Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 47.djvu/551

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
537
THE NERVOUS SYSTEM AND EDUCATION.

sensuous impressions. These senses must be made the special object of study and care on the part of the teacher. His great duty is, not so much to tell his pupils what to do or how things happen, as to instruct them how to find out for themselves. There are a number of avenues through which he can reach the child's internal mind. These avenues must be made use of, and the child must be taught how to use them for its own advancement. The ears can be educated, but only practically, to recognize what is meant by pitch, volume, quality, loudness, intensity, harmony, etc., in musical notes. Only by practice can the child be brought to recognize the many shades of color, the divergence of angles, the approximate lengths of objects, or the rapidity of motion in a passing object. The method of Zadig could be made use of in endless variety. A horse's footprints are seen in the sand. The child could be tested on its powers of observation as to whether the horse had been walking, trotting, or galloping; whether he was a large animal or not; whether shod or not, and if the shoes were new; or whether the horse was lame, as might be indicated by one of the footprints. In like manner the tactile and muscular senses may be developed and rendered extremely acute in their power of fine distinctions as to quality, weight, firmness, shape, composition, and such like of the objects that are made the subjects of study. See, for example, what a blind person can do, guided by the sense of touch and the muscular sense.

What has been said by no means exhausts the important relationships of the nervous system to the many problems of education. It is now time that a knowledge of physiological psychology should form a part of the qualifications of every person who becomes a public teacher. It is to be feared that there are many teachers at the present moment who know literally nothing of the wonderful organisms under their charge. We do not so act in business affairs. We do not permit a man to take charge of a locomotive until he has acquired a knowledge of the engine. But we allow men to become the educational engineers of our children without exacting from them the slightest knowledge of the beings they are going to take charge of. I need not state the case more strongly than that this should cease.

One word more. The time has come when strong opinions ought to be expressed against the too prevalent custom of crowding the child with studies and cramming its mind with disconnected facts. Away with the idea that such is education! It is not. Such a system is only a means of injuring the child's health and interfering with its proper mental development. The child's brain and nervous system must be developed along judicious lines, and through this development the mind is enlarged. Nothing is education that does not foster and bring about this