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II. ORIGINAL NATURE, THE CAPITAL WITH WHICH TEACHERS WORK






From: How to Teach

After deciding upon the aims of education, the goals towards which all
teaching must strive, the fundamental question to be answered is, "What
have we to work with?" "What is the makeup with which children start in
life?" Given a certain nature, certain definite results are possible;
but if the nature is different, the results must of necessity differ.
The possibility of education or of teaching along any line depends upon
the presence of an original nature which possesses corresponding
abilities. The development of intellect, of character, of interest, or
of any other trait depends absolutely upon the presence in human beings
of capacity for growth or development. What the child inherits, his
original nature, is the capital with which education must work; beyond
the limits which are determined by inheritance education cannot go.

All original nature is in terms of a nervous system. What a child
inherits is not ideas, or feelings, or habits, as such, but a nervous
system whose correlate is human intelligence and emotion. Just what
relationship exists between the action of the nervous system and
consciousness or intellect or emotion is still an open question and need
not be discussed here. One thing seems fairly certain, that the original
of any individual is bound up in some way with the kind of nervous
system he has inherited. What we have in common, as a human race, of
imagination, or reason, or tact, or skill is correlated in some fashion
to the inheritance of a human nervous system. What we have as individual
abilities, which distinguish us from our fellows, depends primarily upon
our family inheritance. Certain traits such as interest in people, and
accuracy in perception of details, seem to be dependent upon the sex
inheritance. All traits, whether racial, or family, or sex, are
inherited in terms of a plastic nervous system.

The racial inheritance, the capital which all normal children bring into
the world, is usually discussed under several heads: reflexes,
physiological actions, impulsive actions, instincts, capacities, etc.,
the particular heads chosen varying with the author. They all depend for
their existence upon the fact that certain bonds of connection are
performed in the nervous system. Just what this connection is which is
found between the nerve cells is still open to question. t may be
chemical or it may be electrical. We know it is not a growing together
of the neurones,[1] but further than that nothing is definitely known.
That there are very definite pathways of discharge developed by the laws
of inner growth and independent of individual learning, there can be no
doubt. This of course means that in the early days of a child's life,
and later in so far as he is governed by these inborn tendencies, his
conduct is machine-like and blind--with no purpose and no consciousness
controlling or initiating the responses. Only after experience and
learning have had an opportunity to influence these responses can the
child be held responsible for his conduct, for only then does his
conduct become conscious instead of merely physiological.

There are many facts concerning the psychology of these inborn
tendencies that are interesting and important from a purely theoretical
point of view, but only those which are of primary importance in
teaching will be considered here. A fact that is often overlooked by
teachers is that these inborn tendencies to connections of various kinds
exist in the intellectual and emotional fields just as truly as in the
field of action or motor response. The capacity to think in terms of
words and of generals; to understand relationships; to remember; to
imagine; to be satisfied with thinking,--all these, as well as such
special abilities as skill in music, in managing people or affairs, in
tact, or in sympathy, are due to just the same factors as produce fear
or curiosity. These former types of tendencies differ from the latter in
complexity of situation and response, in definiteness of response, in
variability amongst individuals of the same family, and in
modifiability; but in the essential element they do not differ from the
more evident inborn tendencies.

Just what these original tendencies are and just what the situations are
to which they come as responses are both unknown except in a very few
instances. The psychology of original nature has enumerated the
so-called instincts and discussed a few of their characteristics, but
has left almost untouched the inborn capacities that are more peculiarly
human. Even the treatment of instincts has been misleading. For
instance, instincts have been discussed under such heads as the
"self-preservative instincts," "the social instincts," just as if the
child had an inborn, mystical something that told him how to preserve
his life, or become a social king. Original nature does not work in that
way; it is only as the experience of the individual modifies the blind
instinctive responses through learning that these results can just as
easily come about unless the care of parents provides the right sort of
surroundings. There is nothing in the child's natural makeup that warns
him against eating pins and buttons and poisonous berries, or encourages
him to eat milk and eggs and cereal instead of cake and sweets. He will
do one sort of thing just as easily as the other. All nature provides
him with is a blind tendency to put all objects that attract his
attention into his mouth. This response may preserve his life or destroy
it, depending on the conditions in which he lives. The same thing is
true of the "social instinct"--the child may become the most selfish
egotist imaginable or the most self-sacrificing of men, according as his
surroundings and training influence the original tendencies towards
behavior to other people in one way or the other. Of course it is very
evident that no one has ever consistently lived up to the idea indicated
by such a treatment of original nature, but certain tendencies in
education are traceable to such psychology. What the child has by nature
is neither good nor bad, right nor wrong--it may become either according
to the habits which grow out of these tendencies. A child's inborn
nature cannot determine the goal of his education. His nature has
remained practically the same from the days of primitive man, while the
goals of education have changed. What nature does provide is an immense
number of definite responses to definite situations. These provide the
capital which education and training may use as it will.

