Talks to Teachers on Psychology
EDUCATION AND BEHAVIOR.
IN our previous paper we were led to frame a very simple conception of what an education means. In the last analysis, it consists in the organizing of resources in the human being, of powers of conduct which shall fit him to his social and physical world. An “ uneducated ” person is one who is nonplused by all but the most habitual situations. On the contrary, one who is educated is able practically to extricate himself, by means of the examples with which his memory is stored and of the abstract conceptions which he has acquired, from circumstances in which he never was placed before. Education, in short, cannot be better described than by calling it the organization of acquired habits of conduct and tendencies to behavior.
To illustrate. You and I are each and all of us educated, in our several ways, and we show our education at this present moment by different conduct. It would be quite impossible for me, with my mind technically and professionally organized as it is, and with the optical stimulus which your presence affords, to remain sitting here entirely silent and inactive. Something tells me that I am expected to speak, and must speak ; something forces me to keep on speaking. My organs of articulation are continuously innervated by outgoing currents, which the currents passing inward at my eyes and through my educated brain have set in motion ; and the particular movements which they make have their form and order determined altogether by the training of all my past years of lecturing and reading. Your conduct, on the other hand, might seem at first sight purely receptive and inactive, — leaving out those among you who happen to be taking notes. But the very listening which you are carrying on is itself a determinate kind of conduct. All the muscular tensions of your body are distributed in a peculiar way as you listen; your head, your eyes, are fixed characteristically. And when the lecture is over, it will inevitably eventuate in some stroke of behavior, as I said on the previous occasion. You may be guided differently in some special emergency in the schoolroom by some word which I now let fall. So it is with the impressions you will make there on your pupil. You should get into the habit of regarding them all as instrumental to the acquisition by him of capacities for behavior, emotional, social, bodily, vocal, technical, or what not. And this being the case, you ought to feel willing, in a broad, general way, and without hair-splitting or farther ado, to take up with the biological conception of the mind, as of something given us for practical use. That conception, at any rate, will conveniently cover the greater part of your own educational work.
If we reflect upon the various ideals of education that are prevalent in the different countries, we see that what they all aim at is to organize capacities for conduct. This is most immediately obvious in Germany, where the explicitly avowed aim of the higher education is to turn the student into an instrument for advancing scientific discovery. The German universities are proud of the number of young specialists whom they turn out every year, — not necessarily men of any original force of intellect, but men so trained to research that when their professor gives them an historical or philological thesis to prepare, or a bit of laboratory work to do, with a general indication as to the best method, they can go off by themselves and use apparatus and consult sources in such a way as to grind out in the requisite number of months some little peppercorn of new truth worthy of being added to the store of extant human information on that subject. Little else is recognized in Germany as a man’s title to academic advancement than his ability thus to show himself an efficient instrument of research.
In England, it might seem at first sight as if what the higher education of the universities aimed at were the production of certain static types of character, rather than the development of what one may call this dynamic scientific efficiency. Professor Jowett, when asked what Oxford could do for its students, is said to have replied, " Oxford can teach an English gentleman how to be an English gentleman.” But if you ask what it means “ to be an English gentleman, " the only reply is in terms of conduct and behavior. An English gentleman is a bundle of specifically qualified reactions, a creature who for all the emergencies of life has his line of behavior distinctly marked out for him in advance. Here, as elsewhere, “ England expects every man to do his duty.”
THE NECESSITY OF REACTIONS.
If all this be true, then immediately one general aphorism emerges which ought by logical right to dominate the entire conduct of the teacher in the classroom. No reception without reaction, no impression without correlative expression,—this is the great maxim which the teacher ought never to forget. An impression which simply flows in at the pupil’s eyes or ears, and in no way modifies the active life, is an impression gone to waste. It is physiologically incomplete. It leaves no fruits behind it in the way of capacity acquired. Even as mere impression it fails to produce its proper effect upon the memory ; for, to remain fully amongst the acquisitions of this latter faculty, it must be wrought into the whole cycle of our operations. Its motor consequences are what clinch it. Some effect, due to it in the way of an activity, must return to the mind in the form of the sensation of having acted, and connect itself with the impression. The most durable impressions, in fact, are those on account of which we speak or act, or else are inwardly convulsed.
