Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/59

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THE NATIONAL CONTROL OF EDUCATION.

profit by it. But there are differences of opinion as to the age at which primary instruction should begin and end; as to the subjects it should embrace; as to the qualifications which should entitle to further secondary instruction; and as to how far this should be free or how far paid for by the scholar or his parents.

The age at which school attendance should begin and end is in most countries determined by economic rather than educational considerations. Somebody must take charge of infants in order that mothers may be at leisure to work; the demand for child labor empties schools for older children. In the United Kingdom minding babies of three years old and upwards has become a national function. But the infant 'school' as it is called, should be conducted as a nursery, not as a place of learning. The chief employment of the children should be play. No strain should be put on either muscle or brain. They should be treated with patient kindness, not beaten with canes. It is in the school for older children, to which admission should not be until seven years of age, that the work of serious instruction should begin, and that at first for not more than two or three hours a day. There is no worse mistake than to attempt by too early pressure to cure the evil of too early emancipation from school. Beyond the mechanical accomplishments of reading, writing and ciphering, essential to any intellectual progress in after life, and dry facts of history and grammar, by which alone they are too often supplemented, it is for the interest of the community that other subjects should be taught. Some effort should be made to develop such faculties of mind and body as are latent in the scholars. The same system is not applicable to all; the school teaching should fit in with the life and surroundings of the child. "Variety, not uniformity, should be the rule. Unfortunately the various methods by which children's minds and bodies can be encouraged to grow and expand are still imperfectly understood by many of those who direct or impart public instruction. Examinations are still too often regarded as the best instrument for promoting mental progress; and a large proportion of the children in schools, both elementary and secondary, are not really educated at all—they are only prepared for examinations. The delicately expanding intellect is crammed with ill-understood and ill-digested facts, because it is the best way of preparing the scholar to undergo an examination test. Learning to be used for gaining marks is stored in the mind by a mechanical effort of memory, and is forgotten as soon as the class-list is published. Intellectual faculties of much greater importance than knowledge, however extensive—as useful to the child whose schooling will cease at fourteen as to the child for whom elementary instruction is but the first step in the ladder of learning—are almost wholly neglected.

The power of research—the art of acquiring information for