t is just because education does need to use these tendencies as
capital that the lack of knowledge of just what the responses are is
such a serious one. And yet the difficulties of determining just what
original nature gives are so tremendous that the task seems a hopeless
one to many investigators. The fact that in the human being these
tendencies are so easily modified means that from the first they are
being influenced and changed by the experiences of the child. Because of
the quality of our inheritance the response to a situation is not a
one-to-one affair, like a key in a lock, but all sorts of minor causes
in the individual are operative in determining his response; and, on the
other side, situations are so complex in themselves that they contain
that which may call out several different instincts. For example, a
child's response to an animal will be influenced by his own physical
condition, emotional attitude, and recent mental status and by the
conditions of size and nearness of the animal, whether it is shaggy or
not, moving or still, whether he is alone or with others, on the floor
or in his chair, and the like. t will depend on just how these factors
combine as to whether the response is one of fear, of curiosity, of
manipulation, or of friendliness. When to these facts are added the fact
that the age and previous habits of the child also influence his
response, the immense complexity of the problem of discovering just what
the situations are to which there are original tendencies to respond and
just how these tendencies show themselves is evident. And yet this is
what psychologists must finally do if the use by teachers of these
tendencies is to be both economical and wise. Just as an illustration of
the possibilities of analysis, Thorndike in his "Original Nature of Man"
lists eleven different situations which call out an instinctive
expression of fear and thirty-one different responses which may occur in
that expression. Under fighting he says, "There seem, indeed, to be at
least six separable sets of connections in the so-called 'fighting
instinct,'" in each of which the situation and the response differ from
any other one.

ery few of the instincts are present at birth; most of them develop
later in the child's life. Pillsbury says, "One may recognize the
food-taking instincts, the vocal protests at discomfort, but relatively
few others." This delay in the appearance of instincts and capacities is
dependent upon the development of the nervous system. No one of them can
appear until the connections between nerve centers are ready, making the
path of discharge perfect. Just when these various nervous connections
mature, and therefore just when the respective tendencies should appear,
is largely unknown. n only a few of the most prominent and
comparatively simple responses is it even approximately known. Holding
the head up is accomplished about the fourth month, walking and talking
somewhere near the twelfth, but the more complex the tendency and the
more they involve intellectual factors, the greater is the uncertainty
as to the time of development. We are told that fear is most prominent
at about "three or four" years of age, spontaneous imitation "becomes
very prominent the latter part of the first year," the gang instinct is
characteristic of the preadolescent period, desire for adventure shows
itself in early adolescence, altruism "appears in the early teens," and
the sex instinct "after about a dozen years of life." The child of from
four to six is largely sensory, from seven to nine he is motor, from
then to twelve the retentive powers are prominent. n the adolescent
period he is capable of thinking logically and reasoning, while maturity
finds him a man of responsibilities and affairs. Although there is some
truth in the belief that certain tendencies are more prominent at
certain periods in the development of the child than at others, still it
must be borne in mind that just when these optimum periods occur is not
known. Three of the most important reasons for this lack of knowledge
are: first, the fact that all inborn tendencies mature gradually and do
not burst into being; second, we do not know how transitory they are;
and, third, the fact of the great influence of environment in
stimulating or repressing such capacities.

