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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 26


We shall now speak of the important practical matter we wished specially to bring before you now as to the method of teaching these subjects, Grammar, Analysis, and Composition.

First, then, we hold that they should be taught Simultaneously from the very first.

They are but different parts of the same subject, the knowledge and practical use of the English language. Grammar inquires into the nature and relations of words; Analysis and Synthesis into the manner of combining these into phrases and sentences; and Composition seeks to put both to practical use in expressing thought on any subject. They should therefore be taught so as mutually to assist and illustrate each other; and this can only be done efficiently by teaching them together.

Second, we hold that Composition is the most important subject, inasmuch as the chief end of our teaching in English is to impart the power of writing the English language with correctness, and if possible with effect and taste; and, there-fore, that this practical use of the language in the making of page 24 sentences should be that with which we should begin, continue, and conclude—the other subjects being helps and means towards this most desirable end.

These are the two positions in the teaching of these subjects to which we desire your special attention viz.,—that Grammar, Analysis, and Composition should be taught from the first simultaneously; and that Composition, being the most important, should receive most attention, and should regulate the teaching of the others, and be the instrument by which they are taught. In short, we advocate a combined course of Composition, Grammar, and Analysis, with Composition as the basis, medium, and end.

It follows, therefore, in our view, that if any one of these subjects requires from any cause to be omitted, any one of them may be omitted except Composition. Moreover, we hold that Composition should always, even in the humblest schools, be one of the branches taught, and should receive as regular and careful instruction as even the three R's.

These positions we consider of very great importance, and to them we ask your special attention, as we attempt to show how they are to be worked out.

Let it be distinctly understood throughout, that technicalities are only to be introduced gradually, according to the capacity of the child, and as they become necessary or useful for further progress. Technical terms are but means to an end. The important matter is the getting a thorough grasp of the principles, the ideas, of which technical words are merely the expression, which the skill and perception of the teacher will determine the fittest time to employ. Care must be taken that they are used as a help to the ideas. When they become a burden, they are given too early, and are worse than useless. Before the technical word is used, let the principle it expresses be fully understood, practised, and conquered, and then these forbidding terms become valuable, as gathering up gains already made, and as expressing much in little, as coins representing many smaller sums, handy tools for the performance, with certainty and celerity, of future work.