The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 30
I consider that the powers of memory should not be over-taxed by the necessity of keeping up the dates, names, and special facts of "history"; as also minute details of places, relative positions, and other particulars required by a constant repetition of "geography" in order to pass at the examination. I consider this a serious mistake, and from my experience of about thirty years, I venture to say, such crucial taxation of memory is bordering on a system of "torture." In business life no professional man or clerk in an office would be expected to retain in his memory at the end of the year the details of every case and business transaction so as to pass an examination. It is sufficient if the requisite skill is found for dealing with the cases as they arise. To this end I think all training should lead up. The memory is dissipated by the storing up of special details which can be ascertained from books of reference.
"Geography" being taken out of "pass-subjects"; and "history "in the "class-subjects" not so rigidly taught as heretofore, more time would be left for the explanation and practice of "arithmetic,"—a subject which requires considerable time in order to give facility and accuracy in working out the questions. There would be also more time for "reading" with explanation. I am of opinion that more books should be read during the year than the teacher can find time for under the existing syllabus. Lessons on "moral subjects," especially "obedience, truth, and honesty" would be beneficial in breaking down the tendency to educate the "mere intellectual side," which, pure and simple, I agree with a learned Doctor of Divinity, is "the soul of diabolism." The education of the heart would thus be provided for. And if we are to aim at educating the young to become good and useful citizens, the influence of the teacher must supplement that of the parent and pastor by presenting the straight paths of moral rectitude.
A few subjects only as "pass-subjects," and those subjects progressive in view of the principle "festina lente," (for the old proverb is true, "cito maturum cito putridum,"—soon ripe, soon rotten) should be the rule on which a syllabus ought to be constructed.