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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/826

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

must give way to marching and countermarching. In the schoolroom questioning, judging, willing, and spontaneity in general seem to be vested in the teacher alone, to be incompatible with his idea of pupils' right thinking. The educational code there is, "Sit still, ask no questions, learn and recite your lessons, and do what I tell you." This ancient code makes the conditions favorable for the application of questions assumed to be asked after the Socratic method, in which as practiced the pupils' self-activities appear to be very much overlooked.

The universal method of teaching is catechetical, the teacher asking all the questions and the pupils attempting to answer them. The teacher sets the conditions and makes all the attacks on ignorance, negligence, and incompetence, and may be said truly to be on the offensive always; while the pupils constantly attempt to comply with conditions, repel attacks, and conceal their shortcomings, and may be said as truly to be always on the defensive. The mutual relations of teacher and pupils may be quite accurately determined by averaging the conditions which the graduates of various schools remember to have existed when they went to school. How they outwitted the teacher forms a bright spot in the memory. It is long remembered and easily recalled. Like a good joke, it is delightfully piquant and suggestive of similar jokes.

The customary one-sidedness of teaching makes school work more or less disagreeable and progress comparatively slow. It is difficult to excite and sustain interest. Repression, coercion, and machinery become necessary to make the government respected and respectable. Strong disciplinarians rather than good teachers are required when children's activities, either of body or mind, are directed into hard, unnatural channels or are kept down by forcible means. The teacher questions, struggles against the constitution of her pupils' minds, and really dominates them at last. Herbart says, "Tediousness is the greatest sin of instruction." The pupils often feel that their work is uninteresting and difficult without knowing why or how to help themselves; and they learn, often by bitter experience, that it is discreet to obey and learn and recite their lessons, however distasteful they may be. That is the traditional way—the way passed over by their parents, in which they are expected to go, and by which the torrent of their impulsive questions must needs be dammed up for many a long year in the future as it has been for centuries in the past. Repression is the word naturally and correctly applied to such a system.

Children's natural, constant, and almost irrepressible desire to question freely about everything that comes within the range of their experience has not been considered of any special value