Lawrence Augustus Averill.

Psychology for normal schools online

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aimt whom he was visituig whether he had said his prayers the
night before, replied that he had not. His aunt warned him that
he must always do so, or else God would not take care of him.
The child replied: "Well, he did." A four-year-old girl saw some
plaster dogs in a store and asked if they were alive. On being
told that they were not, the child replied: "But they are standing
on their feet."

You can very likely add to these illustrations of children's
thinking and reasoning powers scores of other incidents
which you have observed for yourself. Remember that
in his feverish attempt to increase and clarify his knowledge
every child thinks, however rudimentary may be his think-
ing. Slowly he is adding experience after experience to his
previous store, and thus slowly building up systems of con-
cepts and bodies of related facts and ideas and principles
which will later represent his basis for added study and


1. Discuss the development of the child's concept of chair; of house; of

2. On the basis of the illustrations of children's reasonings mentioned
above, determine whether inductive or deductive reasoning is the
natural form of reasoning which the child employs. Can you explain
why this should be so? - V^

3. Enumerate six reasons why children reason so falsely or so naively.

4. Be on the watch for any illustrations of reasoning which children do.
Report any instances in class.


1. In what definite ways does the socialized school foster the develop-
ment in the pupils' minds of dependable concepts of good citizenship?

2. Determine the probable pedagogical value of the teacher's repeated
admonition to "Think!" or "Think hard!"


3. Is the ordinary school guilty of failure to stimulate to the uttermost
the thinking powers of children? Is there any considerable likelihood
among teachers that the children's thinking will be done for them?

4. Which of the reasoning methods is best adapted to the teaching of
lower grades? Of intermediate grades? Of higher grades?


1. Angell, J. R. Psychology, chaps. 11 and 12.

2. Betts, G. H. The Mind and its Education, chap. 12.

3. Brown, H. W. "Thoughts and Reasonings of Children"; in Ped-
agogical Seminary, vol. 2, pp. 358-96.

4. Dewey, J. How We Think.

5. Kirkpatrick, E. A. Studies in Psychology, chap. 5.

6. Tanner, A. E. The Child, chap. 8.


What to look for in the observation period:

1. (In the lowest grades) Evidences of the absence of any real
appreciation of morality. (In the other grades) Evidences
of dawning morality and a moral code in the children as in-

2. Any case in which the children's behavior would seem to in-
dicate very slight, if any, notions of what constitutes right
and wrong.

3. In how far it appears to be one of the aims of the school to
inculcate in the minds of the children ideals of conduct and
regard for justice and right.

What is the moral condition of the child at birth? Cot-
ton Mather, the eminent Puritan divine, appealed thus
warningly to the boys and girls of his day and generation.
"Ah, children, be afraid of going prayerless to bed lest the
devil be your bedfellow. Be afraid of playing on the Lord's
Day lest the devil be your playfellow. Be afraid of telling
lies or speaking wickedly lest that evil tongue be tormented
in the flames when a drop of water to cool the tongue will be
roared for."

The attitude which this appeal of Cotton Mather re-
flected was the attitude generally held regarding the nature
of children a few generations ago in Massachusetts. It was
based upon the so-called "doctrine of human depravity" or
of "original sin," which averred that every child was es-
sentially an immoral being whose only hope of salvation lay
in a strict diet of the Catechism and the Scriptures. Jona-
than Edwards referred to children as "young vipers," while
Cotton Mather, in another place, refers to them as "chil-
dren of wrath." Even the schoolbooks of the time con-
tained little else than a continual harping upon the original
depravity of boys and girls. Thus, the last selection in the


old New England Primer was a dialogue between Christ,
a youth, and the devil. The youth resolves to spend his
time in sport and play and to disobey his parents, to the
great delight of the devil. Christ tries to persuade the
youth to change his mind, assuring him that the devil lies
and that his ways are deceiving. As the youth is reticent,
Christ affirms that he will be burned in hell. In reply the
youth suggests that he knows that Christ has mercy; that
it will be easy to repent when he is old; and that all his
sport and play will speedily come to an end. The youth
laments and begs for mercy, but Christ replies :

No pity on thee can I show,
Thou hast thy God offended so;
Thy soul and body I'll divide,
Thy body in the grave I'll hide,
And thy dear soul in Hell must lie
With devils to eternity.

