CM 4 Episode #15 Timelines and Century Charts
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The Teaching of Chronology, by Dorothea Beale, principal of the Cheltenham Ladies College.
So, teach me to number my days that I apply my heart unto wisdom. How far this little candle sheds its beams. It is a much-disputed matter how we shall begin to teach history. I think the practical teacher will say there is nothing like the stories of the antiquity of the world childhood for the early education of the childhood of today. The delightful tales, the Odyssey as related by Hawthorne, in his Tanglewood Tales or the stories of Arthur and Charlamagne related with all the little touches which the true artist, one who loves the little ones, knows how to introduce, will form the best groundwork for history to the child. These awaken the imagination and save him from ever becoming a Casaubon, as dry as dust.
But on the other hand, there is much to be said for the view recently enunciated by Emperor William, that children should begin with their own times and read history backward. We want to give reality to history by showing that it is not something remote to be found in books only. We want to show that the life of each child forms part of history, then he may lead him on to see that the whole world is different for each man that has lived better for each noble life, and to feel quite early that God has sent him into the world with some work ready for him, and that his business is to do that work. Not that I would put this into so many words, but endeavor by bringing the child's life into immediate relations with the history of his own time to help him to realize this as the reflective powers develop. We must ever be careful not to simulate prematurely the moral and religious feelings. He shall grow up as a tender plant. This is the ideal for the perfect child and Froebel's teaching was a sermon on that text. But the true educator will, in planting the first seeds of thought on any subject, bear in mind the later developments without actually presenting these to the mind of the child.
The object of an educational unit to which both parents and teachers belong, is, as I understand it, to help us to see better how school and home can work in union and supplement one another. I propose, therefore, to explain a system long used in our college, but which is even more suitable for home teaching than for the school. At least in its initial stages. The Methode Mnemonique Polonaise is much valued in France. It was introduced to my notice more than thirty years ago and used by first at Queen's College London. It can be adapted to various purposes, but I shall dwell now on its applications as a record of time to show the different ways in which it can be used by little children, though it is equally well adapted for Tom Brown at Oxford, who seems to have used it and for the mature student of history. It may be made for little ones into a system of object lessons, of hieroglyphics, if you will, would appeal to the childish imagination and help him to realize something of the proportion of things and was looking at the world, as each of us must from his own pinpoint yet see life in relation to the lives of others.
The practice of representing to the eye by means of diagrams the facts of science, physical and social, is becoming more common. We have jagged lines indicating fluctuations in the winds or in the stocks, and in the American record which has been sent to me, there are colored squares representing the thousands of children who are regular in their attendance at school. Black squares standing through defaulting thousands. By such means, we can see at a glance what the mind finds it difficult otherwise to realize. Now the system to which I refer is of a similar kind but adapted to the time. Since a hundred years is about the limit of a man's life, and we generally speak of centuries in history, we take for biography or for history a square divided into a hundred squares. Thus, and it is read as a page of ten lines. Diagram one.
Now, this may represent the life of a man or that of a century. To a little child, it should stand at first for the former, as we must proceed from the known to the unknown for his own life. The first square stands for the time before he is a year old. The year not of his life. The second square, for the time when he's one year old and so we mark the squares accordingly. The first line gives the first decade of life and the second line we have all the tenants and the third all the twenties, and so on. Whilst looking vertically downwards we have the first row, all the numbers ending with zero, in the second, those ending with one, and so on. A child very quickly learns to read on a black chart the number corresponding to any square in the century of squares. A line somewhat thicker is given down the center to help the eye and it is easy to remember that the fifty comes just beyond the central horizontal line and five beyond the central vertical line.
Now, as soon as the child is able to understand it, I would rule such a square and put it into a little glazed frame with a removable back, say a transparent slate. It would be well to have the frame oblong so that there may be room along the left side to make a few entries of anniversary days. Then I would put the events of the child's life. Let me give specimens. Mary is fourteen. On the top of the frame stands Mary Jones, December 20th, 1876. In the first square of Mary's chart is a little yellow star. A new life has come to light and a faint yellow paint covers the first fourteen squares, yet not the fifteenth, which the one passing away. In the fourth square is yet another star. Harold makes his appearance, and his birthday is in the margin. In the next square, there's a little black circle like a starved sun eclipsed. That his grandpa's death. The next school year, life begins for Mary in kindergarten. Shall we have a little plant just peeping above the ground? A ship will tell of the year that Papa and Memaw sailed for India and left the children. Another in the opposite direction will tell their return some years later. In the next line, Mary enters on her eleventh year. She is ten years old and has done with the units. She is to go to school now, but before she goes on the first morning, her chart is taken from its frame, perhaps a simple doorway drew, or something more picturesque, and the day entered in the margin and a few words of prayer offered that she may there learn things which make her truly wise. And each year, as the birthday comes around, the blanks are diminished. New events are added. Over one more square, the yellow light extends.
