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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 26

II.—How to use Defective Text-Books

II.—How to use Defective Text-Books.

With text-books so defective, it becomes a pressing question, What are teachers to do, and how is grammar to be taught? The only right thing to do is, that each man for himself choose the best grammar he can find, and make it his text-book. But in addition to any text-book, he should page 13 possess himself of several of the best grammars, and investigate the subject for himself, making choice of the best points in each under any head, and forming an eclectic grammar for himself. But whatever definitions he adopts, let him see to it that they are correct, as far as he can judge, and that his classifications are simple, complete, and logical. Let him at once discard everything useless, imperfect, or wrong. During the last few years, grammars more or less correct, and great improvements on the grammars of our own youth, have appeared at reasonable prices.

But there is abundant and often insurmountable difficulty in introducing new books! Do not let this deter any one. Grammar is best taught orally; and where it is best taught, and best understood by the children, I generally find it taught orally. In a school where I knew it better taught than anywhere else, it was done without any text-book.

Then, where a defective text-book is used, do not slavishly follow its dictation, but make it a basis for criticism and the better understanding of the language, and for finding better definitions and classifications. In several ways, a defective grammar is an advantage; and, all things considered, it may be preferred by some. I know a teacher who took a grammar lately issued under a well-known name, but containing very little of late and more accurate conclusions, and made it a subject of textual grammatical criticism with his highest class. Choose a good text-book, or use the defective one you have. But see that a natural order of procedure is followed. Do not begin as the old books begin, with general conceptions of grammar and its relation to other sciences, ushering in the ponderous subject under great Latin words, "Orthography" heading the list, thus placing lions in the way to the House Beautiful. Begin at once with the noun and the verb, and let the other parts of speech follow naturally as related to these.