Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/131

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
127
SCHOOL ORGANIZATION AND INSTRUCTION

all ages delight in cooking and textiles, while the girls are equally interested in woodwork and other forms of heavier manual training. The reason, however, is clear. It is not that there is anything inherent in either the dough, or the cloth, or the wood, or the iron, but rather because the work under all these heads is largely creative. It is because an aim is set up that is unique; it is somewhat new because it is personal—it is because the ages-old materials must be combined to fit new occasions that the interest is enlisted and the best original efforts, and consequently the highest educational results, are obtained.

Every creative activity will have its artistic aspect; for when the soul enters a creation, then and there art is born. Art-forms are now rarely creative. They do little more than tickle the sense with the pleasures of a fleeting hour—and they are worth all they cost for that! But when the lives of the children are properly enriched, music, painting, drawing, sculpture, and the rest will come forth as creations—the radiant allies of speech. In language growing fluent and supple, the pupils will learn to wreathe in descriptive, dramatic and poetic forms the subtlest creations of which the human mind is capable.

Creative work transforms the individual. Through it, alone, he grows and maintains a personality that makes him different from others. Through it, alone, his generation rises above all that have preceded. Imitation is a training in conformity. It holds the creative instincts in abeyance until at maturity it is the exceptional man or woman who is not hopelessly bound by the shackles of convention. If he would ever create, he must override the prejudices ground into him by the schools, and, even then, the daring freedom of childhood but rarely comes again. The gospel of conformity teaches that the best has been done—that naught remains for us but imitation. This, too, in face of the practical fact that the discoveries of to-day have sent to the scrap-heap the brilliant inventions of yesterday! The effect is not less marked in the realm of morals. Generally speaking, the ethical code of the school has been copied from that which once served the purpose of the generation that developed it, but it is far below what, under present conditions, the pupils can create for themselves.

The final test as to the value of any piece of educational work in the development of children of whatever intellectual capacity is determined by their appreciation of its worth in meeting a natural demand. Unless their energies are constantly directed toward filling a recognized want, the pupils put forth their efforts in vain, and the routine of the school becomes merely the rattle and grind of empty machinery. Upon one trait in his pupils the teacher may forever reckon: they will always respond to a need which they can really feel and understand. A study of our city parks showed how impossible it was for certain useful and beautiful birds to find suitable nesting-