The older pedagogic method of learning things by rote, and reciting them parrot-like in the schoolroom, rested on the truth that a thing merely read or heard, and never verbally reproduced, contracts the weakest possible adhesion in the mind. Verbal recitation or reproduction is thus a highly important kind of reactive behavior on our impressions, and it is to be feared that, in the reaction against the old parrot recitations as the beginning and end of instruction, the extreme value of verbal recitation as an element of complete training may nowadays be too much forgotten.
When we turn to modern pedagogics, we see how enormously the field of reactive conduct has been extended by the introduction of all those methods of concrete object teaching which are the glory of our contemporary schools. Verbal reactions, useful as they are, are insufficient. The pupil’s words may be right, but the conceptions corresponding to them are often direfully wrong. In a modern school, therefore, they form only a small part of what the pupil is required to do. He must keep notebooks, make drawings, plans, and maps, take measurements, enter the laboratory and perform experiments, consult authorities, and write essays. He must do in his fashion what is often laughed at by outsiders when it appears in prospectuses under the title of “ original work,” but what is really the only possible training for the doing of original work thereafter. The most colossal improvement which recent years have seen in secondary education lies in the introduction of the manual training schools ; not because they will give us a people more handy and practical for domestic life and better skilled in trades, but because they will give us citizens with an entirely different intellectual fibre. Laboratory work and shop work engender a habit of observation, a knowledge of the difference between accuracy and vagueness, and an insight into nature’s complexity and into the inadequacy of all abstract verbal accounts of real phenomena, which once wrought into the mind remain there as lifelong possessions. They confer precision ; because if you are doing a thing, you must do it definitely right or definitely wrong. They give honesty ; for when you express yourself by making things, and not by using words, it becomes impossible to dissimulate your vagueness or ignorance by ambiguity. They beget a habit of self-reliance ; they keep the interest and attention always cheerfully engaged, and reduce the teacher’s disciplinary functions to a minimum. Of the various systems of manual training, so far as woodwork is concerned, the Swedish sloyd system, if I may have an opinion on such matters, seems to me by far the best, psychologically considered. Manual-training methods, fortunately, are being slowly, but surely, introduced into all our large cities ; but there is still an immense distance to traverse before they shall have gained the extension which they are destined ultimately to possess.
No impression without expression, then, — that is the first pedagogic fruit of our evolutionary conception of the mind as something instrumental to adaptive behavior. But a word may be said in continuation. The expression itself comes back to us, as I intimated a moment ago, in the form of a still farther impression, — the impression, namely, of what we have done. We thus receive sensible news of our behavior and its results. We hear the words we have spoken, feel our own blow as we give it, or read the success or failure of our reactions in the bystander’s eyes. Now, this return wave of impression pertains to the completeness of the whole experience, and a word about its importance in the schoolroom may not be out of place. It would seem only natural to say that since after acting we normally get some return impression of result, it must be well to let the pupil get such a return impression in every possible case. Nevertheless, in schools where examination marks and " standing ” and other returns of result are concealed, the pupil is frustrated of this natural termination of the cycle of his activities, and often suffers from the sense of incompleteness and uncertainty; and there are persons who defend this system as encouraging the pupil to work for the work’s sake, and not for extraneous reward. Of course, here as elsewhere, concrete experience must prevail over psychological deduction. But as far as our psychological deduction goes, it would suggest that the pupil’s eagerness to know how well he does is in the line of his normal completeness of function, and should never be balked except for very definite reasons indeed.
NATIVE REACTIONS AND ACQUIRED REACTIONS.