And this is the sort of cheerful, positive instruction to
which boys and girls were a few years ago subjected! An
appeal to fear, rather than an appeal to more positive mo-
tives to be good. Still, who shall say that the stern virtue
and strict morality of the early founders of our country,
which were the logical outgrowths of such instruction, were
not the surest and most abiding heritage which they have
handed down to us?

The viewpoint of the time was that the moral nature of
every child born into the world was actually vicious and in-
herently bad. Hence all the energy of which the school
masters and school dames were capable was directed to-
ward redeeming them from sure and inevitable wrong and
future suffering.

Somewhat more recently another viewpoint of infantile
moral nature has grown up. Stimulated by the poets, nota-
bly Wordsworth and Rousseau, and by such novelists as
Charles Dickens, many people have embraced the opposite
conceptions of original child nature. We may apply to this
theory the doctrine of original perfection, which states that


the child at birth is essentially moral, virtuous, and good.
The infant is, as Dickens says, so charmingly "fresh from
the hand of God," and hence perfect in morality.

As a matter of fact, it is rather true that neither of these
doctrines is correct. The infant at birth is neither moral
nor immoral, but rather unmoral, neutral — neither the
one nor the other. It is like a perfectly balanced scale,
however, ready to tip in either direction according to the
influences which are brought to bear upon the one side or
the other. Whatever of good or virtuous or positive that
it absorbs from its environment and early training will tend
to make for morality: and, conversely, whatever of bad or
vicious or negative its environment suggests will make for
the opposite condition, immorality. In other words, the
infant's moral nature, like its mental, is a sort of tabula rasa,
as Locke suggests, a blank page upon which the records
cannot begin until the child itself begins them by expe-
riencing and reacting to its experiences.

The bearing of heredity. And yet we cannot assert
that "all men are created equal," in a literal sense, for that
would imply that every infant has the same innate tenden-
cies toward morality that every other infant has. Such
an assertion fails to take into account the influence of hered-
ity upon future moral behavior. You have observed time
and again among your acquaintances the insidious immo-
ralities of the parentage dropping out in the children; just
as you have also observed time and again the positive moral
reactions of the parentage tending to appear in the children.
In the next lesson we shall see how tremendous is the power
of heredity in the matter of juvenile criminology and delin-
quency. It should be remembered, on the other hand,
that it is extremely diSicult to ascribe exact responsibility
for the behavior of a child to heredity, for that would be
leaving out of account the power of environment, which,
as we have seen earlier, is very great. Perhaps the most
satisfactory statement that we can make is that, owing to
rather wide differences in the heredity of children from a


moral viewpoint, it is easier for one to tend toward moral
behavior, and for another to tend away from it.

What constitutes a moral code? But the chief deter-
minant of a moral code of a boy or girl is the habitual re-
action which they make to their training and environment.
One's moral: code is, therefore, leaving out the matter of
heredity, built up upon the ease with which one's environ-
ment can be manipulated to make possible improper moral
responses (or the strictness with which it points to inevitable
moral responses), upon the habits which are thus favored,
and upon the consequent weakness or strength of the will.
We may think of the first of these three factors, the ease
or strictness of environment, as the social basis of morality.
On the one hand, if there is little parental oversight of the
play and- amusements and extra-home and school activities
of the child, or if in consequence of that negligence of the
home, it is easy for the child to drift into bad associates, or
if within the home itself there is in evidence bad or improper
influences, such as disputes between father and mother, de-
ceitfulness on the part of either, vicious or improper con-
versation or acts done before the child, etc., the social basis
points inevitably toward the opposite of morality. On the
other hand, if there is a wise oversight on the part of the
home of the activities of the child, to the end that associates
are wisely chosen and the home influences and extra-school
activities are positive and constructive in nature, the social
basis makes just as inevitably for morality.

