Percy Arthur Barnett.

Common sense in education and teaching; an introduction to practice online

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Kindergarten training therefore may make him figure
too often amongst his less methodically trained comrades
as a little " prig ". Examples have not been wanting.

Of course Kindergarteners will not admit that this is
a necessary or even a common result of the close appli-
cation of the methods of Froebel ; but it is certainly a
common result of the too rigid practice of teachers who
take Froebelian prescriptions as an inspired gospel from
which no jot or tittle can be safely omitted. The remedy,
of course, is to cultivate Froebel's teaching in the spirit
rather than in the letter ; to regard the cycle of " gifts,'*
" occupations," and so forth, as variable according to the
teacher's own conviction of their sequence, adaptability,
and propriety. And the young teacher especially should
be sent to the fountain-head, to the great archetypal books, i
Rousseau's, Froebel's, Locke's, Plato's for inspiration;,
on the understanding that the reasoning and reflections:
and enthusiasm of the famous reformers are of far morei
value as inspiration and direction than any of their
formulas, or systems, or prescriptions.

The Physical Basis of Education 79

We return to the consideration of play. We must
not forget that there are other young people The la
besides the little child from three years of O f older
age to twelve, which seems to be the period of pupils and
life exclusively regarded as educable by some the morale
writers on education. Yet without doubt it ofames
is easier to theorise with profit about the younger than
it is about the older pupil, because the mental and moral
problems become more complicated with increasing age.
We can speak with much more certainty about the body-
action and brain-action of the less sophisticated child.
Problems of applied psychology are simpler in such cases,
and results are more immediately manifest. For this
reason, if for no other, a teacher in any grade, from the
infant school to the university, would do well to begin
his practice with young children.

As young people grow they organise games for them-
selves, and the wise teacher encourages as much as
possible any initiative that may discover itself. If a boy
or girl can invent a game, by all means let the game be
invented. On the other hand if a game is played on
a recognised plan, let the rules be followed with the
greatest scruple, the observer interposing only with due
regard to the age of the pupils. It is obviously necessary
to deal with very young boys or girls more directly, but
after they grow older, to leave the exercise of coercive
influence and the imposition of penalties to the young
people themselves, that is, to public opinion. For it is
in wisely ordered school games that the teacher finds
his opportunity to cultivate a respect for fairness and a
reasonable sensitiveness to public censure of injustice.

Games are play organised, and are probably best
when they permit entire freedom of individual action
within such well-defined larger limits as are necessary to

8o Common Sense in Education

secure common action. Drill and gymnastics are not
Their value so use ^ u ^ f r purposes of "recreation" as
as disci- football or cricket, because the movements in
plineand the former are strictly prescribed and allow
"recreation" exceedingly little scope for individuality,
whereas football and cricket throw ample responsibility
on the individual for personal initiative unrestrained by
any considerations beyond " playing the game," obedience
to a limited set of regulations, not more than are in-
dispensable for successful co-operation. It is a great
general gain to the nervous system, and thence to thej
whole bodily and mental constitution, that uniform I
currents should be disturbed, that mechanical habit!
should be broken, that the power to co-ordinate brain!
and limb by sudden decision should be kept alive,
active, alert.

Games are therefore not mere " exercise " or gymnas-
tics ; they fulfil a far wider function. It is

The games J

as ends in greatly in their favour that they have no
themselves, conscious hygienic or utilitarian purpose ; if
Order in they acquire this, they begin to lose their real
value. They should be an end in themselves.
Victory is properly rewarded by a crown of parsley ; as
soon as virtus, the quality of manliness, begins to be
rewarded more substantially, it begins to be corrupted.
The very essence of a game is its detachment from any
motive beyond the mere winning. Again, "exercise"
as gymnastics, may, and generally must, limit its bene-
ficial operations to particular muscles or powers ; games
develop all and any. The very element of apparent
disorderliness, which has worried those foreigners who
see nothing but the hap-hazard and random surface oJ
our national games, is exactly that part which is mosl
useful, for it cultivates the habit of rapid concentration

The Physical Basis of Education 81

of purpose and co-ordination of movements to secure an
immediate end.

