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ON TEACHING GRAMMAR.
THE object we should have in teaching English children English grammar seems to us so often ill understood, that we think it may be useful to preface the following exercises by a few remarks ; first on the use of teaching grammar, and secondly on the way we intend the following exercises to be used.
ON THE USE OF TEACHING GRAMMAR. So many slighting remarks have been made of late on the use of teaching grammar as compared with teaching science, that it is plain the fact has been lost sight of that grammar is itself a science. The object we have, or should have, in teaching science is not to fill à child's mind with a vast number of facts that may or may not prove useful to him hereafter, but to draw out and exercise his powers of observation, and to show him how to make use of what he observes. The facts must be laid before him, his notice must be
attracted to them, and he must be taught how to arrange them in such a manner that he
make of them. A mere knowledge of facts is a barren knowledge, unless a knowledge of their use be also acquired. And here the teacher of grammar has a great advantage over the teacher of other sciences, in that the facts he has to call attention to lie ready at hand for every pupil to observe without the aid of apparatus of any kind ; while the use of them also lies within the personal experience of everyone.
If we are to find fault with the teaching of grammar, or of languages, it should rather be with the methods adopted than with the things themselves. The teaching of a foreign language so constantly fails because the science which treats of the facts of the language is attempted before the learner is in any way made familiar with the facts themselves. The cart is put before the horse. The pupil should be first made familiar with the language, and then, and not till then, should his attention be called to the facts, and he should be taught how to arrange them in the most usable way.
In teaching an English child English grammar we may assume that he is conversant with the language, and all we have to do is to call his attention to the facts, and to show him how to arrange them that he may best make use of them. Up to the time that the teacher does this for him he is what Bacon calls an "expert”: he has experience, but he is not learned, or skilled in the use of that of which he has gained experience. He is not educated. His knowledge is barren. It is limited to just what he has experienced, and nothing more. It is productive of nothing beyond. It is not usable knowledge, and therefore, properly speaking, not knowledge at all.
The teacher of grammar, as of any other science, should therefore bear this in mind; that his object should be to call the pupil's attention to facts, the more familiar the better, and then to teach him how to arrange those facts that he may be able to make use of them. Mere hearing of lessons, mere driving of facts into a boy's brain, is not teaching. The teacher must remember that his task is to draw out and exercise his pupil's powers of observing, and to show him how to use them. If he does this thoroughly on any one subject (and he cannot do it unless he is well acquainted with that subject), he confers an inestimable benefit on his pupil, and sends him out into the world, trained to take note of facts, and fitted to deal with facts and to make use of them.
Grammar may therefore in this way be made as useful a part of education as any other science.
ON THE METHOD AND AIM OF THE FOLLOWING
We do not intend the following exercises as tasks which may be set to pupils, and exacted of them without any thought or teaching on the master's part; nor do we intend them as exercises for the master's