In the second place, the habits which are formed in child-
hood are very significant factors in the building up of the
child's moral code. We have already noted in earlier dis-
cussions that most of the habitual responses of children are
but modifications or sublimations or redirections of the
fundamental instincts. Among the more important of
these instincts which make for morality may be mentioned
ownership, curiosity, the migratory response, teasing and
bullying, and imitation. If any one of these is allowed to
"run riot," without proper training into wise habitual


responses, moral degeneration is sure to result. Take, for
instance, the first of these instinctive tendencies : ownership.
It is the] conclusion of two investigators that "the desire
to own is one ofj the strongest passions in child life; that
selfishness is the rule; that children steal, cheat, lie without
scruple to acquire property; that they have no idea of
proprietary right," What greater danger could there be
to a child's moral code than this impulse which hesitates at
nothing to obtain possession of something which may chance
to be desired. It is difficult, in the light of this testimony,
for children to appreciate what the difference is between
"mine and thine," hence stealing becomes a natural habit
unless there is proper direction of the instinct to own. And
so with curiosity. The mere desire to experience something
may inspire a child to commit multitudes of wanton acts of
a destructive nature. One writer, for example, cites the
illustration of the eight-year-old girl who set fire to a house
"to see the fire burn and the engines run!" Doubtless
from your own observation you can furnish other illustra-
tions of the destructive side of the curiosity instinct. And
then, perhaps most serious of all in its destructiveness, is
the curiosity which centers around the sex instinct. Look
through your daily paper and note the number of crimes
and outrages committed directly at the dictation of the sex
instinct. Unless the greatest caution is exercised by parents
the all-compelling power of this subtle force may operate to
inspire the child to form those habits which will blast his
whole future, or at least restrain him from attaining to that
state which is rightfully his in human society.

On the side of the migratory tendencies so strong in the
breast of every child there is likewise danger. Truancy
may become a habit, and with it, in order to conceal it, may
develop the habit of lying and deceit. Along with it, too,
come associations with other children whose vicious natures
may be positively ruinous to the child cohabiting with
them for a season. Thus, the simple Wanderlust may re-
sult in a vicious circle, and make for the reverse of all that


is good and virtuous in the life of a boy who responds ab-
normally to it. Teasing and bullying tendencies, if ab-
normally encouraged, may result in a hardening of all finer
emotions and a stifling of all sympathy and feeling for
others in a child, which may easily be favorable to the per-
petration of all manner of crime. And so, too, the imita-
tive impulse, whether reflex or acquired. Especially the
studied imitation is fraught with dangers. Children do
what others do. They do what they hear or learn of others
doing. Witness, by way of illustration, the uncensored
moving picture of the more sensational sort, in which safe-
blowing and theft and personal violence and underworld
ways and a score of other equally vicious examples are dis-
played before the staring eyes and the bursting minds and
restless bodies of boys and girls. And then there is the
"burlesque" show and its lurid posters outside to attract
the curious eyes of children to the undress and often in-
decent attitudes of the actors within, all of which cannot
but excite the sexual and imitative tendencies which may
become firebrands in the hands of immature and curious
boys. We may repeat, then, what we said above; namely,
one of the chief determiners of a child's moral code are the
habits, or the redirected instincts, which he forms naturally
and inevitably from the environmental forces playing upon

