Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/241

This page has been validated.

lines of least resistance are established, and thus habits are formed. A man cannot bite his nails without fingers and teeth, nor can habits be formed in the mind without the preëxistence of conflicting ganglia, but it is infinitely important to test the child for their presence, and to set up in them certain lines of movement, and certain coincident memories or "associations." Thus also appears the Will, that is the revelation to consciousness of the balancing of the faculties, though where consciousness enters we know not, and shall never know on this side of the grave. No mistake, then, is more fatal than that of parents who let children run wild, on the pretense of physical development. This, indeed, they may obtain, and how guarded we are to be in forcing the brain I need not say again; but there can be no misfortune to a child greater than to escape the life of justice, order, and rule, or to escape the training of those perceptions of social needs and social laws which, when graven in our ganglia and long current in our nerves, become habits of sympathy, charity, and self-sacrifice. Herein I fear that the partisans of "secular" education are greatly at fault. Children may be trained in board-schools to habits of cleanliness and order, but they are not trained in the principles of liberty, nor are their eyes turned to the sanctions of religion. From this system I fear there may be a sad awakening for a coming generation. I may sum up thus: The powers of the nervous system with which education is chiefly concerned are Quality, Quantity, Tension, Variety, and Control. Quality is beyond the direct efforts of education; its rarer development, both in nations and individuals, is as yet incalculable: in the early life of the individual it is often latent, and its greatest results belong to years of maturity. On the other hand, education may often overlay it, thwart it, or expend it, and, as quality is largely dependent upon quantity or volume of nerve force, the ripening of those degrees of it which exist in ordinary men, and the favoring of those revelations of it which occur more rarely, are constantly prevented by brain-forcing in early life. In men of great quality or genius such brain-forcing has too often dimmed or blighted the splendor of their work, or has shortened their days, and has only failed to do so in others by virtue of their perennial springs of inward energy. Quantity, therefore, is a very fruitful possession, and, unlike quality, may be directly reënforced by wholesome conditions—by physical education, and by the promotion of healthy and rapid digestion, assimilation, and excretion.

Tension is a virtue without which quality and quantity of nerve force may be wasted. By it men overcome resistance, and are fired with impulse. Promptness, alertness, and acute sense, come also of this attribute. Tension may be increased greatly by education, and it springs up in the busier contentions of men. It is largely independent of physical health and of food, but is favored by action and the training of observation. Variety, by which men are enabled to touch the world at many points, can be favored by education. If in excess, it results in