Although the tendency to make collections is most prominent at nine, the
beginnings of it may be found before the child is five. Moll finds that
the sex instinct begins its development at about six years of age,
despite the fact that it is always quoted as the adolescent instinct.
Children in the kindergarten can think out their little problems
purposively, even though reasoning is supposed to mark the high school
pupil. The elements of most tendencies show themselves early in crude,
almost unrecognizable, beginnings, and from these they grow gradually to
maturity.

n the second place how quickly do these tendencies fade? How transitory
are they? t has always been stated in general psychology that instincts
are transitory, that therefore it was the business of teachers to strike
while the iron was hot, to seize the wave of interest or response at its
crest before the ebb had begun. There was supposed to be a "happy moment
for fixing in children skill in drawing, for making collections in
natural history," for developing the appreciative emotions, for training
the social instinct, or the memory or the imagination. Children are
supposed to be interested and attracted by novelty, rhythm, and
movement,--to be creatures of play and imagination and to become
different merely as a matter of the transitoriness of these tendencies
due to growth. When the activities of the adult and the child are
analyzed to see what tendencies have really passed, are transitory, it
is difficult to find any that have disappeared. True, they have changed
their form, have been influenced by the third factor mentioned above,
but change the surroundings a little and the tendency appears. Free the
adult from the restraints of his ordinary life and turn him out for a
holiday and the childish tendencies of interest in novelty and the
mysterious, in physical prowess and adventure and play, all make their
appearance. n how many adults does the collecting instinct still
persist, and the instinct of personal rivalry? n how many has the crude
desire for material ownership or the impulse to punish an affront by
physical attack died out? Experimental evidence is even proving that the
general plasticity of the nervous system, which has always been
considered to be transitory, is of very, very much longer duration than
has been supposed.

n illustration of the third fact, namely, the effect of environment to
stimulate or repress, witness the "little mothers" of five and the wage
earners of twelve who have assumed all the responsibilities with all
that they entail of maturity. On the other side of the picture is the
indulged petted child of fortune who never grows up because he has had
everything done for him all his life, and therefore the tendencies which
normally might be expected to pass and give place to others remain and
those others never appear. That inborn tendencies do wax, reach a
maximum, and wane is probably true, but the onset is much more gradual
and the waning much less frequent than has been taken for granted. Our
ignorance concerning all these matters outweighs our knowledge; only
careful experimentation which allows for all the other factors involved
can give a reliable answer.

One reason why the facts of delayedness and transitoriness in instincts
have been so generally accepted without being thoroughly tested has been
the belief in the recapitulation or repeating by the individual of
racial development. So long as this was accepted as explaining the
development of inborn tendencies and their order of appearance,
transitoriness and delayedness must necessarily be postulated. This
theory is being seriously questioned by psychologists of note, and even
its strongest advocate, President Hall, finds many questions concerning
it which cannot be answered.

The chief reasons for its acceptance were first, on logical grounds as
an outgrowth of the doctrine of evolution, and second, because of an
analogy with the growth of the physical body which was pushed to an
extreme. On the physiological side, although there is some likeness
between the human embryo and that of the lower animals, still the stages
passed through by the two are not the same, being alike only in rough
outline, and only in the case of a few of the bodily organs is the
series of changes similar. n the case of the physical structure which
should be recapitulated most closely, if behavior is to follow the same
law,--namely, in that of the brain and nervous system,--there is least
evidence of recapitulation. The brain of man does not follow in its
development at all the same course taken in the development of brains in
the lower animals. And, moreover, it is perfectly possible to explain
any similarity or parallelism which does exist between the development
of man's embryo and that of lower animals by postulating a general order
of development followed by nature as the easiest or most economical,
traces of which must then be found in all animal life. When it comes to
the actual test of the theory, that of finding actual cases of
recapitulation in behavior, it fails. No one has been able to point out
just when a child passes through any stage of racial development, and
any attempt to do so has resulted in confusion. There is no clear-cut
marking off into stages, but, instead, overlapping and coexistence of
tendencies characterize the development of the child. The infant of a
few days old may show the swimming movements, but at the same time he
can support his own weight by clinging to a horizontal stick. Which
stage is he recapitulating, that of the fishes or the monkeys? The
nine-year-old boy loves to swim, climb trees, and hunt like a savage all
at the same period, and, what is more, some of these same tendencies
characterize the college man. The late maturing of the sex instinct, so
old and strong in the race, and the early appearing of the tendencies
towards vocalization and grasping, both of late date in the race, are
facts that are hard to explain on the basis of the theory of
recapitulation.