Growth of will power. Growing out of the habits which
a child forms is the third element in his moral code —
his will power. A child does not live long surrounded by
all manner of environmental influences before he begins
consciously to pay attention to many of them, and vol-
untarily choose as to what this or that response shall be.
When he has reached this stage his will is beginning to be
a factor in determining his moral code. In pretty nearly
every response which mortals are called upon to make there
is a right and a wrong. When the child is able to appreciate
this niceness between possible responses to a given situation
he is no longer a creature of circumstance, but a creature


of will. For example, the eight-year-old may have two
alternatives open to him; he may go fishing with his gang,
or he may remain at home and mind the baby while his
mother passes an afternoon of rest at a neighbor's. Which
shall he do.-^ Surely the normal, healthy boy will naturally
do the former; it is only when he is older and can appreciate
what past work and present fatigue and sacrifice for him,
on the part of his mother, mean that he can choose of his
own accord to deny himself and do the less tasteful thing.
The exercise of will power depends, therefore, in the first
place upon information or knowledge. Until a child has
had sufficient experience he cannot choose intelligently.
In the second place, exercise of the will depends upon an
attitude of thoughtfulness toward the problem of the mo-
ment. A child may have had never so much experience,
but if he has never reacted thoughtfully to such experiences
he cannot be in any position to exercise his will power.
Given these two conditions, experience and thoughtful
reaction to it, and provided the environmental forces have
been right and the habits formed in consequence wise, the
beneficent exercise of will is inevitable. The child so pos-
sessed and so actuated cannot but act wisely and well, pro-
vided of course he does act and is not content to "dream
noble deeds all day long."

Stages in Moral Development, (a) Infancy. Infancy, as
we noted above, is the non-moral stage. The experience of
the child is so limited and his abilities and possibilities of
habit-forming so restricted within very narrow range that
there is little positive morality or negative morality likely.

{h) Early childhood. In early childhood, that is, previous
to the school age of the child, there is still little opportunity
for any special development of the moral nature. The
social environment in which the child moves is but the
environment of the home; the great outer world has not
yet cast its spell about him either for good or for bad. But
the foundations are being laid during this period, and the
home which fails to surround the children with good influ-


ence and example will discover to its sorrow later on that
an irreparable injury has been done. Right or wrong during
the period of early childhood is largely, as Waddle suggests,
what is permitted or forbidden. The will which rules the
child's action is not his own, but his father's and his moth-
er's and that of his brothers and sisters. Beyond this his
own actions seldom extend.

(c) Later childhood. Waddle speaks of this third stage
in the evolution of the child's moral nature as a sort of trans-
ition between the earlier period of doing what one is told
and the subsequent one of doing what one himself feels to
be right. It is an age of " verbal morality " wherein children
can very glibly cover up their actual motives and feelings
with a semblance of genuine morality. There are certain
things which the child now habitually does because he feels
them to be right, or avoids doing because he feels them to be
wrong, such, for example, as being polite in the presence
of guests, or the inhibiting of the same amount of close
intimacy between the sexes as distinct from the earlier
thoughtlessness in this respect. And yet, there is no real
standard of morality in this period. The same child will
tell an untruth to another child or to some one whom he
chances not to like, who would not think of deceiving his
own mother. His moral values are relative rather than ab-
solute. He has not yet reached the stage where he can ap-
preciate truth and virtue for truth's and virtue's sakes.

{d) Adolescence. Now comes the dawning of the real moral
self and of the personal values of ethical relationships. It is
the very important period of life in which the instincts,
not yet entirely in the control of wise and proper habits, and
the dawning conscience, wage out an often bitter warfare
with one another, with the result that either the one or the
other wins. It is the one period of life above all others in
which the gravest dangers to the future moral code of the
individual lurk. Inasmuch, however, as we are shortly to
devote an entire lesson to a study of this period, we shall
not discuss it further here.



1. Go hastily through a copy of the old New England Primer, or some
other early textbook for young children, and note the emphasis which
is placed upon the doctrine of human depravity. Also, see if you
can find in Wordsworth any poem which stresses the original per-
fection of children.

2. Do you know personally of any cases in which the moral nature of a
child has been unfavorably influenced by the social environment in
which he lived?


1. Do you believe that we should introduce into our schools definite
moral instruction, or is it yoiu* opinion that incidental or indirect in-
struction of this sort should be sufficient?

