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JOURNAL OF EDUCATION.
NEW SERIES: VOL, V
The Child as a Director of the Parent's
BY DR. C. W. KIMMINS OF LONDON, ENGLAND. Of recent years great and far-reaching changes have come over our views with regard to the fundamental problems associated with the education of children. The old familiar sheet of white paper on which the educator had to write, or the soft piece of wax on which he had to leave his impression, has for ever disappeared, and we know now that we have a very much more complex problem to deal with. Within the child forces of heredity are ev s struggling, and powerful predispositions already exist before he comes upu: r the educator's influence. According to Galton's law, instead of the sheet of white paper or the piece of soft wax, we have to deal with a very remarkable product, of which each parent contributes on an average one quarter, each grandparent one-sixteenth, and so on; and generally the occupier of each ancestral place in the nth degree, whatever be the value of n, contributes o‘5 (2n) of the heritage.
How far this law of Galton's approximates on average to the truth it is impossible to say; but individual variations are so great that in any case it is practically impossible to calculate, with any approach to certainty, the predispositions of a child from a knowledge of his ancestors. The problem is still further complicated by the shaping influences of social environment, which are also to a large extent beyond the educator's control.
The very evident result of a knowledge of the complexity of the problem with which we have to deal is to force us to the conclusion that, in the early stages, at any rate, of the child's education, the child must give the lead, that we must be ever on the look-out for what are termed the instinct propulsions of the child, that we must foster and develop with the greatest care those instincts which we wish to foster, and repress bad instincts by a procees of starvation, by the greater development of the good, ihus leading to the formation of desirable habits and the building up of a stable character.
We hear a great deal in the present day about the decline of the influence of the Church in education, and the great increase of the influence of the State, which will, of course, become greater as the days go on. Whether that change is an unmixed good it is not for me to discuss; but this is selfevident, that as education comes more under State influence, as private schools disappear, and as the tendency increases for large companies of children to come under exactly the same influences, without the slightest reference to the personal equation or predisposition of the individual, so the part which the parent will have to play in the education of the child becomes a more and more important one.
It did not need the genius of a Herbert Spencer to discover how utterly incompetent the average parent is to take any useful part in the education of his child. No matter in what school of thought he has been educated, the one subject which has been studiously neglected thruout his training has been that which has to do with the most important work of his life-the bringing up of his child.
The general theory with regard to treatment of young children is one of repression. “Go and see what Johnny is doing, and tell him he musn't,” is the great fundamental line of policy adopted by the average parent. On visiting an infant school, the teacher draws your attention, with evident pride, to the discipline exercised by which large classes of small children are repressed--the one object in early training appearing to be to keep children, who are naturally exuberant and full of energy, in an unnaturally quiet position during infant lessons. Of course any number of exceptions to this typical method of infant instruction might be given.
The eternal questioning of the child, which, properly used, may become such an extremely valuable instrument in education, is vigorously repressed. That most awful dictum, "Good little children should be seen and not heard,” sums up the repressive attitude. Of the many wise things which Froebel said, a very prominent place should be given to his condemnation of this fundamental mistake of the treatment of children. He says, "Do not send it away ungently, do not drive it from you; be not impatient of its questions, its continual questioning; with every cross repelling word you destroy a bud, a shoot of its life-tree.”
But the average child must go to school, and the average parent has no power of determining to any large extent the kind of instruction the child will receive. He therefore not only has to be ever on the watch for those elements which go to the making of character - he has to do the harm done , at the school by the general attitude of repression. The formation of such societies as the King Alfred Society, the Parents' National Education Union, the Childhood Society, the British Association for Child Study, and other societies of a like nature, are signs of a healthy awakening with regard to the responsibilities of parents in this direction.
Let us look for a moment at the normal disqualifications of the average parent. First, we have to deal with the utter ignorance of what may be termed common-sense psychology, and also of common-sense physiology, which is of far more importauce in education than is generally supposed. Then there is the sheer inability to answer truthfully and rationally the natural questions of an intelligent child. In this respect very few parents are fit companions for their children in country walks. Many of my readers have doubtless heard the answers to questions and explanations of natural phenomena given by parents to observant children - answers and explanations which must eventually destroy the beautiful and implicit confidence which the child places in his parent or teacher. The time will surely come, unless these matters are regarded seriously, when "Father told me so," or "Teacher told me so," will cease to have that terrible finality which it generally has to the trusting young child. The longer the parent can by hard work and due regard to truthfulness retain his position on the pedestal of omniscience on which he has been placed by his child, the better."
In a recent minute issued by the board of ducation to rural schools, it is interesting to see that the attitude of the board towards its teachers is still that of the very youug child towards its parent. In this minute teachers are urged to take their children into the country and satisfy their questionings by a liberal course of Nature study. Not one teacher in a hundred is qualified for such work. There will be a rude awakening in country districts when this minute is carried into effect.
Another important point in which the average parent is very frequently absolutely unfitted for the bringing up of his child is in his want of selfcontrol, and, if I may so term it, general deportment. It is an awful responsibility to live under the continual observation of an intelligent child. The teaching of morality in the school may be of the very best, but the most lasting influence in the moulding of character of the child will be the examples he has before him in the home. A child who hears his mother tell a servant to say she is not at home to an unwelcome visitor will hear lessons and read books on the beauties of truthfulness in vain. The child who receives a severe punishment from a bad-tempered father or a neurotic mother, a punishment out of all proportion to the offense committed, will
have his sense of justice rudely shaken. A child is a born mimic, and will naturally imitate those with whom he is continually in contact. The child reared in an atmosphere of domestic wrangling will naturally assume a quarrelsome attitude towards his companions; a boy is often punished severely for taking up an attitude towards his sister which he has seen his father take up towards his mother on innumerable occasions. It is possible by watching a child for half an hour to gain a vast amount of information as to his home surroundings.
So that, generally speaking, the influence of the home is not calculated · to have a good influence on the formation of a desirable character in the child, and this is largely because people will not take education seriously; they will not grasp the enormous persistent influence environment has upon the younger members of the household. Measles, croup, hooping-cough, and other childish ailments are taken seriously, but moral ailments are rarely considered. The child goes on getting worse and worse, developing habits which are sending their roots deeper and deeper into its very nature, without causing any alarm, the general impression being that a good whipping or a term of attendance at a strict school will soon remedy such defects.
In regarding the child as the director of the parent's education, it is necessary to divide the course of the parent's instruction, roughly, into two periods: that required for the management of the child before it is fit to go to school, and that in which the main object is the development of intelligence. It is, of course, impossible to make any hard and fast division. The development of character and the development of intelligence are interwoven all along the line, and the combination should result in the formation of a sound judgment and the formation of a stable character. Dr. Stockmann, in Ibsen's “Enemy of the People,” says: “The strongest man in the world is the man who stands most alone.” It appears to me that one of the greatest and noblest aims of education is so build up character and develop saneness of judgment as to make the possessor self-dependent - in other words, to enable him to stand alone.
The attitude of the parent in the first stage should be one of continual watchfulness for those instinct propulsions which appear to be quite beyond the control of the child. Nothing is more interesting than to see the struggle which is eternally going on, the result of what appears to be a primitive consciousness of right and wrong. It is most instructive to watch the first dawn of the child's tendency to rebel against authority; it puzzles the child as much as it does the parent. This is a very early development. In one's efforts to develop certain instinct propulsions and check others, one is soon aided by this primitive moral consciousness of the child, who very early