Popular Science Monthly/Volume 69/October 1906/Difficult Boys
By J. MADISON TAYLOR, A.B., M.D.
A LONG and somewhat intimate acquaintance with boys and teachers of boys, many of whom are my close personal friends, has given me opportunity to formulate certain conclusions which may help others. I have always been fond of the society of boys, being endowed with youthful tastes and aptitudes, and find it profitable to study boyhood hopes, pleasures and ambitions. I have also taught boys and traveled with them in various capacities, and have a grown son whose friends I have tried, and with some success, to make my own. My personal work has brought me in intimate contact with many phases of the human mind other than normal and particularly with problems of psychologic imperfections. This attention to abnormalities of the mind and character has not had the effect of making me over-suspicious of finding defects of the mental processes, because it is obvious to the student that few brains are free from obliquities and regrettable limitations. The tendency is for me rather to view with tolerance inevitable vagaries which surprise and shock those who assume that the mind of most folk is sound and dependable. Teachers and parents are overready to become amazed at sudden variations and deviations in the thoughts and actions of those entrusted to their keeping. Kindergarteners seem to assume as a fundamental principle that any child subjected to what they define as suitable conditions of environment and education can develop into a perfect being. Lawyers divide people into two sharp-cut classes; those who are altogether sane and responsible, in season and out of season, and those who are insane, fit only to be held in check by restraint. Clergymen are over-tolerant of peculiar action and speech, often to a degree that they are not so helpful as they should be in enforcing authority where capability for responsibility is questionable. They frequently urge the objection that a stigma falls upon those who are at any period admitted to be in need of special training or restraint. Among medical men there is too little knowledge and much unwarranted fear of mental problems. They know something, but not enough, as a rule, and occasionally err on the side of condemnation.
Physicians and teachers should clearly appreciate that the mind of man in his earlier years varies widely in degrees and qualities of development, even more than in differences of bodily growth. Again, varying conditions of home influence, early schooling or accidental training may, and does often, bring forward rapidly one part of the mind while another remains distinctly infantile. Conditions of bodily health, not always obvious or even readily estimable, produce profound changes in cerebral energizing, so that one day certain beliefs, capacities and limitations may exist and to-morrow the balance of power be far otherwise. Under certain conditions, not readily determinable by common criteria, we may note and encourage in some the most bubbling spontaneity, and in others similar circumstances may check all this, inducing introspection, discontent with self or surroundings, even a brooding melancholy. Tastes and inclinations differ enormously, especially in boys; also standards of excellence. Conceptions of objects worthy of pursuit in sport, or study, or plans for life, are often widely at variance, not only in different individuals, but in the same boys at different times and under dissimilar conditions.
Many boys are possessed of greater fixity of purpose than others. This is usually assumed to be an altogether desirable quality. Not always so, because one boy may possess a nature large with possibilities and varied capacities, some of which are bad, revision being most desirable. It would be a deplorable unfairness to compel such a one to become molded into a definite form before time and circumstances have permitted a symmetric shaping of the best several parts of a complex organism. It may be that such a boy will require many years of opportunity and training to furnish scope to vast inherent powers for good. Put him into a narrow line, and only warping and possibly embitterment and deterioration follow. However, fixity of purpose is to be welcomed in the main, because direction can be given to strong impulses; but it is a hard task to steer a drifting ship.
The subject is so wide and capable of being treated under such a variety of headings that my purpose here is only to offer from my experience remarks upon two of the chief influences which either make for corrective development, or emphasize the original bent and impair usefulness and citizenship. The one is home training and early environment, the other is the school and the teacher.
A long experience in the specialty of diseases of children has brought me in contact with many children in their homes. A large and important book could, indeed should^ be written on the subject of parenthood. In a paper I wrote some years ago ('The Nervous Mother,' Univ. Med. Mag., N. Y., 1895) I said:
There are obviously some faults here which must be local or due to remediable conditions. It is our duty to search out the defects and correct them. This in my judgment is chiefly in negligences in teaching mothers their duties. When it is realized that the most valuable influential impressions upon the infantile organism (whereby standards are acquired, moral impulses initiated), are made during the first year of life, it is plain that no omission of maternal care can be otherwise than hurtful. However much the mother may lack of perfect fitness for her sphere, however blameworthy in her attitude toward her trust, still she is a trustee for whom there can be no substitute comparable to herself. The child who has failed to enjoy the tender all-enfolding care and love of a mother, acting up to her best endeavors, is bereft of the greatest gift obtainable. She may leave in her personality, in her conduct, much to be desired. She may be a mass of minor faults, not wise or strong of mind, yet if she be sincerely desirous of fulfilling her instinctive obligations, no other being can replace her.
