Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/25

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15
NATURAL OR SCIENTIFIC METHOD IN EDUCATION.

other young animals. Each is a vegetative, reflex, receptive organism. The brain of the infant grows rapidly within the first few months. It no doubt develops equally fast. Already used groups of cells learn to function more perfectly, and new groups take up their duties. Movements become gradually more and more voluntary, more under control, and more definite. Sensory impressions become more and more clearly sensory judgments. To illustrate: The lamp that excited the young infant represents after a few months not merely brightness but an object of definite size and shape, owing to the additions and corrections following from a combined use of the senses. And this process will continue throughout life if not checked.

Both common observation and the closest scientific study have made it plain that youth is the period of sense ascendency. From

PSM V42 D025 Diagrammatic representation of the reflex arc.jpg
Fig. 4.—Diagrammatic Representation to illustrate the Reflex Arc (Bramwell and Ranney). 1, 2, sensory fibers; 3, motor cell of anterior horn; 4, motor fiber connected with 3 and passing out by anterior root of muscle; 5, fiber joining ganglionic cell (3) with crossed pyramidal tract, C. P. C.; 6, ganglion on root of posterior spinal nerve; 7, fiber joining 3 with Türck's column, T. Fiber 2 is represented as passing through Burdach's column to reach the cell, 3.

this, most important conclusions follow, which we can not ignore without paying a heavy penalty. Attention has been called to the infant in order to show that, prior to all school education, Nature asserts herself and points the way in which the human brain and mind develop. Any education that overlooks these facts is directly against the organization we possess, and must be more or less of a failure. How far our methods have been and are in harmony with them I shall presently attempt to show. For the moment let me follow the child out of the stage of infancy into that of school age. The boy of five, let us suppose, is sent to school a perfect stranger to books and the usual educational equipment. Everything on the road to school attracts him to such an extent that likely enough he may arrive late. When