Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

66

question arose, how far it was practicable. On this point, the lecturer thought that the probable difficulty had been somewhat exaggerated, and that a change was more practicable than was generally supposed. He added, “ But it is scarcely necessary to dwell on the general principles and merits of the decimal system ; I may safely assume that if any change is to be introduced it will be in the direction of decimal. ising our present weights, measures, and coins ; and it is better, therefore, to con. sider at once some questions connected with the retention or abandonment of any of our present units. The first is our pound sterling, a coin known throughout the world, of undoubted advantage in large calculations. Its meaning comes directly home to our apprehensions. If to the questions, What is the rent of this house ? what is the value of that estate ? what is your annual income? we were answered in any other form than by so many pounds, we would not so easily grasp its import. "But beyond this close association of the pound with our idea of value, there is another absolute advantage. Nor is the pound so venerable for its antiquity that it would be a sacrilege to touch it in any manner. The pound is comparatively a new coin. The ancient pound was a pound of silver, and not even a coin, but 7,200 grains. By the introduction of the Norman troy pound, the quantity of silver contained in it · was reduced to 5,760 grains, and many other changes and alterations were made in the pound in the 14th, 15th, 16th, and 18th century, till at last we reached the present limit of value, as represented in a certain weight of gold of specific fineness. So it was with the penny. It was not till 1797 that the first copper penny of the realm, as a legal tender, was struck at Birmingham, which is the large rimmed penny now current, weighing exactly an ounce avoirdupois.

The unit of our measure has been characterised by the same uncertainty and variability. The statute 17th Edward II. provided that three barleycorns, round and dry,” should make an inch, and twelve inches a foot. But how much must the sharp end of a barleycorn be cut or worn away, before it becomes what is called round and dry ? In 1747, the Royal Society constructed the standard yard, upon the ells or yards of Henry VIII. and Elizabeth ; but this standard yard was destroyed with the burning of the Houses of Parliament, and commissioners were appointed for its restoration.

It is evident, therefore, that our coins, weights and measures are, one and all, the result of repeated changes-that they have been the creatures of expediency, rather than of scientific investigation—that although attempts have been made to preserve or recover old standards, and to cling to an old nomenclature, we have seldom succeeded—that the pound is no longer what it was, and that our weights and measures can scarcely claim a lineage remounting to the stalwart arm of the Saxon, or to the size of the agricultural produce of former ages.

“Changes have been made before this, and we may be prepared for more changes in this world of change and progress. And should we be frightened at such a prospect? What have other nations done when they introduced an entirely new system? What have the United States done when they abandoned their pound for the dollar? What has Ireland done when the Irish currency was abolished ? They faced the difficulties, and conquered them. I am not underrating the inconvenience of the change. The coins, weights, and measures of the realm are so identified with national ideas, and embodied in our vocabulary, that no change can be made in them without producing a sudden disturbance in the national mind. Should we introduce the decimal system, we should have much to learn, and much more to unlearn. For a time, at least, much confusion would be necessarily created. Yet it would only prove a temporary evil. With the means now in existence for diffusing information, any ignorance of the subject would soon be dispelled. Newspapers, magazines, and reviews would, by means of letters, articles, and dissertations, throw a flood of light on the question in all its bearings. The teachers in our public schools would enter in right earnest into the tuition of the decimal system. The merchant would

[ocr errors]

not be slow in reducing the prices to the new denominations. Hard necessity would soon teach the humblest individual new ideas of value, and of quantity. Six months would in fact elapse ere, with the disappearance of old models and old coins, we should not have a vestige left of the old system.”