The difficult boy stands clearly differentiated in my mind from the backward-minded or irresponsible boy, although there are grounds on which they may become merged. The difficult boy, as I conceive him, is one endowed with normal impulses, usually overstrong, which, because of defects of early guidance, have become diffusive, unsymmetrical, lacking inhibition, one who is commingled of more bad than good, yet often capable of great things under favorable conditions. There are those in whom the ingredients vary in other directions, among the w T orst of which are apathy, laziness, secretiveness, moral shortcomings. These, however, will soon or late become classifiable differently.
The difficult boy may appear to be a liar, a bully, selfish, unwilling to exert himself in worthy directions, of even other and perhaps worse characteristics. All this may be due to pressure of circumstances obtunding a none too vigorous sense of right and wrong, distorting conceptions, inducing acts and speech which belie inherent normal instincts which are undeveloped or chronically impaired. In short the seeds of wholesome manhood are present, in fair measure, capable at times of splendid development, often to admirable citizenship, but not strong enough unaided to nullify the blanketing effects of circumstance. How are we to estimate what these counteracting forces are, or were, in the instance? How should we have conducted ourselves under the same baffling influences? What would have been the effect of the same plainly indicated disheartenments, evil influences, examples on one nature as compared with another? If we examine our own personalities, we can see evidences of effects springing from apparently trivial causes out of all proportion to that which should have followed. A critical, candid self-survey will often astonish and alarm us at the close escapes we have made from impulsions which swayed us forcefully. What consequences have we escaped by sheer accident? In short, how can we wisely make allowances for forces potent in others, the nature of which we may only dimly know and are practically unable to appreciate in all their temporary despotism? The question is how far will the normal impulses carry any one? We plume ourselves on our own individual solidarity, poise, achievements, our importance in the community; yet we have survived endless perils by means of some judgment and more luck.
G. Stanley Hall, the master mind in childhood psychology, tells us in this connection that:
Adolescence begins with the new wave of vitality seen in growth; in the modifications of nearly every organ; new interests, instincts, and tendencies arise, increased appetites and curiosity, so that it is the physiologic second birth. Passions and desires spring into vigorous life, but with them normally comes, or should come, the evolution of higher powers of control and inhibition. The momentum of inheritance may be sufficient and Binschwanger conceived the psychic morbidities of this age as due to exhaustion or lack of capital.
In the earliest education of all boys, whether in the family, the kindergarten or the school, one definite principle, it seems to me, should be held in mind as of paramount importance. This is motor training. The potentiality of this postulate is readily demonstrable, yet the history of education exhibits here a neglect, seeming to argue that if the principle were so vital it would have been enforced long ago. There is some modification in these later years. Froebel makes partial use of motor training in his beautiful idealizations, but it is subordinated to an optimistic expression of the good, the beautiful, the divine, needful but lacking in robust practicability. Man is put into the world to do something, to be something, and the obvious way to accomplish this is by primitive forms of labor. He may, and should, think, worship and aim for high ideals. In all this he should achieve concrete things. It is by no means proved that he can do this, except through the gradual process of fitting himself to become a practical part of the divine scheme. In this there is no place for drones. In due time he may devote himself, after earning the right, to physical quiescence, to thought, to contemplation. Man may, if he so elects, try to achieve a serene mental attitude (nirvana or kaaf) until he shall become released from all bonds as the teachings of Brahma make possible. This is what the Froebelian conception leads to.
