Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/829

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CHILDREN'S QUESTIONING.

difficulties in reducing it to practice. They are always talking about attention, interest, and independent thought, even to their pupils, while they are continually heading off the development of those desirable attributes by restricting their pupils to answering questions referring to tasks which they have set. Certainly their pupils seldom find "delight" in their questions, but, on the contrary, find comfort in evasion, as they very frequently say they understand the subject under question when they do not, in order to get rid of the galling questions which seem especially designed to reveal their deficiencies and bring about their disgrace.

Supervisor Martin, one of the keenest and wisest observers on the Board of Supervisors of Public Schools in Boston, says in his report recently issued: "If there be a general weakness, it lies in the failure to develop in the pupils the ambition and the power of self-help. The skill of the teachers is more fully exhibited in their presentation of subjects than in stimulating pupils to independent efiort. Much of the work is simple giving and taking and giving back." Independent effort being generally wanting, spontaneity of necessity must be wanting, because there can be no independent effort where there is no desire or will to make it. In this regard probably the schools of Boston are no more deficient than schools at large.

But, in view of all the talk made at educational conventions during many decades, it is remarkable how little progress in spontaneity has been made in school, even since Froebel's time.

Froebel said: "I must not neutralize and deaden that spontaneity which is the mainspring of all the machinery; I must rather encourage it, while ever opening new fields for its exercise, and giving it new directions. Can I not then even now gradually transform their play into work, but work which shall look like play, work which shall originate in the same or similar impulses, and exercise the same energies as I see employed in their own amusements and occupations?" Pestalozzi also claimed that "spontaneity and self-activity are the necessary conditions under which the mind educates itself, and gains power and independence."

A careful distinction should be made between children's activities and self-activities, the one often being confounded with the other by teachers. Generally their activities in school result from a compelling force of will, of laws, of penalties, all of whicn are kept well out of sight in some schools, but in the immediate foreground in most schools. This compelling force is often necessary under present conditions, but not so often as practice would make it appear.

Generally teachers' traditions and scholastic training are no safe guides in dealing with self-activities educationally. Self