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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/406

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

that in a general way the development of the child, both physical and mental, is an epitome of the development of the race. If we compare the physical and mental activities of the modern civilized man with those of the more primitive member of the race, we may learn what forms of physical and mental activity are natural in the different periods of child life. Some of the things which are characteristic of the modern as contrasted with the primitive man are sedentary habits, manual dexterities requiring finely co-ordinated movements both of the eyes and fingers, increasing devotion to written language and books as contrasted with spoken language, the lessened dependence upon the memory, the increasing subjectivity of mental life as contrasted with the purely objective life of the savage, and the increased importance of reflection, deliberation, and reasoning, with decrease of impulsive and habitual action. These things, then, we should expect to belong to the later period of child life, and studied which involve these activities will not be economically pursued in the elementary school grades. These laws are wholly overlooked in our traditional school curriculum. In practice we are saying to the young child: "Man is a sedentary, reading, writing, thinking, reasoning being, possessing the power of voluntary attention. I am to educate you to be a man. Therefore you must learn to sit still, to read, write, think, reason, and give attention to your work." The child of six or eight years is therefore given a book or pen, and put into a closely fitting seat and left to give attention to his work. This is precisely as if the mother should say to the infant at the beginning of the period of creeping: "You are a man, not a brute. Men go upright, not on all fours. You must walk, not creep."

I wish to call especial attention to the fact that it is only late in the history of the race that language has passed to its written form. Man is indeed now a reading and writing animal, but only recently has he become so. It is only since the invention of printing and the wide dissemination of books, magazines, and newspapers that reading has become a real determining factor in the life of the people. Even now the human organism is engaged in adapting itself to the new strain brought upon the eyes and fingers in reading and writing. We can understand, therefore, that it will demand a considerable maturity in the child before he is ready for that which has developed so late in the history of the race. The language of the child, like that of the primitive man, is the language of the ear and tongue. The child is a talking and hearing animal. He is ear-minded. There has been in the history of civilization a steady development toward the preponderating use of the higher senses, culminating with the eye. The average adult civilized man is now strongly eye-minded, but it is necessary to go back only to the time of the ancient Greeks to find