Action is the key-note to habit and character. Good habits make for progress. Habits are definite actions resulting from sensations, motor modifications in nervous matter which have become stable through repetitions of actions. They are thus more easily performed. At first there is friction between sensory and motor nerve cells and this must be decreased by work. Memory is thus the same as habit; the nerve cells continuing to act in the way they have been induced to act before. We remember most easily things or acts which have been most often performed; new paths are thus ploughed out in nervous matter. When actions have been repeated often enough there are then almost no new paths to be formed. Hence habits acquired become fundamental courses of action, they constitute organic memory, which may or may not be accompanied with consciousness. To form these there must be accurate repetitions of dynamic associations between nerve cells in early life, during the plastic period. After plasticity of these cells has passed away guiding habits can only be acquired imperfectly, and if at all at enormous expense of energy. Hence the imperative need to form correct early habits, which are bundles of memories or tendencies enabling us to act again in the way we acted before. They become parts of our essential nature. A man does in middle life what he began to do in childhood—it may be good or bad—it is imperative. The boy unconsciously molds and trains his nervous mechanisms in such fashion that they will continue to act and react in the same way. At the start he is master, after a time habits master him. When these facts are more clearly appreciated there will be broader acceptance of the truth of the principle that dogmatic authoritative training in early life is best, provided always parents and teachers can be trusted to initiate action judiciously. Many a man is a failure in some direction, because he omitted to acquire the habit of courtesy, self-restraint, correct diction, punctuality, dexterity, accuracy in fundamental motions, even truth-telling. What evil may follow from the acquirement of vicious habits, however heroically resented, can readily be imagined. Habit is the process of associating a definite muscular action with a sense impression or with an idea. A child properly trained gives the right motor response with unerring accuracy. Sensation must be associated so often with action that one shall flow automatically into the other. An image is a revised sensation leading to mental conceptions, impulses, etc. No image can be formed without causing a more or less intense motor outflow. Movements can be checked by the introduction of cause, and counter cause. Thus the will is invited to oppose a movement through the function of inhibition, whereby it is modified in accordance with judgment.
The child of rapid growth usually fails of symmetric development in several directions. Disease processes, infections, accidents of nutrition, environment, emotional influences, etc., all tend to initiate and emphasize minor deformities. Overgrowth usually leads, for instance, to poor thoracic capacity. If the thorax is for any reason disproportionately small and narrow a variety of special predispositions are encountered.
If as physicians we fail to devote sufficient attention to morbid phenomena of the mind and morals, we perform less than half our duty. Disorders of the mind are dependent upon one of two factors: either defects of development in the brain, or diseased processes of the brain, or retroactively. The purpose and aim of diagnosis rest upon the concept that by the early recognition of manifestations of morbid physiology, we shall find means to check the changes which would otherwise pass on to destructive alterations.
If this proposition obtains for the disorders of the physical functions, how much more must it fulfill a valuable service for those of the brain, which is a far more sensitive structure and especially liable to permanent damage from relatively slight irritations. It is a great privilege to mitigate bodily suffering, to limit the progress of structural degenerations, to prevent disablement and save life, but how vastly higher is the prerogative to turn aside those perils which jeopardize the budding intellect and rescue a tottering moral nature. Yet how little of this subject is the medical student taught, or again how much interest does the average practitioner display in this incomparably higher phase of his duties?
It should be the aim of the clinical teacher to emphasize unceasingly the urgency of obtaining the earliest possible indications, omens or prefigurements of departure from normal functionation; especially in children. When this is accomplished the greatest economy is effected; first in the limiting of suffering and the progress of disease, and second, in forefending the organism from developmental defects. All life is a process of development, but the effects of interferences are vastly more forceful and significant in the young. M. W. Barr points out a fact, especialty obvious in children of impaired mentality, which, however, obtains to a certain extent in all. There are at any one period, three ages which must be estimated: (1) the actual age in years, etc.; (2) the psychologic age, the degree of mental development or retardation; (3) the physiologic age, the status of conformation and function.
Diagnosis of the morbid conditions of childhood involves something more than a mere search for evidences of disease. During the period of plasticity numerous influences prevail in all ranks of life to alter normal growth and organic development by which the foundations of constitutional weakness are often laid. These are in a great measure preventable, at least in part. It is the duty of the physician to recognize and promptly rectify the evil effects of environment and training, and in so far as possible of inheritance. Hence it is a most important department of differentiation to possess clearly defined standards of growth, proportion, activities, sensitiveness, functional competence, intelligence and capacity for endurance. These standards should be the product of wide observation, reading and experience, among normal as well as abnormal conditions, but unless tempered by judgment, right conclusions are not assured.