We are by this time fully launched upon the biological conception. Man is an organism for reacting on impressions ; his mind is there to help determine his reactions, and the purpose of his education is to make them numerous and perfect. Our education means, in short, little more than a mass of possibilities of reaction, acquired at home, at school, or in the training of affairs. The teacher’s task is that of supervising the acquiring process.
This being the case, I will immediately state a principle which underlies the whole process of acquisition and governs the entire activity of the teacher. It is this ; —
Every acquired reaction is, as a rule, either a complication grafted on a native reaction, or a substitute for a native reaction which the same object originally tended to provoke.
The teacher’s art consists in bringing about the substitution or complication ; and success in the art presupposes a sympathetic acquaintance with the reactive tendencies natively there.
Without an equipment of native reactions on the child’s part, the teacher would have no hold whatever upon the child’s attention or conduct. You may take a horse to the water, but you cannot make him drink; and so you may take a child to the schoolroom, but you cannot make him learn the new things you wish to impart, except by soliciting him in the first instance by something which natively makes him react. He must take the first step himself. He must do something before you can get your purchase on him. That something may be something good or something bad. A bad reaction is better than no reaction at all; for if bad, you can couple it with consequences which awake him to its badness. But imagine a child so lifeless as to react in no way to the teacher’s first appeals, and say how you can possibly take the first step in his education.
To make this abstract conception more concrete, assume the case of a young child’s training in good manners. The child has a native tendency to snatch with his hands at anything that attracts his curiosity ; also to draw back his hands when slapped, to cry under these latter conditions, to smile when gently spoken to, and to imitate one’s gestures.
Suppose now you appear before the child with a new toy intended as a present for him. No sooner does he see the toy than he seeks to snatch it. You slap the hand ; it is withdrawn, and the child cries. You then hold up the toy, smiling and saying, " Ask for it nicely, — so!” The child stops crying, imitates you, receives the toy, and crows with pleasure, — and that little cycle of training is complete. You have substituted the new reaction of “asking” for the native reaction of snatching, when that kind of impression comes.
Now, if the child had no memory, the process would not be educative. No matter how often you came in with a toy, the same series of reactions would fatally occur, each called forth by its own impression : see, snatch; slap, cry; hear, imitate; ask, receive. But with memory there, the child, at the very instant of snatching, recalls the rest of the earlier experience, thinks of the slap and the frustration, recollects the asking and the reward, inhibits the snatching impulse, substitutes the " nice ” reaction for it, and gets the toy immediately by eliminating all the intermediary steps. If a child’s first snatching impulse is excessive or his memory poor, many repetitions of the discipline may be needed before the acquired reaction comes to be an ingrained habit; but in an eminently educable child a single experience will suffice.
One might easily represent the whole process by a brain - diagram ; but such a diagram would be little more than a symbolic translation of the immediate experience into spatial terms, so I omit it.
The first thing, then, for the teacher is to understand the pupil’s native reactive tendencies, — the impulses and instincts of childhood, — so as to be able to substitute one for another, and turn them on to artificial objects.
It is often said that man is distinguished from the lower animals by having a much smaller assortment of native instincts and impulses than they; but this is a great mistake. Man, of course, has not the marvelous egg-laying instincts which some articulates have ; but if we compare him with the mammalia, we are forced to confess that he is appealed to by a much larger array of objects than any other mammal, that his reactions on these objects are characteristic and determinate in a very high degree. The monkeys, and especially the anthropoids, are the only beings that approach him in their analytic curiosity and width of imitativeness. His instinctive impulses, it is true, get overlaid by the secondary reactions due to his superior reasoning power ; and thus man loses the simply instinctive demeanor. But the life of instinct is only disguised in him, not lost; and when the higher brain functions are in abeyance, as happens in imbecility or dementia, his instincts sometimes show their presence in truly brutish ways.
I will therefore say a few words about those instinctive tendencies which are the most important from the teacher’s point of view.
WHAT THE NATIVE REACTIONS ARE.