From these considerations the lecturer deduced the inference that it would be idle to make trilling changes, or to attempt any compromise by modifying our present system piece-meal; that a perfect decimal system being the thing required, the change should be made in a thorough and comprehensive manner ; and that we must proceed systematically, and not capriciously, in a reform which shall embrace the entire basis of our weights, measures, and coins. This argument led to a description of the French Système Métrique, which was shown to rest on scientific principles, and to be complete and harmonious in all its parts, and which was illus. trated to the meeting by diagrams and models of the metre, and its derivative standards. With certain modifications, and with a slight alteration of its terminology, to suit English habits and tastes, it was argued that the system was admirably adapted to our use. It was shown that the need for some alteration was urgent, and that our present methods became more and more entangling and incon. venient, as the intercourse was extended between persons in different parts of our island, and as our commercial relations with other countries became enlarged. On this point the lecturer said:

“I am most anxious, however, that in effecting the change in our weights, measures, and coins, we shall give great prominence to the international aspect of the question. The time when we could maintain ourselves isolated and segregated from other European nations is, I trust, gone by. We cannot be surprised at the significant fact, that in days of war and of rivalry we should have refused the generous offer of the French philosophers to combine in the endeavours to ascertain a natural unit of length.

The interests of this country were then unfortunately hostile and antagonistic to those of France, and other continental nations; and as there was but little in common between them, no inducement was offered to establish a uniform system of measures, weights, and coins. Far different, and far more auspicious, are present circumstances ; everything appears to be verging towards the blending of all the European families.

“A close intimacy now exists between the inhabitants of all European states, an intimacy cemented by bonds of interest, bonds of family relationship, and bonds of common aspirations and common struggles. As far as we are concerned, our action is no longer circumscribed within the borders of our sea-girt isles. A bridge has been laid over and under the mighty deep, through which body and mind constantly cross and recross, and our thoughts, feelings, and manners are moulded and formed by the thoughts, feelings, and manners of other countries. A community of interests is now felt to exist. The same road to advance and happiness is open to all, and we do trust, that as nations proceed in an earnest consciousness of their noble destinies, they will find that it is not in the number and strength of their armies, or in the destructive power of their fleets, that real security rests, but in that feeling of mutual respect and good-will which should animate the members of a common family, and the objects of care of the same benignant and bountiful Providence."

At the conclusion of the lecture, Robert Forster, Esq., moved, and Dr. Hodgkin seconded, a vote of thanks to the lecturer for his kindness in bringing the subject before the meeting. A brief discussion ensued, in which different opinions were expressed respecting the probability of any immediate change, although it was agreed on all hands that the subject had special claims upon the attention of teachers ; and that under any circumstances it behoved them to watch the progress of public opinion upon it, and to qualify themselves to give an intelligent consideration to any plans which might hereafter be suggested for the solution of the difficulty.

ADDRESS TO STUDENTS. The session of the Normal College commenced on Tuesday, January the 24th. On this occasion all the students who had passed their examination for Queen's Scholarships, as well as those whose scholarships had been renewed for a second year's training, assembled at the Borough Road, and were classified by the officers of the Institution. In accordance with annual custom, the curriculum of studies was read over to the whole body of students by the Principal, who added some remarks on the general scope and intention of the course pursued in the Normal Establishment, from which we make the following extracts :

“On looking at what lies before you, I cannot doubt that the present moment is felt by many of you to be an anxious and critical one. You stand at the threshold of a new career ; you have just left home, probably for the first time, and you find yourself face to face with the serious business of life. The moment at which we go forth into the world is always one of great significance,-one in which we need not only all the strength which we possess in ourselves, but also a special supply of that Divine strength which is attainable to those who earnestly seek it. It is one, too, which you yourselves cannot fail to view with some emotion, and I should like to take advantage of the state of mind in which you probably are, to invite your serious attention to some considerations which seem to me to be specially appropriate in your present circumstances.

What is it that you expect this place to do for you? What is it that you hope to become while you are here ? And what is it that you mean to do? These are questions of great interest to you just now. How would you answer themI cannot tell, but I should like, at least, to suggest a partial answer, and leave you to supply the rest.

