I do not propose in this place to enter upon controversy, but simply, so far as I
can, to describe facts. The Direct Method indeed, in principle, is no longer on its
defence. It is, and has been for a generation past, accepted by all competent teachers
who are free to speak, both in England and abroad, as the right way to teach modern
languages ; and that too, not only for the purpose of every-
Nor can it any longer be denied, that the method may be applied to the teaching of classics. It is clearly possible, because it has been done, and is being done. I is clear that it is done without prejudice to exact scholarship, since boys so trained more than hold their own in examinations which have been devised to test a different method altogether ; if the conditions were reversed, a still more striking tale might be told. And there are advantages, which the reader may divine from this book. I will only add finally, that the current method is not older than the nineteenth century. It is the offspring of German scholarship, which seeks to learn everything about something rather than the thing itself : the traditional English method, which lasted well beyond the eighteenth century, was to use the Latin language in speech.
The Direct Method is really one phase of a large principle, that of appealing to
the instincts, feelings, and desires of the learner, and using them for the purpose
of training : the principle which has given us so great an improvement within living
memory in the teaching of English, of literature, and history, and has consciously
used the body in training the mind. This is a movement which will yet rescue our
elementary schools from their ugliness and their pedantry, and will make them breeding-
How these principles are applied will be clear from the later parts of this book; but I wish to call attention here to a few matters of importance.
But that which most clearly shows the benefits of the Direct Method is the spirit which is induces in those who learn. The very beginnings, which are otherwise so apt to be dull and tiresome, are here full of pleasure and novelty ; and it is impossible to, overstate the importance of first impressions. Quintilian, who is full of wise advice on the teaching of language, saw this when he said (Inst. Or. I, i, 20),
"id in primis cavere oportebit, ne studia, qui amare nondum potest, oderit, et amaritudinem semel perceptam etiam ultra rudes annos reformidet. Lusus hic sit"
— and what better description could be given of the Direct Method? First impressions are lasting. And let no one suppose that the learner's happiness implies that his mind is not working. On the contrary : there is no more potent method than this for gaining and keeping the attention, which is only another way of saying that the mind is kept at work. This is what strikes a visitor first and most strongly, that each boy is obviously full of keen attention, ready and eager to take his part. "The labour we delight in physics pain": it does not cease to be labour, if it becomes a delight, but work willingly done is well done. No less work is done in a morris dance than on the treadmill, but it has a different effect on the human spirit. I suggest to those who urge the moral benefit which a boy is supposed to receive, by doing what he hates to do, whether they are not really covering up the secret, that they are unable to make his work interesting. I wonder whether they apply this gloomy doctrine to themselves.
Those who wish to test the accuracy of our description are free to do so. Those who
are satisfied with things as they are, naturally will not ; but if they do not, they
are not free to express any opinion. But how many are really satisfied, ex animi
sententia, that the best is being done, I do not say for the picked boys of the Sixth
who do well under any system, but for the moderates, the humdrum, the dull, who make
If any wish to see how the same principles have been evolved through experience by a very intelligent but quite untrained teacher, they find what they seek in Miss Sullivan's notes on her teaching of Helen Keller, a child deaf, dumb, and blind, whose miraculous story is most illuminating for the teacher of languages.