As has been already suggested, one of the most important characteristics
of all these tendencies is their modifiability. The very ease with which
they can be modified suggests that this is what has most often to be
done with them. On examination of the lists of original tendencies there
are none which can be kept and fixed in the form in which they first
appear. Even the best of them are crude and impossible from the
standpoint of civilized society. Take as an illustration mother-love;
what are the original tendencies and behavior? "All women possess
originally, from early childhood to death, some interest in human
babies, and a responsiveness to the instinctive looks, calls, gestures,
and cries of infancy and childhood, being satisfied by childish
gurglings, smiles, and affectionate gestures, and moved to instinctive
comforting acts of childish signs of pain, grief, and misery." But the
mother has to learn not to cuddle the baby and talk to it all the time
it is awake and not to run to it and take it up at every cry, to steel
her heart against the wheedling of the coaxing gurgles and even to allow
the baby to hurt himself, all for his own good. This comes about only as
original nature is modified in line with knowledge and ideals. The same
need is evidenced by such a valuable tendency as curiosity. So far as
original nature goes, the tendency to attend to novel objects, to human
behavior, to explore with the eyes and manipulate with the hands, to
enjoy having sensations of all kinds merely for their own sakes, make up
what is known as the instinct of curiosity. But what a tremendous amount
of modification is necessary before these crude responses result in the
valuable scientific curiosity. Not blind following where instinct leads,
but modification, must be the watchword.

On the other hand, there are equally few tendencies that could be
spared, could be absolutely voted out without loss to the individual or
the race. Bullying as an original tendency seems to add nothing to the
possibilities of development, but every other inborn tendency has its
value. Jealousy, anger, fighting, rivalry, possessiveness, fear, each
has its quota to contribute to valuable manhood and womanhood. Again,
not suppression but a wise control must be the attitude of the educator.
nhibition of certain phases or elements of some of the tendencies is
necessary for the most valuable development of the individual, but the
entire loss of any save one or two would be disastrous to some form of
adult usefulness or enjoyment. The method by which valuable elements or
phases of an original tendency are fixed and strengthened is the general
method of habit formation and will be taken up under that head in
Chapter . When the modification involves definite inhibition, there
are three possible methods,--punishment, disuse, and substitution. As an
example of the use of the three methods take the case of a child who
develops a fear of the dark. n using the first method the child would
be punished every time he exhibited fear of the dark. By using the
second method he would never be allowed to go into a dark room, a light
being left burning in his bedroom, etc., until the tendency to fear the
dark had passed. n the third method the emotion of fear would be
replaced by that of joy or satisfaction by making the bedtime the
occasion for telling a favorite story or for being allowed to have the
best-loved toy, or for being played with or cuddled. The situation of
darkness might be met in still another way. f the child were old
enough, the emotion of courage might replace that of fear by having him
make believe he was a soldier or a policeman.

The method of punishment is the usual one, the one most teachers and
parents use first. t relies for its effectiveness on the general law of
the nervous system that pain tends to weaken the connections with whose
activity it is associated. The method is weak in that pain is not a
strong enough weapon to break the fundamental connections; it is not
known how much of it is necessary to break even weaker ones; it is
negative in its results--breaking one connection but replacing it by
nothing else. The second method of inhibition is that of disuse. t is
possible to inhibit by this means, because lack of use of connections in
the nervous system results in atrophy. As a method it is valuable
because it does not arouse resistance or anger. t is weak in that as
neither the delayedness nor the transitoriness of instincts is known,
when to begin to keep the situation from the child, and how long to keep
it away in order to provide for the dying out of the connections, are
not known. The method is negative and very unsure of results. The method
of substitution depends for its use upon the presence in the individual
of opposing tendencies and of different levels of development in the
same tendency. Because of this fact a certain response to a situation
may be inhibited by forming the habit of meeting the situation in
another way or of replacing a lower phase of a tendency by a higher one.
This method is difficult to handle because of the need of knowledge of
the original tendencies of children in general which it implies as well
as the knowledge of the capacities and development of the individual
child with whom the work is being done. The amount of time and
individual attention necessary adds another difficulty. However, it is
by far the best method of the three, for it is sure, is economical,
using the energy that is provided by nature, is educative, and is
positive. To replace what is poor or harmful by something better is one
of the greatest problems of human life--and this is the outcome of the
method of substitution. All three methods have their place in a system
of education, and certain of them are more in place at certain times
than at others, but at all times if the method of substitution can be
used it should be.

