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The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
______________________________________
Some Methods of Teaching Geography.

by the Rev. F. R. Burrows, M.A.,
Ancaster House School, St. Leonard's-on-Sea.
Volume 7, 1896, pg. 414


(Continued from page 347).

Let us go a stage further on. I feel sure that the boy when he is passing through school is puzzled by the want of connection or cohesion between the things which he is set to learn. School is a time-table varied by impositions. He finds one man who considers Latin prose more essential than anything else, another who thinks that mathematics are everything, another whose passion for science absorbs him, and the boy's critical faculty is strained. When he observes that English or history or geography are relegated to odds and ends of time, and to anyone who can teach nothing else, he follows the lead and probably despises any one of those subjects or all.

With what astonishment would he gaze upon an invader into his class- room, who should say to him, "All knowledge is one, but the extreme specialism of the present day hides the fact from a certain class of minds." And with what eyes of wonder would he further gaze upon anyone who should say, "And the centre point from which to start is Geography."

Miss Busk says--"The magnitude of its educative value will be realized when teachers understand that it is a subject which develops the child's ability in many different directions, rather than along any one special line, and renders the mind more receptive of new ideas in very varied fields of knowledge."

To a child it seems the least of all things. Exactly as he will imitate the handwriting of his master so will he follow his manifest bent--and if he find that the manufacture of indifferent Latin verse is considered to be education so will he manufacture imitations of his master's imitations--a long, long way after Latin models. To what purpose is this waste, he never enquires; and if at some future time he grows to man's estate and looks back on his school days, he will be complacent, not regretful, and for that let him be thankful. For us a different method of education is necessary. We must consider what is the best for our young folk, what tends to culture.

Professor Laurie says--"After all what is culture? We readily grant that a man who can turn out neat verses in Latin and Greek is a man of culture, not because of the verses he produces, but because the skill he displays is evidence that he has gone through a long course of linguistic training. Such accomplishments are, as a matter of fact, seldom found in conjunction with culture in its truer and larger sense. If I find a man with command of his own powers, with an open intelligence, with interests outside his own personality and his own particular department, with a feeling for the historical past, with a love for art-forms and with high aims in life, I recognize in such a man the true ethical habit of mind, and him I would call a man of culture." It is not in dexterity of manipulation that culture is manifested. It is the ethical outcome that is culture. During the years of education we are to be thinking of culture. Let me quotes a letter just to hand from the Head Master of Westminster:--"You see that to me the only test of the importance of any subject as an instrument of education is not the actual knowledge which it conveys-- no boy knows anything--but the activity which it excites in a boy's mind." What then best excites the youthful mind? If I were asked I should say Mathematics, Latin, History and one or two Foreign Languages. These I should place in one department as essentials of the first kind. Personally I love Greek, but I fear it is not possible to have if for everyone. Then in my second department as essential of the second kind, I should group Literature and Geography. School subject may be divided into specifics and tonics. Miss Busk says, "Geography is par excellence this kind of tonic, as it touches on and lays the foundation of almost every Science, Mathematics as well as History and Languages." Let me quote here Professor Laurie:--"Geography does not mean the miserable scraps of the modern school. Properly taught, it embraces all that is essential for a cultivated man to know of the world of nature, it gives life to History, and lays the sure foundation of commercial, industrial and political knowledge. It is because of its intellectual and moral effects chiefly that it claims a foremost place in the education of youth. There is probably no one subject so prolific of matter for independent thought and judgment on the affairs of life, and the destiny and duty of man. By means of it we extend the sympathies of the pupil and lay the foundation of that sentiment of humanity which is the necessary counterpoise to narrow and parochial prejudices. It tends to comprehensiveness of mind, to the correction of hasty opinions, to the strengthening of patriotism, but at the same time to the moderation on insular insolence. It is a sworn foe to the prig. It widens intelligence and enriches the soul, furnishing nutrition to the ethical sentiments and a stimulus to the imagination."