To sum up then, good games should refresh or " re-
create/' should develop as many bodily powers as possible,
should train muscles to rapid voluntary movements in
no invariable order, should have no conscious utilitarian
purpose while in progress.

An honest organised or combined game is the basis of
a good working barbarian conception of duty ; of selfish
achievement vigorously and pleasurably sacrificed to the
community ; for an advantage which is not material, but
merely for the delight of living vigorously and healthily.

" Exercise" and gymnastics have their places, but
they are formal, hygienic, curative, corrective, Exerc j se "
regulative ; and useful as they must be, have and gymnas-
a distinctly smaller moral value, and are there- tics in the
fore of less importance in education than games. second P lace
Some training in gymnastics and drill is undoubtedly good
for all ; it is certainly profitable to teach people, old and
young, how to move together at the word of command,
and in a school it is almost indispensable for good order.
Gymnastics should be devised and supervised The uses of
by qualified persons, and should be directed gymnastics
especially to correct bodily defects pointed out by medical
examination. But great harm has very often been done
by leaving young men and young women to use the
gymnasium and its appliances at their own indiscretion.
A gymnasium which is not properly watched may do far
more harm than good. Boys and girls will strain them-
selves, will persist in a difficult exercise till they become
" silly'*; they will proceed directly to gymnastics after
a heavy meal, and in other ways turn to their permanent
loss what is meant for their benefit.

Gymnastics under proper conditions may be said to


82 Common Sense in Education

be directly useful to the teacher in three chief ways ; first,
as affording opportunity for observing and discovering
certain physical defects and even defects of character;
secondly, as a means of ensuring symmetrical develop-
ment ; thirdly a point of special importance in dealing
with women as a practical protest and protection
against the fashionable crazes which encase people
within garments that cramp natural activity and lower

Distinctions must of course, be made between the
Games for games played by girls and those played by
girls boys. To begin with, we must not forget

that there are fundamental 'differences of physical for-
mation ; thus a blow from a hard cricket ball on the
chest is a far more serious matter with a girl than a boy.
There are differences of physical capacity and endurance;
boys bear up more easily than girls against a prolonged
strain. Moreover, girls " make-believe " at a heavier cost
than boys ; their intentness more easily passes into
anxiety and excessive vehemence ; they take the loss of
a game more to heart. This last is, indeed, a defect
which the passing of time may do something to cure.
When the " race of women " has acquired an older tradi-
tion of corporate activity, they will learn to care more
for the game and less for the result as it affects them-
selves. Girls' games should, for these reasons, be lively
and spirited and short. If there are necessary differences
between the games of boys and girls respectively, the
questions involved are of even greater importance to the
latter than to the former, for they have a long lee-way of
tradition to make up, they are less well trained to asso-
ciated or corporate action, they tend more to become
victims of excessive sensibility, and they are in more im-
perative need of protection against monstrous fashions.

The Physical Basis of Education 83

To what extent teachers shall take part in games is a
question that hardly admits of a satisfactory Teachers
general answer. The quality and extent of and games
interference must be determined chiefly by the age of
the boys and girls concerned ; the younger the pupils,
the safer interference will be. But at all times it is
pretty certain that the teacher should leave as much as
possible of the organisation and administration of games
to the boys or girls themselves ; he should remain behind
in such matters, as a court of final appeal and an oc-
casional discreet monitor. Ostentatious supervision is
always undesirable ; it debilitates pupils and it adds
quite unnecessarily to the duties and responsibilities of
the teacher. But the lively interest of the master or
mistress in school games is a most healthy influence.
It shows the teacher to be human, it affords him a
fine field for supplementary observation, it stimulates
"loafers," and is a security for fairness. For all these
reasons a teacher may take part in games, regard of
course being had to the maintenance of a proper balance
of weight in contests.

