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  The Seven Laws of Teaching John Milton Gregory  


[The Seven Laws of Teaching] Introduction

Let us, like the Master, carefully observe a little child, that we may learn from him what education is; for education, in its broadest meaning, embraces all the steps and processes by which an infant is gradually transformed into a full-grown and intelligent man.

Let us take account of the infant. He has a complete human body, with eyes, hands, and feet -- and all the organs of sense, of action, and of locomotion -- and yet he lies helpless in his cradle. He laughs, cries, feels; he has the attributes of the adult, but not the powers.

In what does this infant differ from a man? Simply in being a child. His body and limbs are small, weak, and without voluntary use. His feet cannot walk; his hands have no skill; his lips cannot speak. His eyes see without perceiving, and his ears hear without understanding. The universe into which he has come lies around him unknown and mysterious.

More observation and study make it clear to us that the child is but a germ -- he has not his destined growth -- and he is ignorant -- without acquired ideas.

On these two facts rest the two notions of education: (1) the development of capacities, and (2) the acquisition of experience. The first is the maturing of body and mind to full growth and strength; the second is the process of furnishing the child with the heritage of the race.

Each of these facts -- the child's immaturity and his ignorance -- might serve as a basis for a science of education. The first would emphasize the capacities of the human being, their order of development and their laws of growth and action. The second would involve a study of the various branches of human knowledge, and how they are discovered, developed, and perfected. Each of these sciences would necessarily involve the other, as a study of powers involves a knowledge of their products, and a study of effects includes a survey of causes.

Based upon these two forms of educational science, we find the art of education to be a twofold one: the art of TRAINING and the art of TEACHING.

Since the child is immature in the use of all his capacities, it is the first business of education to give such training as will bring them to full development. This training may be physical, mental, or moral.

Since the child is ignorant, it is the business of education to communicate to it the experience of the race. This is properly the work of teaching. Considered in this light, the school is but one of the agencies of education, since we continue throughout our lives to acquire experience. The first object of teaching, then, is to stimulate in the pupil the love of learning, and to form in him habits and ideals of independent study.

These two, the cultivation of capacities and the transmission of experience, together make up the teacher's work. All organizing and governing are subsidiary of this twofold aim. The result to be sought is a full-grown physical, intellectual, and moral manhood, with such resources as are necessary to make life useful and happy and as will enable the individual to go on learning from all the activities of life.

These two great branches of the educational art -- training and teaching -- though separable in thought, are not separable in practice. We can only train by teaching, and we teach best when we train best. The proper training of the intellectual capacities is found in the acquisition, elaboration, and application of the knowledge and skills which represent the heritage of the race.

There is, however, a practical advantage in keeping these two processes of education before the mind. The teacher with these clearly in view will observe more easily and estimate more intelligently the real progress of his pupils. He will not be content with a dry daily drill which keeps his pupils at work as in a treadmill, nor will he be satisfied with cramming their minds with useless facts and names. He will carefully note both sides of his pupils' education, and will direct his labors and adapt his lessons wisely and skillfully to secure both of the ends in view.

This statement of the two sides of the science and art of education brings us to the point of view from which may be clearly seen the real aim of this little volume. That aim is stated in its title -- THE SEVEN LAWS OF TEACHING. Its object is to set forth, in a certain systematic order, the principles of the art of teaching. It deals with mental capacities only as they need to be considered in a clear discussion of the work of acquiring experience in the process of education.

As the most obvious work of the schoolroom is that of studying the various branches of knowledge, so the work of teaching -- the work of assigning, explaining, and hearing lessons -- is that which chiefly occupies the time and attention of the instructor. To explain the laws of teaching will, therefore, seem the most direct and practical way to instruct teachers in their art. It presents at once the clearest and most practical view of their duties, and of the methods by which they may win success in their work. Having learned the laws of teaching, the teacher will easily master the philosophy of training.

This little book does not claim to set forth the whole science of education, nor even the whole art of teaching. But if it has succeeded in grouping around the seven factors, which are present in every instance of true teaching, the leading principles and rules of the teaching art, so that they can be seen in their natural order and relations, and can be methodically learned and used, it has fulfilled the desire of the author.

121 pages. Paperback. Baker Books.

New paperback edition published in 2004. Second printing, December 2006.

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