First of all, fear. Fear of punishment has always been the great weapon of the teacher, and will always, of course, retain some place in the conditions of the schoolroom. The subject is so familiar that nothing more need be said about it. And the same is true of love, and the instinctive desire to please those whom we love. The teacher who succeeds in getting herself loved by the pupils will obtain results which one of a more forbidding temperament finds it impossible to secure.
Next, a word may be said about curiosity. This is perhaps a rather poor term by which to designate the impulse toward better cognition in its full extent; but you will readily understand what I mean. Novelties in the way of sensible objects, especially if their sensational quality is bright, vivid, startling, invariably arrest the attention of the young, and hold it until the desire to know more about the object is assuaged. In its higher form, the impulse toward completer knowledge takes the character of scientific or philosophic curiosity. In both its sensational and its intellectual form, the instinct is more vivacious during childhood and youth than in after life. Young children are possessed by curiosity about every new impression that assails them. It would be quite impossible for a young child to listen to a lecture for more than a few minutes, as you are now listening to me. The outside sights and sounds inevitably carry his attention off. And for most people in middle life, the sort of intellectual effort required of the average schoolboy in mastering his Greek or Latin lesson, his algebra or physics, would be out of the question. The middle-aged citizen attends exclusively to the routine details of his business, and new truths, especially when they require involved trains of close reasoning, are no longer within the scope of his potentiality.
The sensational curiosity of childhood is appealed to more particularly by certain determinate kinds of objects. Material things, things that move, human actions and accounts of human action, will win the attention better than anything that is more abstract. Here again comes in the advantage of the objectteaching and manual-training methods. The pupil’s attention is spontaneously held by any problem that involves a new material object or an activity on any one’s part. The teacher’s earliest appeals, therefore, must be through objects shown, or acts performed or described. Theoretic curiosity, curiosity about the rational relations between things, can hardly be said to awake until adolescence is reached. The sporadic metaphysical inquiries of children as to who made God, and why they have five fingers, need hardly be counted here. But when the theoretic instinct is once alive in the pupil, an entirely new order of pedagogic relations begins for him, a fact with which all teachers are familiar. And both in its sensible and in its rational developments, disinterested curiosity may be successfully appealed to in the child with much more certainty than in the adult, in whom this intellectual instinct has grown so torpid as usually to require quickening by entering into association with some selfish personal interest. Of this latter point I will say more anon.
Imitation. Man has always been recognized as the imitative animal par excellence ; and there is hardly a book on psychology, however old, which has not devoted at least one paragraph to this fact. It is strange, however, that the full scope and pregnancy of the imitative impulse in man has had to wait till the last dozen years to become adequately recognized. M. Tarde led the way in his admirably original work Les Lois de l’Imitation ; and in our own country Professors Royce and Baldwin have kept the ball rolling with all the energy that could be desired. Each of us is in fact what he is almost exclusively by virtue of his imitativeness. We become conscious of what we ourselves are by imitating others. The consciousness of what the others are precedes ; the sense of self grows by the sense of pattern. The entire accumulated wealth of mankind — languages, arts, institutions, and sciences—is passed on from one generation to another by what Baldwin has called social heredity, each generation simply imitating the last. Into the particulars of this most fascinating chapter of psychology I have no time to go. The moment one hears Tarde’s proposition uttered, however, one feels how supremely true it is. Invention — using the term most broadly — and imitation are the two legs, so to call them, on which the human race historically has walked.
Imitation shades imperceptibly into emulation. Emulation is the impulse to imitate what you see another doing, in order not to appear inferior; and it is hard to draw a sharp line between the manifestations of the two impulses, so inextricably do they mix their effects. Emulation is the very nerve of human society. Why are you, my hearers, sitting here before me ? If no one whom you ever heard of had attended a “ summer school ” or teachers’ institute, would it have occurred to any one of you to break out independently and do a thing so unprescribed by fashion ? Probably not. Nor would your pupils come to you unless the children of their parents’ neighbors were all simultaneously being sent to school. We wish not to be lonely or eccentric, and we wish not to be cut off from our share in things which to our neighbors seem desirable possessions.
