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Arthur Searle, of Harvard College Observatory, in a paper on “Examinations and Text-Books" in substance says, – "Education has two main objects: first, to teach a child to do something, and second, to store his mind with information which will enable him to interest himself in the pursuits of others. He is to learn certain arts, and he is also to learn something of the world he lives in." We doubtless all agree with these conclusions.
The most elementary school education could not aim at less than the acquisition of three arts, reading, writing and ciphering; so far, well; but it must be conceded thắt at this stage of educational progress, we cannot claim to have stored the mind with general information. If it is urged that the acquisition of the art of reading will do that, I answer that without some general information, reading, beyond the mere calling of words, cannot be intelligently done; while intelligent reading, in any large sense, demands a considerable degree of culture.
If this process of education is to continue beyond the "three R's," something should now be introduced that will impart the information needed. Can we do better than supply that need by the study of geography? It will find a foundation to build upon in the knowledge the child has already acquired through his perceptions. It is true that the natural sciences will do the same; but they instruct, each in its special line; while geography properly taught, will bestow that general knowledge of which the child is now in need. It will also furnish an indispensable introduction to all study of civilization past or present, and will greatly aid in forming just estimates of social surroundings.
There is, then, a point in a child's intellectual development at which the study of geography becomes his best means to a larger mental life; and he has just cause of complaint against his teachers if they, through carelessness or lack of apprehension, fail to put him in possession of its willing benefits. He has a right to every advantage it can confer; and it is their duty to have as clearly defined and correct aims in teaching him geography, as in teaching him writing or arithmetic.
An intelligent teacher once said. - Give me outline maps and a daily newspaper, and I will teach geography." Whether or not that teacher had arrived at the best method of producing the desired result, he had at least risen to a conception of the importance and purpose of the study in question.
Teachers should bear in mind that geography may be the only study in its line that many of their pupils ever pursue, and it should be their aim to make it yield those pupils as large a heritage of light as possible.
To be truly practical an elementary course in geography should keep two ends in view, first, to fit the pupil to read intelligently the current literature of the day; second, to give him a desire for information and a knowledge of the means of getting it, so that he will not stop learning when the farm or the work-shop takes him from the school. The saying is trite, but like most trite sayings, very true, that no school instruction can complete the work of education. That teacher does his work best, who so imbues his pupils with a love of learning, and so trains them in the use of aids to learning, of whatever sort, that they become, when they leave him, independent and loving searchers after truth. This student disposition can be planted and fostered in the elementary course of training, if the branches reading and geography be properly taught. And the disposition, once given a vigorous start, will“ grow by what it feeds upon," until the tutored child developes into the self-instructed man, seeking to understand life, interested in its varied activities, studying its complex and often opposite relations.
It is clear that the study of geography is capable of yielding large returns; yet, dissatisfaction is quite generally and justly felt among teachers and patrons, with the slow and meagre results obtained from the great amount of time usually spent upon it. With possibilities so great, why should we have results so unsatisfactory? Either the purpose of the study is not understood, or the methods of instruction are not adapted to the accomplishment of the ends in view.
Geography presents a multitudinous array of facts. If we teach it merely as a collection of facts, looking for and finding no thread of dependence running through them and uniting them, we shall signally fail in obtaining desirable results, no matter how faithfully we work. Such a course would be parallel with thoroughly teaching a child a vocabulary and then expecting him to read with understanding. Geography is a science, and the facts of industrial and political geography are effects referable to causes, those causes being mainly physical conditions of soil, climate, configuration, and coast-line. In teaching, these dependencies should be constantly traced.
Finally, if the teaching is to be effective, it is imperative that to definite aims and correct estimates of the means to their accomplishment, be added a knowledge of the material upon which the work is to be done. Along side of an understanding of the subject to be taught, must be ranged an understanding of the nature of the child to whom we are to teach it. Fortunately a compass has not been given to the mariner and the explorer alone; for the conscientious teacher, searching earnestly and intelligently for the best way in which to train the mind, the needle trembles no less surely to the pole.
There are three strongly marked periods in a complete study of geography, the work of each being determined by the condition of the mind which it is intended to develop. These periods are the Preparatory, the Elementary, and the Collegiate.
The little child, to whose needs and capacities the training of the first period must be adapted, has used his eyes to good advantage long before he "goes to school." He has already seen much geography, but he has seen it only as part of that great whole, the new, strange world into which he has so lately come. It is now the duty of his teacher, whether mother or more formal instructor, to teach him to see it as geography, and to apply geographical terms correctly, whether to the features of a natural landscape, or to the same represented in pictures. He should learn to know the running water as a river, the lofty elevation as a mountain, the level stretch of surface as a plain; and the more of these features he can actually see out-of-doors, the better.
