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ly theoretical studies should cease to usurp the time that belongs to more useful branches. Our individual ideas or peculiar notions should not obtain largely in the formation of a course of instruction. We should have no prejudices for or against any particular branch of learning. We may have preferences, but even these should be made subordinate to the welfare of the school. The greatest good to the greatest number is the only true policy for a scheme of public education. We must meet a public demand, and it is no part of our business to dictate outside of this limit. It has been quite clearly demonstrated that large sums of money have been spent in teaching branches that are of little or no value to the masses. We are not securing the highest good attainable in this work, and if the demand for a more practical education be not met, our boasted popular education will become very unpopular and secondary instruction a failure.
But no one can deny that there is a highly important and necessary work for high-schools. Let us place upon them the proper limitations, secure for them the public confidence necessary for their existence; then their possibilities for good will be incalculable.
EXPRESSION IN READING.
(Paper read before the annual meeting of the Institute Conductors, at La Crosse, Jaly 7,1879,
by Prof. J. Q. EMERY.)
Referring to the subject of reading, a visiting committee to one of the State Normal Schools, in its report to the State Superintendent, says that perhaps no other branch is so poorly taught in our public schools.
If this statement be true, and I am of the opinion that it is, the sooner a reform is thoroughly inaugurated, the better. The institute is the great popular instrument for setting on foot educational reforms; and if a better teaching of reading takes the place of the present, that change is to be effected, largely, through the instrumentality of the institute.
The committee further says, that it is debatable how far instruction in reading should consist of elocutionary drill, and how far of analysis of thought. Many teachers, probably, are in this border land of doubt. Is this body prepared to give some helpful recommendation on this important question ? Are these topics independent of each other, or are they so related that one forms a basis for the other? I hold the latter position. I take it that by " elocutionary drill" is meant expression, or the art of vocal delivery. "Now the great principle to be observed in expression,” says Wickersham, “is, that all the mechanical modifications of the voice should be governed by the nature of the thought and feeling to be expressed." Hence it is that a correct analysis of the thought and appreciation of the sentiment and feeling of the author are fundamental conditions of correct expression.
Says one eminent writer on this subject, “ Something more is necessary to read well, than to understand the meaning of what is read. There is, probably, no literary production that is the cold work of the intellect alone. In all that has been written, of prose or of poetry, the emotions play an important part. The plainest composer
not write wholly without feeling, and the heart-beats of the true poet stir in every line. No one can read skillfully who does not appreciate the sentiment expressed in what he reads, or who does not feel for the time being as the author felt when he wrote it. He can not read well of beauty who never saw anything beautiful nor he of gayety who never felt gay, nor he of sorrow who never evinced pity, nor he of wit who never enjoyed a joke."
Without intelligent reading, there can not be expressive reading. The directions, therefore, in the syllabus for the current term of institutes, for the preparation of lessons in reading, are based upon sound philosophy. The following are these directions:
I. Suggestions for preparing the lesson in reading: 1. Read the lesson to determine the scope. 2. Study the paragraph critically, using reference books for pronunciation, definition, geography, biography, and history. 3. Review mentally the scope of the piece. 4. Spell difficult words.
II. Recitation. (a) With books closed, test the pupils in (1)-(4) of preparation. (b) Read the selection.
It is with this last direction, Read the selection, that I have particularly to deal. It will be observed that these directions relate chiefly to the analysis of thought; and while it is conceded that that preparation is necessary for correct expression, the question arises whether something more is not also equally necessary. If the selection is read with proper expression, there must be purity and distinctness of utterance, correctness of accent, emphasis and pitch, due deliberateness, modulation, and fluency. Is not some instruction necessary as to the relation between the character of the ideas or thoughts, and the elements of expression; viz., force, time, slides, pitch, volume, stress, quality ? Such would seem to have been the thought of the writer of the syllabus for 1877, for at the close of the directions for teaching reading, was placed in fine type the following note, to wit.: "In expression, discuss the bases upon which rate, emphasis, inflection, and pitch depend."
If the selection is to be read with proper expression, it should be studied to determine: 1. Its general spirit; 2. Its important individual ideas; 3. The relative rank of the ideas.
We need to know the general spirit of the selection to determine what should be the general force, time, etc. We need to know what the important individual ideas are, that we may know where to bestow emphasis. We need to know the relative rank of the ideas, in order rightly to use the proper elements of expression, so as to make clear the exact thought of the author. For accomplishing this, there is a variety of methods. What is the general spirit of the selection may be developed without any previous classification of ideas, following in this, somewhat, the synthetic method. Or a practically complete classification of the various kinds of ideas may be made, and then the pupil required to determine and state to which class those of the given selection belong. I incline to the latter as the preferable one for the average institute. It would seem to be no more difficult to outline this subject so as to be understood by the members of the institute, than to make the classification of sentences understood, or to outline the constitution of the United States, or any other of the more difficult topics.