In the schoolroom, imitation and emulation play absolutely vital parts. Every teacher knows the advantage of having certain things performed by whole bands of children at a time. The teacher who meets with most success is the teacher whose own ways are the most imitable. A teacher should never try to make the pupils do a thing which she cannot do herself. “Come and let me show you how ” is an incomparably better stimulus than “ Go and do it as the book directs.” Children admire a teacher who has skill, and are inspired with emulation. It is useless for a dull and devitalized teacher to exhort her pupils to wake up and take an interest. She must first take one herself ; then her example is effective as no exhortation can possibly be.
Every school has its tone, moral and intellectual. And this tone is a mere tradition kept up by imitation, due in the first instance to the example set by teachers and by previous pupils of an aggressive and dominating type, copied by the others, and passed on from year to year, so that the new pupils take the cue almost immediately. Such a tone changes very slowly, if at all; and then always under the modifying influence of new personalities, aggressive enough in character to set new patterns and not merely to copy the old. The classic example of this sort of tone is the often quoted case of Rugby under Dr. Arnold’s administration. He impressed his own character as a model on the imagination of the oldest boys, who in turn were expected and required to impress theirs upon the younger set. The contagiousness of Arnold’s genius was such that a Rugby man was said to be recognizable all through life by a peculiar turn of character which he acquired at school.
It is obvious that psychology as such can give in this field no precepts of detail. Here, as in so many other fields of teaching, success depends mainly on the native genius of the teacher, — the sympathy, tact, and perception which enable one to seize the right moment and to set the right example.
Amongst the recent modern reforms of teaching methods, a certain disparagement of emulation, as a laudable spring of action in the schoolroom, has often made itself heard. More than a century ago, Rousseau, in his Emile, branded rivalry between one pupil and another as too base a passion to play a part in an ideal education. “ Let Emile,” he said, “ never be led to compare himself to other children. No rivalries, not even in running, as soon as he begins to have the power of reason. It were a hundred times better that he should not learn at all what he could only learn through jealousy or vanity. But I would mark out every year the progress he may have made, and I would compare it with the progress of the following years. I would say to him : ‘ You are now grown so many inches taller. There is the ditch which you jumped over, there is the burden which you raised. There is the distance to which you could throw a pebble, there the distance you could run over without losing breath. See how much more you can do now ! ’ Thus I should excite him without making him jealous of any one. He would wish to surpass himself. I can see no inconvenience in this emulation with his former self.”
Unquestionably, emulation with one’s former self is a noble form of the passion of rivalry, and has a wide scope in the training of the young. But to veto and taboo all possible rivalry of one youth with another, because such rivalry may degenerate into greedy and selfish excess, does seem to savor somewhat of sentimentality, or even of fanaticism. The feeling of rivalry lies at the very basis of our being, all social improvement being largely due to it. There is a noble and generous passion of rivalry as well as a spiteful and greedy one ; and the noble and generous form is particularly common in childhood. All games owe the zest which they bring with them to the fact that they are rooted in the emulous passion ; yet they are the chief means of training in fairness and magnanimity. Can the teacher afford to throw such an ally away ? Ought we seriously to hope that marks, distinctions, prizes, and other goals of effort, based on the pursuit of recognized superiority, should be forever banished from our schools ? As a psychologist, I must confess my doubts. The wise teacher will use this instinct as he uses others, reaping its advantages, and appealing to it in such a way as to reap a maximum of benefit with a minimum of harm ; for, after all, we must confess, with a French critic of Rousseau’s doctrine, that the deepest spring of action in us is the sight of action in another. The spectacle of effort is what awakens and sustains our own effort. No runner running all alone on a race track will find in his own will the power of stimulation which his rivalry with other runnel’s incites, when he feels them at his heels about to pass. When a trotting horse is “ speeded,” a running horse must go beside him to keep him to the pace.
