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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/130

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

in the training and discipline that come from the pupil's effort to follow up from premise to conclusion, something which mightily interests him because of its worthy purpose. The old found satisfaction in a state of mind that was quietly receptive; the new sees hope in the turbulence of inquiry; and all of these are irreconcilable differences in kind.

When the work of the children springs from their own initiative, it will become essentially creative and not imitative. The theory that the educational process is imitative and not creative especially in the earlier and formative years of childhood is as old as psychology itself and in practise the proposition stands almost unchallenged. The average curriculum is formed on the idea that the pupils are imitators, the followers of directions, and not creators and it is consequently imposed. The daily lessons in scope and character, the methods of the recitations, the modes of expression are all prescribed and all the activities of the school are reduced as nearly as possible to that monotonous routine known to the devotee of system as 'regular work' which offers no play for the creative intelligence in either thought or deed.

The constructive idea now being realized in various forms of handwork is the thin end of the wedge that is opening the way to reform. Anything which involves the hand immediately arouses the creative instincts. Much of this work is still of the illustrative type, merely reproductive or imitative and in the beginning it was all of that character. In wood, for example, the 'exercises' were all once manacled to a set of models that made no claim upon creative powers either through their use or beauty.

At present, nearly all subjects in the curriculum make some application of the constructive idea. The lessons of history are vivified by reproducing typical creations of other days. Science becomes somewhat more real by the performance of experiments set by book and teacher. Mathematics has been improved through its applications to prescribed construction. Something of both the technique and the spirit of art is acquired by reproducing the work of the masters. This all represents a distinct improvement upon the old régime of books and lectures, and such exercises will always form an organic and necessary part of an educational system.

But the high-water mark in school-teaching will be reached only when such work becomes secondary because it is supplementary and subsidiary. Only when the dominant note of the school is clearly creative does it lay direct hold upon the vital and continuous interests of the children and become essentially educative.

This is true regardless of subject-matter or material on the one hand, and age or sex on the other, and to this fact some curious schoolroom phenomena are due. Parents frequently marvel that the boys of