THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY
|DETERMINING EDUCATIONAL VALUES|
By Professor M. V. O'SHEA
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN
IT will probably not be questioned by any one that the most complex business society can undertake is to train the rising generation effectively. The human mind is an extremely complicated thing. It is so intricate, indeed, that it has been found impossible thus far to discern many of the laws according to which it evolves and functions. "What a marvelous piece of work is man," expresses the feeling of the poet as well as the view of the student of any phase of human nature. The problem of preparing a child for happy and effective adjustment to the world in which he must live is immeasurably more difficult than the hardest engineering problem, say, which men in any age have yet undertaken. The engineer has only to deal with physical laws, which are relatively simple and easily determined as compared with the laws governing mental activity and efficient mental development. The engineer is usually able to ascertain whether or not he has correctly apprehended and dealt with any law of nature. At every step he can control his work, because the effects of his action are immediately measurable. But it is entirely different with the educator. He can not directly measure the outcome of his methods. Most of his training produces noticeable effects only after a long lapse of time, and then only in an obscure and entangled manner. Any one, then, whose duty it is actually to mould a human mind according to the most desirable pattern, and who realizes the complexity of his task, is apt to be more or less awed and even mystified by his problem.
But the man on the street, looking at the business from the outside, is apt not to feel much mystery about it. The whole matter is likely to seem clear and simple to him. He can dash into his office, and in a few minutes give instructions how to deal with problems which are probably inscrutable to one who for years has been seriously trying to solve them with due regard to all the factors involved. The tendency of the non-expert in any field is to resist the idea that he is incompetent to form an opinion about matters in that field. Witness how the layman and even the drug doctor have ridiculed the theory that disease is largely of bacterial origin. It is the same way with legislation. The layman proposes to solve social ills by some simple, drastic legislation. He resists taking the point of view that social relations are extremely complex, and that the new difficulties which arise with the increasing