As imitation slides into emulation, so emulation slides into ambition ; and ambition connects itself closely with pugnacity and pride. Consequently, these five instinctive tendencies form an interconnected group of factors, hard to separate in the determination of a great deal of our conduct. The ambitious impulses would perhaps be the best name for the whole group.
Pride and pugnacity have often been considered unworthy passions to appeal to in the young ; but in their more refined and noble forms they play a great part in the schoolroom, and in education generally, being in some characters most potent spurs to effort. Pugnacity need not be thought of merely in the form of physical combativeness. It can be taken in the sense of a general unwillingness to be beaten by any kind of difficulty. It is what makes us feel “ stumped ” and challenged by arduous achievements, and is essential to a spirited and enterprising character. We have had of late too much of the philosophy of tenderness in education ; “ interest ” must be assiduously awakened in everything, difficulties must be smoothed away. Soft pedagogics have taken the place of the old steep and rocky path to learning. But from this lukewarm air the bracing oxygen of effort is left out. It is nonsense to suppose that every step in education can be interesting. The fighting impulse must often be appealed to. Make the pupil feel ashamed of being “scared” at fractions, of being “ downed ” by the law of falling bodies, rouse his pugnacity and pride, and he will rush at the difficult places with a sort of inner anger at himself that is one of his best moral faculties. A victory scored under such conditions becomes a turning point and crisis of his character. It represents the high-water mark of his powers, and serves thereafter as an ideal pattern for his self - imitation. The teacher who never rouses this sort of pugnacious excitement in his pupils falls short of one of his best forms of usefulness.
The next instinct which I shall mention is that of ownership, also one of the radical endowments of the race. It often is the antagonist of imitation. Whether social progress is due more to the passion for keeping old things or to the passion of imitating new ones may in some cases be a difficult thing to decide. The sense of ownership begins in the second year of life ; among the first words which an infant learns to utter are the words “ my ” and “ mine.” The depth and primitiveness of this instinct would seem to discredit psychologically all radical forms of communistic utopia in advance. Private proprietorship cannot be abolished. It seems essential to mental health that the individual should have something beyond the bare clothes on his back to which he can assert exclusive possession, and which he may defend adversely against the world. Even those religious orders who make the most stringent vows of poverty have found it necessary to relax the rule a little in favor of human nature, made unhappy by reduction to too disinterested terms. The monk must have his books ; the nun must have her little garden, and the images and pictures in her room.
In education, the instinct of ownership is fundamental, and can be appealed to in many ways. In the house, training in order and neatness begins with the arrangement of the child’s own personal possessions. In the school, ownership is particularly important in connection with one of its special forms of activity, the collecting impulse. An object possibly not very interesting in itself, like a shell, a postage stamp, or a single map or drawing, will acquire an interest if it fills a gap in a collection or helps to complete a series. Much of the scholarly work of the world, so far as it is mere bibliography, memory, and erudition (and this lies at the basis of all our human scholarship), would seem to owe its interest rather to the way in which it gratifies the accumulating and collecting instinct than to any special appeal which it makes to rational desire. A man wishes a complete collection of information, wishes to know more about a subject than anybody else, much as another may wish to own more dollars, or more early editions, or more engravings before the letter, than anybody else.
The teacher who can work this impulse into the school tasks is fortunate. Almost all children collect something. A tactful teacher may get them to take pleasure in collecting books ; in keeping a neat and orderly collection of notes; in starting, when they are mature enough, a card catalogue ; in preserving every drawing or map which they may make. Neatness, order, and method are thus instinctively gained, along with the other benefits which the possession of the collection entails. Even such a noisome thing as a collection of postage stamps may be used by the teacher as an inciter of interest in the geographical and historical information which she desires to impart. Sloyd successfully avails itself of this instinct in causing the pupil to make a collection of wooden implements fit for his own private use at home. Collecting is of course the basis of all natural history study ; and probably nobody ever became a good naturalist who was not an unusually active collector when a boy.