The instinct of physical activity is one of the most noticeable ones in
babyhood. The young baby seems to be in constant movement. Even when
asleep, the twitchings and squirmings may continue. This continued
muscular activity is necessary because the motor nerves offer the only
possible path of discharge at first. As higher centers in the brain are
developed, the ingoing currents, aroused by all sense stimuli, find
other connections, and ideas, images, trains of thoughts, are aroused,
and so the energy is consumed; but at first all that these currents can
do is to arouse physical activity. The strength of this instinct is but
little diminished by the time the child comes to school. His natural
inclination is to do things requiring movement of all the growing
muscles. nhibition, "sitting still," "being quiet," takes real effort
on his part, and is extremely fatiguing. This instinct is extremely
valuable in several ways: it gives the exercise necessary to a growing
body, provides the experience of muscle movements necessary for control,
and stimulates mental growth through the increase and variety of
experiences it gives.

The tendency to enjoy mental activity, to be satisfied with it for its
own sake, is peculiarly a human trait. This capacity shows itself in two
important ways--in the interest in sensory stimuli, usually discussed
under the head of curiosity, and in the delight in "being a cause" or
mental control. The interest in tastes, sounds, sights, touches, etc.,
merely for their own sake, is very evident in a baby. He spends most of
his waking time in just that enjoyment. Though more complex, it is still
strong when the child enters school, and for years any object of sense
which attracts his attention is material which arouses this instinct.
The second form in which the instinct for mental ability shows itself is
later in development and involves the secondary brain connections. t is
the satisfaction aroused by results of which the individual is the
cause. For example, the enjoyment of a child in seeing a ball swing or
hearing a whistle blown would be a manifestation of curiosity, while the
added interest which is always present when the child not only sees the
ball swing but swings it, not only hears the whistle but blows it
himself, is a result of the second tendency, that of joy in being a
cause. As the child grows older the same tendency shows itself on a
higher level when the materials dealt with, instead of being sensations
or percepts, are images or ideas. The interest in following out a train
of ideas to a logical conclusion, of building "castles in the air," of
making plans and getting results, all find their taproot in this
instinctive tendency towards mental activity.

n close connection with the general tendency towards physical activity
is the instinct of manipulation. From this crude root grows
constructiveness and destructiveness. As it shows itself at first it has
the elements of neither. The child inherits the tendency to respond by
"many different arm, hand, and finger movements to many different
objects"--poking, pulling, handling, tearing, piling, digging, and
dropping objects. Just what habits of using tools, and the like, will
grow out of this tendency will depend on the education and training it
gets. The habits of constructiveness may be developed in different sorts
of media. The order of their availability is roughly as follows: first,
in the use of materials such as wood, clay, raffia, etc.; second, in the
use of pencil and brush with color, etc.; third, in the use of words. We
should therefore expect and provide for considerable development along
manual lines before demanding much in the way of literary expression.
ndeed, it may be argued that richness of experience in doing is
prerequisite to verbal expression.

Acquisitiveness and collecting are two closely allied tendencies of
great strength. Every child has a tendency to approach, grasp, and carry
off any object not too large which attracts his attention, and to be
satisfied by its mere possession. Blind hoarding and collecting of
objects sometimes valueless in themselves results. This instinct is very
much influenced in its manifestation by others which are present at the
same time, such as the food-getting instinct, rivalry, love of approval,
etc. The time at which the tendency to collect seems strongest is at
about nine years, judged by the number of collections per child.

Rivalry as an instinct shows itself in increased vigor, in instinctive
activity when others are engaged in the same activity, and in
satisfaction when superiority is attained. There is probably no inborn
tendency whereby these responses of increased vigor and satisfaction are
aroused in connection with any kind of activity. We do not try to
surpass others in the way we talk or in our moral habits or in our
intellectual attainments, as a result of nature, but rather as a result
of painstaking education. As an instinct, rivalry is aroused only in
connection with other instinctive responses. n getting food, in
securing attention or approval, in hunting and collecting, the activity
would be increased by seeing another doing the same thing, and
satisfaction would be aroused at success or annoyance at failure. The
use of rivalry in other activities and at other levels comes as a result
of experience.

