Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/69

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
57
CAUSE AND EFFECT IN EDUCATION.

heredity seems good or bad. Even in this very moderate function he blunders, for the most part, terribly.

The second element is the one with which we have practically to deal. It includes all post-natal influences. In science we call it environment.

It is a long-standing debate as to which of these elements is the stronger. We need not enter the controversy. The balance of present evidence seems to support that view of the matter which gives the greater influence to environment. In this lies the hope of the educator. We mean to get the best of the dead great-grandmother. Mr. Fiske has pointed out that in the increased helplessness of the human infant, in its greater freedom from inborn instincts, in the lengthening days of the plastic period of infancy are to be found the possibilities of a far greater individual advance.

This, then, is the problem set before us as educators—so to shape these influences that the developing human spirit may approach perfection. It is not a new problem. It was before the Greeks. It was before the men of the middle ages. It has been constantly before our own people. But it has never been very satisfactorily solved.

The extent of our failure can be better realized when we remember that nearly all educational reforms have been forced upon the schools from without. They originated with men and women who were so fortunate as to escape the pedagogical blight. When we remember further that the men of mark in the great world of action and creative thought have either been educated in an irregular fashion, or, if they have gone to the academies and colleges, have never taken the courses too seriously, these facts are significant. They mean that education has too often been a thwarting of the spirit, an attempt to fit a square plug into a round hole, a pressure, a dead weight, rather than an unfolding. They mean, in short, that education has seldom, in practice at least, been reduced to a science.

We fail as Ptolemy failed, as Kepler failed, as the alchemists failed. We fail because we do not observe the true sequence of cause and effect in the life of the child. We shall succeed when we abandon our educational nostrums, our tonics, our pills, our philosopher's stones for turning ignorance into knowledge, our short-cut methods of salvation for making bad into good. We shall transform education into a science and educators into scientists when we give up these off-hand remedies, these false views of causal relationships, and come to recognize the simple fact that the child is an organism, and that the processes of growth and education must conform to the laws of organisms. We must part company with that fatal duality which separates body and spirit.