Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/66

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velopment in students of this important mental trait. There is a very specious form of individualism which is frequently mistaken for independence and originality in thinking. The former is characterized by lawlessness and an assumed disregard for the ordinary laws of thought and conduct. In the events of ordinary life such fools rush in where angels fear to tread, whereas the initiative developed by a sane and effective process of education is analogous to the strong man's desire to run a race, reasonably conscious of his power to vanquish his competitors. But unfortunately in most of our universities real originality is repressed, or often killed by the curriculum, conventionalities and petty criticism. Students are easily forced into the class of people described by Mill as liking things in crowds. They are seldom compelled to exercise their own senses, and a mass of ready-made judgments upon literary and historical subjects is heaped upon them before they can stand straight, their own ideas being dwarfed and eradicated in order to make room for the borrowed knowledge. It would be as novel as instructive to hear a professor address his students as follows:

Young Gentlemen, I advise most of you not to attend my course in history, but to substitute for it some form of instruction where you will be compelled to exercise your own eyes. Take a course in drawing, or of nature study, learn to see things, to form your own judgments, and when you have shown your ability to collect data and to form an independent opinion as to the relation and value of particulars, I will then give you my own and the views of others upon historical questions.

Students are very frequently so impressed by their instructors with the importance of imbibing knowledge that they fail to scrutinize the information given them and thus readily lapse into a condition in which no resistance is offered to the forced feeding. And if the process is continued, a positive distaste for knowledge is developed. Leonardo da Vinci clearly recognized this plethoric state of mind, for he admonished his readers that "just as food eaten without appetite is a tedioms nourishment, so does study without zeal damage the memory by not assimilating what it absorbs."

Payot in his "Education of the Will" affirms that the more brilliant a professor is and the more he enjoys hearing himself talk and argue, the less desirable does it become to confide young people to him for instruction, for he gives as little aid in assisting them to acquire the art of working or in making true progress in scientific work as one would bring about a gain in muscle and skill in gymnastics by watching the strong man at a circus.

Closely associated with the question of the choice of methods for the development of the individuality and the capacity of adapting the mental focus so as to include more objects within the field of vision is the removal of all influences tending to limit the horizon and to breed those disorders of personality popularly described as narrow-minded-