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EXTRACTS FROM DR BELL'S WORKS.
[The Educational works of Dr Bell amount to several thousand pages; but they cannot be recommended to the perusal of even the most enthusiastic student of education. There is much dust, chaff, and inorganic matter in them; and it is only here and there that one finds something worth picking up. I have thought it right to go carefully through the volumes, and to select what might possibly be worth reading and thinking about. This is contained in the following pages.]
“The advantages of teaching the alphabet, by writing the letters with the fingers in sand, are many. It engages and amuses the mind, and so commands the attention, that it greatly facilitates the toil, both of the master and the scholar. It is also a far more effectual way than that usually practised, as it prevents all learning by rote, and gives, at the instant and in the first operation, a distinct and accurate notion of the form of each letter, which in another way is often not acquired after a long period, and after a considerable progress in reading, as may be seen in those who write letters turned the wrong way, and other instances familiar to every one. It likewise enables them, at the very outset, to distinguish the letters of a similar cast, such as b, d, P, and q, the difficulty of which is known to almost every person who has taught or learned the alphabet, as it is commonly taught and learned. While it thus removes every obstacle which at first puzzles beginners, and interrupts their progress, it at the same time teaches the scholar to write, and is the best preparation he can have for this next stage of his progress.”
“When a bad, lying boy comes to school, the teacher of the lower classes must find a good boy to take care of him, teach him right principles like the other boys, treat him kindly, reconcile him to the school, and render him happy, like the rest, in his situation, and in his school and playfellows."
". All political writers are agreed, that on the education of youth depends the fate of empires.'-ARISTOTLE. Such have been the opinion and judgment of the greatest men and ablest writers, from the time of Aristotle to that of Burke, who pronounces education to be the cheap defence of nations."
“ The grand principle of Dr Bell's System, is the division of labour, applied to intellectual purposes. The objects are, * to continue attention without weariness; to quit nothing until it is distinctly and permanently fixed on the mind; and to make the pupils the instruments of their own instruction.'"
"In respect both of the distinctness of what is taught, and the mode of acquirement, the new system is pre-eminent. Nothing is proposed that is not clearly and distinctly learnt; and the manner in which that learning is acquired converts the schoolroom into a kind of literary playground ; differing only from their common play-place in the greater eagerness of the scholars to obtain their object, and in their deeper regret at failing in it. It is thus that delight prepares the way to improvement, and that pleasure becomes the handmaid of knowledge."
“ Our Saviour tells us, that if we enter into the kingdom of heaven, we must become as little children. It is thus, that among children, and from them, and by becoming as one of them, that we are to learn those simple doctrines of nature and truth, innate in them, or which readily occur to their minds, as yet unbiassed by authority, prejudice, or custom. It is in this school of nature and truth, pointed out by the Son of God, himself God, that I seek for knowledge. It is among the children and youth of the school, not among their masters, sometimes as prejudiced, bigoted, and perverse, as their scholars are ingenuous, ingenious, and tractable. It is in this book, I have said, that I acquired what I know; and it is in this book I have recommended you to study-a school full of children.”
“ The first and grand law of the new school is, that every scholar, by a perpetual and generous competition with his fellows, finds for himself his level, and increasingly rises and falls in his place in the class, and in the ranks of the school, according to his relative attainments. It is thus that the dunces, as they are called, from other schools are no longer dunces when they enter a Madras school, and breathe a Madras atmosphere.
“ The second main law of the Madras school is, that its instruction be conducted in a gradually progressive course of study by easy, adapted, and perfect lessons."
“Let no master, as he values the satisfaction and approba
tion of the visitors and directors of his school—the profit and delight of his pupils—the gratification of their parents and friends—the good opinion of the public—and his own ease and comfort—think he has done his duty while he has a single child in his school who does not make daily progress according to his capacity-who is not perfectly instructed in every lesson as he goes along. But let it also be remembered that the scholar's time must not be wasted by repeating again and again what is already familiar to him, except as far as is necessary to prevent its being forgotten.”
“1. The Asylum, like every well-regulated school, is arranged into forms or classes, each composed of as many scholars as, having made a similar progress, unite together. The scholar ever finds his own level, not only in his class, but also in the ranks of the school, being promoted or degraded from place to place according to his relative proficiency.
“ 2. Each class is, when preparing their lessons by themselves, paired off into tutors and pupils.
“Thus in a class of thirty-six scholars the eighteen best and most trusty are tutors respectively to the eighteen worst.
“This arrangement, by no means an important link in the chain of self-tuition, is frequently dispensed with ; and when continued lessons take place, as in the schools of the National Society, it is of course superseded.
“3. To each class is attached an assistant-teacher, whose business is, as the name implies, to act under, with, or for the teacher.
“4. The teacher who, with his assistant, has charge of the class, as well when learning as saying their lessons, and is responsible for their order, behaviour, diligence, and improvement. Both the teacher and his assistant say their lessons with their class. In the conduct of a school, the two grand departments are instruction and discipline. "Discipline' (says Ascham) • without instruction is mere tyranny, and instruction without discipline little better than useless talk.'"
“It is an unfounded complaint that very few learners are naturally endowed with the faculty of understanding the lessons which are prescribed to them, and that most do in reality lose their labour and time from defect of genius. Quite otherwise is the fact ; for you will find the generality of men quick in conception and prompt to learn. This is the characteristic of man. As birds are destined by nature to fly, horses to run, and wild beasts to be ferocious ; so to us is peculiar the (agitation) working and sagacity of the mind. Hence it is believed that the human soul is of celestial origin. The dull and the indocile are no more conformable to the nature of man than bodies which are accounted prodigies and monsters. But these are very rare.”—QUINCTILIAN.
“ Another practice of the Madras school is of high authority and remote antiquity in the Eastern world. “Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground' (John viii. 6.) Writing on sand, borrowed from the Hindoo writing on the ground, is of a mixed nature, and applies to more than one branch of the scholars' studies—viz., to teaching the alphabet, digits, monosyllables, notation, arithmetic, and the art of writing itself. All the initiatory processes of the school being formed at the sand-board, the great difficulties and impediments of learning, which chiefly occur in the beginning of every branch of tuition, are conquered by an operation which gratifies the active disposition of youth, and their love of imitation ; and like the pen and pencil, ties down the mind to the single object in hand. Not a letter, a word, a figure can be passed over unknown or unlearned.