Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/461

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445
LEARN AND SEARCH.


action of his organs. His pleasure increases with every advance that he makes. This property is innate. How it is exercised is in the first place dependent on the condition of his organs. Many diversities of behavior appear among children early, according as they are limited by inborn, and often inherited, differences in their faculties.

Is this property peculiar to children alone? Surely not. It abides in the man till his mature age, provided his organs are normal, and as long as no disturbance or interruption by outer influences intervenes. What pleasure does even the learned man experience when a new field of knowledge is unlocked to him; even in his old age, how enlivened is his thirst for learning when he succeeds in getting a glance into new series of phenomena of Nature or of the human mind which had been previously incomprehensible or inaccessible to him! How does it happen that young, cultivated men, under training to become academical freemen, escape this general human property? It is in them without doubt, but has not rarely been repressed by some objectless treatment. Then the thing to be done is not to call it out for the first time, but to revivify it.

From the desire to learn, when well directed, is developed the desire for knowledge. Not satisfied with the knowledge of a fact, with the perception of a phenomenon, the desire to learn urges on to the understanding of it. It searches for the connection of phenomena and processes, their history and causes, and is never quite satisfied till it has grasped their genetic and causal relations. This is the mark of a real desire for knowledge. With it comes the beginning of research. A disposition to investigate can be recognized in the child to the extent that it divides the object it has in hand into its parts and tries to put them together again into a whole; or it imitates a movement, to learn what it must do to bring it about. Training thus finds all the elements present; it has only to use them and direct them in methodical ways. This comes to pass when attention is fixed on the connections, interest is stimulated, the study is directed to the principal fact and diverted from the subsidiary ones.

We can now raise the question, Does this take place in our schools? Even in the lower schools the desire for learning is so greatly perverted that with no small portion of our people, not the love of knowledge, but only its lowest form, curiosity, is cultivated—that disposition which is satisfied with a superficial and therefore incomplete comprehension, following which attention is directed to new objects. Thus, an innate and naturally worthy property is misdirected and brought to a form of expression which is at least purposeless and not rarely injurious.

When the love of knowledge is awakened in the childish mind