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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/517

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THE AIM OF MODERN EDUCATION.

—any unsophisticated child, I mean—and get at his preference for one place over another. I think you will find, for example, that he prefers the shabbiest old farmhouse to the trimmest village mansion; and the reason is simple—there is more to do there. This is the great fact that the newer education has seized upon. It attempts to make knowledge real to children by making it a part of their experience, and to do this it enlists the life forces on its side instead of arraying them against it. As educators, we are to use our skill in directing the wonderful self-activity that in children is already a reality. We are to provide the theater for its exercise, and decide, in large measure, what shape it is to take. But always we are to do this with the sympathy and co-operation of the child, and never against his protest. It is bad practice in medicine to deal with symptoms and treat only them. It is good practice to go back of symptoms to causes. It is bad practice in education to attempt to control the occupations and activities of children, and neglect the motive power back of it all. It is good practice to accept the desires of children and allow them wholesome expression. A large part of the childish instinct is the desire to make things, to construct something—anything, indeed, from a mud pie to a canoe or playhouse. It is a wholesome instinct. It is only by such experience that the child comes to know the great outer world and to find himself in it. Think for a moment how much he has to learn; how much that to you and me are mere commonplaces, but to him are brand-new wonders! He is a born investigator, an inquisitive experimenter in a very large laboratory. And not only this, but it is very desirable that he should be. To prohibit these activities, to thwart these instincts, and to deliberately propose as a substitute that he shall sit still indoors with the abstractions of formal education is simply grotesque. If the proposition and the carrying out of it did not involve so much mischief of a very grave sort, they would be highly humorous. No educational ideas are defensible which have not their foundation in ethics, and one's ethics, I need not add, must rest upon one's philosophy of life. In proposing to respect the desires of children, or, in a word, to let them have their own way, I am proposing something quite at variance with the ethical ideas of the majority of people and notably at variance with the Puritan ethics, yet I do it on ethical as well as psychological grounds. It is a moral universe, this, in which we find ourselves—a universe so constituted that health-giving activities are followed by happiness, and evil activities by pain. It is this, indeed, that constitutes the rightness or the wrongness of the action—the good or bad results. If we wish to make the moral life a reality, we must from the cradle up let children feel this essential relation between cause and effect, and discriminate between