Wider it could hardly be. Our friend, the Scottish Professor of Education, has no words strong enough to recommend it. He discusses "why" this subject should be taught, and also, in his masterly addresses on Educational Subjects, "what" should be taught. After enumerating the various divisions of Physical Geography, he proceeds to develop the study by what I may call a species of evolution, though it is not that of one type perfecting itself. "How can I speak in any sense of soil and climate, or elevations and depressions and movements of the earth, without reference to the plant life and animal life which they support? And how can I speak of animals and omit man? And how shall I speak of man without considering types of race--Mongolian, the Tartar, the Semitic, the Aryan? When I touch upon Aryan how can I resist the fine filed of observation supplied by the species Hellenic, Italic, Slavonic, Teutonic?" May I point out in this passage the evidence for the truth of my former statement that Geography is an element of cohesion? In the earlier study we must call upon Geology to assist us in the understanding of the lithosphere, then Botany in the study of the plants, Zoology in the study of the animals, Anthropology in the study of man, and from the races mentioned in this passages springs undoubtedly the first lesson in Grammar, or if you prefer it, in Language--Language that, studied by declensions and conjugations, is an ingenious puzzle beloved of the unthinking teacher, but, studied by the light of Geography, is sense. Let me take that one point of Grammar and illuminate it Geographically. We are supposed to teach English grammar in schools. What more interesting method can we adopt than a rough sketch map of the original starting point of Language, and then of its progress westward and eastward, then of the settlement of certain peoples in Europe, then of the children of Latin tongue grouped by the waters of the tideless sea, of the Northern Tribes, of the invasion by those tribes of our island and of France, of the Teuton element in our language, of the layer over that of Norman due to French influence, of the union of these elements, of the words that have drifted into our tongue from many lands, of the Arabic "admiral" and the Dutch "yacht;" and at the end of our lesson we shall go away conscious that "English as she is spoke" is what it is, not because of Grammar--only an after-thought and unhappy at that-- not because of History, nor of Philology, but because of poor despised Geography.

When we pass from the study of Language to that of peoples, let us suppose again, in another department, that we desire illumination. How do we account for the difference between peoples--why should China still be one empire, or Switzerland full on cantons? "Look at the vast alluvial plains watered by the Nile, the Euphrates, the Ganges, and the Yellow River. The soil is rich, the wants of the people few, the inducement to exertion small. There you have found, in all ages of the world a teeming population agricultural and stationary, attached to the soil, conservative in habits of thought, easily subjugated, and there have been appropriately placed the great despotic monarchies. On the other hand, look at small maritime states like ancient Phoenicia, Greece and Italy. Separated by ridges of hills, inhabited by little communities, isolated, yet compelled sometimes to fight for their liberty: hence jealous of each other and hence self-asserting, there history full of records of intestine divisions and of heroic struggles for liberty. Here you cannot fail to see a connection between the free vigorous life of early Rome and of the Etruscan and Greek Republics." (Sir J. Fitch, Lectures on Teaching.)

I believe that Geography has the clue to the labyrinth of History. "Nobody can read Livy's account of Hannibal's passage of the Alps, Macaulay's 'Siege of Londonderry,' Mr. Carlyle's account of Frederick the Great's campaign in Silesia, or Cromwell's 'Battle of Dunbar,' without seeing a new meaning in geographical study." (Fitch.) Dr. Henkel of Dresden says: "America.--All European culture proceeded from the Mediterranean; but when the Latin and Germanic races had once seized the Atlantic, after the long struggles of the mediæval period, History burst through the narrow soil in the transatlantic continents. On the banks of the gigantic rivers of Asia the human mind had been fettered under the spell of nature; in the transatlantic world the human mind emancipated itself from nature and stamped her with its own signature. And as in the ceaseless changes of the sea encompassing the continents the waters proceed from and return to it, thus all human culture turns to the ocean and returns from it to new social and political foundations."

