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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/491

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HEREDITY IN RELATION TO EDUCATION.

resultant of all those forces represented in ancestors—forces which have been modified in innumerable ways by ancestors—a consideration which greatly complicates the study of heredity. But if any one principle has been established it is that heredity is stronger than environment. However, we must point out that the weaker the heredity the stronger the environment. Education, in the proper sense, can do more, relatively, for a mediocre or weak nature than for a very strong one. A real genius or a criminal will be such regardless of education; so that the practical issue for educators narrows down very much to the question of heredity and environment for the mediocre or submediocre. It is with the latter classes that the teachers of the land have mostly to do, though we must not overlook the possible best and wisest that may be intrusted to our care. Our systems are not well adapted to discovering them, especially those of high talent or genius, affairs so tend to averages and mediocrities in all directions these days.

It will now be my aim to indicate how the educator may, by a study of heredity in a practical, individual way, as well as heredity as a general fact in Nature, increase his usefulness by directing his energies to better advantage, from more exact knowledge of the individuals with whom he has to deal. However skilled the teacher may be in reading the individual from his conduct, the diagnosis (to borrow a medical term) will be much safer if we know the family history and the ancestral tendencies. It is so as regards disease—i. e., tendencies of the physical organization—and it is equally so with the mind, though not yet so generally recognized. The teacher who knows nothing of the parents of a child is but poorly prepared to do the best possible in developing that child.

With all the disadvantages associated with the career of a country school teacher who "boarded 'round" or was expected to make periodic visits, it can not be denied that he had opportunities for understanding that all-important home environment of his pupils, and of studying the parents and other relatives, and gathering hints from scraps of family history that greatly helped him who was not a believer that all children are to be treated educationally just alike, all minds to be compressed into the same mold.

With all its imperfections, I am bound to say that the individuality of the pupils in the old log schoolhouse was often more developed than in the city public school of to-day, where for a boy to be himself frequently brings with it the ridicule of his fellows—a condition of things that has its effect afterward on the lad at college. I find this fear of being considered odd—out of harmony with what others may think—one of the greatest draw-