“The first thing your residence here ought to give you is systematic knowledge. You will observe, in the curriculum I have read, that hardly any of the subjects are new to you. They are, for the most part, the same subjects which have already occupied your attention, and in which you have successfully passed several examinations. You, possibly, might have expected to deal with higher subjects, and have supposed that a Training College would concern itself with something more flattering to your intellectual ambition. But you find yourselves confronted again with the old topics, --geography, grammar, arithmetic, Holy Scriptures, reading. Why is this? Simply because these are the things which you have hereafter to teach. The great object of your residence here is to make you good teachers in elementary schools, and you can only become so by thoroughly mastering the subjects you have to teach. To the knowledge of these subjects which you bring here we shall wish you to add more but it will be more of the same character ; all that we hope you will acquire is only a development of what you already know. We wish you to deepen it, to systematise it, to supplement it with added knowledge of a similar kind; but still, ever to remember that these are the subjects with which you will hereafter deal, and that your success and happiness as teachers will depend entirely on the skill with which you teach them. And the man who is to teach any given subject well down to a certain depth, must himself have gone far beyond that depth; therefore, no time will be wasted which helps to give you a more thorough and comprehensive grasp of the matters which form the principal business of a British School.

“ It is in doing this that we hope this Institution will render you another service of scarcely less importance. It ought to furnish a good basis for your future acquisitions. The part of an education which can be completed in a year is very small. In fact, nothing is completed. Education, if worthy of the name, is the occupation of a life. All we can hope to do is to put means and instruments into your hands, or to help you to manipulate those which you have already begun to wield, but which at present you are scarcely able to use. But your success as students depends on the employment of these instruments, and that is a matter mainly in your own hands. No more serious mistake can be made by any one of you than to suppose that even by the most diligent study of all which we hope to teach here, you could secure all the knowledge you want in your profession, and fully equip yourselves as teachers with your stock-in-trade. The worth of everything we know is to be estimated, not so much in itself as in its relation to other and future knowledge. If we have in our minds a fact which we value for its own sake, and with the possession of which we rest content, that fact is a somewhat barren thing. It may form a part of the possession housed in our memories, but it is not a part of us—it is not really appropriated or assimilated in our intellectual life. It connects itself with nothing else. It explains nothing which we have learnt before, and it excites no appetite for what is to come. But facts or truths to which others will hereafter attach themselves, or round which they will cluster, form a really vital part of our mental possessions. There is a germinating power in them. We find them growing within our minds ; we see new knowledge by the light which they shed. Thus, you will find that it is with your intellectual as with your physical life-it is not amanufacture, but a growth. Every real student looks on all his acquisitions on this principle. He says to himself, “This is a fact on which I am hereafter to build ; from the method in which I encountered this difficulty, I have got a hint as to the mode of encountering similar difficulties hereafter. These statements seem at present fragmentary or exceptional; some day I must harmonise them ;' or, “There is evidently a principle at work here wider in its application than the particular matter on which I am now engaged. I must look out for other illustrations hereafter. I am not here with a partially vacant storehouse, which these tutors and teachers are to fill; but I am here conscious of capacity, and power, and will, which were meant by my Heavenly Father to effect great results, and I want to know how to use them, so as to attain those results.' Consider all you learn under this aspect. Look on every new acquirement as the seed or precursor of future acquirements. It is little more than a knowledge of elementary truths you can possibly acquire in a short term of residence at a place like this; but these things are valuable only to those who mean to go on beyond those elements. A few main principles, and some of their simplest and most obvious applications, are all which it will be possible for you to obtain with us. But the true worth of these principles is only to be known by those who pursue their inquiries further hereafter, and who, during all the time in which they are learning rudiments, are fully aware that they are rudiments, and who do not mean to rest satisfied with slender or superficial acquirements.

“This, then, is what this place ought to do for you intellectually. It offers no substitute for any exertion of your own; all it undertakes or hopes to do, is to give a foundation on which the superstructure of a life's studies may be safely and methodically reared, and to offer you such hints and guidance as may help you to gain knowledge for yourselves.

