Our school has only been open for four months and that means that we have a bursting cornucopia of daily details to attend to. At the same time, our board agreed that constant reading would be beneficial to push our expectations and to hedge mission drift. We decided to start with a book we’d already read.
The Seven Laws of Teaching by John Milton Gregory is a worthy reread, some would argue on an annual cycle. I wouldn’t disagree. It has application for everyone who ever tries to tell anything to anyone else, including parents and pastors and bloggers and, obviously, teachers. Gregory initially aimed his material at Sunday School teachers and our current children’s programs would look much different if the teachers applied this approach.
It is crucial to get the original edition printed by Veritas Press. I started with a Kindle version that was so gutted of Christian worldview that I’d almost consider it another book. As the preface explains, the book was originally published in 1884 and then later “revised” by two liberal professors at the university where Gregory served. The revision should be trashed.
Gregory summarizes the two components of education in the Introduction: the development of powers and the acquisition of knowledge. In other words, each student must be trained in certain skills and also be taught certain content.
Teaching a Kindergarten through 5th Grade Bible class has helped me to (try to better) distinguish the different expectations and needs. The younger students, say K-2, need more training to develop skills for learning, especially skills such as reading and writing. The older students are ready to receive a different level of information because they have the skills, or at least they should if we’re training them well during the pre-polly stage. Older students can develop more advanced skills such as reasoning (logic/dialectic) and presentation (rhetoric), both of which follow the grammar stage in the classical model. But upper level grammar students should get enough information that it excites them to learn more.
But as it is not expected that the child shall acquire at school all knowledge he will need, nor that he will cease to learn when school instruction ceases, the first object of teaching is to communicate such knowledge as may be useful in gaining other knowledge, to stimulate in the pupil the love of learning, and to form in him the habits of independent study. (15)
Again, with the younger students, the focus is on increasing their ability to receive information. With the older students, we’re challenging them to taste as much as possible in order to increase their hunger. It’s an interesting challenge to attempt both goals in the same class.
For Gregory, training skills and teaching content for sake of stimulating love of learning sets the stage for “the seven factors which are present in every act of true teaching” (17). These are his “laws” and I’m thinking about writing about them as I read them again for the first time.