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APPENDIX No. 1.
NORMAL DEPARTMENT IN BROWN UNIVERSITY, LETTER FROM PROF. GREENE.
PROVIDENCE, February 12, 1852. Hon. E. R. POTTER :
DEAR Sir :-You ask me to give you information respecting the organization, course of instruction, and present condition and prospects of the Normal Department of Brown University. In compliance with this request, permit me to premise that the enterprise is yet in its infancy,—the first class having been formed at the commencement of the present collegiate year. Hence little can be said of results. It promises well. All that could be reasonably hoped, during so short a period, has been realized. The department is intended to fit teachers for the practical duties of the school room. The course of instruction, the drill exercises, all tend towards this point.
Two things are contemplated in the plan of organization. Of these that which is peculiar to the department is the professional training which the course in Didactics is intended to give.
The second is the literary and scientific discipline which the various courses afford to those who seek for situations in the higher grades of schools. Those who are candidates for degrees are, in the regular order of study, pursuing these courses. To such, the Normal department is a kind of professional school, to fit them for their chosen occupation. But to those who come mainly to study Didactics, and yet wish to extend their literary and scientific researches, without obtaining a degree, the collegiate courses afford peculiar advantages. The student is placed at once in a literary atmosphere. He is in daily contact with scholars. He has access to a large and valuable library. The principles of Chemistry and Natural Philosophy are illustrated by an extensive and well chosen apparatus. History, English literature, Rhetoric, and English Composition, are all taught by able professors. And if he chooses to pursue one or more of the languages, he has the privilege of doing it. All these can be attended to in connection with Didactics.
But that the advantages of the department may be enjoyed still more widely, a second class, of a more popular character, has been organized. This class is attending a course of lectures and drill exercises at the lecture room of the High School. It is opened for those teachers, male or female, who seek for situations in Grammar and Primary Schools, and who have already made sufficient progress in the elementary branches to fit them for their profession. The exercises here are purely didactic. The principles of the art of teaching are distinctly stated and illustrated before the class; and to render the work more effective, the members themselves are called out individually to give elementary lessons regarding the class for the time as their school. The skill and efficiency with which these exercises are conducted become, at once, a test of ability, aptness to teach, self possession, and power to command attention. This class, thus far, has been chiefly composed of ladies, mostly from Providence and the surrounding towns. It consists at present of upwards of sixty members.
The course of instruction in both classes is, 'in its general spirit, the same; but in form it differs, to adapt it to the different degress of attainment of the two. All instructions are given by lectures and practical exercises. The aim of these lectures and exercises is to reach the elementary steps in every branch taught in our schools which can be most easily and readily comprehended by the child. It has also been our aim to determine not only what faculties of the child should be first addressed, but also the point of view from which instruction should be presented to them.
Every subject may be said to have an interior and an exterior point of view, from which it may be examined. There is a vital element and an outward manifestation, which is only an unfolding of the former. He only can be said to comprehend a subject who examines it from its spirit and intent. When approached from this interior point of view, a subject does not lose its identity though it assume a variety of forms; whereas, when viewed through some outward manifestation, it is usually seen only through a particular form and that but dimly. For example, the learner is told by the formalist in Arithmetic, that he must place units under units, tens under tens, hundreds under hundreds, &c. Why he should do so, he can. not tell. He is not made to feel the fitness of it, but obeys simply the letter of the rule. And in Addition, he must begin at the right hand, and add up the first column, writing underneath the entire sum, if it do not exceed nine, but writing only the right-hand figure and carrying the left to the next upper column, if the sum be greater than nine. To the learner thus taught, all these directions become in-wrought into the very idea of Addition, as though they were vital to it. He supposes this the only mode of adding: and that any deviation from it is a violation of essential principles. Now let the same learner become familiar with every feature of the Arabic system of Notation as an ingenious invention let him see how it can, with a few characters, represent all possible numbers-- let him see by contrasting it with other methods, as the Roman, for example, what upparalleled facilities it affords for carrying on arithmetical operations- let him understand the fundamental principle that wholes are added to wholes when we unite all their corresponding partsand he will at once see that it will inake, essentially, no difference whether we begin at the right hand, or the left, or in the middle, or whether we add up or down, if so be that all the corresponding parts are united, and each figure has the place which its value demands. If, at length, it should be found by repeated experiments that it is more convenient to begin at the right hand, that convenience will then be appreciated, but appreciated as a convenience, and not as something essential. Now when the learner looks at Addition from this point of view, he will see, whatever may be the mode of adding, that every method is pervaded by one and the same principle, viz: that wholes, however large, are added to wholes when we unite their corresponding parts, and that it is the crowning excellence of the Arabic method of Notation, that it represents all numbers in corresponding parts, as units, tens, &c., and that these parts, taken separately, are small numbers, and easily comprehended.
