A GREAT Herbartian wave sweeping across the schools during the last few years has carried away much of the lifeless mechanical drill which characterized the old education. In its place has been left the vitalizing influence of the study of humanity. Believing that the contemplation of the world's greatest thoughts and noblest deeds must result in arousing kindred enthusiasms, literature and history have been introduced to our youngest children. We have given this teaching a sufficient time to prove its efficacy. Is it giving our children lofty ideals? Is it exalting goodness, wisdom, strength, truth, patriotism? It is enkindling generous desires to perform noble deeds?
As a working basis for the solution of these problems, papers were collected from fourteen hundred and forty school children in answer to the following questions:
"What person of whom you have ever heard or read would you most like to resemble? Why?"
Being written as a regular composition exercise, these answers with one exception show every evidence of sincerity. Out of the total number only seven children fail to return a ready response, and their hesitation seems due to a premature development of fatalism. "Nobody," writes a boy of fifteen, "because it will do me no good to want to resemble any one." A girl of twelve reaches the same conclusion from a feminine reliance upon authority. "I would not like to envy of the people. Because they say it is not right. They say that God made you to be so."
To believers in the culture-epoch theory our results are most satisfactory, implying no accidental selection of ideals. Half the papers came from San Mateo County, California, and half from St. Paul, Minnesota; but, widely apart as are the sources, the results are so nearly identical that they have been collated together. The only pronounced difference, it may be stated, consists in the fact that while seventy-three St. Paul children find their ideal in the Divine Being, he is referred to by only four Californians.
Sources of Children's Ideals.—The ideals of the children naturally fall into three groups:
- See in the Pedagogical Seminary, vol. ii, No. 3, an article by Prof. Earl Barnes, entitled Theological Life of a California Child. Professor Barnes says, "Many California children seem to be ignorant of the most common and most generally accepted theological concepts of Christian people."