The prototype for each teacher and physician is the ideal child, a composite picture of normal children, and can not be formed too carefully by a thorough interpretation of all data at command. Next to the ideal child the teacher should erect for himself standards with permissible variants. In America we must not limit our attention to children of pure Anglo-Saxon stock, but hold in view the many other racial characteristics with which we are likely to come in contact. There are crosses of the Latin, Celt, Slav, German, Hebrew and other white races; also the hybrids of red, yellow and black races. These modifications exhibit laws of their own, as yet by no means clear, but deeply significant. Inheritance of tendencies is recognized as a potential factor. Predisposition to physical and moral derangement is an obvious factor, admittedly forceful for harm.
Difficulties of differentiation are many enough among children normal in structure, in neural balance and in mind, but these grow greater where constitutional variations or deviations are present. Hence it is desirable to weigh variants in type, such as peculiar and exceptional children. The normal processes are profoundly modified by peculiarities of temperament due to inheritance or acquired. E. W. Bohannon in a statistical study of over 1,000 children (Pediatric Seminary, Oct., 1894) covers the ground sufficiently to warrant using his classification. The psychic factor demands deeper attention in pedagogics than ordinarily obtains.
Bohannon formulates certain types of mental and physical conformation:
Many of these types cross; several are liable to include similar features, constituting composites of the types, making the study somewhat complicated if carried to legitimate conclusions.
A review of Bohannon's findings and conclusions from the observation of this large group reveals much of practical interest. As to general health and mental ability there appears good reason for believing that the larger children, except the extremes, are superior to others. But it must not be forgotten that there are pathologic cases in this group, especially in those showing marked departures from the average. Those who suggest too early maturity are generally even-tempered.
Small children evidence delayed development. The less vigorous show degenerative phenomena, many are delicate, ugly, deformed, or vicious, dull, mean or spiteful, and tend toward morbidity. The strong children, while exhibiting many admirable qualities, are likely to be aggressive, harsh, coarse, rough. More is expected of them, hence they are often early exhausted by compulsory work; their offenses are the result of excessive, often explosive, energy. The weakly children are likely to show pronounced evidence of degeneracy, often they are ugly and deformed, cruel and mentally deficient. Inheritance was not so frequently recognized a cause as parental follies, especially during the embryonal period. Temperamentally they are usually unfortunate.
The deft and agile show better health, yet are undersized. Clumsiness is found due to two causes; first, want of development of the mechanisms which function the accessory movements; and second, excessive inhibition of the same, along with lack of emotional balance. Ugliness is usually accompanied by many evidences of degeneration, physical and mental; in the deformed these deviations are even more decidedly present. Deformities are largely (ipso facto) manifestations of deviation, defects of central development exhibiting anatomic and physiologic faults, some of which are remediable. Under good care many of these improve greatly, some becoming distinguished adults. They are found to be treated by parents and associates with amazing lack of consideration, hence they suffer temperamentally.
Among those showing defects in mind, sense organs and speech, there is much to indicate a general decline. They are morbidly retiring, dependent, and lacking in symmetrical development, due in part to original defects and deficiencies in normal stimulus.
Those children grouped as 'nervous' exhibit delicacy and instability of constitution, are deficient in size and vigor, are timid, sensitive and changeful, disposed to be irritable and meddlesome, defective in control, hence untruthful. The extremely over dainty and the distinctly dirty, each excite suspicion of mental abnormalities. Buoyancy and teasing both indicate excess of energy; so also of cruelty, but here ancestral traits seem manifested.
Lying and imaginativeness are allied, and point to lack of self-control or to selfish imitation; the associated traits are disobedience, ill-temper, thieving and bad health. Those who are peevish, untruthful, discontented, are usually of delicate make and evince instability and poor vitality. Those who are loquacious, voluble and inquisitive lack inhibition or control.