The fighting responses are called out by a variety of situations. These
situations are definite and the responses to them differ from each
other. n each case the child tries by physical force of some kind, by
scratching, kicking, biting, slapping, throwing, and the like, to change
the situation into a more agreeable one. This is true whether he be
trying to escape from the restraining arms of his mother or to compel
another child to recognize his mastery. Original nature endows us with
the pugnacious instinct on the physical level and in connection with
situations which for various reasons annoy us. f this is to be raised
in its manner of response from the physical to the intellectual level,
if the occasions calling it out are to be changed from those that merely
annoy one to those which involve the rights of others and matters of
principle, it must be as a result of education. Nature provides only
this crude root.

mitation has long been discussed as one of the most important and
influential of human instincts. t has been regarded as a big general
tendency to attempt to do whatever one saw any one else doing. As such a
tendency it does not exist. t is only in certain narrow lines that the
tendency to imitate shows itself, such as smiling when smiled at,
yelling when others yell, looking and listening, running, crouching,
attacking, etc., when others do. To this extent and in similar
situations the tendency to imitate seems to be truly an instinct.
mitating in other lines, such as writing as another writes, talking,
dressing, acting like a friend, trying to use the methods used by
others, etc., are a result of experience and education. The
"spontaneous," "dramatic," and "voluntary" imitation discussed by some
authors are the stages of development of _habits_ of imitation.

The desire to be with others of the same species, the satisfaction at
company and the discomfort aroused by solitude, is one of the strongest
roots of all social tendencies and customs. t manifests itself in young
babies, and continues a strong force throughout life. As an instinct it
has nothing to do with either being interested in taking one's share in
the duties or pleasures of the group or with being interested in people
for their own sakes. t is merely that company makes one comfortable and
solitude annoys one. Anything further must come as a result of
experience.

Motherliness and kindliness have as their characteristic behavior
tendencies to respond by instinctive comforting acts to signs of pain,
grief, or misery shown by living things, especially, by children, and by
the feeling of satisfaction and the sight of happiness in others. Of
course very often these instinctive responses are interfered with by the
presence of some other instinct, such as fighting, hunting, ownership,
or scorn, but that such tendencies to respond in such situations are a
part of the original equipment of man seems beyond dispute. They are
possessed by both sexes and manifest themselves in very early childhood.

There are original tendencies to respond both in getting and in giving
approval and scorn. By original nature, smiles, pats, admiration, and
companionship from one to whom submission is given arouses intense
satisfaction; and the withdrawal of such responses, and the expression
of scorn or disapproval, excites great discomfort. Even the expression
of approval or scorn from any one--a stranger or a servant--brings with
it the responses of satisfaction or discomfort. Just as strongly marked
are original tendencies which cause responses of approval and cause as a
result of "relief from hunger, rescue from fear, gorgeous display,
instinctive acts of strength, daring and victory," and responses of
scorn "to the observation of empty-handedness, deformity, physical
meanness, pusillanimity, and defect." The desire for approval is never
outgrown--it is one of the governing forces in society. f it is to be
shown or desired on any but this crude level of instinctive response, it
can only come by education.

Children come to school with both an original nature determined by their
human inheritance and by their more immediate family relationship, and
with an education more significant, perhaps, than any which the school
can provide. From earliest infancy up to the time of entering a
kindergarten or a first grade, the original equipment in terms of
instincts, capacities, and abilities has been utilized by the child and
directed by his parents and associates in learning to walk and to talk,
to conform to certain social standards or requirements, to accept
certain rules or precepts, or to act in accordance with certain beliefs
or superstitions. The problem which the teacher faces is that of
directing and guiding an individual, who is at the same time both
educated and in possession of tendencies and capacities which make
possible further development.

Not infrequently the education which children have when they come to
school may in some measure handicap the teacher. t is unfortunate, but
true, that in some homes instinctive tendencies which should have been
overcome have been magnified. The control of children is sometimes
secured through the utilization of the instinct of fear. The fighting
instinct may often have been overdeveloped in a home in which
disagreement and nagging, even to the extent of physical violence, have
taken the place of reason. Pride and jealousy may have taken deep root
on account of the encouragement and approval which have been given by
thoughtless adults.

