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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

A Strong Indictment

A Strong Indictment.

The first meeting of the 1906 session of the Froebel Club was held in the Y.W.C.A. Rooms on May 10. Dr Truby King delivered a lengthy and striking lecture on 'The General Principles of the Froebel-Pestalozzi School.'

Mr Mark Cohen presided over a large and intensely-interasted audience, and in introducing the speaker said that he was one of the best educators of public opinion in Dunedin. He took time to think his subject out thoroughly, and arrived at conclusions as the result of deep and earnest study. Moreover, he had the courage of his opinions, and was not afraid to express them. The club were doing good work in bringing the true principles of Froebelism before the public.

Dr. King said that there was one title which above others, a medical man possessed to speak on the subject of education. He had to deal specially with the body, its health and well-being, and in the present day it might be fairly said that education was often enlisted on the side of reducing the body to a state of very indifferent health. It was reasonable, therefore, that a medical man should say what he had to say the subject. The principles which were laid down by Froebel and his school were consistently ignored in the general scheme of education. Those concerned next in practical education had not, for the most part, given much study to the fundamental aspects of the subject. He would quote the present head-master of Eton, one of the great authorities. Speaking to a club of thirteen schoolmasters, of which he was one, the Hon. Edward Lyttelton said that the indifference of English schoolmasters to the fundamental principles as bearing on the practice of their profession was profound. He added that a superficial acquaintance with the theoretical writers on education, of whom the most prominent were Herbert Spencer, Pestalozzi, and Froebel, would show that, though they differed in detail, there was one group of principles which they agreed in maintaining. The principles were those connected, not with the teaching of any one subject, but with the fundamental difference between genuine education and cram, between the training of the mind and the imparting of the knack of deceiving examiners. Some years ago he (the speaker) had given his opinion on the question of rural education in country schools. He had said that he thought that to have agriculture taught in the primary schools would be a mistake, because the children had not had the fundamental training of the observation which would be necessary to make them apprehend the facts of a special study like that. He said then that it was the duty of schools to teach all children the laws by which God governed the universe. He said, too, that the teachers could not know how to teach scientific subjects, because they had not been trained. He then suggested that the teachers should be taught the methods of scientific instruction. He was told then that he knew nothing page 2 about what was going on in the schools, and how much scientific training was being given. But since that date a commission had been set up, and the very inspectors acknowledged that the majority of the teachers knew nothing what-ever about scientific instruction. The speaker quoted voluminously from Canon Lyttelton and Herbert Spencer. Because a child could describe something that somebody had told him he did not necessarily know anything about it. Knowledge had to be assimilated till it became part of self. By our present-day methods the memory was being crammed at the expense of mind, morals, and physique. There was no greater fallacy than to imagine that one could develop even the faculty of memory in the long run by inducing the pupil to temporarily register for examination purposes a diverse set of detached facts. True, useful memory had to be woven into the being in a slower way through interesting and rational association of ideas on the principles laid down by Froebel and other investigators and thinkers. Not only was the crowding of the memory by detached statements or facts useless, but, as pointed out by Professor Bain, it was one of the costliest processes in wear and tear of brain substance to which the growing organism of the child could be subjected. Moreover, it produced secondary stunting of growth and development in every direction.