Courageous children are usually healthy and strong in mind and body. Timidity has a physical basis, but may be acquired from bad environment, habitual discouragement. The 'only child in the family' in 66 per cent, shows disadvantageous traits; they are usually of poor health, lacking much of normality, both mental and physical. The 'youngest child,' the 'only boy' or the 'only girl' often displays many striking resemblances to the 'only child.'
Classification of grades of mental deviation is only important for purposes of teaching. Types of mind there are, and they must be fully appreciated that individuals may secure the right kind of influence and training. Degrees and qualities of mentality are even more important, because by this means we may know where to place the individual, how much control to insist upon, how much compulsion to exert on the parents. Types of all the adolescent insanities merge into each other. Those who have the charge of young children may have no need of psychiatric training, but they do need to employ a common-sense recognition of abnormalities, deviations, obliquities, patent enough to the intelligent observer. Children of pronounced dominant impulses may exhibit at times self-will, naughtiness, ill temper, even exuberant imagination to the point of mendacity, buoyancy or apathy in changing moods, and yet become wholesome admirable citizens. Distinct and continued nervousness, fretfulness, timidity, brooding, causeless variations in moods, cruelty, vengefulness, should put us on our guard and warrant suspicion of deep-seated perturbations foreshadowing psychoses.
Educational methods are still defective in many particulars. Tradition holds us in a powerful grasp. In the public, and in most private schools, the course of study is analogous and aims to meet the supposed needs of the child of average intelligence. This would be well enough if certain fundamental truths were recognized by both school boards and parents. Custom has created a public opinion from which it is difficult to appeal. For instance, it is a fact that all children develop on some lines more rapidly than on others, in differing degrees of rapidity. In one there may be exhibited early motor aptitudes with late intellectual capacities. In another the reverse, yet at a certain age they may be to all intents equal. One child may acquire language, grammar, and the elements of literature early, with a late grasp of numbers, arithmetic, the natural sciences. Another may reverse this, and yet at a given time these two may be on a par. It will be plain that to get the best results due allowances should be made for these variants. In some schools full cognizance is taken of these normal peculiarities. Economy, however, demands that all children of about a certain 'grade' shall pursue a 'systematic course.' The product is not what it should be.
The personal influence of the teacher is recognized increasingly. In some of our colleges a plan of subdividing the classes into small groups and placing them under tutors has been found of largest value. (At Princeton University a modified Oxford tutorial system was first initiated with excellent effect by Woodrow Wilson. This is now adopted by several other colleges.)
Indeed valuable horses and dogs get more careful personal teaching than most children. Boys whom we characterize as 'difficult' have become so largely by neglect or postponement of some important item of education. They have become warped, unsymmetric, psychically and physically. The prevention is right education, so also is the cure. The first thing is to correct faults of misdirected impulse, the next is to teach the elemental principles of self-restraint, disentangling errors, illuminating doubts, always encouraging and leading to wholesome customary lines of action and thought. Endless difficulties would be prevented, boundless good would be afforded, if from the earliest teachers to the highest university professors there should be pursued some uniform plan of notes or records on individual aptitudes, tastes, tendencies, capacities. Some teachers are endowed with instinctive capabilities for meeting unusual problems. Some also, the majority, are astonished and distressed, even annoyed and resentful in the face of individual peculiarities, good or bad. No one should judge too soon whether the peculiarity be altogether good or bad.
Errant impulses are by no means understood. Geniuses have exhibited strange individualisms. They are rare (geniuses), it is true, but how many times do well-meant efforts to suppress spots on the leopard, or to paint out the stripes on the tiger, fail to make of a well-bred wild cub a respectable tabby cat. The power of a nation resides in men of individual dominant personality.
We want our boys and young men to have ample opportunity to evolve their own individualism. University curricula are now made increasingly liberal. Why should not the primary schools adopt similar principles? It is quite true a 'system' is desirable for the average boy, but a sliding scale ought to be within the reach of any one who is recognizably unfit to pursue the customary methods.
Our 'difficult boys' may be divided roughly into those who are provided with overmuch impulse or too little, the robust exuberant doer, or the torpid dreamer. It is obvious that each needs motor education, partly similar and partly diverse. The chief defect of our school system is the lack of opportunity for motor education. In country districts where beys acquire of necessity more of handicraftsmanship they need manual training less. In cities it is essential.