This interior view is capable of indefinite illustrations drawn from Arithmetic, Reading, Grammar, History, Geography, and in fact, all the branches taught in our schools. It has been the chief aim of our course in Didactics, to open and unfold the methods by which the various branches may be presented from this point of view, to children. In no department has it been found necessary to labor more assiduously tha
in that of Reading. The elements of Reading, if taught at all, are 100 apt to be exhibited in the form of rules which cannot be readily comprehended, much less exemplified by the pupil. They are usually either a dead letter, or are exemplified only by a servile imitation of the teacher's voice. Now he who looks at a subject from this interior point, needs no rule,--the thought and feeling of the writer is his rule; in other words, the rule is to give just such an expression of the spirit and life of the subject as one would naturally give to it himself, were he to embody it in his own words.
Two things are needed to secure good reading. Foremost and chief, is a delicate appreciation of the sentiment to be expressed ; and then such a training of the vocal organs as will secure a forcible, clear, distinct, and musical utterance of that sentiment.
He, therefore, who would teach Reading well, must dwell much upon the thought; he must cultivate the “mind's eye” of the child, that he may see what the writer saw, feel what the writer felt, and then express these thoughts and feelings without restraint. In so doing, the pupil, by his own voice, exemplifies the rules of good Reading, at first without knowing it; at length, his own utterance furnishes him with the rules for stress, force, inflection, quantity, rate, pitch, emphasis, cadence, modulation, &c. &c. But all this must be under the guidance of an experienced teacher, who can himself appreciate and exemplify all these qualities of good Reading, and draw the attention of the learner to what his own voice illustrates. Hence, the necessity of such Normal exercises as will prepare teachers to take up Reading from the right point of view. The first error in teaching children to read, lies at the very foundation. The first lesson is usually wrong. Instead of presenting a child at the outset with a letter, as a mere form for him to look at, and name, the teacher should give him an elementary sound and require him to utter it, then another, and so on. The letter should afterwards be given as a symbol of the sound, to be associated with it, at first as an aid to his memory, and finally, as a permanent representation. In this way, the letter means something; and in combining letters into syllables and words, their utility is readily appreciated.
The next error lies in an almost total neglect of the thought, in the mechanical process which the pupil must go through in spelling out the words of his reading lesson. Hence that stiff, broken, school-boy style of reading which is so disagreeable. It lacks soul—is wholly devoid of thought. To improve it, the unskilful teacher urges the child to " speak up loud," and "read faster," thus involving him in two other errors,-if possible, worse than the first,—and that, too, without correcting the first. The child's voice must, as soon as possible, be placed under the supremacy of thought; then will this mechanical utterance yield to a life-like and graceful expression of the sentiment of the writer. Our exercises in the classes have aimed to exemplify this mode of teaching Reading.
I have thus given you a few specimens of the methods which have been adopted in our course in Didactics. Suffice it to say, that similar methods are adopted in all the school branches. We have not been through with an entire course in any one; this would be impossible in the time allowed us. But we have given specimens of what may be called elementary teaching in the various departments of each. It has been our aim to show how this kind of teaching should be conducted, in a suitable number of examples, and leave to the members the work of applying it universally. We have aimed to make them independent teachers, not leaning servilely upon the text-book. Those who give a good elementary lesson without a text-book, will be most likely to use that instrument to the best advantage. Such is the course of instruction, so far as I can represent it in this short space. It should be added, that my connection with the Public Schools of Providence, enables me to give the members of the classes peculiar facilities for improvement.
What cannot be seen in exercises conducted before the Normal class, since the members are not children, but only supposed to be for the time, may be witnessed in reality in the different grades of our Public Schools. To these schools, all the members of the class have free access. Here they can witness a practical exemplification of the principles to which their attention has been called.
Upwards of eighty persons have availed themselves of the opportunity which these exercises afford, since the opening of the Depart