We must look upon the child as a unit. We must see in it an organism which includes both body and spirit, an integer. Then we shall substitute true causation for false causation. To do this, will be to follow in the footsteps of Newton, to write the Principia for education.
To make a good telescopic lens we must have glass of a certain quality, high refractive power, freedom from flaws, perfect transparency. Then we must carefully fashion it into a certain prescribed form. How utterly stupid it would be for us to spend all our time and energy upon one half of the problem—the fashioning of the lens—and neglect the quality of the material! We can imagine no one insane enough to do such a thing. Yet in education we are guilty of this very insanity. It is no wonder that the result so often fails to disclose heaven.
Another illustration. Carbonic-acid gas, ammonia, and water vapor constitute the chief food of plants. But you may surround a plant with just such an atmosphere, and yet get little growth if the soil be unsuitable, and the vivifying sunshine be not there to transmute this food into vegetable fiber. I often stand in our crowded schoolrooms with the feeling that we have provided an atmosphere rich in the materials of knowledge—possibly over-rich—but that we have not seen to the root of the matter in trying to meliorate the life conditions of the child; and particularly that there is lacking the needed sunshine of a joyous, wholesome spirit to assimilate this food, and turn it into healthful human growth.
If a boy be up late at night; if he be routed out of bed early on the following morning, before the strong sleep of youth has spent itself; if he be flurried with little household cares, and the inconveniences of long transportation, is it a wonder that when at last he reaches the school, out of breath, and just in time to hear the morning lesson, we can do little with him? The marvel is that we should expect to. He had much better stay at home. Fond parents tell it of their children, and priggish children tell it of themselves, that they have not missed a single day at school in eight or nine or some other weary waste of years. There is no merit in this. The question is. What spirit did they take along, and what did the school profit them after they got there?
The life of an organism consists of nutrition, of growth, and of reproduction.
How often do we remember these cardinal facts in handling the human organism? The food of school children is of the most haphazard character; their growth, an accidental factor, and the holy mystery of fatherhood and motherhood too delicate a matter to mention to them. We err very grievously against the helplessness of childhood and youth in thus willfully neglecting the