The teacher does not attack the problem of education with a clean slate,
but rather it is his to discover what results have already been achieved
in the education of the child, whether they be good or bad, for it is in
the light of original nature or original tendencies to behave, and in
the light of the education already secured, that the teacher must work.

When one realizes the great variety or differences in ability or
capacity, as determined by heredity, and when there is added to this
difference in original nature the fact of variety in training which
children have experienced prior to their school life, he cannot fail to
emphasize the necessity for individualizing children. While it is true
that we may assume that all children will take delight in achievement,
it may be necessary with one child to stir as much as possible the
spirit of rivalry, to give as far as one can the delight which comes
from success, while for another child in the same class one may need to
minimize success on account of a spirit of arrogance which has been
developed before school life began. t is possible to conceive of a
situation in which some children need to be encouraged to fight, even to
the extent of engaging in physical combat, in order to develop a kind of
courage which will accept physical discomfort rather than give up a
principle or ideal. n the same group there may be children for whom the
teacher must work primarily in terms of developing, in so far as he can,
the willingness to reason or discuss the issue which may have aroused
the fighting instinct.

For all children in elementary and in high schools the possibility of
utilizing their original nature for the sake of that development which
will result in action which is socially desirable is still present. The
problem which the teacher faces will be more or less difficult in
proportion as the child's endowment by original nature is large or
small, and as previous education has been successful or unsuccessful.
The skillful teacher is the one who will constantly seek to utilize to
the full those instincts or capacities which seem most potent. This
utilization, as has already been pointed out, does not mean a blind
following of the instinctive tendencies, but often the substitution of a
higher form of action for a lower, which may seem to be related to the
instinct in question. t is probably wise to encourage collections of
stamps, of pictures, of different kinds of wood, and the like, upon the
part of children in the elementary school, provided always that the
teacher has in mind the possibility of leading these children, through
their interest in objects, to desire to collect ideas. ndeed, a teacher
might measure her success in utilizing the collecting instinct in
proportion as children become relatively less interested in things
collected, and more interested in the ideas suggested by them, or in the
mastery of fields of knowledge or investigation in which objects have
very little significance. The desire for physical activity upon the part
of children is originally satisfied by very crude performances.
Development is measured not simply in an increase in manual dexterity,
but also in terms of the higher satisfaction which may come from
producing articles which have artistic merit, or engaging in games of
skill which make for the highest physical efficiency.

During the whole period of childhood and adolescence we may never assume
that the results of previous education, whether they be favorable or
unsatisfactory, are permanent. Whether we succeed or not in achieving
the ends which we desire, the fact of modifiability, of docility, and of
plasticity remains. The teacher who seeks to understand the individuals
with whom he works, both in terms of their original nature and in terms
of their previous education, and who at the same time seeks to
substitute for a lower phase of an instinctive tendency a higher one, or
who tries to have his pupils respond to a situation by inhibiting a
particular tendency by forming the habit of meeting the situation in
another way, need not despair of results which are socially desirable.


QUESTONS


1. May a teacher ever expect the children in his class to be equal in
achievement? Why?

2. Why is it not possible to educate children satisfactorily by
following where instincts lead?

3. Which of the instincts seem most strong in the children in your
class?

4. Can you give any example of an instinctive tendency which you think
should have been outgrown but which seems to persist among your pupils?

5. Give examples of the inhibition of undesirable actions based upon
instinctive tendencies by means of (1) punishment, (2) disuse, (3)
substitution.

6. How can you use the tendency to enjoy mental activity?

7. Why does building a boat make a stronger appeal to a boy than
engaging in manual training exercises which might involve the same
amount of activity?

8. Cite examples of collections made by boys and girls in which the
ideas associated with the objects collected may be more important than
the objects themselves.

9. n what degree are we justified in speaking of the social instinct?
The instinct to imitate?

10. How can you use the fighting instinct in your work with children?

11. What can teachers do to influence the education which children have
received or are getting outside of school?

12. What differences in action among the children in your class do you
attribute to differences in original nature? What to differences in
education?

* * * * *





Next: III. ATTENTION AND INTEREST IN TEACHING

Previous: I. THE WORK OF THE TEACHER



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