Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/778

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
754
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

with some practical work of house, garden, or farm, which forms part of the daily routine, are all that school life can do for him.

From this preparation he passes to the industrial department, where he receives training in that occupation which the school has indicated for him, becoming in his limited way a useful and contented member of a community which should be his life home. As both of these types develop either extreme docility or perversity—the one quiet, gentle, obedient, following any suggestion even of a comrade's stronger will; the other obstinate, indolent, often brutal and cruel—the necessity for constant guardianship is therefore self-evident.

When we consider that the training of a high-grade imbecile takes four times the period commonly allotted to a normal child, some idea of the vital energy expended on the training of the lower grades may be found in the following example:

I find in our museum of educational work a little ball which I am inclined to regard the most valuable thing in the whole collection. The boy who made it was a low-grade imbecile. His hand against every man, he fancied every man's against him. Always under strict custodial care, that he might harm neither himself nor others, he would vent his spleen in tearing his clothing. His teacher, a woman of rare patience and devotedness, sat beside him one day, tearing strips of old linen and laying them in order. "See, Willie, let us make some pretty strips and lay them so." His wonder grew apace at seeing her doing what he had been reproved for doing; at once he responded, and a new bond of sympathy was established between them. She was playing his game—the only one, poor little lad, that he was capable of—and he joined in.

"Now, we will draw out the pretty threads and lay them in rows." For weeks the boy found quiet pastime in this occupation, and the violent nature grew quieter in proportion. One day the teacher said, "Let us tie these threads together and make a long string." It took him months and months to learn to tie those knots, but meanwhile his attendants were having breathing space. "Now we will wind this into a pretty ball, and I will cover all you make for the boys to play with"; and a new occupation was added to his meager list.

The next link in this chain of development was a lesson in knitting. Again, through months of patient teaching, it was at last accomplished, and the boy to the day of his death found his life happiness in knitting caps for the children, in place of tearing both them and their clothing. You see the teacher was wise enough to utilize the natural activities of the child and divert evil propensities into healthful channels. Had she brought knitting and bright yarn or anything foreign to him first, it would in truth have been fitting new cloth to