2. Is there necessarily any relationship between moral instruction and
religious instruction? Ought there to be religious instruction in the
public schools?

3. The instincts of ownership, curiosity, and the Wanderlust are among
those inborn tendencies which are more commonly uncontrolled in
childhood, and hence lead often to great moral danger. Should the
school make special effort to provide normal satisfaction for these
instincts? In what ways might this be possible?


1. Angell, J. R. Psychology, chaps. 20, 21, and 22.

2. Betts, G. H. The Mind and its Education, chap. 17.

3. Kirkpatrick, E. A. Studies in Psychology, chap. 8.

4. . Imagination and its Place in Education, chap. 14.

5. Waddle, C. W. Introduction to Child Psychology, chap. 9.



What juvenile delinquency is. You have doubtless very
frequently seen in the daily press accounts of boys, and
sometimes of girls, whose actions have been such as to bring
them into the disfavor of society. Petty theft, injury to
property, rowdyism, and the depredations of badly con-
stituted gangs are among the activities which are perhaps
most frequently entered upon by the delinquent. For the
adult who had offended society and broken its laws in such
ways as these ordinarily a prison sentence would be pro-
nounced, and he would be considered a criminal by his fel-
lows. When, however, the existing laws and customs are
broken by a younger person, i.e., a person who is, in most
states, under sixteen years of age, the term "juvenile de-
linquent" is applied to him. "Juvenile" because he (or
she) is still a youth; "delinquent" because such an offender
has literally been "left behind" in his moral development.
Whereas other boys and girls have passed through child-
hood and into youth without actually trespassing seriously
upon any law, the juvenile delinquent has failed to so do,
with the result that his moral nature has suffered, and he
has been "left behind" in his normal evolution by his more
conforming fellows.

Until somewhat recently, however, even the youthful
law-breaker was looked upon as a criminal and so treated
by society. He was ordinarily placed under restraint in
an institution, and thus segregated from the group in order
that his contaminating influence might not be exercised
upon other children. The results of such a system of dis-
cipline obviously failed to be very salutary upon the moral
development of the youth so placed under restraint, for
he was thrown necessarily in contact with other law-break-


ers, often adult criminals of the most vicious sort, with the
result that, far from being made over into a good citizen,
he imbibed from the hardened offenders ideals and atti-
tudes toward society which impelled him, upon his release
at the expiration of his sentence, to degenerate into the life
and manner of living of the confirmed criminal. Many a
child who, because of breaking one of society's laws has been
thrown thus in contact with men of hopeless degeneracy,
has from such intimate association learned for the first time
to rebel against society and the moral law, and has left
prison with a heart hardened to every fine principle and
every lofty ambition. It has been the discovery of this
unfortunate influence upon the youthful criminal that has
led society in recent years to refrain from calling such an
offender a "criminal," and from placing him in some penal
institution where his tendencies toward crime would find
additional nurture by the associations there formed. Con-
sequently, your modern youthful law-breaker is termed a
"juvenile delinquent," and in most cases is not actually
placed under constraint.

Improper stimuli. We have referred continually in this
book to the inevitable relationship between the stimulus
and the response. The explanation of the cause of juvenile
delinquency lies in this same relationship. If the stimuli
which make up the social environment of the child are
vicious and encourage offenses, the results are inevitable.
Social imitation, as we have seen, is a social necessity. If
the examples furnished by parents and gang and books
and amusements be unsalutary, unsalutary responses will
tend to result. If the environment of the child contains a
Fagin, the habits and manner of living peculiar to Fagin
will fasten themselves upon nine out of ten children. Where
does the boy learn to pick pockets or to commit crimes
against the person save by imitating the bad example rather
than the good of his environment? If an environment fails
to modify and redirect properly the racial heritage of instincts

Online LibraryLawrence Augustus AverillPsychology for normal schools → online text (page 24 of 30)