I imagine few methods of teaching History are more profitable than those which made the study of Geography essential, and I will venture to say that no one can teach History without Geography. One of the things that strike me so much is the strange divorce between ancient history and modern. A man of sense will study both side by side, and the common ground will be Geography. That is to say, the form of the land and sea remains the same, and he can easily substitute ancient names for modern. He then realized that events happened. He can follow his conquering general from land to land, from town to town, and study the ancient History by modern Geography, as did the third Napoleon in his book on Cæsar. "Instead," says Sir Archibald Geikie, "of being a mere exercise of the memory, Geography steps at once into a foremost place amongst school subjects as instrument for training various mental qualities that are hardly reached at all by the other branches of an ordinary curriculum. It calls out into active exercise the observing faculty, which is otherwise left well- nigh dormant in the ordinary tasks of school. It furnishes just a conception of the fatherland in all its aspects, and passes thence to broad and intelligent views of the world at large."

The handmaiden to Grammar, to History, and to Science--whether Geological, Botanical or Astronomical--Geography is useful for the purpose of education, as a cultivator of thought and an intelligent guide in the mysteries of the past, present and future. How much can she claim to be heard as practical? as useful to the young man or woman in after life? I speak to those who live in the centre of a world-wide Empire, like the centre of a circle Great Britain is but a spot in the middle. How can we estimate our heritage properly without study of it in maps? India, Canada, Australia, are they names or are they realities? The intelligent student of our position as a first- rate power can but confess that without our Colonies we can hope for little recognition. Our weight in the councils of the nations can be lessened, and only in this manner lessened if we decline our responsibilities and leave our colonies to shift fir themselves. No one can say that he knows anything about his country unless he can prove himself familiar with her outlying dominions. The practical effect of the knowledge that comes from the study of Geography as far as it relates to our possessions beyond the shores of these little islands, is to make a man or woman a true citizen, with patriotism that is above party--and while such a citizen is aware of our greatness he is aware of our weakness. The long lines of communication that connect us with our outposts may be broken and must be kept up. The ever-increasing food supply must be from friendly, not merely neutral, and certainly not hostile ports. If we keep ourselves insulated we shall become isolated--and therefore it is of immense importance to the young to learn how we can improve our commercial relations with distant lands. For instance, a certain proportion of young men will go into trade, and it would be well if they realized how vital it is to commerce to be ready not only to open up new lands, but to be able to deal with those who are found to inhabit them. We should hear, if boys had been taught Geography properly, of men who could understand a country and its formation when they got there--to whom minerals would be familiar, and who would not disdain to meet the taste of natives by superior articles of trade--even endeavouring in design to please their customers. It is a mistake to imagine that all so-called savages are ignorant.

They have taste, and much native work is superior to the product of civilized countries. But let me suppose that it will not be the lot in life of our boys to be in trade with foreign countries, or to go out as colonists or explorers, and that they go into one of the two services--the army or the nave. I will undertake to say that the soldier is twice a soldier who can read a map and draw a map. He who read the history of the war of 1970, can see at a glance that on the French side there was ignorance of Geography, on the German knowledge, and I was much struck by a statement that I read lately, that a German officer when told of the movement of the French troops from Chalons, pointed to Sedan as the place where the final combat must and did take place. I need not say that for defence of our native land, not only soldiers should be well acquainted with merely the outline of our surface, but the character of the sea surrounding our coast. And as to the navy it passes my comprehension how anyone could say that the officers of that service should be ignorant, and as one gallant officer suggested, "Pick it up as they went along." You might as well learn the character of a coast by being wrecked on the rocks. Our navy is too valuable to be officered by gentlemen who do not know their way about. The practical results of proper teaching in such cases as those of men engaged in trade, commerce, or in either of the services, I need not say are immense. To what end, therefore, should we teach the lawyer, the clergyman, the artist, the architect? (I will not say the civil engineer for he lives on Geography). I will reserve for the moment the question of general culture. I should certainly think that a clergyman with a sense of Geography might help his congregations in his sermons. I have already alluded to the teaching of the first chapter of Genesis, that sublime epitome of Creation. I feel sure that a man who is teaching from the Bible which deals with Solomon and his great kingdom, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and their connection with greater kingdoms still, literally, ought to be fairly well up in Geography. How else can he trace the growth of the Infant Christian Church beginning at Jerusalem then spreading through the half-forgotten tribes of Asia Minor till, reaching the cultivation of Athens and Rome, it at last grew to the Mustard Tree which had been foretold by its Founder. I do not think he is fit to talk of missions until he knows where missions are--and if he has done his Geography aright, he will learn and teach his people the causes of the slow growth of Christianity in regions where it comes in contact with religions--bone of the bone and flesh of the flesh of the people. He will not expect in Pekin the converts of Uganda, or the success of Travancore in the capital of Persia. He who knows Geography knows missions.

