
“I assert that a good Latin grammar might be limited to twentyfour pages, and sold, with a large profit, for sixpence; and that this bookling, with an extra outlay of half-a-crown, might, with a competent master, carry scholars over two years of work.”
He would confer a great service on parents, boys, and schoolmasters, if he would only write such a grammar, suited for general use. There are, again, parts of our classical teaching that may be looked upon as non-essentials, and, in the case of the majority of boys, may be dispensed with. This is the case especially with the writing of verses. This task is by no means altogether useless even for the majority of boys. It calls for the exercise of ingenuity, under strict conditions ; it is a boy's first trial of anything like art. It is a task in which he has to exert himself, not merely to be a passive recipient. Even to young boys it is often that part of their work in which they are for the first time conscious of pleasure. It is, besides, almost essential for the most finished scholarship, that this accomplishment of verse should have been acquired, not indeed that the full-grown scholar may amuse his leisure by turning nursery rhymes into iambics or elegiacs, but that he may have a finer and subtler perception of the genius of Greek and Roman poetry. Still, with all these admissions in favour of the timehonoured practice, there remains this drawback, that in the case of nine boys out of ten, it occupies much more time than it is worth. We should therefore limit its practice to the few who learn their ordinary lessons with more ease than their
fellows, or who, from natural aptitude, find it an amusement rather than a task. More time would thus be set free for the acquisition of modern languages and a useful knowledge,” which should be carried on in company with, but not in antagonism to, those studies, which, though more slowly acquired and of less immediate application, are more truly the necessary training of a highly organized intellect.
But there is a greater evil in our elementary teaching in Scotland than antiquated grammars or verse-making. It is an evil so obvious to common sense, that it has often been pointed out, though we are not aware that any attempt has been made to remedy it. We of course refer to the custom of carrying on all boys, at the same rate of progress, through different stages of their course. Whether this custom is kept up in deference to the vanity of parents or the immediate interests of masters, there is no doubt that it is more fatal to sound elementary education than any other cause. Even the idleness and cricket of English schools, of which we have lately heard so much, are scarcely so mischievous in their results on education. A boy, carried on in his classics or mathematics to a stage beyond what he is fitted for, goes off the road at once, and at every step plunges deeper and deeper into the mire, until he is thankful to give up the journey altogether, and enter on some more familiar way. We do not believe that the masters themselves are in favour of such a system, but they cannot be expected to originate any changes which, according to present arrangements, would injure their interests in proportion to their efficiency. But we think the time has come when, for many reasons, there ought to be an inquiry into the working of our schools as there has been into that of our Universities, which we should hope would result not only in a reform of our schoolteaching all over the country, but also in an adequate recognition and remuneration of the services of our schoolmasters.
Mr. Thompson is a radical reformer though not a revolutionist on the subject of our school education. He will carry most of his readers with him, when he points out the defects of our existing system; but we doubt if he will convince other teachers to follow his own method. We doubt altogether the possibility of teaching the languages of ancient Greece and Rome according to the method by which living modern languages are acquired. The acquisition of an ancient, to a much greater extent than a modern language, involves the gradual habituation to new modes of thought. The minds of the civilized nations of modern Europe are cast in the same mould; they differ from each other in opinions, sentiments, and manners, but not in mental structure. The study of Latin and Greek, in which languages the relations of ideas and objects are expressed in accordance with ancient modes