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to convince those who care supremely for insignificant things that their ideals are unworthy of an intelligent being ? It is only the philosopher who can subject his ideals to a searching investigation, and how many of us are philosophers ? Most of us never ask ourselves whether what we care for supremely is worth our regard, and what we care for depends, for the most part, on the likings of those with whom we associated in the formative period of our lives.
It is, therefore, vain to expect from the school as much in the way of elevating ideals of life as we may reasonably hope from it in the way of quickening the intelligence. But while plastic imitation has very much to do with determining ideals, it is not the only factor. As we saw in the preceding chapter, the hereditary nature of the child will not permit him to accept every model with equal readiness, and the earnest teacher may be perfectly confident that his efforts towards elevating his pupil's ideals will find a powerful ally in the natures of some of them, an ally so powerful as to enable them to withstand all the antagonistic influences that may be brought to bear upon them.
Cardinal Newman on Imitation. - Our point of view also enables us to perceive the mode in which the teacher must do his work in this respect, provided he is to do it at all. Those only can inculcate a reverence for high ideals who feel that reverence themselves. That profound student of human nature Cardinal Newman, in a remarkable essay on “ Personal Influence the Means of Propagating Truth," dwelt on this fact at great length. “The silent conduct of a conscientious man,” he truly said, “secures for him from beholders a feeling different in kind from any which is created by the more versatile and garrulous reason”—or, as I should say, by any mere appeal to the intellect. And such conduct excites such feelings because it is itself inspired by a profound reverence for goodness, and thereby tends to awaken it in others. It is “difficult,” he also says, “to estimate the moral power which a single individual, trained to practise what he teaches, may acquire in his own circle in the course of years.” And that moral power is due, in the last analysis, to devotion to his highest ideals of conduct and of truth.
Imitation and Character-building.- We have been hearing a good deal of late and none too much about character-building as the most important aim of education, and the Herbartians have been unwearied in telling us how to arrange courses of study to that end. But they concentrate attention on the wrong point. Doubtless the true teacher will find himself handicapped by an ill-arranged, injudicious course of study. In the matter of characterbuilding, however, it is the teacher, and not the course of study, that counts. And the teacher whose influence tells is not of necessity the one with the greatest amount of knowledge or of intellectual power, but the one with a supreme regard for the things that make life worth the living.
Imitation During the Kindergarten Period. — Our point of view also enables us to see a new reason for making the Kindergarten a part of the public-school system. It would, as we know, never be true to say that during any period of the child's life imitation has the field to itself. But that, as we have seen, is more nearly true of the Kindergarten period than of any other. Models of all sorts make a far more powerful and undiscriminating appeal to him then than they do when, at a later period, his character has begun to develop. Now there are certain phases of education that are very well described by saying that they consist in put. ting before the pupil models to be imitated. It is one aim of education throughout to keep before the pupil certain models of clear and accurate and discriminating thinking, of correct feeling, and of strenuous willing, in the hope that he may imitate them. If there is a period in the life of the child when he is readier to imitate any kind of model than he ever is again, that is the period when it is above all things incumbent on society to do what it can to bring him in contact with those who are worthy of being imitated. That period is the Kindergarten period.
Imitation in Dress, etc. — The influence of imitation in such external matters as dress, neatness, deportment, language, is self-evident. A pupil whose habits in these particulars are not what they ought to be may be stimulated to form correct ones by the example of a good teacher.
But it has not been so often noticed that carelessness in these matters may materially diminish the influence of teachers in more important directions in the case of pupils who in matters of dress and deportment are above reproach. It requires a trained eye to see a diamond in the rough. And admirable traits of intellect and of character, concealed by untidiness in dress or a disregard of some of the smaller conventions of life, may either not be seen by pupils of fastidious taste, or may appear unadmirable because of their associations. It is said that in a certain school in Chicago which is attended by many children of This may,
wealthy parents, some of the pupils do not recognize their teachers when they meet them on the street. of course, be due to the fact that the teachers are looked down upon because they are poor. If so, it is simple snobbishness, and no more is to be said about it. But it may be due to the fact that the teachers are careless in matters upon which their pupils have been taught to lay great stress. In that case those teachers have deprived themselves of the power of rendering service to their pupils in the most important matters. It is a well-known fact that the average Chinaman thinks himself vastly superior to the average European or American because our manners and customs are different from and therefore, from his point of view, inferior to his. Teachers need to understand, therefore, that when they fail to set their pupils a good example in external matters, the result upon the minds of some of these will be a repugnance to patterning after them in anything — a disposition to like what the latter dislike, and vice versa.
Influence of the Child's Associates. If the child is susceptible to all the influences with which it comes in contact, it is the business of the school to do what it can to protect him from influences of a hurtful character. I once heard a teacher in Dayton, Ohio, say that she made a careful inquiry as to how her pupils — boys and girls from ten to thirteen years of age — spent their evenings, and she was astonished to learn that fully one third spent them as they liked -- their parents did not know how. Where this is the case it is needless to say that the work of the school during the day must be limited to the production of some small effect upon the intellect, imparting some scraps of knowledge and developing some little intellectual power. The boy's real teachers, those who are giving him his ideals of life and conduct, are the companions with whom he spends his evenings.
It does not fall within the province of this book to point out particular modes for dealing with such an evil. The problem is a difficult one, and all the more so because of the fact that so many of the children have scarcely anything that deserves to be called a home. But if it is worth while for the American people to spend nearly two hundred million dollars for free education, it must be worth while for them to do something towards supplying the practically homeless children in our cities and towns with amusements and recreations which they may enjoy under such circumstances as will promote the work of the school. Education is a serious business. Once we come to understand how serious it is, we shall find some means of diminishing the number of those who spend their evenings in such a way as to bring to naught the efforts of the school to exert a moral influence.
QUESTIONS ON THE TEXT. 1. What criticism has President Eliot recently made on the public schools, and why is it unjust?
2. What is the chief source of a pupil's ideals, and why?
3. The pupil “cannot get from his intellect any firm support for his ideal.” Explain.
4. In what way is personal fluence a means of propagating truth?
5. What is the relation between imitation and the formation of character ?
6. Why is imitation so influential during the kindergarten period ?
7. Why does the average Chinaman think himself superior to the American?