Education (p. 4 of 5)

Article by L. Ron Hubbard

The baby sees something and looks at it wonderingly. Then it asks Mama what it is. She says it is a stove and it burns little girls. Three days later the baby is burned.

The baby listens to Mama telling her to say, “Mama” and the baby merely coos. But Mama has some candy and says, “Mama” and the baby cries, “Mama” and thereafter thinks that Mama is a lovely word.

After the baby says, “Me ain’t got some, Daddy,” “Me too big enough, Daddy,” and “It was ’normous, Daddy,” the baby begins to know English.

Am I right?

And then Baby drifts along with “ain’t” and “me” for “I” and with mispronunciations rampant until he is almost ten years old, at which time school begins to correct him very gently.

The baby grows up to five and begins to read fairy stories and goes around in the woods looking for a dryad to pop forth from a tree with a bag of gold which will never, never empty no matter how one pours it.

These three cases should give some idea of a solution. In the first, it is impossible to tell anybody anything without enforcing it with fear or with example. The former case is the rule of the rod, but what a cruel, unnecessary thing! There is no reason to give pain to teach. There is no reason to say, “If you don’t learn this, you’ll never amount to anything.” That is fear. It is also wrong to say, “You will be smart if you learn this.”

Each one is fear of some sort and the last is a statement that the child is not smart.

If Mama had taken the little girl over to the stove very gently and had said, “See, there’s a fire in it! Look how hot it is! It will keep you warm.” The child thinks the fire pretty and admires it and, perhaps, starts to reach toward it. But it is hot close up. She withdraws with a foolish little grin and says, “Hot” and the trick is done.

In the teaching of language, the rule is invariably the same. One learns a conjugation and half a dozen words and then, suddenly, here is a volume printed in the language and off we go to the ponies and scribbled English over the words. What a waste of time for the professor and the student!

“Spanish motion pictures with the English caption on the foot of the screen and with plain dialogue will teach more Spanish in an hour than a text will in a year.” —L. Ron Hubbard

It is better to take another method entirely. First there are some very pretty romances about travel. South American countries, for instance, are among the most beautiful in the world. To the south of us we have a veritable paradise. And when we go there, we are fools as far as the language is concerned. Four years of Spanish in high school and college are not worth one month in Rio.

The bugbear of conjugation ought to be buried if we must learn languages. Correct conjugating is very pretty and accurate, but it is not worth a damn when one finds oneself on the beach trying to find the words to tell a storekeeper that he will sweep the place out for a meal. He usually thinks you are trying to buy a polo mallet.

I have tested it. A small American boy was once a friend of a Spanish boy and learned, in about a week, a hundred or more words in Spanish. Suddenly his mother took a notion the boy wanted to learn Spanish and sent him to a doctor who spoke Spanish well. Result? Complete wreckage of a future linguist simply because the doctor said, “Now this is amar. We say amo, amas, ama...”.

Deadly ammunition with which to kill ambition.

Learning a vocabulary of five hundred words is not hard as long as one has no stumbling blocks which will convince one that speaking a foreign tongue is difficult.

I would like to see the result if some school taught such a vocabulary to its students with the statement, “This is Spanish. Nobody else in school except you students will know what you are talking about if you talk in Spanish.”

Spanish motion pictures with the English caption on the foot of the screen and with plain dialogue will teach more Spanish in an hour than a text will in a year.

The class in history must not be made to parrot dates, for dates are nothing and easily forgotten. Rather, take periods in history and play upon the mind with a display of clothes, sports, children, kings, soldiers, politicians, sailors, boats, dogs, and, in short, the history of people, not events. Children are only interested in people, in children. That is all. A date is a date.

It takes brilliant imagination to be a teacher, it takes brilliant reasoning power to be happy in this world. If all children were taught to reason as they learned a few facts, they would have what nature intended them to have, a better castle for their defense.

As for other subjects, the less taught, the more can be correlated. For instance, in English, ask no child to say what Tennyson meant. No man in the world ever found out what Tennyson meant, much less Tennyson. But those stirring tales do what they were meant to do. The meter flows through one like musics and beautiful ladies and gay knights go dancing or charging through the lines. A brute like Lancelot is enough without wondering what Tennyson meant.

And there is English. And there is no surer way of driving children away from literature than revering that literature and making mumbo jumbo about how great it was. The worst of Dickens is in the Tale of Two Cities. Dickens really wrote some good stories such as Barnaby Rudge. That is enough to make anybody stand and cheer. But he turned it out like a true professional writer. He wrote to entertain when he wrote fiction and, by the wayside, he reformed the English school system.