The boy of mental peculiarities will not settle down to efficient work till he finds his own place, his level, range of action, and by his own initiative. This discovery is always the outcome of a gradual evolution; it should not be forced. From this secure position, once attained, he can fare forth satisfactorily and finally achieve his adult sphere of usefulness. That boy is fortunate who is content with his own province when discovered and does not invade that of another. Many a boy fitted to make an admirable and happy ranchman, soldier, sailor or farmer becomes a misfit self-detesting clergyman, physician or lawyer. His early advisers are generally to blame in compelling him to masquerade as a scholar, who was formed to be an excellent capable every-day man. Intelligence, capacity, is not to be measured by degrees so much as by qualities, aptitudes, characteristics. A first-class foreman in a factory may possess a far more symmetric intelligence, a clearer judgment, than the lopsided genius who invented the objects which he manufactures.
One of the surest criteria of capacity, at any level, is, according to M. W. Barr, the grasp, the quality of the grip of the hand. The grasp shows many things indicating the comprehensiveness of the mind. Certain minds can readily learn by doing, yet they grope feebly in pure intellectual effort. They reach an equally worthy goal if only they know their limits, stop at their own station, go to their own home. Over-stimulation in scholasticism is as hurtful as overtraining in track athletics; the staleness may pass into permanent mental impairment.
Shyness, inertia, resentment of interference, timidity, gloom, indolence or stubbornness may indicate no essential defect, but may be due to awkwardness, defective coordination. The cure is kindly encouragement, guidance in activities, development of unrecognized aptitudes, praise, wholesome incentives. Many have little tactile sense; this should be encouraged in all ways; it may finally come in fair measure and form the ground for conspicuous abilities by cooperation of other faculties long overshadowed. Barr quotes Buffon 'how wonderfully the senses are alike at bottom, how they supplement each other!'
The limit of receptivity is often reached early. It is then wise to be content with careful training on a lower level in which excellent capacities can be attained. One man can become a thoroughly good soldier, to obey orders, to die at his post, to follow to the death, who never can lead a company, much less plan a campaign or sail a ship. The best captain is by no means necessarily a good oarsman or a gunner. Always it is essential to achieve even qualified success to begin special training as early as possible during the plastic stage. No good sailor can be made from an old farmer or an old professor of mathematics.
The most promising agency in eliminating the difficulties which impair manhood in boys, future men, citizens, is the kindergarten, the principles of education outlined by Froebel. This aims at the highest idealization of life, largely through the play instinct. Whatever criticisms are made on the kindergarten teaching can only hold against methods of application. So far these objections have to do chiefly with its lack of adjustability to established educational methods, and Mill cease when the exponents of Froebel acquire greater breadth of knowledge, a clear appreciation of the practical needs of society. Our established methods of education leave much to be desired, but it will take time and thought to bring about a perfect system. Meanwhile it seems plain that the one means of both prevention and cure of difficult boys is to be found in a perfect home.
The ideal home, where two parents live with and for their children, where mutual helpfulness is fully afforded, where the fundamental impressions are given and received, is the greatest agency in primary education. Unfortunately this ideal home is made difficult of attainment because of a multitude of factors, especially in large cities by altered, artificial, perverted methods of living. The instinctive natural helpfulness, so necessary to arouse the sense of individual responsibility, finds little opportunity for growth. Unless the boy is encouraged to bear his part of the burden, to contribute his share to the body domestic, as in the primitive home, he can not grow symmetrically, or become certain, exact, in his more robust impulses. Instincts of responsibility find small encouragement.
To be sure, we can not check the inevitable trend of modern industries which aim by over-specialization to reduce the individual to the rating of an intelligent machine, whether in the lower or in the higher industries. If, however, we can succeed in fostering the spirit of the home, in implanting early, in the plastic childish brain cells, the idealities, the desirabilities of home, much will then be accomplished. Admitting that the conception of the home, once implanted, is forceful for so wide an influence, let us waste less time in other directions and concentrate our efforts on erecting and preserving the ideal of the home. This the teaching of Froebel is capable of accomplishing. The concept of divided responsibility is constantly presented. Pictures of domesticity, object lessons in practical helpfulness, are parts of the course of instruction. Children taught on this principle will carry through their lives clear ideals of home. When they become parents these instinctive promptings, these deeply suggestive pictures, early implanted, will act as unerring guides to parenthood.