I imagine the work of both artist and architect would be assisted by familiarity with the history of the nations as shewn by study of the world's Geography. The subjects of the pictures of man who knows somewhat of the waves of invasion that have passed, for instance, over India or Spain are endless, and even in landscape it is not only the colour that appeals to the eye, but accuracy in depicting the conformation of the ground. I believe that it is necessary to understand anatomy before one succeeds in painting the human figure, and I am certain that a knowledge of geology--as much as is needed for Geography--will make the painters' mountains, hills and valleys more accurate. As to lawyers, if one speaks only of the Bar, there is, I believe, no subject in which it is not well for the barrister to be proficient, and the numerous professional men, such as agents for land and surveyors, might be well trained in Geography when young. One of the best ways of beginning Geography is to train children to make maps of the place in which they live, which not only enables them to find their way about intelligently, but prepares them for more extended work if their profession of inclination require it hereafter. I need not say that in considering the future employments of children, I would not omit that of teacher. In that noble profession the need of trained teacher in every department if obvious, and our sincere hope is that we may have growing up amongst us a generation trained to teach Geography in its fullest and widest sense.

But, to leave the particular callings into which our children may come hereafter, we may very rightly consider what a flood of light can be shed upon our life and on theirs by an intelligent knowledge of Geography. Let us take a library and consider its contents, and the point will seem clearer. A large proportion of the books will be books of travel and adventure. With what additional interest can we read if we know where we are. The African, the Asiatic, the American traveler can be followed with real pleasure as he or she passes from one place to another, and we travel with them. We do not need to think only of their discomforts, of mosquitoes, or bad food, or hostile tribes, we can in imagination go with them. The explorer is learning how to describe, and his travels are, now-a-days, accompanied by one or more excellent maps. Given an intelligent interest in books of travel and you may promise people a course of reading quite as useful and instructive as they desire. I believe, also, that poetical works contain more geographical allusions than we are aware of. A long paper might be prepared on such allusions. I take from the shelves of my scanty library Tennyson's poems--

"Ev'n as the warm gulf stream of Florida
Floats far away into the northern seas
The lavish growths of southern Mexico."

"Larger constellations burning, mellow moons and happy skies,
Breadths of tropic shade and palms in cluster, knots of Paradise,
Never comes the trader, never floats an European flag,
Slides the bird o'er lustrous woodland, swings the trailer from the crag."--Locksley Hall

"Illyrian woodlands, echoing fall
Of water sheets of summer glass,
The long divine Peneian pass,
The vast Akrokeraunian wall!"--To E.L.

"But when we crost the Lombard plain,
Remember what a plague of rain:
Of rain at Reggio, rain at Parma,
At Lodi rain, Piacenza rain.--"The Daisy."

"Then twice a day the Severn fills,
The salt sea water passes by,
And hushes half the babbling Wye,
And makes a silence in the hills."--In Memoriam, XIX

Spenser's "Faëry Queene," fourth book and eleventh canto, is nothing but a description of the English rivers that came to the marriage of the Thames and Medway. I need only mention Byron, Scott and Milton as full of geographical reference.