If there arises any question as to the kind of games
that are to be preferred for school use, it what games
will probably be found wise to consider shall be
principally three conditions; which games P referred?
can be played in the open air ; which can include the
largest number of actual players ; which cultivate the
largest number of physical dexterities.

Let us remind ourselves that every free harmless
movement having no conscious utilitarian object is play.
Every one must have noticed the habitually loud voice
of the healthy child ; this is a natural and necessary
gymnastic, and when it has to be controlled and coerced
in the schoolroom into dove-like gentleness, something

84 Common Sense in Education

is lost which must be compensated in the playground.
The play of the young has its exact counterpart in the
work of art of the grown man ; the child's play has no
conscious end, the greatest works of art have no for-
mulable " moral ". And yet both play and works of art
> are the finest expressions of morality (or character) of
child and man each in his sphere ; and unless they
conduce to healthiness, that is holiness, in its simplest
and original sense, they are not merely unmoral but
vicious. We may well, then, think equally seriously
about our children's play and the things that delight
ourselves in our maturity.

We have seen that there can be too much imitation ;
Play should perpetual repetition relaxes the power of con-
be varied trol over the mechanism of nerve discharge;
every now and then, therefore, processes must be varied
and the capacity for initiation must be called upon to
assert itself. Left to themselves, individual children
should be constantly devising new play for themselves.
The teacher's interference is wanted chiefly to suggest
games in common, and to see that these are played fairly.

Besides the spontaneity of action in the child and
inquisitive- his tendency to imitation, both mechanical
ness and and imaginative or " make-believe," the wise
interest teacher of the young will recognise also the
child's desire to know his inquisitiveness. The mis-
chievousness that Satan is supposed to suggest is often
truly the prompting of this most profitable of human (
instincts. It may be merely a variety of the inclination f
to get possession of things, to make them one's own.
But in any case it is very distinctly serviceable. The
teacher of children remarks furthermore that the individual
child exhibits the tendency noticed amongst primitive
or child-like people in being attracted by striking colours

The Physical Basis of Education 85

rather than being interested in forms. Every one knows
how the infant turns to the light and, later on, grasps at
bright-coloured things ; this preference for colour is a
valuable indication to the teacher as to the earliest means
of interesting children and inducing them to reason.
Colour is less abstract than form, and therefore it is an
instrument of education available at an earlier stage.

It would be improper to conclude this part of our sub-
ject without some consideration of the place of Manual in-
manual training in school above the kinder- struction
garten age. Such instruction is warmly advocated by high
authorities on several grounds, some of great importance.

The close relation of manual dexterity to early de-
velopment is established beyond a doubt, and for young
children of all grades and every status " sloyd " or the
like seems to be essential. By its help not only does the
brain develop better, but much is also gained by accustom-
ing hands and eyes to work together merely as a prepara-
tion for those everyday duties in which an awkward man
or woman is at a clear disadvantage. Furthermore, many
a lad who would be helpless before the excessive bookish-
ness of our school curriculum, who would pass and be
classed as a dull fellow on his merits in relation to the
ordinary work, discovers capacity and develops self-
respect as soon as he is set to work in which his hands
and his eyes have liberty of expression. For the best
thing that education does is to give us the power of
expressing ourselves.

Nor is it a small matter that prestige is given to manual
work by inclusion in a Time Table, for this plants a re-
spect for it in a boy's mind which no mere preaching of
the dignity of labour can ever produce. The achieve-
ments which the actual experience of early life shows us
to be difficult and honourable we appraise most truly

86 Common Sense in Education

when we are old. The contempt for physical labour is a
kind of " priggishness " from which nothing but contact
with labour will ever cure us ; for the true mark of the
"prig" is an inordinate and exclusive respect for the
narrow range of things within his own experience and
capacity. From the practical and industrial point of
view this consideration is of great moment ; for, as it is,
we tend to attract people more and more from the manual
to the clerkly arts, a profound misfortune for crafts and
professions alike.