Construction is the other great instinctive tendency with which the schoolroom has to contract an alliance. Up to the eighth or ninth year of childhood, one may say that the child does hardly anything else than handle objects, explore things with his hands, doing and undoing, setting up and knocking down, putting together and pulling apart; for, from the psychological point of view, construction and destruction are two names for the same manual activity. The result of all this is that familiarity with the physical environment, that acquaintance with the properties of material things, which is really the foundation of human consciousness. To the very last, in most of us, the conceptions of objects and their properties are limited to the notion of what we can do with them. A “stick ” means something we can lean upon or strike with ; “ fire,” something to cook, or warm ourselves, or burn things up withal; “string,” something with which to tie things together. In geometry, the cylinder, circle, sphere, are defined as so many results of construction. The more different kinds of things a child thus gets to know by treating and handling them, the more confident grows his sense of kinship with the world in which he lives. An unsympathetic adult will wonder at the fascinated hours which a child will spend in putting his “ blocks ” together and rearranging them. But the wise education takes the tide at the flood, and from the kindergarten upward devotes the first years of education to training in construction and to object teaching. I need not recapitulate here what I said awhile back about the superiority of the objective and experimental methods. They occupy the pupil in a way most congruous with the spontaneous interests of his age. They absorb him, and leave impressions durable and profound. Compared with the youth taught by these methods, one brought up exclusively by books carries through life a certain remoteness from reality ; he stands, as it were, out of the pale, and feels that he stands so, and often suffers a kind of melancholy from which he might have been rescued by a more “real” education.
There are other impulses, such as love of approbation or vanity, shyness and secretiveness, of which a word might be said, but they are too familiar to need it. You can easily pursue the subject by your own reflection. There is one general law, however, that relates to many of our instinctive tendencies, and that has no little importance in education. I must refer to it briefly before I leave the subject. It has been called the law of transitoriness in instincts. Many of our impulsive tendencies ripen at a certain period, and if the appropriate objects be then and there provided, habits of conduct toward them are acquired, which last. But if the objects be not forthcoming then, the impulse may die out before a habit is formed, and later it may be hard to teach the creature to react appropriately in those directions. The sucking instinct in mammals, the following instinct in certain birds and quadrupeds, are examples of this; they disappear shortly after birth.
In children we observe a ripening of impulses and interests in a certain determinate order. Creeping, walking, climbing, imitating vocal sounds, constructing, drawing, calculating, possess the child in succession ; and in some children the possession, while it lasts, may be of a semi-frantic and exclusive sort. Later, the interest in any one of these things may wholly fade away. Of course, the proper pedagogic moment to work in skill and to clinch the useful habit is when the native impulse is most acutely present. Crowd on the athletic opportunities, the mental arithmetic, the verselearning, the drawing, the botany, or what not, the moment you have reason to think the hour is ripe. It may not last long; and whilst it continues you may safely let all other occupations take a second place. In this way you economize time and deepen skill; for many an infant prodigy, artistic or mathematical, has a flowering epoch of but a few months.
One can draw no specific rules for all this. It depends on close observation in the particular case, and parents here have a great advantage over teachers.
Such then is the little interested and impulsive psychophysical organism whose springs of action the teacher must divine, and to whose ways he must become accustomed. He must start with the native tendencies, and enlarge the pupil’s entire passive and active experience. He must ply him with new objects and stimuli, and make him taste the fruits of his behavior, so that now that whole context of remembered experience is what shall determine his conduct when he gets the stimulus, and not the bare immediate impression. As the pupil’s life thus enlarges, it gets fuller and fuller of all sorts of memories and associations and substitutions ; but the eye accustomed to psychological analysis will discern, underneath it all, the outlines of our simple psychophysical scheme.
Respect, I beg you, always the original reactions, even when you are seeking to overcome their connection with certain objects, and to supplant them with others that you wish to make habitual. Bad behavior, from the point of view of the teacher’s art, is as good a starting point as good behavior; in fact, a better starting point than good behavior would be.