The first thing a troublesome boy must learn is unquestioning obedience. In this way he may become a perfect intelligent machine. Not, however, if he run wild and lawless till manhood, or not then without endless pain and punishment can he learn his life lesson. All good in human beings comes from seizing and utilizing the period of receptivity to all manner of impressions, the formation of habits of obedience, of accurate response to orders, to the facilities of craftsmanship. This is highest at birth and diminishes in a parabolic curve.
The boy physically strong, but intellectually weak, should not be judged by the same standards as the one physically weak but intelligently keen. Each will tire in his line of defects before the complemental capability has time to assert its potency. Neither should he hastily be judged inferior, because within his sphere he may be worthy of confidence and equally useful. Barr thinks that the stimulus of music is equal to that from books. The ever-present sensitiveness to disharmonies is developed by rhythmic sounds as well as by military drill. As energies are developed they can be specialized, directed into suitable channels, to varying applications, if not falsely forced, only wisely encouraged.
The problem of educating the tumultuous, effervescent or exasperating boy is usually solved by the military school. The enforcement of implicit obedience, the sharing of responsibilities by boys acting as petty officers and many other features constitute satisfactory methods, in the main sufficient. They often lack something essential. Soldierly qualities in the teachers may be absent, they being not themselves adequately trained for their accidental rôle. Again the routine of an ordinary school, constructed on military lines, even those of governmental foundation, often fails, because the industrial feature is absent, the only relaxations being leisure, or the ordinary athletic games.
Probably the best means of making clear the ideal methods, so far as we can adduce them, is to cite the course of training at a school where the best results are attained; where the boys, all difficult problems, yet become developed into, not only useful citizens, with rarest exceptions, but some of them achieve high qualities although their early status was desperately bad. The one in my mind is the Glen Mills School, Pa., originally the House of Refuge for Philadelphia. The boys are only admitted when committed by the law after perpetrating overt acts. Every one is of the most. difficult kind. The special features of the Glen Mills School are the paternal, intellectual, agricultural, industrial and military. Other schools there may be conceived on a similar system, but I am-safe in claiming that nowhere are these features in all branches so consistently and thoroughly carried to a legitimate issue. None achieve such uniformly satisfactory results. One item of equipment is superior, a magnificent gymnasium, the gift of Mr. Alfred Harrison. Here the boys enjoy every opportunity of a gymnasium, a drill hall, indoor games, basketball, preliminary baseball and football, etc., and a splendid swimming tank; all under expert instruction. The one element of industrial training impresses me as the most important of all. The boys make all their shoes, clothes and many other essential articles for home consumption; all furniture needed or desired. They decorate in highly artistic fashion all walls for esthetic and sanitary reasons and add to buildings, as the two new wings of the schoolhouse built last year show. Agricultural instruction is not only the best form of physical training, but a constant source of object lessons, the wholesome means of correction and moral stimulation. The week's work is divided judiciously between these various industries, and always, daily, certain portions of scholastic instruction, military routine, drills, etc. The scholars live and sleep and eat in houses presided over by the teachers and their families, securing the paternal influences.
In conclusion let me urge all those who are charged with the care of a difficult boy to be openminded at all times; to be prepared to modify the original concept, the earlier estimate; to read him in the lights revealed along the way. Above all things exercise toward him companionability; encourage confidences, especially as to hopes, ambitions, views on life. Be quick to see the good, the forceful, qualities and help the spontaneous exercise of these. Above all never be betrayed into forcing on such a boy plans of action contrary to his bent, his tendencies. Let him evolve a course of action, help him to perfect it, be it large or small. The small may become elaborated, the large may need modification. When the course is chosen, emphasize, praise, encourage spontaneity. Always leave the door open to a return to you for renewals of stimulus; encourage the appeal to you for judgment, for wisdom.
- See Reuben Post Halleck, 'The Education of the Central Nervous System.'
- See article by the author, Brit. Jour. Childrens' Diseases, January, 1905.