On the other hand, it should not be forgotten that
manual training is of far more consequence for the pri-
mary and higher primary than for the secondary school ;
for those more certainly destined to industrial pursuits
than for those who are to be organisers of industries and
members of professions ; for those whose games are few
and rough and practised only for a short period and at rare
intervals than for those whose training in skilled games
is elaborate and continuous. Manual training seems to
be essential to a proper primary course, and to be very
useful as part of the curriculum of a secondary school.

The problem of interest which passes beyond the
simple consideration of the use of the hands and eyes
in early youth, is properly considered as discipline in in-
struction. Here we must be content with the proof that
the training of the senses and the consequent employ-
ment of the tendencies to spontaneous activity are indis-
pensable conditions for health, not merely bodily health,
but mental and even moral health. And if we once
make this point clear to ourselves, it will be easier for us
to understand and to admit that the pupil, and therefore
his education, must be considered as a whole. We get
here into touch, not for the first time, with the doctrine
of concentration or connectedness in education.

The Physical Basis of Education 87

For the teacher must recognise in his pupil the co-
existence and the need for the co-ordination ,

The teacher

of those three chief states of the mind which uses move .
have already claimed some of our attention ments to cui-
feeling, knowing, and willing. The end of tivate mental
feeling is that we are something or in some capac
desired condition. The end of the impulse to know is
an understanding of the real relations between things ;
the truth, as we say. The end of willing is to do, or to
make something.

Now in furtherance of the pupil's health the good
teacher uses these possibilities of the mind in conjunc-
tion with the unrestrainable impulses to movement in
such a way as to make them all work together to a good
result. Feelings are successively stimulated and regu-
lated or repressed so as to induce the pupil to feel, find
out, and to act in accordance with right reason. The
child is to learn that he can be what he likes, know what
he likes, and make what he likes if he will only find
out the way.

There has of late been a very great increase in the
interest taken in the close and detailed study Psycholog j_
of childhood, and that on what are probably C ai observa-
very good grounds. Psychology suffers the tion and
serious disadvantage of being in the main an dlfficulties
introspective study. We learn about the operations of
mind in general mostly by watching the operations of
our own minds, and we may, of course, be systematically
making observations that are vitiated from the first by
our own inability to see ourselves without some sort of
predispositions or prejudices. We see too often what we
expect to see. One of us must .think differently from
every one and any one else, for the simple reason that
he is himself and no one else. We may use precisely

88 Common Sense in Education

the same words, but the same words may have, nay, they
must have, a different meaning to each several mind. It
is possible, on the other hand, for me to learn a good
deal by observing other people, and by comparing what
I see in other people with what I know to be in my
own mind ; and by comparing notes again with others
making similar observations, I can get some sort of rough
agreement. But there are still difficulties. The normal
man or woman or any child above infancy becomes self-
conscious as soon as we begin our operations, and even at
ordinary times the adult is a bundle of reserves and con-
cealments. There are however many observations and
experiments partly physical, partly psychological, that
can be made without exciting excessive or irrelevant
responsiveness on the part of those whom we are observ-
ing. We can, for instance, measure the extent of a
man's responsiveness to touch or to sound by arranging
with him standards and means, though even here the
tension of self-consciousness may seriously interfere with
the justness of our conclusions.

Medical men very often draw their most valuable
Pathological lessons from unusual or abnormal cases,
observations They can judge best of the tendency of a
disease by examining a case in which its operations have
been unchecked. So the experimenter in psychology
may learn most valuable facts from the observations of
persons who are imperfect or undeveloped. It is not
possible nor perhaps desirable for all of us to make
investigations into cases of arrested or diseased develop-
ment imbeciles or idiots but we have the developing
man and woman with us eternally in the persons of the
pupils in our schools. We can make observations on
them because we have them with us for considerable
periods and under circumstances that present them to

The Physical Basis of Education 89

us with reasonably frequent opportunities of rinding
them off their guard, and of making proper allowances
for vigilant self-consciousness.

