Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 55.djvu/132

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Editor's Table.


WE do not know whether the verb "to kindergartenize" has yet crept into the language, but, after reading the article of Miss Marion Hamilton Carter in the March Atlantic on The Kindergarten Child—after the kindergarten, one is disposed to think that such a verb is a present necessity. The question as to whether the kindergarten on the whole is a good institution is too wide for discussion within the restricted limits of the Table; but no one can read Miss Carter's article without being forced to the conclusion that, in some of its aspects, kindergarten work is of very doubtful utility. That lady found by actual experience with two or three successive levies of kindergarten children that they seemed to have an impaired rather than an improved faculty of acquiring knowledge, that their infancy seemed to have been artificially prolonged, that they had become accustomed to a nauseating amount of endearment in the language addressed to them by their instructors, that they seemed to expect to be continually amused, and that a certain drill through which they had been put for the alleged purpose of developing their powers of imagination had gone a long way toward making them incapable of speaking of things simply as they found them. All this is set forth in Miss Carter's article in a manner which leaves little doubt that she has described things substantially as they fell under her observation.

There is one important principle in education which it seems to us the kindergarten system too much ignores, if it does not completely set it at defiance, and that is that very young children require a great deal of letting alone. The spontaneous activity of the little ones—and they are sure to be active if they get the chance—is worth more for their education than any amount of directed activity. Their imaginations, too, will take care of themselves much better than we can take care of them. Nothing is less favorable to the development of imagination in a child than constant intercourse with grown people who have passed the imaginative stage, and whose daily duty it is to lay out ordered knowledge for assimilation by these babes. It is no wonder that part of the system should consist of special exercises for the cultivation of the very faculty which the system as a whole is so adapted to dull and to weaken. Anything much more silly, however, than the method described by Miss Carter it would be difficult to imagine.

The great popularity of the kindergarten is due in large measure to the fact that it relieves mothers during part of the day of the care of their small children. That it does this in very many cases at the expense of weakening the tie between mother and child there is too much reason to fear. The State has been stepping in more and more between parents and children, until now it lays its hand almost upon the cradle. The mothers of the republic are giving way, so far as influence over the rising generation is concerned, to the schoolmarms; but it is idle to expect that the latter can take the place of the mothers we used to know. The kindergarten constitutes a vast extension of the educational machinery previously in operation, and machinery is always impressive, especially to those who