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A Compendious Exposition of the Principles and Practice of Professor Jacotot by Joseph Payne

Principles of Jacot

RATING: 8/10…READ: March 4, 2010

A small handbook of Universal Education Teacher Joseph Jacotot’s teachings. This book breaks down his principles and explains the exact methods used by him. The book’s hard to read small text size makes it the only drawback. A great book not only for insight into Jacotot’s teachings, but methods for improving self-education as well.

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We are not learned because we have been taught, we are learned only when we have retained.  One single book, thoroughly understood and impressed upon the memory, is of more to the mind than fifty hastily skimmed over, and forgotten even sooner than read.

How can we be entertained by the perusal of a simple tale or novel, unless we comprehend all the circumstances, as they rise before us, and refer those which appear for the first time to those which have already come under our view.  He who retains in his memory the greater number of these circumstances, will, if the work be well executed, receive far greater pleasure from the perusal, than he who forgets most of them, as he turns over the pages in which they are contained.

Now we cannot thoroughly enter into the spirit of an author, but by tracing his design throughout all that he presents to us;–from an investigation of the minute component particulars we obtain general notions, and by comparing these amongst themselves, we obtain other still more general, till at length, by this analytical process, we arrive at the very point from which his mind first started, and look back upon the whole in the same way, and with the same train of feelings, as those which he prospectively surveyed it.

Now, if he used more words than were necessary—if, again, any of these failed to transfer the idea which he had pictured, to our minds, so far is his performance faulty; and it is not, on this account, that he is considered a fine or correct writer.  VISA VERSA

Relentless Repetition is KEY —Learn something thoroughly and refer everything else to it.

Incessant repetition of the first thing acquired!!!

Read as you would speak

Unless the sentences read are understood, they cannot, of course, be felt; and to expect a child to read that which he understands not, and feels not, with the same degree of emphasis and propriety of tone as are dictated to him by the nature in his own spontaneous expressions, it to indulge a hope which cannot, by any possibility, be gratified.

Begin by direct copying what you see

When you begin to copy reasonably well, begin to create from memory. (imitate)

Compare with the original


Learn one book in the language (whatever this may be) thoroughly, refer all the rest to it by your own reflection, and verify the observations of others by what you know yourself.  It will be observed, that nothing is here said of learning grammar, writing exercises upon it, &c.  Grammar, instead of being introduced to the pupil’s attention as soon as he can read, is postponed to a very late stage in his literary education.  He writes themes, moral, and metaphysical essays, criticisms, &c. &c. and, in short, goes through an entire course of elementary composition, before he is required to investigate the principles of grammar.  Many persons write with perfect correctness without being able to account grammatically for a single sentence, or even a word, in their composition.

Commit to memory the entire book or passage

Reasoning is essentially based on facts, and unless the mind possesses the necessary facts, there can be no act of judgment, no connected chain of argumentation.

Memory —memory of words and facts could just be like memory of image or memory of sound —all is memory

The pupil is directed to commit to memory facts, and to make his own reflections upon them.  He never commits to memory the reflections of others, but he is taught to examine the correctness of these by reference to the facts upon which they are necessity founded.

For to forget, is the same as never to have learned

The provisions of the system are the incessant repetition of every thing learned, and the constant vigilance excited in the mind, that every idea introduced there for the first time, shall not only find an associate amongst some of the ideas already firmly established there, but shall itself serve the same purpose with reference to any others subsequently introduced, whenever called upon.

As however this repetition, the pupil goes on, necessarily occupies much time, it is sometimes advisable to divide the portion thus accumulating; but still the general repetition of the six books must have place at least twice a week.  The oftener the whole is repeated, the more prompt and durable the results.

Then the pupil knows the first six books of Telemachus thoroughly, it is not necessary to commit the remaining eighteen to memory; but he must read every day some pages of them, with a degree of attention sufficient to enable him to relate what they contain.

Relentlessly commit to remembering the foundation.  Relate everything to it.

The pupil must still go through the original once a week.


Is to distinguish, to compare, and to refer.  —Unremitted VIGILANCE to refer everything to everything—to reflect on the facts, associate and classify them, and put into new combinations

The understanding always sees well what it really sees, and we reason amiss, only when we speak of what we do not see.

Generalizations MUST MUST MUST be referenced by facts & examples to give weight.

The entire course, then, comprehends the following exercises:

to imitate

to make general reflections upon known facts.

to distinguish between synonymous words

to distinguish between synonymous expressions

to examine parallel subjects

to examine analogous thoughts

to transfer or translate the reflections arising from one subject to another somewhat similar

to analyze a chapter, book, poem, &c.

to develop or paraphrase the thoughts of an author

to find subjects for transference

to write upon a literary or critical subject; to furnish descriptions of things observed

to imitate a thought

  1. to write letters
  2. to portray the character
  3. to compare characters
  4. to write tales, sketches, &c.
  5. to verify the grammar
  6. to write upon any given subject in a given time
  7. to speak extemporaneously upon a given subject
  8. all is in all

Those who have shone most as divines, poets, mathematicians, orators, sculptors, or painters, were men who devoted themselves to one book, to one model.  Pg 48.

The pupil must learn by heart, repeat incessantly, compare by reflection, and verify the observations of others.