The intention of the following volume is to offer some suggestions towards a curriculum for boys and girls under twelve. A curriculum, however, is not an independent product, but is linked to much else by chains of cause and consequence; and the manner of curriculum I am anxious to indicate is the outcome of a scheme of educational thought, the adoption of which might, I believe, place educational work generally upon a sounder footing.
The fundamental principles of docility and authority have been considered in the first place because they are fundamental; but, for that very reason, they should be present but not in evidence: we do not expose the foundations of our house. Not only so, but these principles must be conditioned by respect for the personality of children; and, in order to give the children room for free development on the lines proper to them, it is well that parents and teachers should adopt an attitude of 'masterly inactivity.'
Having considered the relations of teachers and taught, I have touched upon those between education and current thought. Education should be in the flow, as it were, and not shut up in a watertight compartment. Perhaps, reverence for personality as such, a sense of the solidarity of the race, and a profound consciousness of evolutionary progress, are among the elements of current thought which should help us towards an educational ideal.
In considering the training of children under the convenient divisions of physical, mental, moral, and religious, I have not thought it necessary to enlarge upon matters of common knowledge and general acceptance, but have dwelt upon aspects of training under each heading which are likely to be overlooked. Under the phrase, 'Education is a life,' I have tried to show how necessary it is to sustain the intellectual life upon ideas, and, as a corollary, that a school-book should be a medium for ideas, and not merely a receptacle for facts. That normal children have a natural desire for, and a right of admission to, all fitting knowledge, appears to me to be suggested by the phrase, 'Education is the science of relations.'
These considerations clear the ground towards that of a curriculum.
The sort of curriculum I have in view should educate children upon Thlngs and Books. Current thought upon the subject of education by Things is so sound and practical, and so thoroughly carried into effect, that I have not thought it necessary to dwell much here upon this part of education. Our great failure seems to me to be caused by the fact that we do not form the habit of reading books that are worth while in children while they are at school and are under twelve years of age. The free use of books implies correct spelling and easy and vigorous composition without direct teaching of these subjects.
The Appendices show, I think, that such use of books in education works out well in practice, and is a great saving of time and labour to both teacher and pupils, especially relieving both of the deadly dull labour wasted on 'corrections.'
The much-diluted, or over-condensed, teaching of the oral lesson, or the lecture, gives place to the well thought out, consecutive treatment of the right book, a living book in which facts are presented as the outcome of ideas.
Children taught in this way are remarkable for their keenness after knowledge, and do well afterwards in any examination for which they may have to prepare; and, what is of much more consequence, are prepared to take their full share of all that life offers of intellectual and practical interests.
AMBLESIDE, November 1904.
Will the reader kindly substitute 'teachers' for 'parents' when the former title suits the case?