1902 Encyclopedia > Education > Herbert Spencer (1820-1903). Alexander Bain (1818-1903).

(Part 21)

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903). Alexander Bain (1818-1903).

The last English writers on education are Mr Herbert Spencer and Mr Alexander Bain, the study of whose writ-ings will land us in those regions of paedagogics which have been most recently explored. We need not follow Mr Spencer into his defence of science as the worthiest object of study, or in his rules for moral and physical training, except to say that they are sound and practical. In writing of intellectual education, he insists that we shall attain the best results by closely studying the develop-ment of the mind, and availing ourselves of the whole amount of force which nature puts at our disposal. The mind of every being is naturally active and vigorous, indeed it is never at rest. But for its healthy growth it must have something to work upon, and, therefore, the teacher must watch its movements with the most sympathetic care, in order to supply exactly that food which it requires at any particular time. In this way a much larger cycle of attainments can be compassed than by the adoption of any programme or curriculum, however carefully drawn up. It is no good to teach what is not remembered; the strength of memory depends on attention, and attention depends upon interest. To teach without interest is to work like Sisyphus and the Danaides. Arouse interest if you can, rather by high means than by low means. But it is a saving of power to make use of interest which you have already existing, and which, unless dried up or distorted by injudicious violence, will naturally lead the mind into all the knowledge which it is capable of receiving. Therefore, never from the first force a child’s attention; leave off a study the moment it becomes weari-some, never let a child do what it does not like, only take care that when its liking is in activity a choice of good as well as evil shall be given to it.

Mr Bain’s writings on education, which are contained in some articles in the Fortnightly Review, and in two articles in Mind (Nos. v. and vii.) are extremely valuable. Perhaps the most interesting part of them consists in his showing- how what may be called the "correlation of forces in man" helps us to a right education. From this we learn that emotion may be transformed into intellect, that sensation may exhaust the brain as much as thought, and we may infer that the chief duty of a schoolmaster is to stimulate the powers of each brain under his charge to the fullest activity, and to apportion them in that ratio which will best conduce to the most, complete and harmonious develop-ment of the individual.

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