Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 69.djvu/353

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349
DIFFICULT BOYS

The most promising agency in eliminating the difficulties which impair manhood in boys, future men, citizens, is the kindergarten, the principles of education outlined by Froebel. This aims at the highest idealization of life, largely through the play instinct. Whatever criticisms are made on the kindergarten teaching can only hold against methods of application. So far these objections have to do chiefly with its lack of adjustability to established educational methods, and Mill cease when the exponents of Froebel acquire greater breadth of knowledge, a clear appreciation of the practical needs of society. Our established methods of education leave much to be desired, but it will take time and thought to bring about a perfect system. Meanwhile it seems plain that the one means of both prevention and cure of difficult boys is to be found in a perfect home.

The ideal home, where two parents live with and for their children, where mutual helpfulness is fully afforded, where the fundamental impressions are given and received, is the greatest agency in primary education. Unfortunately this ideal home is made difficult of attainment because of a multitude of factors, especially in large cities by altered, artificial, perverted methods of living. The instinctive natural helpfulness, so necessary to arouse the sense of individual responsibility, finds little opportunity for growth. Unless the boy is encouraged to bear his part of the burden, to contribute his share to the body domestic, as in the primitive home, he can not grow symmetrically, or become certain, exact, in his more robust impulses. Instincts of responsibility find small encouragement.

To be sure, we can not check the inevitable trend of modern industries which aim by over-specialization to reduce the individual to the rating of an intelligent machine, whether in the lower or in the higher industries. If, however, we can succeed in fostering the spirit of the home, in implanting early, in the plastic childish brain cells, the idealities, the desirabilities of home, much will then be accomplished. Admitting that the conception of the home, once implanted, is forceful for so wide an influence, let us waste less time in other directions and concentrate our efforts on erecting and preserving the ideal of the home. This the teaching of Froebel is capable of accomplishing. The concept of divided responsibility is constantly presented. Pictures of domesticity, object lessons in practical helpfulness, are parts of the course of instruction. Children taught on this principle will carry through their lives clear ideals of home. When they become parents these instinctive promptings, these deeply suggestive pictures, early implanted, will act as unerring guides to parenthood.

The first thing a troublesome boy must learn is unquestioning obedience. In this way he may become a perfect intelligent machine.