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COMMON SCHOOLS AND ACADEMIES.
HENRY MANDEVILLE, D.D.,
PROFESSOR OF MORAL SCIENCE AND BELLES LETTRES IN HAMILTON
COLLEGE NEW YORK.
NEW EDITION, REVISED AND CORRECTED.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1849,
By D. APPLETON & COMPANY, In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District
of New York.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1850,
By D. APPLETON & COMPANY, le the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District
of New York,
ADDITIONAL HINTS FOR TEACHERS.
The present volume differs from Part 3. of the Introduction in two respects.
I. It contains some selections from poetry: inserted rather in accordance with the views of others, than in consequence of any change of my own, expressed in Part III. : it being still my opinion, deliberately formed after much experience and observation, that poetry is the worst imaginable reading to form a flexible and graceful delivery. Its tendency to a monotonous manner is so strong, that even a practised reader, unless continually on his guard, will insensibly yield to its influence and glide into song. Nor is this all : it is an additional objection to the introduction of poetry into our primary school-books, that it comprises, especially poetry of the higher grade, such as compilers are usually most anxious to insert in these books, the most difficult reading to be found in the whole circle of English literature. It is at once passionate and figurative: demanding, on the one hand, to give its ever-varying emotions due utterance, much power and versatility of expression, and, on the other, to render its ideas intelligible, a profound knowledge not merely of the primary and fundamental, but the derivative meaning of words; with the sources also and the fitness of the imagery; and in short with all those verbal artifices on which so much of the elevation and beauty of popular poetry depends. Have the pupils in the common schools this perception and command of the passions, the last and highest attainment of oratory; this extensive and intimate acquaintance with language, the fruit of long and assiduous culture? If not, such reading is manifestly beyond their depth, and should be deferred to a more advanced period of their education ; when they may have measurably formed their habits of delivery, and be able to bring to the exercise somewhat more of information and maturity of judgment.
Impressed by the importance of these considerations, I earnestly recommend to teachers, the propriety of passing the poetical selections, I have made, by, until their class or classes shall have read the book through at least a half a dozen times; and should they not allow them to be read at all, I shall have the higher opinion of their capacity. as teachers. This, however, as they may choose.
II. Instead of subjoining to each section, as in Part 3., definitions of a few of the more difficult words in it, I have, in the main, contented myself with a quotation of those words which in my judgment required definition : here and there only, inserting an equivalent after a word to be defined, and more frequently as well as more fully explaining examples of idiomatic usage. I have adopted this plan,
1. Because the process of definition, if entered upon at all, should be extended to every word. Words rarely occurring may need ex
planation, but every teacher knows that common words in daily and hourly use, are far from being best understood. A vague conception of their general import is the most that can be assumed '; as is evident from the embarrassments of the young when called upon to explain even the most familiar term. But what would be the result of extending definition to every word ? It would swell a reading-book beyond all reasonable dimensions; and in fact convert it into a dictionary. But
2. Whether we defined a few or all of the words in a section, our definitions would be necessarily defective. A given definition could comprehend no more than the meaning of a word in a given place; and the word with this meaning may seldom occur.
It may be de rived from the primary meaning by a remote analogy; or it may be idiomatic, and have a very odd, if not inexplicable meaning : yet this is the only meaning given by the definition, and hence that which the pupil will attach to the word, when he meets with it elsewhere, however incompatible with the sentiment of the place in which he finds it. A definition to be really useful, should begin with the primary meaning of a word and then proceed to its different. modifications; but this again would convert the reading-book into a dictionary.
3. This practice of appending definitions to reading-lessons, beyond very narrow limits, is positively injurious. It relieves the pupil from the wholesome necessity of exercising his own powers of reflection, discrimination, and memory. It makes him a passive recipient, where he should be an active inquirer. It deprives him of every advantage derived from personal investigation. It makes him, in short, a mere parrot : capable only of the same stupid repetition.
4. It is altogether an unnecessary practice, except perhaps in the earlier stages of learning to read. We have several cheap dictionaries admirably adapted to the use of our common schools, and, I had almost said, infinitely more intelligible to the pupils in these schools, than the crude definitions (more difficult to be understood than the words they define) which I have found in the books that have fallen under my observation. But enough.
I will only add in conclusion that my enumeration of words to be defined at the end of each section, in no case comprises every word in that section. This would cause too frequent repetition. I have aimed at enumerating a number sufficient for exercise, and to secure a thorough knowledge of the subject treated. More remotely, I have aimed also, not merely at having a definition first or last of every word in the book, but in one part or another, a repetition of it two or three times, that it may be permanently lodged in the pupil's memory.
Teacher, my plan is before you: I earnestly press its importance on your attention. Have a dictionary yourself: see that every one of your pupils, has one. Use it diligently yourself; see that they use it; and I promise with a confidence inspired by experience, that the result will be a degree of mental discipline, an independence of thought, an accession to the power of memory,
and an extensive and accurate knowledge of language not to be obtained in double the time, by any other method.
Hamilton College, Jan. 1, 1848.
AN INTRODUCTION, ETC.
SECT. 1. *
-TRIBULATION TREPID. 1 JOSEPH C. NEAL, the “Charcoal Sketcher," thus admira
bly hits off that class of people who are never so happy as
when they are miserable. 2 “How are you, Trepid ? how do you feel to-day, Mr.
Trepid ?” 3 “ A great deal worse than I was, thank you'; almost
dead, I am obliged to you'; I am always worse than I was,
and I do not think I was ever any better. I am very sure, 4 anyhow, I am not going to be any better; and for the fu
ture, you may always know I am worse, without asking any questions; for the questions make me worse, if nothing else
does.” 5 Why, Trepid, what is the matter with you ?” 6 “Nothing, I tell you, in particular' ; but a great deal is
the matter with me in general”; and that is the danger, be7 cause we do not know what it is. That is what kills people,
when they cannot tell what it is: that is what is killing me. 8 My great-grandfather died of it, and so will I. The doctors 9 do not know'; they cannot tell me'; they say I am well
enough when I am bad enough, and so there is no help. I 10 w going off some of these days, right after my great-grand
father : dying of pothing in particular, but of every thing in 11 general. That is what finishes our folks."
DEFINITIONS, &c.—Define hits off, (strikes off a picture or description of,) for the future, (in time to come,) questions, else, deal, danger, kills, greatgrandfather, doctors, enough, because, bad, some, (is not this a mistake for one ?) finishes, folks.
* See Definitions, &c., under the 47th Section; which was originally intended for this page.