Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/128

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

anything to take its place except play. It is only too true that in many schools where the old technical drills have been discarded, the teachers have been unable to find anything worthy to take their place, and there at once develops a tendency towards inferior social types of organization. These lower social units taking root readily in a school where many of the old arbitrary means of control have been abandoned, inevitably become immediately inimical to the broader interests of the school as a whole. In this condition of affairs we find that raison d'être for the fraternities and sororities in the high schools.

The prime necessity in the social organization of the school is that there shall be an abundance of those activities which are capable of yielding tangible results in worthy products having a common interest. The distinction usually drawn between the activity of play and the activity of work has neither meaning nor value in terms of growth. Both play and work may be good or bad, educative or otherwise; that depends alone upon the motive. The infallible test is found in the character of the output; it is a measure that anyone may apply with ease and directness when education is conceived to be a concern of the familiar things of life.

An educational activity with an organizing value is one which expresses itself through some helpful work. This is not a machinemade definition—it depends upon the nature of things. It is rooted in the fact that every child is a born worker and a lover of work. To work, to do things, to bring about results, useful and beautiful, is just as natural as it is for him to breathe the air. There are no lazy children, naturally. Catch them young and treat them right, and they are all workers and lovers of work. A lazy boy is merely either one who is sick, or one who does not like to do something which a 'grownup' thinks he should do; his indisposition, if not a matter for the physician, should be placed to his credit. A big boy came to my office one day who was too lazy, the teacher said, to be allowed to remain in school. I asked him what he would like to do if he were left entirely free to choose, and he replied: 'I would quit school and go to work!' I thanked him—inwardly—for his criticism, over which I have since deeply pondered. Doubtless the 'work' which this boy would be able to pick up in the streets would be as little to his taste as were the tasks left behind in the school. For the average employer rarely considers the soul-life of the employed. He stands a good chance of falling into the hands of a man who wants to get more gold out of dry goods and groceries than nature has put into them and he tries, therefore, to make up the deficit out of the boy. So between the teachers who do not know enough and the business men who do not care enough the lazy boys are easily turned into the path of the transgressor. Laziness is the merciful invention of nature, whereby she holds them