“There is another thing which a residence at this place ought to give you, and that is-self-Inowledge. Perhaps, of all the lessons we have to acquire in life, this knowledge of ourselves is the hardest; and, unfortunately, the profession which you have chosen is that in which it is more difficult than in any other to acquire. Even during the last few years you have been necessarily in daily contact with a large number of children whose knowledge was inferior to your own, and who, perhaps, looked up to you with some little admiration and respect. And hereafter, as the masters and mistresses of schools, the danger of your position in this respect will be still greater. It will probably be nobody's business, and perhaps no one will take the trouble, to point out your deficiencies; you will spend the best part of every day among those who know very little, and who are striving, with more or less imperfect success, to reach your standard. You will unconsciously get a habit of comparing yourselves with them, and will thus be in great danger of over-estimating that knowledge which you possess. The habit of constantly dealing with our inferiors in knowledge is one which has its dangers. It is apt to make us vain, and it often causes us to attach an inordinate importance to that particular kind of acquisition in which our superiority is so constantly evident. Now, it is just at this stage of your career, if ever, that this great danger of our profession may be most easily corrected. It is just when you are brought in contact with your equals in age and advantages, that you are most likely to gauge your own powers rightly; and to compare what you have done in the world with what is really attainable and possible to you. Try to remember, then, that one of the things which, by God's blessing, you are to learn here, is a true and sound estimate of your own powers, and of your own doings. It is not always a pleasant lesson to learn, but it is one of the most salutary lessons of life, and it may be learnt, if you will try, during a residence in a Training College. Compare the work you do, not merely with our requirements,—that is a very low standard of duty,—but with what the best student in your class does, or, better still, with what you know you might have done, had you thrown all your energy and ability into the task. The regulations we make for studies in an Institution like this, even though they may seem severe, are, after all, only made for the average student, and an average standard can never be a high one. No man or woman with any ambition will be satisfied with it. Try then, with the Divine help, to set up in your own conscience a higher standard of duty than that which we prescribe. Measure all you do by that: think always, “How much better I might have done this if I had tried.' Cultivate in yourselves a spirit which will always be discontented with mean or poor achievements when greater ones are possible to you. If our class-work give you any insight into your own deficiencies, try to welcome that insight-to receive it as a valuable acquisition, and to turn it to account. Do not be afraid to confess ignorance to yourselves or to others. It is no discredit for students to be ignorant of many things. We are glad to find them asking many questions, and honestly revealing any difficulties or doubts which may seem to them to require solution. The discredit of ignorance only attaches to him who is either content with imperfect knowledge, or who, being ignorant of a subject, fancies that he under stands it.

“But one of the main things which it is hoped you will obtain here is a knowledge of the art of teaching, and an aptitude for that work. That is, in fact, the main purpose for which this Training College exists. You know that mere acquisition is of little value to you as teachers. Our business is not only to know truths and facts-history and science ; but to know how to convey these things into other minds than our own. Our business is not only to receive directions for our own moral guidance, but also to communicate such directions to others. You stand, therefore, in a very peculiar position as students; because you are not only students, and the success of those who teach you is not secured by the fact that you are good students merely; you are not only recipients,-you receive simply that you may give. So it will be necessary for you not only to listen to lectures on the theory of instruction, and to attend at practical lessons, in which the art of communication is illustrated or discussed ; but to watch carefully the operation of your own minds as you learn, and the methods of the various instructors as they teach. That is the only way in which men can ever become good teachers,—by noticing carefully what it is which impresses themselves ; by saying to themselves, when they feel interested in a lesson, "That is the style which I mean hereafter to adopt ;' or, that is evidently the best method in which to present or to illustrate that subject.' By studying the operation of your own minds in learning, and the methods of those who teach, you will obtain the best insight into the theory of your future duties.

“But a residence of one or two years in this place ought not only to give you certain instruction, but also to influence your characters. In life, our happiness, as

« AnteriorContinuar »