I am sure parents will devise some very beautiful horoscopes which may take the place of those wonderful, framed samplers of old times, which it will be a joy for their children to look at in later life. As they remember the birthday edition each year, the sorrows and the joys, they are noted down, the prayers of the family for each newcomer, and the marriage days.
When the child has learned the use of such a chart, he may be led on to fit these private records into the world's history. Now we can begin to speak of centuries. It will be easy for children to think of the century as a man who died a hundred years old, who dies as the last minute of the year 99 expires. Then the Queen's life could be put into the century and its relation shown to the child's own life. All would remember the Jubilee. It was when Mary was ten years old. She saw the illuminations. She can count back on the chart fifty years to 37 and there she puts a Crown. Then the story might be. Diagram two.
Told of the Queen's early life and all those familiar incidents which give to historical people personal life. The principal ones are marked in the proper squares. For instance, the Queen's marriage, the birth, and marriage of Empress Victoria, the birth and marriage of Princess Wales, and the death of Prince Albert.
Later, what is called historical events as opposed to biographical are prominent. The Russian ruler, the Indian Mutiny, the first Grey exhibition, and striking contemporary events. The history of the Queen's life involves that of her predecessor, her sailor Uncle William, and so on, back to the beginning to George, her grandfather, the Battle of Waterloo begins in Napoleon, the Revolution, etc.
I venture to think that a child who begins history thus, not of their creation, nor even of the Christian era, but at his own nativity, will get to understand it better than if you tried to survey the world from any other pinpoint in time. But when one century has been thus treated, I would place before the child and map in which the eighteen Christian centuries are brought together thus, on a small scale with some character to give it individuality. Diagram three.
Later we should make a chart on a larger scale and with room for ruling and marking important events. We use charts colored for various periods of English history. The Roman occupation, the various Royal houses, etc. The four periods of five centuries each formed good divisions for modern history. In the first line we have roughly from Augustus to the fall of Rome, and in England, the period of Roman occupation. In the second line, we have the period of barbarian settlements.
Tribes are changing into nations. In the third line, we have, speaking roughly, the medieval period. In fourth, modern history.
In the first instance, the greatest prominence should be given to English history events in contemporaneous history given very gradually introduced. One great good at this plan of laying out a map of history from the parent's point of view is that the well-read and cultured mother can do exactly what the school wants to be done without having that systematic knowledge of history which only the schoolteacher can be expected to possess. Thus, the mother or sister with the chart before her may choose the period or episode most familiar to her. The framework will prevent the events, which are getting out of their historical order, from being shaken together into chaos. It requires considerable thinking, power to understand time relations in history. Lord Wolseley, said a girl to whom his lordship was kindly showing things he had brought from Egypt. Lord Wolseley, did you know that Pharaoh? Please ma'am, said the younger servant to her mistress, did you know Queen Elizabeth? If from the first things are fitted into their places, there will be a preparation for the systematic teaching of later school and college life.
Suppose the mother had been reading Stanley's Eastern Church. She might give the dramatic description of the Council of Nicaea, or scenes from the catastrophe in the fifth century, which is especially well described in Shepherd's Fall of Rome. And made vivid in the narrative of Kingley's Hypathia. In connection with the second line would come there Arthurian, Carlovingian, and Alfred legends, the life of Muhammad. The formation of future European states ready to become Christiandom, and able to unite in common welfare against the common foe. Sir James Steven's essay on Hildebrand will give life to the eleventh century. The final settlement of the Northern men in England as related in the ??? tapestry will interest old and young. Then come stories of The Crusaders. In the thirteenth century, we'll have the history of Saint Louis so beautifully related by the ??? Michelet's History of France gives most interesting accounts of the Albigensian Crusade, under De Montfort. Then comes the foundation of the orders of the Friars, the Salvation Army of that date, and the suppression of the Templars. Later, Shakespeare's plays, Scott's novels, all will fit in, White's Eighteen Christian Centuries is invaluable for such lessons, and above all, it creates an appetite for more. Gibbon's ponderous style is quite unsuitable for the young, to say nothing of other objections, but there is a useful abridgment. Milman's Latin Christianity is most useful. Such books as Miss Yonge's Cameos Landmarks, and many historical tales will come in useful.
