Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/518

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
498
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

good-producing and bad-producing action. You must not misunderstand me. I would, of course, try very earnestly to influence the desires of children, to make them want the things that the experience of the race has shown to be good and wholesome, but it seems to me of greater moment to have the desire and the action harmonize than to have the action which would seem to us always commendable. We would not, I think, run any very great risk. Healthy children, living under wholesome conditions, have, in the main, wholesome desires. And desires that are not wholesome can not be more thoroughly killed than by allowing them, if possible, to flower into action which the child himself will recognize as painful. No greater wrong can be done a child than by associating in his mind what is right with what is painful, and what is wrong with what is pleasant. It is an utterly false association. He will attain the highest morality when he does simply and naturally the thing that is good-producing without any inner conflict, but solely as the result of cultivated instincts.

I read once the gospel credited to John, making careful note of all reference to miracles. I was struck with the fact that all of the reported events had to do with some physical want—the curing of the sick, the feeding of the hungry, the raising of the dead. You will notice in studying the inclinations of childhood a similar uniformity. They are all physical wants, and may be summed up for the most part in two words—muscular exercise. The children are right. It is this exercise that is going to strengthen all the organs and make them capable of more perfect function. Every physical act has its corresponding mental act, and it is a succession of these acts that develops the gray and white of the brain and gives us at last a highly evolved and sensitive organism. The work of education consists in directing these activities into those channels which will yield the most helpful reactions. By concentrating the wandering attention, by increasing the delicacy of touch, by cultivating a finer and finer discrimination, by training the observation—in a word, by developing, as far as may be, each and all of the faculties—we make possible that unfolding and perfecting of the human spirit, that evolution of human nature, which is the end in education.

The goal of modern education is not reached through manual training alone, any more than it is through language or science or mathematics. It is for this reason that I no longer desire to see the establishment of manual training schools as such. They were necessary in starting the movement. This side of things had to be emphasized, and the early manual training schools did yeoman service. But now it seems to me far more wholesome and desirable that manual instruction should be introduced into