Be patient, then, and sympathetic with the type of mind that cuts a poor figure in examinations. It may, in the long examination which life sets us, come out in the end in better shape than the glib and ready reproducer, its passions being deeper, its purposes more worthy, its combining power less commonplace, and its total mental output consequently more important.
Such are the chief points which it has seemed worth while for me to call to your notice under the head of memory. We can sum them up for practical purposes by saying that the art of remembering is the art of thinking; and by adding, with Dr. Pick, that, when we wish to fix a new thing in either our own mind or a pupil’s, our conscious effort should not be so much to impress and retain it as to connect it with something else already there. The connecting is the thinking; and, if we attend clearly to the connection, the connected thing will certainly be likely to remain within recall.
I shall next ask you to consider the process by which we acquire new knowledge,—the process of ‘Apperception,’ as it is called, by which we receive and deal with new experiences, and revise our stock of ideas so as to form new or improved conceptions.
XIII. THE ACQUISITION OF IDEAS
The images of our past experiences, of whatever nature they may be, visual or verbal, blurred and dim, vivid and distinct, abstract or concrete, need not be memory images, in the strict sense of the word. That is, they need not rise before the mind in a marginal fringe or context of concomitant circumstances, which mean for us their date. They may be mere conceptions, floating pictures of an object, or of its type or class. In this undated condition, we call them products of ‘imagination’ or ‘conception.’ Imagination is the term commonly used where the object represented is thought of as an individual thing. Conception is the term where we think of it as a type or class. For our present purpose the distinction is not important; and I will permit myself to use either the word ‘conception,’ or the still vaguer word ‘idea,’ to designate the inner objects of contemplation, whether these be individual things, like ‘the sun’ or ‘Julius Caesar,’ or classes of things, like ‘animal kingdom,’ or, finally, entirely abstract attributes, like ‘rationality’ or ‘rectitude.’
The result of our education is to fill the mind little by little, as experiences accrete, with a stock of such ideas. In the illustration I used at our first meeting, of the child snatching the toy and getting slapped, the vestiges left by the first experience answered to so many ideas which he acquired thereby,—ideas that remained with him associated in a certain order, and from the last one of which the child eventually proceeded to act. The sciences of grammar and of logic are little more than attempts methodically