Observations are one thing, experiments another. To
perform experiments safely and unerringly we must know
a good deal by way of preliminary about the action of
the nervous system, or we must at all events have the
word of the physiologist for the justification of the
inference that we are drawing. In the meantime the
individual teacher can profitably make careful observa-
tions in detail. Remembering what has been said about
the prior claim of observations tending to illustrate and
confirm the relations which physiologists have proved
to exist between physical and mental development, the
young teacher gives himself excellent original practice
by setting aside a page or two in a book to record the
doings and inferred characteristics of each member of the
class he meets regularly. By taking these preparatory
steps he learns at least what are the facts that first strike
himself as noteworthy, and he will forthwith endeavour
to tabulate and explain them. He may then proceed to
organise his investigations more systematically, perhaps
adopting some of the schemes which have been pro-
pounded by such authorities as Dr. Warner or Professor
G. Stanley Hall or Professor Sully.

For after the success of one's first endeavours to work
out something for oneself, time is saved and rapid pro-
gress is made by finding out, from some one who has gone
before, what to look for.

Professor Sully once made an appeal for information
as to specific errors in teaching, compiled, we professor
may presume, by the teachers themselves. Suiiy'siist
How good it would be for us (if we had the time) to
record our own failures under such heads as he suggests :

90 Common Sense in Education

" Misjudgments as to children's previous knowledge and
mental capacity, as seen in springing the unknown upon
unprepared minds, assigning too easy or too difficult
tasks, etc., (b) failure to recognise the natural forces and
tendencies of the childish mind, as seen in their charac-
teristic ways of imagining and reasoning, (c) inadequate
recognition of the special lines of the children's interest
and curiosity, and more generally errors arising from
imperfect sympathy with child nature, (d) errors having
their source in a slovenly and unintelligent handling of
language, talking over children's heads, and so forth ;
(e) errors connected with questioning, such as telling
children what might be brought out by questioning, and
the converse error putting unsuitable questions and so
forth ; (/) errors dealing with the feelings of children,
including mistaken appeals to them and equally mis-
taken neglect of them ; (g) faults of government, disci-
pline, mistaken attempts to correct and influence them ".

It is clear that we may gain very distinct advantage
out of such general and systematised study. We may
at least accumulate facts which sooner or later will be
the basis of useful generalisation. Indeed some discov-
eries have already been made. For instance, we have
learnt not only to detect great fatigue, but its early
and otherwise unnoticed beginning. The tests o'f Dr.
Warner are strictly of this character, though some call
for a considerable knowledge of the nervous system
before certitude can be attained.

We might, perhaps, roughly divide the subject matter
Tests of our investigations into observations of con-

proposed ditions displaying themselves in clear bodily
manifestations and observations of the more obscure
phenomena not so obviously connected with the bodily
health. Under the first head we can test children's touch,

The Physical Basis of Education 91

sight, hearing, breathing power, power of movement,
general nerve power. The study of the power of touch,
of skin sensibility, is of course often indispensable in
the investigation of general defect of nerve power, and is
one of the forms of observation that require, for great
exactness, a considerable knowledge of physiology, deli-
cate apparatus, and great acuteness and experience in
the observer, but there are certain rough tests that any
teacher may himself apply, as Dr. Bryan has shown in
the United States Education reports of 1893-4.

For instance without any apparatus, we may secure
useful results in this particular by touching a part of the
child which he cannot see (the back of the head is
suggested usually), and then requiring him in turn to
touch the same spot. We may be able by this or other
such tests combined twith ordinary schoolroom experi-
ence to find out whether those whose sensitiveness of
skin is least are also different from their comrades in

Online LibraryPercy Arthur BarnettCommon sense in education and teaching; an introduction to practice → online text (page 7 of 25)