Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/514

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
494
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

thesis of life, the stuff out of which, each earnest, loving soul builds his world. Likewise, they are the last terms in the analysis of life, the ultimates reached by the painstaking, fact-loving man of science.

Pardon my too persistent iteration. But I am saying this over and over again, hoping to so say it at last that it will seize upon your imagination and carry us both into a new and more rational comprehension of the problem of education. The child is a unit, and neither he nor you can separate his intellectual from his emotional, bodily life. It might be desirable, it would certainly be convenient, if we could present great slices of truth, like a generous help of layer cake, to the minds of our children, and have it thoroughly assimilated by methods prescribed by ourselves in normal schools assembled. But however desirable or convenient, it is not possible. Yet we go on trying—yesterday, to-day—I hope not forever. To do this is to deny causation and invoke the power of magic and the black arts. There is but one avenue of approach to the mind of a child. It is the avenue pointed out in earlier days by loving intuition—that unconscious induction of the untaught spirit—and in later days by the colder scrutiny of science—that conscious induction of the informed spirit. It is the approach to action through feeling, and to thought through sensation. The causal chain is very distinct. It should be well noted: feeling, action, sensation, thought. You see, then, how psychologically impossible it is to reach the last link in this chain without passing through the intermediate links. Yet this is precisely what we attempt to do when we divorce the thought life from the bodily life, and assign the one to the school and the other to the home.

If it were equally agreeable to sit still as to walk, and we happened to be sitting still, we should go on sitting still all the rest of our lives. The balance of pleasure and pain being equal, there would be no motive to action. The absence of desire would be the absence of power. We should be as hopelessly bound to our chair as Prometheus to his rock. In this condition we might be picked up, might even through the application of some external force be made to go through the motion of walking, but it would be an awkward, ungracious act. A better way to get us to walk would be to offer some inducement—in a word, to enlist desire on the side of walking. The internal force is infinitely more efficient than the external. No one can make us walk so well as we can walk ourselves, for walking, after all, is a mental act. No action, however simple or complex, can be brought about without an appeal to the spring of action, and the spring of all action is a feeling, a desire, an emotion. It is perfectly hopeless to ask your apathetic subject, sitting there in the chair, to get up and walk.