Later, removed alike from landscape and from picture, he should be taught to recall them as they were, by reproducing them in mindpictures, to conceive what he has previously perceived. From association of terms with things, càn be developed ideas of location, relative position, or direction, and the points of the compass.
But the time allotted to this paper will not suffice to detail the natural order of the successive steps by which his knowledge of the subject would be steadily and systematically increased. We must consider the purpose, rather than the method of instruction. The teacher having trained the pupil to an intelligent perception of the geography that lies about him, and to the power of recalling to mind in clear conceptions, that which he has seen, should now directly aim to cultivate his imagination, that he may form vivid and correct conceptions of regions he has not seen. This cultivation of the imagination is an important part of the teaching of geography. If it is properly done, and particularly if pictures are used as an aid to it, the symbols of the map will represent to the pupil real things. New York, Liverpool, the Alps, the Sierras, the Rhine, the Mississippi, will not be mere names of things with which he associates but two ideas, viz.: designation by geographical terms, and location; but he will see in imagination the city's maze of streets, its streams of people, and the great ships bringing cargoes. The mountains and rivers will be something more than black lines on a colored surface. Up among the melting snows of the one, he will see the slender beginnings of the other, and trace it through the mountain gorges and down the long incline to the low plain through which it seeks an outlet to the sea. In the summer of the north, he will be able to picture the winter of the south, and in the changing temperature of the middle latitudes, he will realize the perpetual winter of the artic and summer of the tropic zones; and the bare bones, falsely called geography, will be clothed upon with flesh. Henceforth, the subject will possess an absorbing interest for him, and though you may not take him beyond the walls of a country school-house, you can bring the whole world home to him within its narrow space.
Another direct aim should be, to train the memory. In this direction the study of outline maps and map-drawing, will be of the greatest advantage. A rapidly executed sketch placed upon the board during recitation, is the teacher's best test of the correctness of the pupil's memory of a certain set of facts, such as outline, direction, location, and proportion. Besides being a test of, it is also an aid to the memory, because actually to locate a feature of the map requires closer attention than simply to describe its location. What other advantages are derived from map-drawing it is difficult to see, and it would seem that from a too great neglect of it, the tendency has been to swing over to the opposite extreme of placing too much stress and spending too much time upon it, regarding it rather as an end than as a means.
The matter taught during this preparatory period, should be home geography, to give the pupil units of comparison, with which to go abroad; the natural divisions of land and water, the outline and location of grand and political divisions - the latter best learned from outline maps — a comprehensive view of the world as a whole, and the location of his own country relative to the rest; the last, best learned from the globe. Now, having trained the perceptive and conceptive faculties, the imagination, and the memory of the pupil, having given him known units of comparison, a knowledge of geographical terms, and the use of maps, the ability to recognize outlines at sight, and a comprehensive idea of location, he is prepared to begin the second period of study, where the aim should be to develop his judging and reasoning faculties, to teach him the facts of political and industrial geography as dependent upon physical conditions; and to make him a student of the nature and relations of life, climate and products are the first great topics that should now engage his attention. But, rather than isolated facts, true in particular regions, he should be put in possession of fundamental principles, as those principles are discovered in the study of mathematical and physical geography,- the earth's motions, the influence of those motions upon the changing seasons, climate as the result of latitude, altitude, and continental and oceanic influences, wind and rain zones, and the products peculiar to different climates.
But although the study of these topics has been placed in the second period, they are still preparatory to the study of that crowning part of geography, the civilization of nations. The life of a people is the matter with which this student has the greatest concern.
The occupations of agriculture, manufactures, mining and fishing should be dwelt upon; commerce, domestic and foreign, demands attention, and with it exports and imports, and all things that conduce to commerce, such as railroads, canals, telegraphs, sub-marine cables, lines of steamers and the like. The government of a people, the relation of their systems of education and religion to the state, are vital questions of which we cannot afford to leave this future citizen of our country in ignorance, even though the years of his instruction are few and soon told.
To teach this pupil, out of whom we wish to make a student for life, a bare fact, without teaching him its relation to other facts, is defrauding him of the best part of instruction. It it giving him knowledge, but no wisdom. For instance, that the Hudson rises in the Adirondacks and flows south to New York Bay, is of slight importance, but because the burdened, swift-going boats plough its surface daily and nightly, because it is yoked to the great lakes, while New York and Chicago sit at either end as receivers and dispensers, it becomes of vast importance. That the Merrimac flows from the mountains to the sea through two states is a matter of little moment; but when man binds it to the wheel and makes it turn the vast machinery of the mills of seven cities, it is no longer simply a river, a bit of water winding idly on its way, it is a force in the affairs of life. There are many aids to teaching the second course in geography,— text books, globes, books of reference and travel; but when we come to the practi