The following classification is substantially that of Mark Bailey:
“1. Unemotional or matter-of-fact ideas (whether didactic, narrative, or descriptive).
2. Bold ideas (including the very emphatic passages in the first class, and all declamatory pieces).
3. Animated or joyous (including all lively, happy, or beautiful ideas).
4. Subdued or pathetic (including all gentle, tender, or sad ideas). ? 5. Noble (including ideas that are great, grand, sublime, or heroic). 6. Grave (including the deep feelings of solemnity, reverence, etc.).
7. Ludicrous or sarcastic (including jest, raillery, ridicule, mockery, irony, scorn, or contempt).
8. Impassioned (including all very bold pieces, and such violent passions as anger, defiance, revenge, etc)."
If the selection to be read is unemotional or matter-of-fact in its
character, how is it to be read? Which of the elements of expression are to be employed? What is to be the general quality of voice? What the pitch? What the force, volume, rate, etc.? And why these particular elements instead of others?
Having determined what is to be the general character of the reading, what are the important individual ideas, and how are they to be expressed? If this idea is important, how is it to be emphasized ? By force, inflection, time, slide, or pause? How intense should be the emphasis? Whatever the character of the selection, similar questions must be answered in the mind of the reader, before expressive reading is reasonably assured.
The following are a few of the principles governing expression, as formulated by Prof. Bailey :
"PRINCIPLE FOR STANDARD FORCE. – Determine the standard force for the unemphatic words, by the kind or general spirit of the piece. If the kind is unemotional, the standard force is moderate; if bold, the standard force is loud; if pathetic, the standard force is soft.
“PRINCIPLE FOR RELATIVE FORCE. — Taking the standard force for the unemphatic words, give additional force to the emphatic ideas, according to their relative importance.
“PRINCIPLE FOR STANDARD TIME. – Determine the standard of time by the general spirit of the piece. If the general spirit is unemotional, the standard time is naturally moderate; if animated or joyous, the standard time is fast; if grave, the standard time is slow.
“PRINCIPLE FOR RELATIVE TIME. - Taking the standard time for the unemphatic words, give additional time to the emphatic ideas, according to their relative importance."
Similar underlying principles there are for pauses, slides, pitch, volume and quality.
It is not claimed that an institute of two weeks affords sufficient time for thorough drill on all these principles; but it is believed that with the subject similarly outlined and developed, the members will be better prepared for thorough training in some one or more of these topics, and that the instruction may be made progressive from year to year. Nor is it meant that the conductor is to seek or expect that finished and artistic rendering, possible only to the skilled elocutionist or the person of broad culture. For reading, in its better forms, is an art, like painting, sculpture and music. It is an expression of the reader's taste.
In all this work the teacher's voice should frequently be heard, so
as to furnish a gocd model for imitation. In studying the principles, there should be constant reference to nature for their application. "Nature is varied and refined and should be referred to constantly." There is danger of over-doing in technical principles; and mere imitation is imbecility. Nature's greatest works are its simplest. Simplicity is the highest and most enduring of all qualities. It is the mean of extremes. In reading, everything like effort should disappear. Even exciting expressions should be given with a smooth, marked simplicity that is delicate as well as energetic.
The object of this drill is to explain those natural principles which properly control expression; to develop and cultivate voice and feeling to the extent required, and to refine and not pervert nature.
Closing a remarkably able article on the subject of reading, James Currie, of England, says: "Let the teacher, then, have a certain standard of proficiency for his pupils to aim at, suited to their opportunities ; let him guard against the vain endeavor to attain a finical nicety of accent, which his own good sense should tell him is unattainable in the circumstances of the community, or even a degree of refinement in expression which implies a higher degree of culture than they will ever reach ; then if he will only use carefully, harmoniously, and with faith, the means at his disposal, even in spite of shortened attendance, he will send away his pupils with a skill in the art of reading, which they will gladly cherish for themselves through all their occupations in life.”
METHODS AND MEANS TO TEACH SPELLING.
(Paper read before the annual meeting of the Institute Conductors, at La Crosee, Jaly 7, 1879, by
Prof. A. A. MILLER.)
As the "
way to resume was to resume," so the way to learn to spell is to spell. As a rule it is not wise to waste much time in repining for the "good old times," whether we view them from an educational standpoint, or some other ground. Yet it is fairly questionably if there . has not been too much of reform in the methods of teaching certain branches, and in spelling in particular. As in mechanics every patent does not cover a useful invention, and all changes are not improvements, so, in the educational world, all changes are not surely improvements on the old methods. Many teachers are engaged in a search (may it prove a vain one) for an easy path, a royal way to knowledge, over which the youth of to-day may travel at leisure.