abstract education

Meet in the world issues of abstraction and generalization, two operations or two degrees of the same operation in education bind tightly. The role of abstraction and abstract ideas in academic education is one of the controversial points of theoretical pedagogy, one of the delicate problems of practical pedagogy, in the old school or, to put it better, in all the senior schools. With the abstraction that we invariably started, we conceived that we made the vehicle of teaching to all degrees. After the beginning of the nineteenth centenary, especially under the influence of Rousseau’s ideas, a strong reaction has been made against the abuse of abstraction, and people have gone so far as to claim to exclude it from elementary education.

Rousseau’s idea

We believe there is a misunderstanding here; let us try to dispel it by realizing the one and the other system. We will give the rules that seem to us to determine the legitimate use of abstraction in popular education, especially under Rousseau’s ideas. We made a strong reaction against the abuse of abstraction, and people have gone so far as to claim to exclude it from elementary education. We will teach your kids about school drawing From our website.

Abstraction in the old method (deductive method). 

The history of education proves that, everywhere and always, the first movement of man, when he undertakes to educate the child, is to begin his teaching with abstract ideas and even with the most abstract of all, general statements. That is the case even in the elementary branches of primary education. Suppose it is a question of teaching a child to read. So, nine out of ten teachers will see no other means than to begin by making his name and pronounce all the letters taken separately. 

Series of abstractions

We know what is an isolated letter, for a child, if not a sign without value, without reality, without known application, something abstract after all? If it is a question of grammar, we start with a definition in which almost all the words are unintelligible to a small child (he understands neither grammar, nor art, nor correctly, so many abstract terms). We enumerate the parts of the speech, new series of abstractions. We continue to proceed in the same way by definitions, rules, and exceptions for each.

With more reason in arithmetic, one follows this logical course, first defining the number, the unit, the various kinds of numbers, the numeration, etc., all things abstract, before approaching any concrete application.

Geography material objects

Geography begins with a series of vague notions that, although applying to material objects, unfold in the abstract form, in a series of definitions and generalities, all the more difficult to fit. The spirit of the child that it is here impossible to appeal to his experience: he does not have the help of the senses to ensure the roundness of the earth, to hear the definition of the axis, of the equator, revolution or rotation.

Primitive tendency

Thus, in these various branches, such as the primitive tendency of pedagogy; and it is that of all teachers at the start of their careers: to start from the general idea of ​​the science to be taught, to break it down logically into a certain number of abstract notions, to define each of these notions, to make the pupils learn these definitions, then deduce the rules or formulas from it, and continue this by constructing, purpose after description, chapter by chapter, the whole theoretical edifice of science, except to make them then apply it in the form of exercises, problems, of examples.

Advantages and disadvantages of this system. 

Why does this mode of exhibition always appeal to the minds of teachers as it repels that of students? It corresponds to the logical course and not to the natural system of intelligence, and the first is that of teachers, the second that of children. 

The adult mind, in full possession of its faculties of attention, comparison, and reasoning, takes pleasure in following the chain of ideas: it seems to it that the best way to learn, like the best way to teach, is, according to a famous formula, to go from the simple to the compound. But the simple is the abstract. In reality, in nature, there are no simple things. There is nothing that is not complex, nothing that does not have many aspects, various attributes.

Real or the concrete

The real or the concrete is never simple. The simpler an idea, the more general it is and therefore remote from what makes sense. The concept of being is more superficial than an animal. Latter is more straightforward than the idea of ​​a mammal and one even simpler than a dog or a cat. However, the child has a clear picture of a cat or dog much more quickly of mammal, animal, or being. It is because the senses are awakened and exercised in him long before the abstractive and generalizing faculties: he sees, he touches, he feels the objects such as nature presents them to him in all the confused richness of their united qualities, long before knowing how to abstract. He does not have the clear idea of ​​a substantive as a substantive, but of such and such an object whose sight and name are familiar to him. He does not imagine the number 3 or 4 in itself, but rather three apples or four nuts; not the ideal axis of the earth, but the knitting needle he saw threading through the middle of an orange to make it turn.

Discordance established

In short, the child starts from the concrete, and his teacher wants him to withdraw from the abstract because the abstract is more straightforward—that march from the simple to the compound. The general to the particular is as unnatural for the child as a rationale for the man.

What should we do in the presence of this discordance established by nature between the child’s intellectual instincts and the adult? 

Which of the two must comply with the procedures that suit the other? The answer is not in doubt. It is up to the professor to keep speed with the pupil. For the beginnings of education, this condescension is not only suitable but also necessary on pain of distorting everything, of compromising everything. To abstract prematurely is too notional passively, mechanically, without profit for the intelligence. It is this consideration that has nowadays made the triumph of the so-called intuitive method.