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“The next step will be to desire our opponent to show how, in reference to any of the pursuits or acts of citizens, the nature of a woman differs from that of a man. That will be very fair ; and perhaps he will reply that to give an answer on the instant is not easy-a little reflection is needed.”-PLATO, REP., Book V.
THE CULTURE OF THE INTELLECT.
“ Now, as refusal to satisfy the cravings of the digestive faculty is productive of suffering, so is the refusal to satisfy the craving of any other faculty productive of suffering, to an extent proportioned to the importance of that faculty. But, as God wills man’s lappiness, that line of conduct which produces unhappiness is contrary to his will.”—FRANCIS BACON.
If one is to educate the body, she would be presumptuous in the extreme if she made the attempt without first understanding in some measure its anatomy and physiology. With as much reason, in approaching the subject of mental education—that one third of education which with too many persons stands for the whole--we must pause a moment for a few reflections on the nature of mind and the necessary results thereof.
“ Mind is essentially self-uctivity.” In this, as we have been taught, lies its essential difference from mere matter, whose most essential property is inertia—i. e., absolute inability to move itself or to stop itself.*
When, therefore, mind acts at all, it must act froin within, and no amount of information given will be of the slightest concern to it, unless by its own activity the mind reach forth, draw it in, and assimilate it to itself. This voluntary activity, directed towards any subject, is Attention, and so great is the power of mind when in this state, that it dissolves and draws in all food, no matter how abstruse, that may present itself. Thus the problem ot' mental education, which had seemed so complex, resolves itself very simply. We have first to educate the attention of the child, so that she shall be able to use it at will, and to turn it towards any object desired ; and secondly, we simply have to present to the aroused attention the knowledge which the past centuries have created and accumulated, and to present this in such quantity and in such order as the experience of the same centuries has decided to be best for its normal growth.
To begin with, then, we must educate the child from the first into a habit of controlling and directing her naturally drifting and capricious attention by the will. The power of the child is very liınited in this respect. Her eyes, the index of her attention, wander easily from one external object to another, and consequently our work must be very gradual, for, if we'attempt to hold the attention one moment longer than the mind has strength for, the tense bow snaps, and the overstrained activity lapses into inanity. We must ask her attention for very short intervals at first, and during many years; for every time that we attempt to convey information for so long that the attention gives way, we have weakened, and not strengthened the power. Exercise, to be judicious, we must remember, inust, in inind as well as body, be regular, and increase steadily in its demand. The object of the first teaching should, therefore, be the steady and methodical cultivation of the faculty of attention, and not the acquisition of knowledge. Our first work must be to give such judicious exercise that the mind shall acquire a habit of exercise and an appetite for it, and not to spoil at the outset the mental digestion. A healthy appetite being once created, we have then only to spread the table and place the courses one after another, at proper intervals, and within convenient reach, in regular order, and the work is done.
* On this statement we may perhaps rest, as our present distinct object is to illustrate mind, and not matter ; though any reader will, of course, be entitled to his own mental reservations other side, and his own ideas on the subject of Attraction, etc.
But the child, as she grows from child to woman, must pass through three stages, showing three different directions which are successively taken by the intelligent activity. First, she is occupied in perceiving objects. She then passes into the years dominated by the imagination, and she should emerge from this into the dominion of rational, logical thought, but, through the fault of a defective education, she often never passes beyond the second stage. Thus dwarfed and crippled she remains during her whole life, physically a woman, mentally a child. Better days are, however, dawning, though the sun be but one hour high.
Again, serious errors are made in education, from the want of a proper appreciation of the time at which the girl passes inevitably from one to the other of these stages. When, for example, authors of text-books on Natural Science, History and Reading, designed for pupils of fifteen and sixteen years
age, cover more space with illustrations than with text, we recognize the fact that they forget that at that age, the first or intuitional stage is past ; and when publishers endeavor to recommend their books to teachers, by sending them specimens of the pictures in the books, instead of specimens of the explanations and statements, the teachers know that they are supposed to be equally admirers of fine wood-cuts.
In the first, or intuitional stage, when the child is chietly employed with perceptions, there is little to be done but to train the eye, the ear, the hand and the voice, and to teach the correct use of distinctly spoken language.
It is clearly impossible to investigate the subject of mental education in detail in the present essay; content myself with a few suggestions and statements.
First, is it not evident that it is all-important what kind of training the little girl receives in the first years of her school life, while she is yet in the intuitional or perceptive stage? A failure to properly train her attention here, and the whole of her after-work is invalidated. Her school work becomes, in its progress, tiresome, and hence disagreeable, from the constant necessity of repetition, a necessity arising from the want of a trained power of attention. She is found fault with for restlessness and want of interest, as if that were her fault, and not her misfortune; and, at the end, her knowledge is at best but “ a thing of shreds and patches,” till, when all is done and the result exhibited, we ask, with a sigh, “ whether it be really worth while to go through so much to gain so little.” And yet, what care do guardians take to secure the best advantages for their daughters at fifteen and seventeen, and of how little importance do they consider it, ander what kind of teaching they place them between eight and fifteen! The error is all the same in the intellectual as in the physical education of our girls. We are continually carefully locking the stable-door after the horse is stolen ; we are continually allowing things to go wrong, and then making superhuman efforts to right them, not remembering that it is far easier to keep out of trouble than to get out of it. If a girl must be trusted to incompetent, or, at the best, doubtful, teachers during half her school life, let that half be the last, and not the first, and incompetency will be shorn of half its power to injure. Not only directly in the interest of the girls, but in the interest of my own profession--though the two are one-I ask this, for in that case, our profession would soon be elevated in its general tone by the elimination from it of those who ought never to have entered it.
Passing from the intuitional epoch to the age when the imagination and emotion become the ruling powers, we next arrive at the time at which it becomes necessary for parents to see to it that plenty of good reading is provided for the eager child. It makes not so much difference what kind of books she reads, but they should always be the very best of their kind, for this is the time in which the formation of a correct taste becomes, perhaps, the most important duty of the educator. To poetry, either in verse or not, each child inclines naturally, as did the race in its childhood, and the stories of the Old Testament and Homer are never wearisome. Generally, “the proper classical works for youth are those which nations have produced in the earliest stages of their culture.”
Now is the season for fairy stories, and the Ger