Gregory on the "Forcing Process"

This is a continuation of the idea posted here.

That teacher is a sympathizing guide whose knowledge of the subjects to be studied enables him properly to direct the efforts of the pupil, to save him from a waste of time and strength, from needless difficulties. But no aid of school or teacher can chance the operations of the mind, or take from the pupil his need of knowing for himself. The eye must do its own seeing, the ear its own hearing, and the mind its own thinking However, much may be done to furnish objects of sights, sounds for the ear, and stimuli for the intelligence. The innate capacities of the child produce the growth of body or mind. “If childhood is educated according to the measure of its powers,” said Saint Augustine, “they will continually grow and increase; while if forced beyond their strength, they decrease instead of increasing.” The sooner the teacher abandons the notion that he can make his pupils intelligent by hard work upon their passive receptivity, the sooner he will become a good teacher and obtain the art, as Socrates said, of assisting the mind to shape and put forth its own conceptions. It was to his skill in this that the great Athenian owed his power and greatness among his contemporaries, and it was this that gave him his place as one of the foremost of the great teachers of mankind. It is the “forcing process” in teaching which separates parrotlike and perfunctory learning from knowing. A boy, having expressed surprise at the shape of the earth when he was shown a globe, was asked: “Did you not learn that in school?” He replied: “Yes, I learned it, but I never knew it.”

The great aims of education are to acquire knowledge and ideals, and to develop abilities and skills. Our law derives its significance from both of these aims. The pupil must know for himself, or his knowledge will be knowledge in name only. The very effort required in the act of thus learning and knowing may do much to increase the capacity to learn. The pupil who is taught without doing and studying for himself will be like one who is fed without being given any exercise: he will lose both his appetite and his strength.

Confidence in our own powers is an essential condition of their successful use. This confidence can be gained only by self-prompted, voluntary, and independent use of these capacities. We learn to walk, not by seeing others walk, but by walking. The same is true of mental abilities.

Gregory, John Milton. The Seven Laws of Teaching. PP. 83-84

David Knopp

David Knopp