With all these literary testimonies to Geography, with all the wealth of interest lying beneath our feet, are we not somewhat like men who live in a country full of mineral wealth, intent upon nothing more than making pretty gardens, or getting pasture for sheep? I thought when I began this paper that there was a concert of opposition to the subject form head masters of public schools and head masters of preparatory schools, but I find, from examining the Report of the Head Masters' Conference in December, that they would rather welcome boys instructed in the subject. I find that at great public schools there are enthusiastic teachers of the subject. I find the following in the second number of Preparatory Schools' Review, in reply to a suggestion made by the Head of Haileybury that Geography and History should be omitted in preparatory schools--"Geography! teachers, educators, searchers after truth, is not here in reality your subject--all embracing, including all others. From it, in reality, all subjects spring forth, like man himself, and return again thereto. We have in it that single science proposed by the Frenchman, Le Pluy, and now being so industriously developed by Professor Geddes and his workers in Edinburgh,--Social Science--a rehabilitated and extended Geography, all absorbing, all embracing, out of which every other science naturally springs. Out of it there come, one after another, Geometry and the measurement of fields and possessions, Trigonometry and map-drawing, Astronomy and shipping, Mathematics and mechanics, engine and bridge building, ancient history and classic languages, agriculture and colonization, work and recreation, poetry, painting and music." To quote another teacher--a lady this time--"Until specialists in History, Languages, and most of the Sciences, are willing not only not to look down on Geography as beneath their notice (such an attitude being a remnant of the former exclusively classical education), but to use it to illustrate their lessons, they will continue to take the life out of them." (Miss Busk.)

I think I may fairly say that many intelligent teachers are in favour of making Geography a really prominent subject.

We need in our schools a connective element for the work. The modern teacher is not content to teach Latin one hour and French another. He or she shews how the very forms of the words are common to the languages, and one lesson helps the other. The modern teacher looks for education and finds it not in Grammars nor in Lexicons--valuable though they be--but in the cultivation of the powers of the pupil, granting leave to the flowers to teach, bringing hand and eye to help brain, making sweet sound convey sound sense. For the little ones there must be work, but work which they can do; for the elder ones graduated work all leading on to a point at which the children can leave school, furnished with the power to earn their bread and to understand how things are in the world and how they have been, so as to guide them in the days that come so quick and bring them level with their elders so soon. School and university alike are precious. Too soon the time goes by and the student settles down into the place into which it pleases God to call him. For many there are few opportunities of study in later life; but what is of vast importance is, that if you are inclined to pursue a subject so will your interest grow, and to what nobler study can you be inclined in childhood, youth and age, than that which deals with the home God has given to man on earth. It is not only the length and breadth of the home that you need to know. You will love to consider the lilies God has planted in its garden, to walk by the still waters that run between their soft banks, to admire the many, many creatures He has settled in its park. You will not forget if you love your home the things that happened there when you were young, and you will find that the earth too once was young, and its records are graven on tables of stone. You will look up and see the brethren of your mother earth in sky, you will look round and think of beauty on the summer sea and grandeur in the winter gale, you will look below and read the story of the ages in the rocks and sand. For my own part I am not ashamed to say that I look upon true Geography as if she were a fairy queen standing at the gates of a land full of beauty. She has none of the austerity of her sisters who preside over other Sciences, but she has friendly relations with them all. She seems to beckon us within with a gracious smile, as though in her province were things undreamt of in our philosophy--as with a face of eternal calm she muses over the past which enables her to understand the present and almost to forecast the future. I could not turn away from her if I would, because on her face I read that expression of truth which can ennoble even human beings and once shone in perfection by the waters of the lake of Galilee. I cannot bring myself to acquiesce in the neglect which she has so patiently borne for so long, nor dare I to offer the children stones for their hunger when there is enough of bread and to spare from her store. That store she has as treasure in her keeping from an everlasting source, and He who considered the world when it was made as good, still looks upon it with the affection of a father for a child. To understand the objects which He has had in view from the beginning is beyond the vision power of humanity, but to learn from Geography all that she can teach us is of the place which He prepared for man as a dwelling-place is not only possible but a duty.