Now, for apparatus. For elder children, I have had a little book prepared which contains much on what I cannot touch in an article, but to little children, I gave great blank sheets, which they can color it and paint, and for some time we let them mark in important events of English history alone, at first making very distinct marks and coloring the chart for different periods. And to this framework, we can subsequently introduce contemporary events broadly. The child would learn first only English kinds, as were the shape of the constellation.
In France, movable beads are used to mark the different events. This I have found an excellent plan for little children at home or children can mark in events with the pencil. Then a game can be made by a number of children trying, who can set up most quickly the dates agreed on in the model chart.
White, black, and other colored counters represent different sovereigns. Or small chessmen may stand for Kings, chess castles for sieges, chess bishops for churchmen, Knights of war, pawns for famous men. Older pupils like the pictorial charge for themselves. I have one giving the reign of Queen Mary. 1553, her ascension and a picture of the tower, to which northern Cumberland and others were sent. 1554, a block telling of executions consequent on Wyatt's rebellion, a dove with an olive branch, to tell of Phillips. Intercession for Elizabeth. 1555, there is a picture of a martyr at stake and a hand in flames for Cranmer. 1557, a scroll stands for the First Covenant in Scotland and a sword for the war with France. 1558, a heart with the word Calais reminds us of Mary's words and a Crown marks the accession of Elizabeth.
For grownup students who are reading a short period, we have exercise books ruled on a larger scale, in ten lines, and they simply write in words anything they wish to remember and thus acquire knowledge of dates without learning them.
I give as an appendix, a specimen chart of the sixteenth century. The crown may mark the accession of Henry the eighteenth. Edward the fourth, Mary Elizabeth. Here we have portraits. There is Henry's divorce in 1553, after which follows, in quick succession, in about eleven years, five marriages, two executions of Queens, and those of Fisher, Moore, Cromwell, and others. In Elizabeth's reign the Armada, the Battle of Zutphen, and Dir Phillip Sydney's death. And in the first line, an important literary decade, the first publication of three books of the Faerie Queene, Shakespeare's first poems and plays, Bacon's essays, and Hooker's Ecclesiastical quality. The Fleur d Lys marks the French Kings, Frances the first, Henry the second, the husband of Catherine de Medicis, and her three sons. Lastly, the accession of Henry the eighth.
The Maltese cross marks the session of the Holy Roman Empire, Charles the fifth, and his successors. The Crescent, the advance of Muhammadan power in Europe under Suleiman the Magnificent and in India under Bieber. The daggers point to the assassination of Guise, Massacre of Saint Bartholomew, and the assassination of William of Orange, followed soon after that, by Henry the third. In church history, the crosses marked the Diet of Worms, the sanction of the Order of the Jesuits by the Pope, the Council of Trent, and the Edict of Nates, which marked the temporary pacification in France.
How valuable some of such tabulated knowledge is as a basic historical teaching all we have tried the system are agreed. The chief advantages of the system over every other memoria technica are that it forms a framework which from the first saves events from getting shaken into disorder in the memory and the frame can be made that large or small filled but scantly at first and gradually expanded.
It can be adapted to any purpose, political history, church history, literary history, the progress of scientific discovery. It shows at a glance the contemporary history of different countries, yet in its compact form so that it can be remembered. Even if the precise date evidence of any event is not retained, did the general position becomes as familiar to the mind as the relative positions of places in a map of Europe?
I am sure those who have once learned in their youth to use the chart will never discard it and will as they go on to think about the philosophy of history, find that the way in which events present themselves to the mind's eye is most helpful and suggestive. The day of Magnall's questions and Brewers guide and Picknok's catechisms is gone by in the work of education and we have learned to feel that the chief work of the educator is not to give facts but to order them so that they can fit into the forms of thought.
In the beautiful myth with which more than one poet of our day has made us familiar, we read that the forlorn psych in the course of her wanderings came to the Temple of Aphrodite, and there the goddess assigned to her the task of sorting out and arranging innumerable seeds, and to her diligence and obedience was granted, at last, the vision with which she had lost through her faithless impatience. The vision of the God of love. Is this perhaps one of the teachings unfolded in the myth? The Supreme joy is to know love, but the vision of God is to be attained only by the patient discipline the ordered knowledge through which that which seems chaos is transformed into Cosmos and we are able to think God's thoughts after Him.
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